pens or pins? that is the question...

What's one to do when the heart and hands enjoy words and fabric, the pattern of paragraphs and quilts to an equal enthusiasm? To solve my dilemma I'm writing the print that stirs me and sharing the journey of blending fabrics into quilts and wearables, the discovery of old--be it quilts or friends, and the pleasures of today. Come...have a visit with me.

Monday, December 27, 2010



Merry Christmas, Joy to the World, Christmas Greetings and Happy New Year...I love these traditional greetings. For me it is not the same to say Happy Holidays. For me, the lack of sentimental language falls cold.

 I like tradition. I like repetition of years gone by. Time spent opening and hanging old decorations, addressing and sending cards to friends far away, preparing favorite recipes, and making time for visits and parties with extended family and friends identifies the spirit of Christmas. The sameness reinforces joyful memories built one year at a time.

"Twas the night after Christmas" when my daughter and I looked at every ornament on her tree. They sprang eternal to her 32 years...childhood memories built in the form of shiny glass balls and classic painted wooden shapes in the style of sleighs and little trains. These beginning stories of Lis and her husband Andy continue to multiply.From childhood memory  ornaments to college and early marriage years, a recall of the giver and the occasion rings clear. Even now, more ornaments are being added for their young children, my precious grandchildren. The tree is glistening with beauty, smiling with 30+ years of Christmas stories. So many tales are told in these simple shapes--vacations, summer camps, school awards, children's births, work and friendship connections.   Indeed,a dimensional journal of family history is recorded in the glitz, homemade style, sentimental paint or stitch of every ornament.

The allure and sentimental value of the decorated tree is enhanced with an advent calendar, old ruby-red nosed Rudolph setting on the chair (from Lis's childhood), the scripture opened to Luke 2's recording of Christ's birth and gingerbread men cookies ready in the kitchen. In addition, the phone conversations with sister and daughter "do you think he will like....?" add spirit to the hustle and bustle of the season. Augment these sentiments with wrapping paper, tape and ribbon, all awaiting the wonder of the hospitality of  the family get-together for fun and gift giving.

I cherish the menus of years gone by and the delicious flavors of this season's fare. I save magazines and love to group several Christmas issues from various years--Martha Stewart Living, Cooking Light and Bon Appetite read awesome to me with their golden baked turkey on the cover and layed cake inside--be it a 1998 or 2010 issue. It is a joy to flip pages in favorite cookbooks and see a note "mom made this, Christmas 1986." I am always tempted to prepare it again. I cherish the time to make a home-made gift by needle and thread for family and friends--even though the goals of completion are never fully met. The calendar seems to always run out.

Enter the drive from one city to next, joining family and feeling their hugs and smiles exchanged with sincerity. I love the dinners amid laughter and conversations "do you remember the Christmas when?" with everyone adding their personal version to complete the annual story. Don't forget to add the tale of the snow blizzard of 2009 and our Christmas Eve time in the generous snow shelter provided by Goldsby Baptist Church. In the not expected blizzard, 9 hours of snow packed driving led us to spend the evening in a spirited round of favorite carols, the reading of the Christmas story and a night's rest on the vestibule church pews. The novel experience provided one of my all-time favorite Christmas memories. Family connections were possible the next day and the tradition of old and new  (with a new story) began again.

I am thankful for all these years of tradition. I cherish family and the stages we are in. Grandparent, parent, sibling, cousin, niece and little ones--every age writes a different chapter. Every chapter spells j-o-y and thanksgiving for God's blessings. Merry Christmas to all and to all, a good night. May you and yours be blessed in the coming New Year.



p.s. I regret I fell behind in my blog season of 2010. Thanks for reading my weekly words. I'm back on go--once a week I look forward to sharing 2011. Let me hear from you. Tell me your stories, your favorite books, your travels...stay in touch.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010



Does your life make a difference? Does my life make a difference? Soul wrenching questions. Self evaluation and reflection comes more readily as we pass birthdays, reconnect to a distant acquaintance or loose a friend. Reflection of my personal time line became  a more conscious awareness as my mine's eye focused on the simple question of this week's daily devo read. The article, found in an old Sunday study, suggested taking  personal responsibility to make a positive difference for forty days. Set a goal to achieve simple attitude/action opportunities in giving and counter self-improvement.  Create an opportunity to analyze life priorities and the reason to be...

Forty Days? I read..."Make our world a better place." Begin...touch someone in a gentle or powerful way; better our self by putting our own needs last. Take one daily change-step at a time.The article impacted me and I liked the challenge. What to do? It read, "Make simple, from the hip type changes." Send an old-fashioned greeting--stamped--in the mail card.  Take food to a handicap friend who struggles with the mere effort of going to the grocery.  "Pay back" a fresh loaf of bread to a neighbor that collected mail for a recent week-out event. Kindly visit and notice a conversational detail of a clerk (her awards on her nametag) in the checkout stand. Run an errand for one with a sick child or invalid husband. I made a list and asked myself,  "is it possible for me to carry a 40 day load of thoughtfulness?"

