Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting Ready to Quilt My French Pinwheel Quilt

I'm excited to have finished piecing my pinwheel quilt.

It is made with fabric I bought (years ago) in France, though I did add some other fabric to make the quilt larger. And I plan to add a border later on.

Now a new phase begins... hand quilting it on my quilting frame.

It's all set up...

My thimbles are ready.

I found some beige quilting thread.

It took me years to actually piece it! ... I wonder how long this phase will take!!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Kids Are OK

In many jobs, people work with the same individuals year after year. In teaching, the majority of those you work with - your students - move on after five or ten months, making way for a new wave of faces and personalities. (And the combination of those twenty-five or thirty personalities in one room day after day creates an interesting classroom "stew"!)

So it isn't surprising that, after many years of teaching, I sometimes look back and wonder how the hundreds - if not thousands - of students that I taught are doing, especially the younger ones I taught in my early years, who may have suffered from my lack of experience. (Or perhaps gained from my youthful energy!) What did I really teach them? - those energetic adolescents? Hopefully to get along with others and to believe in themselves.

So it has been gratifying to discover, recently, that THOSE KIDS ARE OK!

Although they now live in different parts of the globe, the Internet - especially Facebook - has allowed a large group of my early students to reconnect. This past summer, a mutual friend informed me that one young man I taught 40 years ago in a school over 5500 miles (or almost 9000 kilometers) away lives in the same city as I do!

This young man is active in this online "reunion" of former classmates and colleagues sharing pictures and memories. As a result, I am now - amazingly - in touch with some of students I taught in my early teaching years!

It's hard to believe! And exciting!... But most gratifying of all is to see that - all these years later - THE KIDS ARE OK!

Because inside the teacher, there is a surrogate parent who wants them to succeed and be happy!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

And the Problem is....

Every job has its "stories"... (And I smiled when I overheard this one...)

A hotel clerk checked a businessman into the hotel. The man went off to his room, but returned a few minutes later.

There's a problem with that room, he said. I can hear a faint buzzing noise. I know it will bother me and I won't be able to sleep.

The clerk apologized for the problem and assigned him a different room, down the hall from the first.

But again - a few minutes later - the businessman returned with the same complaint. He could hear the buzzing noise in the second room, too.

So the clerk assigned him a room on a different floor.

But again, a few minutes later, the man returned. Storming over to the front desk he complained: There is a buzzing noise in this room too! I can't believe that a hotel of this caliber would have problems like this! I'll never stay here again!

So the manager accompanied the disgruntled guest to the room. And sure enough, he too could hear a soft buzzing noise. So he phoned the hotel engineer to come and fix the problem.

And he did. After listening carefully for a minute, the hotel engineer bent down and said, The noise is coming from your suitcase.

An electric toothbrush in the businessman's suitcase was making the buzzing noise!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Winter Garden

"The weather outside is frightful..." But inside it's so delightful...

(Well, those aren't the real words to the song, but...)

Since I stay indoors a lot these days, I really appreciate the color and light in my indoor "winter garden."

I don't have as many African violets in bloom as I have had in previous years, but I do enjoy the delicate dash of color these provide. (Looking back at my older posts, I see that some bloom in July. That's fine too!)

And the indoor flowers make me look forward to the ones outdoors... which are only a few months away!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Online Tool For Amateur Meteorologists...

One of the few principles I remember learning in the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is: Don't worry about things you have no control over.

Which is why I rarely check the weather - unless I have to go somewhere and I need to plan what to wear. (My logic: I can't control the weather, but I can control how I adapt to it!)

Terry, on the other hand, is an avid weather watcher. He is curious, not only about our local forecast, but about weather in places like Nunavut (close to the North Pole) - a region we will probably never visit.

I really don't understand this fascination - but apparently others share his passion... When I casually mentioned it one day to my dentist - I can't remember why - he replied that his wife was addicted to The Weather Network, too!