Christ carried a 40 day load in the temptations he faced. Noah faced 40 days in his ark with the two by two's of all of God's animals. And the Israelites faced forty years in the desert. I researched the scriptures and read literature and realized my forty day challenge felt small to histories' records. My challenge felt small to the challenges of people with extreme physical needs, money shortages (not wants), or loneliness challenges of fellowmen whose lives lack companionship. From the simple observations  read in the paper, a short walk in a mall, or newsy visit with a neighbor--my observation of others' daily walk brought the reality of the forty days of thoughtfulness into a ready-go! mode. So much to little time. I thought, " I've been blessed and "except by the grace of God, there go I."

My list of obvious opportunities seemed easy. "Surely it is harder than this...but no," my mind challenged. "It is not hard." The scripture says "It is better to give than receive." The door of opportunity swung open. A pineapple for the rheumatoid arthritis victim to reduce her inflammation and a short visit to say "I care."  Cards sent the old-fashioned way to friends that don't use e-mail.  Phone calls to check on the unchecked. A simple note to remind hubby of his importance in my life. Grandchild baths so mom gets the night off. A session in the floor playing Lego's with my grandson.  I went into my forty day challenge thinking  "one task a day." Ten days into the challenge it more accurately read "one opportunity."

In honesty I must say human nature still captured my spirit. In the first ten days part of my behavior daily-do's, part of me made an A, part make an F. Last week I failed when I was tired and hanging out in the tire department at Walmart. A burdened mom and her very misbehaving children made me so-o nervous! And I showed it with rudeness.  And daily, for every one good intention and deed I pass,  a failure befalls me-- again and again. Now, not to write a "poor me so you will .feel sorry for "pens" note. Just the facts, mam. But, like the journey of learning to ride a bike...I want to get on again... I want to make a difference. The road looks straight ahead. Christ is in charge. So, back on the bicycle I climb.

Perhaps the biggest bonus of  my forty day challenge is my unexpected blessing. In reflection,  I noticed the forty things you have done for me. In an old book, I found a note card that said you loved my showed two women sitting over lunch, enjoying their best cake--and each other. ( love of our friendship.) I remembered the flowers (for no special occasion) in the kitchen from my husband that loves me. And last weeks' mail brought an unexpected letter from a dear friend of history past. I took the phone call that said "what are you doing?" "how did it go?" I remembered the girlfriend chat that giggled my insides. And thanks for helping me edit my last story. Thank you for listening about..."endless A trivia."

 And, an unexpected blessing, I laughed with pure joy at a literal translation from my three year old grandson. Referring to his messy room, I said "this is nuts." He picked up a toy pizza part from his kitchen set and said, "no, it's pepperoni." I remember...YOU MADE A DIFFERENCE. All forty of your efforts... made and make a difference in me...a gift of blessing from you! Thank you!

Forty days...forty differences. To a better neighborhood; to a better world. Let's do it.

My best to you,

And remember God's word: Matthew 7:12 "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

And a fabulous read: Mother-Daughter Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, MD., Random-House, 2005. Noted for her skilled knowledge of integrated medicines, she touches the world every mother-daughter relationship has experienced. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Is it the rash--or the voice?

CHOICE --in the makin' ??

An ambitious afternoon in the garden brought this on. Bushes overgrown needed trimming. So, for the next three hours I trimmed, raked and gathered cut stems. The yard looked so much better. I beamed.

came this unexpected ITCH....itch, itch. I look at my watch and it is 3 a.m. I stumble out of bed, go to a distant room to check out the "itch." It seems everywhere--up and down my arms, up and down my legs. "Mercy," I think, "what did I get into?"

Morning comes and I feel confident. Surely, with all the homopath remedies in my cabinet I can manage this. I go through the shelves and select the appropriate products, double up on Vitamin C and think this rash  WILL go away. Now, three days later (post weekend of no clinics open) and two trips to the health food store plus one over-the-counter remedy, the ITCH is still with me. My arms are rash red; my thighs are a mess, my neck is beet red and I'm cold--in a 70 degree afternoon! One cream after another, one pill at a time, I hope at least one of these products will work? If not, first thing, in the a.m., to the doctor I will go. In the meantime....

I had written this week's blog (in my mind). How appropriate to match my thoughts to my ailment! The "itch" (so physically and emotionally consuming) and the "voice" (the consuming personality of our writing) join our personality, be it a written short story or our daily interactions.

First, the voice of a story.  Voice is a word that has become popular in writing circles. Countless classes are offered toward developing our voice.  Simply put, the writer's world advises strength becomes our characters when they  portray a voice (tone) that is recognized --the story has a consistent "attitude." As Tom Wolfe put it, the voice should not be "beige."  In writing every story has a voice; every story needs a personality.

And the voice of our personality is recognized by others, truly, as our daily "itch." Another well known writer, Norman Sims points out "Voice that admits of self can be a great gift." In other words, it is worth a conscious effort to awaken to our sounds, listen to our language-- literally not only "what we say" but "how we say it,"and be honest in our tone.  A wonderful example I read referred to parents using the same comment, seeking totally different results. "That was smart." or "That was smart?" Obviously, we get it!  And today the voice of my itch is loud; it is consistent and it is repetitive--3 days and running. I get it!

From morning to evening, our voice  is our interaction to our daily walk. The personality voice is influenced by what we experience (or experienced), what we see and read (or don't). We awaken ourselves to listen to our own language and the properties we choose to portray. Our daily tone is hemmed by each life experience, how we see that experience amid the feathers of our being--what has grown in our being, in our value and belief system, one feather, one day and one year at a time. The voice we project is not only our belief, but often, our passion.

We've all known people that had it far better (or worse) than ourselves. Their perception of the shoes they wear often provides a big lesson for us--to be accepting or resentful, to be accommodating or obnoxious, in every circumstance we hear their  voice. And less we forget, decibel volume changes our voice perception at different times in our life--diapers and potty training mean much more to a mom of toddlers than a teenager that has yet to experience the mom role; the SAT means more to the high school junior than to the toddler mom--and so it goes. (My itch is stronger to my voice than yours.)

I loved one authors thoughts about voice. He said think of "your voice" as your song.--the lines on our faces we've earned, the crook of our nose or our teeth we've earned, the stance of our body we've earned. Each frames the voice we speak. Natalie Goldberg said it well when she said  "say a holy "yes" to the real things of our life, as they exist."--speak our voice boldly. And remember, "...never underestimate people. They so desire the cut of truth." (our voice)

Thankfully, the daily voice is the method of our drive, the energy of our walk and the smile of our heart. Each day of voice is a day of choice.

I had chosen "voice" for this week's blog and had no idea "itch" was the sound I would hear. But I heard consistent and  repetitive--my voice. It made me think. And your voice?" Is it awake to full volume?

Enjoy and share your voice,


a blessed read: Deuteronomy 30:20 Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His VOICE, and hold fast to him.

a great book: Natalie Goldberg's best seller,
Writing Down the Bones. If you seek a writer's voice, read one of Natalie's books--you won't put it down until it is finished.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

MEMORIES--when did it happen?

 Think of the technology words that have come into our vocabulary within the last ten years--web, email, blog, surf, post...and on it goes. Do you remember your first computer? My original purchase was a big IBM. My father-in-law generiously gave me 1/2 the purchase price--a total whopping shared total of $3000! I raised the other half.

Out of the box and plugged into the circuit, the IBM computer was really just a fancy typewriter. Regardless,I loved its' ability to change fonts, correct paragraph alignment and spelling. I loved the connection to a printer and the school teaching mimeograph/ditto days fading into the background, to modern technology efficiency.

And now, fifteen years later, I'm still exploring the advances of computer possibilities.  Websites and surfing are taken for granted. I email notes instead of calling. And we all set up sites to sell our products, blog our thoughts and share family pictures. I love modern tech--isn't it a great way to go?

And this week--I've pushed my little netbook computer skills in the fast lane everyday. I've looked up weather forecasts, book writers, ordered on-line, read countless emails and blogs and worked on my book. BOOK?

Yes, it began with a simple plan-- a short story, a memoir about mom's cooking. I love to remember, especially the talents and personality of mom. So, I decided to record family stories about her cooking style, a la my post WWII childhood. I began reflecting on mom's classic menus and her cooking transition from a bride in the 40's to her senior days at the end of the 20th century. The nostalgia blew me away! I remembered mom's pot roast. Do you remember yours? I remembered mom's cream pie. And your moms'? I remembered birthday parties, Christmas holidays and mom's food gifts. And yours?

I couldn't record my memories fast enough and I knew I had to record my own cooking journey. The food saga continued and I wrote and wrote. Now, multiple pages later I have the beginnings of my book. I have a working title, chapter headings, a preface and chapters.  FUN!--the middle letters of M-E-M-O-R-Y.