So for those who (like my husband) are insatiably curious about the weather all over North America - and waste hours on the computer checking it - here is is a tool that will cut your computer time in half, at least (I hope)...

It's a map that gives all the temperatures at all the airports in North America right now, at this moment! No clicking needed - just pass the cursor over the dot and the airport weather pops up.

(Message to my husband: There! You've checked! Can I have the computer now?!)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolate Brownies

I don't know why I often crave a mid-afternoon chocolate treat, but today I did, and instead of heading for the chocolate chips, I decided to make chocolate brownies from my Weight Watchers Best Ever Desserts Cook Book. (which appears to be out of print).

I don't make a lot of the desserts from this book, but this cover picture of brownies sold me on the book initially, and I have made them several times. Even with my "healthy" substitutions, I have never been disappointed.

I suspect their low fat makes them diet-friendly... if you eat just one... But I always have a hard time doing that!

So I'll give you the recipe - with my modifications - and my method.

Fudgy Cocoa Brownies (Page 64)

1. Mix the following dry ingredients together till they are well blended:

3/4 cup flour
  • My substitution: I used 1/4 cup spelt flour and 1/2 a cup of unbleached flour. I sometimes use 1/4 cup each of spelt, whole wheat and white flour.
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar

2. Add in and mix:

3 tablespoons melted butter (My substitution: 3 tablespoons cooking oil or olive oil)
1 large egg and 2 egg whites (My substitution: 3 whole eggs)

3. When well mixed, add:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

4. Pour into a sprayed or greased pan. (One of the reasons I like to use silicone bakeware is that it doesn't need to be greased.)

5. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Let cool before removing from pan.

This recipe makes 16 brownies - I made 12 cupcakes instead. If you can hold yourself back from eating more than one a day and substitute one brownie for one and a half slices of bread, these brownies can be considered diet-friendly!

Idea! It just occurred to me that this would be an easy recipe to gift as a prepared "mix." The dry ingredients and walnuts could be mixed and put in a jar or small freezer bag tied with a bow. Attached to the bow could be the easy instructions:
1. Add:
  • 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla (optional)
2. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a greased baking pan.
3. Cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mid-Winter Smile

The days are getting longer, but the weather is still cold... I'm beginning to count down the weeks till winter ends...

But my winter weariness was brightened today by three You Tube videos that show snow in Atlanta, Georgia... (where they aren't accustomed to ice and cold.)

A very funny young lady shows what I call the three phases of winter...

Phase 1. The initial excitement: The snow is so pretty!

Phase 2. The reality: I could fall crossing the street... (I have done that - more than once!)

Phase 3. The fatigue: I'm tired of it... When will it end?!!

If you're as tired of winter as I already am, I hope these weather reports will make you smile!

Monday, January 24, 2011

There Must Be a Lesson in This

A few days ago, I mentioned losing some quilting fabric I had purchased in Paris, France. I "lost" it in the house after tidying up. Fortunately, it did turn up again... several years later!

I have written other blog posts on how easily I lose things: I take great pains to find just the "right" place for them... and then forget where that "right" place is!

Recently it happened again! Last summer I decided that the time had come to organize my digital photos. A lot of them were on my old computer. Should that computer suddenly break down, I would lose years of pictures. So I painstakingly transferred them all to a memory stick. In fact, I transferred them to two memory sticks (in order to have a backup copy...)

Then the other day, a former student contacted me. After chatting a while, I offered to share some digital photos I had... But when I looked for them, I couldn't find them!

I then realized that so many memories on such a small (easy-to-lose) device was really pushing my luck! I need online backups of all my photos - perhaps on Shutterfly - or Picasa - or BOTH!

(And I should never keep the back up memory stick with the other!!)

Maybe I need to follow my daughter's advice and burn all my photos onto a CD. Perhaps onto 2 CDs - then keep a one and give the other to a friend.