To polish and expand my memoir forward to include  cooking in the first decade of the 21st century, I've googled  multiple food sites, looked at magazine food  ads and read old/new cookbooks. I've looked in strangers grocery carts and observed their intended purchases. (some of their "food" I don't know the content or the purchasing aisle--totally unfamiliar to me.?) Yesterday I stood in front of a mag rack and read every food title. Yes,  FOOD is still "in"; we still like to eat; we like to write about food and we like to share the bounty.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may be saying --"hey, wait a minute, I thought Ali hated cooking."  Ironically, you remember my post of last summer--I Hate to Cook?! Well, the distasteful part is the routine, not the creative journey or the part that recognizes the importance of food in connecting family and friends. Food is another word for bonding, comfort, language and  love. That is the play and fascination I find in my food journey of 60+ years--from jello to sashi; from a live chicken in mom's back yard to chicken nuggets in today's freezer. It is the daily cuisine, creating memories, one bite at a time.

The food journey has endless roads and detours. I recommend you explore yours. What was your first food disaster? Your biggest party? What is your comfort food? Do you detour to the chocolate aisle?--or the organic produce? (I look for dark chocolate every shopping trip!) Do you love or abhor hosting dinner parties? What laughter or soul talks do you remember--over dinner? I love you--readers. And oh, the food memories we share.

My book is in first draft. It's rollin' down memory lane. I'll keep you posted. And in this food journey I'm traveling I've found the "coolest" sites. I suspect you will enjoy googling these blogs and sites:

If you are considering writing your food memoirs check out the excellent book, Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacobs. Her new book is available on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and web entries.

Speaking of food, keep me posted. What fabulous food have you discovered this week? I love to collect recipes!

Enjoy the week, my friend,


a favorite read: ALL of Ruth Reichl's books. Ruth is a food writer with a great collection of memories. I'm reading TENDER AT THE BONES.Her website is fun:

a favorite scripture: This week I'm reading the Psalms.
Take time to grasp God's word: Psalms 106:1-5

Praise the Lord.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;his love endures forever.
Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare
his praise?
Blessed are they who maintain justice,
who constantly do what is right,
Remember me oh Lord, when you show favor to your people,
come to my aid when you save them,
that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may share in the joy of your nation
and join your inheritance in giving praise.

AND a cool sight with short stories, etc. ESPECIALLY written by women over

Sunday, September 26, 2010

thinking backward--thinking forward

                    Thinking backward, thinking forward--the last of September is here. August and its' sunny days are gone and October's pumpkins are soon to be. So I ask, what did you do with your last thirty days?

                         Different seasons push and shove our schedules. Rushing and "too much" seem to fit the holidays, busy birthday and celebration family days. Sometime (if lucky) the winter cold snowy days slow our schedules. But September? I rarely recall this early fall season with so much crowded into the calendar.

                          For me, my September calendar prepared for San Antonio guild teaching commitments and a four-day hosting of Sue Spargo's fabulous Quilting Adventures' fall seminar. Next Barbara and I participated in a team of three and judged the annual quilt show in Ft. Worth. Next I went to Roswell for a second judging schedule.  The awesome (and I do mean over-whelmingly awesome) responsibility of judging best quilts among over 250 in each show celebrated quilters that excel in their craft, as well as quilters showing their first quilt. 

             And if the September calendar  wasn't crowded enough, the New Mexico cabin was screaming to be re-stained, so hubby and I have looked at a zillion stain colors, hired men to help us and prayed for weather adaptable to outdoor wood staining--no rain please! The staining process has had numerous snags of wrong mixtures, shortage of inventory, etc. Hopefully, the renewed house finish will be completed soon.  In between, my sister, daughter and I had birthdays!-in different degrees of celebration. Whew!

                             I only recount this crazy schedule to ask you to reflect on your schedule--was there any BEING TIME or was the month consumed with DOING TIME?

                   Amid all these busy September journeys I realized I was missing a key component of daily health-BEING TIME.  Simply stated "being" by Webster is conscious existence. I add to that definition the state of rebuilding your heart and soul, your energy and your dreams. 

                          My psychic requires down time. For me that includes phone visits with my daughter, sister and friends. It includes an hour thumbing through a magazine or musing at a book rack (home or store). It requires a cup of fresh coffee, a square of dark chocolate, a walk through the fall foliage or sitting near the fireplace and reflecting. I need reading and studying God's word to remind me of His strength, His promise and His grace. I need to touch and play with fabric, stitch on my current project and anticipate the next. I need computer and blogging time, reading of favorite authors and re-reads of favorite books. No apologies here. These needs keep me healthy.

             But what about you?  and  your schedule:
           In the last 30 days did you have being time?  
  • Did you bring your heart to your mind?
  • Did you laugh spontaneously or applaud a happy accident?
  • Did you connect to a friend or relive a joyful memory from days gone by?
  •  Did you make a call to check on someone else (and strengthen your being by putting them first?)
  •  Did you cook creatively, stir and brush paint for the visual joy of blending colors or dig in the dirt for the simple pleasure of the smells, beauty and pleasure of planting plants?
  • Did you photograph God's trees, dirt and rocks? or sketch your favorite?
  • Did you spend precious time with friends, grandchildren or hubby?
  • Did you take time to rest, exercise and reflect? Did you give yourself an early to bed?
  • Did you celebrate someone's joy or mourn their grief?
                       These are being exercises. Being time is reflection time. It is the exact opposite of "mult-tasking", hourly calendar booking, making lists of have-to-dos, juggling money and zoning out to the TV.  Being time is recognizing and respecting the mind and body of ourselves and others. Reflection is respecting the God given merits of simply  b-e-i-n-g.

                   The last week of September is here. Equinox has come and gone. And in one of these  busy September moments this timely quote, magnetically attached to my friend Michelle's frig. spoke to the day--to b-e-i-n-g.

                   Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.             EMERSON

October is nigh. Make time for b-e-i-n-g.

Til then.


a favorite read: TIN HOUSE--a quarterly of the best in short stories.

a favorite scripture: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1>

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


                  Serendipity as defined by Webster: the ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident.

                 Such has been the essence of this day. Isn't it amazing how unexpected events form our days? Today (and it is only noon) has taken the  most unexpected pleasant turns--Serendipity X 5! I hope you can say the same.

           First, I slept later than usual. This is a rare event in my household, as hubby thinks the day begins with sunshine. I must have a bit of Cinderella in me as I enjoy the opposite clock--late nights. My creative spirit gets stronger, as if at an evening ball, until the clock strikes midnight. Last night was such a night. Getting ready for Sue Spargo's primitive needleart workshop next week (hosted by Quilting Adventures) pushed my night energy. I connected colors and textures and played with the symphony of creative fabric and thread possibilities until the wee hours.  Then predicted rain drops fell on the roof in the middle of the night and the morning darkness begged me to stay snuggled abit longer. Serendipity X 1.

            Mid-morning pushed me through the rain to town errands. The clock read early for my writer's meeting at 1 pm, so I decided to work at the library through the remaining morning hours. What fun! I've always imagined the ideal world would be a bed tucked in between book shelves, so to compute between the shelves was a second best choice. Serendipity X 2.

              Adding to the good fortune, I sat at a table opposite end to a computer guy. I could tell he knew about computers--he had a nice laptop, two cell phones, notebooks and pencils. He wore a baseball cap and a close beard. AND, I had a computer question.

            I put on my dumb hat (it comes with my package!) and said "I'm having trouble with this DVD. Do you know what I need to do?" Did I hit lucky! Ten minutes later my encoded? (whatever--anyway, it had to be downloaded) package was user friendly in my computer. I was thrilled. And to add to it, I had met a nice guy, studying for his classes at the local community college. Wow! (I bought his lunch in behalf of his good deed.) Serendipity of good fortune X 3.
Serendipity --a kind computer guy comes to my rescue!

           Three days back, serendipity first hit. Labor Day weekend was the bi-annual quilt show for my guild. I entered my granddaughter's quilt at the insistence of friends in my bee. The first morning after the judging,  I confess I was nervous to learn the judges critique of my work. I peaked at my quilt and saw a BLUE ribbon! I was so pleased, not just for me, but for my granddaughter. She's 13 months old and has a blue ribbon! Pretty cool. Serendipity X 4.
Serendipity -- Kate's first quilt!

              And my hubby is searching the back roads of Alabama for long lost relatives (he is a genealogy buff). He calls me and tells me he has found a Kolb Road. Is it possible it could be named after his line--from the 1840's? How random is that! Is this Serendipity X 5??

             And only a day before that we celebrated my sister's b-day! She is the best of the best.
She is the kind that cares for the stranger, loves the neighbor, gives of herself day after day and thinks nothing of it. Her artistic talent also inspires me to build my creative juices. Happy B-Day Fran! For sure, her sisterhood is Serendipity 6!

Serendipity with chocolate and only ONE candle!
              And last week filled with family--my Michael and Kate and their mom and dad. Serendipity--serendipity--blessings just keep happening. And Labor Day lunch with dear friends. Thank you,Serendipity 7!
Serendipity with my dear Lis, Michael and Kate
Serendipity # ?--best of all, the joy of girlfriends

            The day is half done. What lies in store? Is it the little things we observe that make us feel the happiness of serendipity? To focus on the surprises, to be open to receive the blessings and thank God for the goodness of the unexpected. What a great day! --next comes my writer's group. I can't wait--it is only noon.

Til later,

p.s.To your serendipity--to your discovery of the best! Send me a list of your five--or is it seven, maybe nine or a dozen? Enjoy your daily unexpected! I can't wait to hear, and with your permission, I'll share some in my next issue.