Or maybe I should give lots of copies away. Years ago one of my friends lost most of her possessions in a house fire. She later commented that the only photos she now had were ones she had originally given away to family and friends, which they were now returning to her.

Well, the good news is that I did eventually find my memory sticks. (Yes, the original and the backup were in the same place!) How did I find them? My usual method - by going back and looking again... in the most logical place I would put them...

In fact, I've posted a blog about that strategy too!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Sorting through my mother's things, I have come across a few "hankies." Though I remember using them as a child, paper tissues took over the market sometime during my growing-up years, and handkies were left behind.

But I do have childhood memories of being reminded - as I headed out the door: Don't forget your hankie!

Souvenirs of another era...

I wonder: Were these fancy lace handkerchiefs, meant to be used...? Perhaps only to dab one's eyes!

This one has delicate hand-made lace.

My mother's "hankie collection" also has two synthetic ones - one blue and one white - definitely too rough to wipe one's nose with!

What were they used for?!

The white one, a souvenir of Victoria, British Columbia, in particular fascinates me.

Did my mother buy it when - as a young woman during World War II - she took the train from Alberta to visit a young man she had met while teaching up north? Was her soldier-boyfriend being sent overseas? Had she gone to Victoria to say "Good-bye"?

I'll probably never know. But I do remember my father occasionally teasing her about this part of her past!...

Had she purchased this handkerchief as a souvenir? Perhaps to wave at the dock when he sailed away? Or to wave "Good-bye" out the window, as her train pulled out of the station... just like in old movies?!

I wonder... But of course, I'll never know!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My French Pinwheel Quilt

Last time I was in Paris, I searched (on Google) for a shop that sold French quilting fabric. I didn't know if quilting was popular, or even known, in France.

I didn't find many fabric stores, but one on the left bank (one of my favorite areas) sold both quilting fabric and antique furniture. So I headed off to find it...

Not sure what kind of quilt I wanted to make, I ended up buying a packet of 30 pre-cut squares that had a lot of variety in color and design.

When I got back home, I took the fabric out and looked at it for a long time... hoping to be inspired. I wasn't sure what kind of quilt to make with these tiny bits of fabric...

Then one day, after tidying up, I "lost" it!

(By "lost" - I mean that I knew it was somewhere in the house... I just didn't know where ... and I couldn't seem to find it, however hard I looked!)

Years passed... Yes, years! And whenever I thought about the fabric, I would be annoyed at myself. After all, purchasing it had been a major effort!

Then last week, as I sorted through all my plastic bins of quilting fabric, organizing them by color... there it was, at the bottom of a bin!

I mention all this because that is why - though I have a lot of unfinished projects on the go - I dropped everything to make a quilt out of my French squares. My reasoning was that if it were bigger, I would have a harder time losing it! And since the squares were small to begin with, and I wasn't sure what pattern to make, I divided them in half, making triangles... (A lot of quilt designs are made up of triangular shapes!)

I laid them out this way...

... and that... And finally decided to make a pinwheel quilt...

Now - three days later - I have sewn the main part together...

And again, I'm spending a lot of time looking at it - wondering what kind of border to put around it... I'd like it to be a little bigger.

(I'm determined to finish it before I lose it again!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do Deep Fried Gnocchi Really Explode?!

I smiled as I watched this You Tube cooking video my daughter forwarded to me. In it, a young man decides to deep-fry gnocchi and discovers - in the process - that they sometimes become searing hot projectiles!

Then I noticed a second video (no longer online) in response to the first: a young man trying (unsuccessfully) to get gnocchi to explode!

I could imagine how enthusiastically my own two sons would try it...)

Hmmmm, I wonder if I should try, too...! I still don't know if deep fried gnocchi really explode!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Even In Winter...

This month has been a time of change in our neighborhood. Our first snow melted early in the month and then more snow came...

But there have been other changes as well...