And the best read: current issue of Artful Blogging--so much talent, such fun to enjoy these creative spirits

And God's word:He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Just in case...


possibilities from a friendly quilter...just in case??
                    JUST IN my mind means all possibilities of emergency, including multi-maybe's when traveling, thus packing assorted products to cover the random chance that any event might happen. Make sense?  I've always packed, bought groceries, collected fabric and books, just in be prepared for all possibilities.
                                 To reinforce this obvious thought process, I recently observed a second style of woman's logic. I was privy to a series of business announcements at a quilter's meeting, only to hear the spokeswoman say " The September meeting will meet the last Thursday of August." No one questioned the statement. No one seemed confused.  It made perfect sense....exactly like just in case.
                               Reinforcing this logical thinking style I heard a writing artist read her clever poem just in case. It caused my mind to wander across the multi-hat, multi-task, multi-focus paths I and all women have traveled for eons--just in case we are called upon to make life more convenient.
take it all--take it all!
                         Third week of August, the date had been on the calendar for weeks. We decided to meet the kids (big and little) in the New Mexico mountains. 

                          Preprep first involved food for a week, buying veggies and fruit, snack foods, G's muffins and more. It involved a Saturday of cooking--soup, chicken and rice, taco meat, peach cobbler and organizing assorted fresh and frozen breakfast, lunch and snackies.  I felt like the local grocer, chef and I were loading for our departure. Oh, I forgot to mention spices, paper goods, trash bags and more...just in case.

                          Next came the packing of things I might want to use. I had to finish "Kate's quilt", so perle #8 and hand threads, darners, needle threaders and measuring tape were packed. Book favorites, Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott, Thunder and Lighting by Natalie Goldberg and sorted new issues of Bella Quilt, American Patchwork and Quilts, Poets and Writer magazines unread. I "needed" my writing notebook, mini computer and the larger one too. My son-in-law (computer pro) is meeting us and I have computer questions. And is a trip possible without necessary office scissors, tape, paper clips?...just in case.

                           Organization of carefully considered clothing included my umbrella, walking shoes and fleece (even if it is 100 degrees as I pack) and a mirage of other emergency possibilities--short and long sleeves, capri and long pants and one choice of dressy...just in case.

                           And modern technology included a zip case of additional emergency considerations. Charge cords, batteries, screen cleaners, camera and an extra memory card, just in case. Oh, the home telephone book, some note cards and stamps and a few "surprise" gifts for Michael and Kate. ...just in case.

                           And the departure time. G says "I don't want to drive when it is hot." My brain says "I don't want to get up before daylight to avoid that possibility." Well...he won and we were out of our driveway by 6:30 a.m., which meant I had a five a.m. alarm. I knew all the possibilities must be pre-ordered.

                           Extreme early mornings are painful for me, so the organization had to fall the day before departure. I created a plan.  First, pack G's truck with luggage inside...just in case of rain, then ice chests to the pickup bed, stuffed with pork tenderloin, frozen salmon filet, farm fresh veggies and organic carrots for the cabin. Next organize the hard cooked eggs, avocado, fresh cherries, raw almonds, peanut butter sandwiches-- the car food and just in case, water and energy bars. Oh, and fresh coffee in mugs. It is 6:30 a.m.

                           The next nine hours we moved 80 miles an hour down Interstate 10 then took a turn through the desert of Texas, the foothills of the Sacramento Mountains and finally into the cool, beautiful pine and spruce trees located at 8000 feet elevation. "Is it really 100 degrees at home?" "Please grab that fleece jacket for me, then I'll help unload the car." "Hungry?, "Yeah, the soup is still frozen in the ice chest, but I'll microwave it. Be ready shortly." Did you bring my walking shoes?" "Think they are in the black bag." and on it went...just in case.

maybe we forgot...does it really matter?

                               Random thoughts, random needs, random wants...but one never knows...just in case.

'til next time,


Consider a favorite read and I promise, laugh 'til you drop. I checked a library copy of the Erma Bombeck treasury of four books --Four of a Kind. What a talent--Bombeck wrote as if she wore our shoes. She saw life as we see it --daily!!

And a favorite scripture: II Timothy 2:15 "Study to show thyself approved unto God." --let us always remember

Saturday, August 21, 2010

School time, school time!

School memories --great classrooms, both big and small
                  I love the beginning of school. Seems a bit strange to think of this late summer season in that reference, as years have gone by since I went to school. Even years have gone by since my daughter went to school. BUT, some of my fondest long term memories include the calendar of back to school. I love thinking about the season of fall, football games, a scheduled routine and always, the adventure of books, learning and friends.

Post college I continued my beginning of school routine by teaching school. The schedule of school days, learning names and first assignments always fit my step. In those early teaching years, I lived in Lubbock, only blocks away from Texas Tech. Every early fall afternoon the band music echoed to my house and put my feet and heart in step. I thrived in hearing their beat and sound practice for the weekend football half-time performance. I loved and still love, the sound of "back-to-school" band music.