After weeks of preparation (removing bricks and hoisting it off its moorings) the corner house on our street was loaded onto a flatbed and transplanted to a new location!

It looked pretty awful, with its roof cut off to make it lower.

Then last Sunday morning, the house and its roof (covered with snow) were taken away.

After weeks of preparation, suddenly another neighborhood landmark was...


Now the basement sits there, a gaping hole. The plan is to build two houses in its place, They will no doubt be larger than the previous home... as our quiet 1950s neighborhood changes.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Winter Sunsets

On short winter days like these, the sun sets around 5 pm...

Maybe because it sets just to the west of my window at this time of year, I notice it....disappearing in a blaze of glory...

Day after day... an amazing show of color and light! I just have to stop and watch!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Peach Cobbler Plus...

Digging through the freezer, I found a package of frozen peaches, put there, no doubt, when too many were ripening at the same time.

Time for peach cobbler!

I used the recipe for "Cottage Pudding" from my 11th edition 1965 Fanny Farmer Cookbook...

I mixed together:
  • 1 1/2 cups of flour (making some optional substitutions* below)
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 a cup of sugar
  • a generous dash of cinnamon

*I did substitute one tablespoon each of psyllium, wheat germ, and soy flour for 3 tablespoons of the white flour. Then I added a serious dash of cinnamon to hide the "healthy" look! (Terry prefers unadulterated white flour!)

  • I melted 3 tablespoons of butter in a glass measuring cup
  • Added enough milk to make a cup.
  • Then I beat one egg and added it to the liquids.
Finally I added the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mixed it well.

After heating the peaches in the microwave oven, I topped them with batter.

Knowing I would have some batter left over, I put about half of it in a small greased pan and added sliced apples in rows (My grandmother used to do something similar). Then I added a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon to both.

Then I baked both at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes...

The results were delicious!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I Love You... Tube!

I love You Tube - not only for the variety of music I can access there, but also for its many teaching "how-to" videos uploaded and shared on You Tube. Just as my parents would turn to their trusty encyclopedia to learn more about something, I turn to the internet - often to You Tube!

A recent example occurred over Christmas when my daughter laughingly told me about an old song she had heard. It went something like... Enjoy Yourself! It's Later than You think... I went to You Tube and introduced her to the music of Guy Lombardo, a popular star of my mother's generation... !

Listening to that song brought back memories of other songs from my childhood: I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts in the original - or the Sesame Street version! And The Too Fat Polka! Where else could I find that music today?!

Another reason I love You Tube is that I can access how-to videos on a variety of topics, such as...

Cooking: I referred to one on a blog about making spinach pies.

Quilting: I passed this lesson on to a friend who wanted to learn how to hand quilt.

Threading: When I heard that some cultures remove facial hair using thread instead of tweezers, I found a You Tube video showing me how!

All this stored information - available instantly through the internet... at the touch of my computer keyboard!

A kind of online talking encyclopedia...

Love it!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finding Flowers Indoors

Winter is long for gardeners, itching to be outdoors!

Fortunately I have a few African violets blooming in my sunroom, so I am not totally flower-deprived!

I enjoyed the recent blog post of a fellow gardener, showing flowers in different forms around the house.

So I hunted for forgotten flowers in my home as well!

I don't have quite as many!

Though I did find a few framed paintings.

(These last two were painted by a former student from Afghanistan.)

The living room has a few...

 these recently-made flower pillows...

...and this painted table runner...

... and this child's painting.

I discovered some more...

...on several quilts...

...and tiles...

 this hand-painted name plate that adorned the door of my Israeli apartment.

Also flowers delicately painted on glass.

Going upstairs, there were flowers on the walls of one bedroom...

... and a Laura Ashley border in another. (I had intended to go to a Laura Ashley store in London, but forgot!)

The third had a cross-stitched rose.

Another framed cross-stitch picture (purchased in a thrift shop) hangs in the hall.

Amazing how even pictures of flowers can brightening a day!