Another favorite school memory involved clothing to match the newness of the occasion--always something new to wear on the first school day.  Mom would sew or buy something that made my sister and me feel special. Often it seems new shoes were part of the outfit. High school memories recall a certain sock style, always white. We called the sock a crew sock and it had to be worn with a Weejun loafer (a style of penny loafer; we thought it cool to NOT put a penny in each shoe.) Nothing less; nothing more.

Always a new dress--which color??

I carried the tradition forward. As a young mom I always sewed a new "back to school" dress for Lis. I tried to match the theme of her interest (Big Bird, favorite color or twirl-ly skirt (big and full). I always wanted her to feel proud and look adorable (and I brag, she did.) Later the custom sewn dresses were replaced with brand name jeans and small embroidered icons (of course, only certain ones) on shirts, purses and watches. Our budget often allowed for "only one", but one seemed satisfactory. The one of a name brand satisfied the ego.

Thanks mom, for buying extra paper.

And the school supply aisle still stops me. I remember looking at the spiral notebooks in question "do I want red or the one with the fancy lettering on the cover?"  In my day new pencils and ball point pens gave expected status to that first day of school.  We wrote with red, yellow or blue #2's. If we really landed "cool", we had preordered pencils from Lillian Vernon with our name on each pencil. And I loved the zippered pencil pouches that fit inside the notebooks. Ball point pens? Clear plastic with the ink color showing visibly and of course, the pen must retract.

Now, as I view the pencils, it seems the style is the retractable--guess time even changes pencils. And the pens--choices are endless. Fine, extra fine, two tips on one pen, colors, gels, erasable and... Beyond my childhood pencil and pen dreams.

My favorite 3 ring notebook had to look like denim (no vinyl for me) and dividers? Oh, what fun to make a special title page for each subject--even Latin or Algebra. It felt so organized, so important. Lined paper was always on sale and I remember mom saying, "let's get several packages--you'll use it before years end." Wow! the newness, the smells, the efficiency--it all spoke to me.

And, do you, like I, remember learning our favorite or dreaded teacher lineup and the home room assignment of designated hall locker location? I always wanted a "top" locker, not one that required finding books, etc. by bending over. In my day a locker was just that, a storage space. Now locker accessories from mirrors to locked "safes" are some of the options. My, how time changes all.

And covering our books was a big thing. After the first day of class I remember toting a stack of books home and making "covers" for each book from grocery sacks. It was important to turn all of the advertising print to the inside. (and a book cover expert knew how to turn the covers without scotch tape to hold them tight-dad was very good at this task) True "high school status" was achieved when books displayed only brown sack stock showing. As the semester weeks passed we doodled our boyfriends names or our special monograms on the covers (sure that no one would "really" notice) and by semester end, tired covers had holes in the corners and  fuzzy worn spines. They had served us well. And, in this week's review of school supplies I spotted "3 for $2.00" stretchy book covers. time changes....

And the carpool. My childhood didn't have such; we walked or were driven by mom. But I remember big preparation in organizing Lis's carpool. We (all the moms) wanted just the right number of girls, personalities that would mesh, co-moms that would be on time and not run late and of course were "responsible." Big, big planning, all before cell phones; seat belts were still in their infancy. I don't remember my carpool kids wearing them.

Back to school again? I quiz. For me, I still have to find the way. I recently wrote of my trek to Alpine to the Texas League of Writers workshops, one week of study on Sul Ross Campus. And it was great. I wrote, I read and I studied until I dropped. My psychic demands this routine at least once a year. I reminisce about going to school again, being a full time student, even a degree--this time in journalism.

But for now, the next great realistic school experience...

SUE SPARGO brings Folk Art to Texas!

Quilting Adventures short week of study with Sue Spargo--folk artist extraordinaire. I can't wait. Sue is coming from Ohio and for four days she will guide her students through the primitive styles she does best. Check her out at QA:  
Sue's workshop is one of three weeks Quilting Adventures offers with the BEST quilting and art instructors around. What a dream to study each week! And like our childhood memories--our after school dinner is cooked for us!

Happy learning,


And I love to share:
My favorite read this week: Writing Creative Non-Fiction, 2001.
                                          Theodore A.Rees Cheney, Ten Speed Press

Great writing and GREAT inspirational examples. I'm pleased I found this book--Amazon.

My favorite scripture study: I Samuel 1,2 and following.

Hannah's story (she is the mother of Samuel). A woman's story --to touch every woman's heart.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

It's supper time - again!

I am sick of cooking. WAIT, before you flip to the next page and say "no whining", let me explain.

Yesterday I went to my neighbor's house for our late afternoon girlfriend meeting (side note: we country neighbor women join together once a month to laugh, to share and to eat!) This month Charlotte hosted our get together. As I entered her beautiful white kitchen, my eyes and nose were captivated by the sights and smells of food.  My taste buds said "oh my" as I looked at her homemade gumbo (from her home grown garden), salsa (her tomatoes and peppers) and peach cobbler (again, her peaches). In addition she had planned a step by step demo of how-to home can tomatoes, in hot sterile Kerr pint jars. Every detail, perfect.

Tradition is forming in our newly organized neighborhood group, but for now friends show their appreciation of the host by bringing a snack for sharing. We meet late in the afternoon, at 4:30, but that quickly runs into a supper hour and we seem to always be hungry, Holding true to my need for kitchen relief, I took watermelon and cantaloupe from the  farmer's market to our neighborhood event, --yep, so I didn't have to cook. And to your curiosity about Charlotte's spread--it was superb and we all enjoyed her wonderful fare.

From my neighbor's excellent culinary skills is another friend's extreme of "I don't cook." (She has a full time cook).She generously supplies paper goods or fresh flowers to dutiful social events, but NEVER home made food. She gladly reminds us "I don't cook."

But back to my emotional "cooking sickness" Actually, I'm somewhere in-between my two friend's extremes. Today, during my attitude meltdown of "cooking again" I realized my Richter scale hits about five. I decided to conduct a self diagnosis of my problem. Why am I weary of cooking? I did the math. I figured 40 years of cooking, 350 days a year X 3=42,000 meals, give or take.

I've scrambled eggs, made cinnamon rolls, fancy pies and cakes from scratch. I've cooked food for the ill and food for expectant moms. I've cooked Wednesday night suppers after working all day, Sunday lunches for eight at 6 a.m. and packed school lunches. I've bought weekly groceries, made jellies and homemade pickles, cooked in a jiffy and served Thanksgiving for 20, Martha Stewart style. And, many times I've made napkins and arranged flowers for the perfect image, the same afternoon as the party.

But, back to my cooking illness. I have NO fever. I have no headache. I love great food. I enjoy shopping the produce aisle, buying and reading cookbooks, cooking blogs, giving parties that involve great food.  So--what are my symptoms? More important, what is the remedy?

Analytically I began diagnosing my cooking illness.  So obvious, even I recognize the problem. It is not cooking, it is the routine. It is the expectation that the daily dinner table is waiting on me--even if I am in the middle of a great quilt or the second draft of my short story. I can't ignore the task of food and other's expectations of food in a scheduled manner. My right brain non-cooking mode is interrupted. I am forced to quit my creative journey and chop lettuce, grill chicken and peel potatoes, in keeping with the expected schedule.

Perhaps the negative word "sickness" is an over simplification of my thought process. My sickness involves the what and how of many innovative (let's see what I can put together) meals, multiplied by weeks, months and years. It is chopping, cutting and watching a simmering pot for 45 minutes, then eating it in 10 minutes. It is scheduled duty without relief, my duty to use my skills to feed family and friends. It is the repetitive"no milk in the refrigerator" duty that becomes my trip to the grocery. The repetitiveness duty my problem. And in all honesty, maybe it is because I never give the duty away. Maybe I have an attitude problem, not a duty problem. 

Reviewing my dilemma (attitude or duty), I am determined to find a cure.So, to overcome my pain and frustrations with the daily chore of cooking, I'm trying to regroup my attitude and daily procedures. I'm reaching for friend's suggestions, good cookbook reads and observing successful cooks-- those that enjoy the daily three-some of cooking (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Here are my goals. Reader's, please will check on me:

1) I vow to plan ahead. (another friend organizes supper at breakfast. Her duty is finished for the day.)

2) I vow to enjoy the colors, flavors and generosity of God's bounty. I will sketch, photograph and admire the beauty of the endless choices. And my mind's eye will remember mom's cooking--the skill of her hands and her voice saying "dinner is ready." I wonder if she had the cooking illness?

3) I vow to pull a cookbook from my 40 year collection and enjoy the memories. Basic cooking 101, Better Homes and Gardens, Fannie Farmer, and others. I'll review and remember with fondness friend's recipe cards with names of Marjorie, Suzanne, Sherry, Betty,Judy, Marcia, Fran and Alisa, all written on the line "from________."

4. I vow to cook as nutritionally (simply) as possible, and be satisfied with that choice.--because I really want to "create" in the kitchen. Simple is often boring to me. I adore the beauty of sauces, presentation, the extra touch. But health demands simple...give up the fluff (except for special occasions).

5. I will give dinner parties more often (for me, that isn't cooking--it is entertaining). The journey of menu planning, table setting, succulent flavors and textures coming together--is a high point for me.

6. And I vow to share a date night out with hubby. I can't wait to give the cooking to a different chef!

And today's first cookbook read: A great cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This chef put together an amazing story of veggie food-742 pages! And she has other cookbooks, to boot! --a great library find.

And one of God's scriptures on food:  Genesis 1:29
"I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

And as Julia Childs always said, "Bon Appetit'"

Til later,