Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday afternoon it started snowing and kept it up most of the evening. With the light dusting of snow and sleet we got the night before the snow quickly accumulated (about 6 inches per DH) This is a scene out our back door.

This is another scene in the back yard. The trees all belong to our neighbors.

DH and I came home early from work so he could shovel the driveway while it was still daylight. He had his workout, that's for sure! From about that point down to the cul-de-sac he just did a single car width. A special challenge when backing out tomorrow morning. DD17 will really have to be careful :-)

This little tree sits right outside our front door. I thought it was so cute with the snow heaped all over it like fluffy white frosting.

This is the kind of weather that I like to observe from the warmth and comfort of my home!

God's timing

I love it when things happen that reveal to me God's perfect timing. I moderate a Yahoo group that stitches squares for charities that make quilts for sick children and we often do a stitchalong for a particular theme to help the charity gather a 'stash' of squares for emergencies when a child cannot wait the 9 months or so that it takes to do a complete theme just for that child.
Recently the group decided to do a stitchalong of the EMS Baby Animals and planned to send the squares to some of the charities. The ladies really fell in love with these cute little critters and we had 20 signups in no time.
This week Love Quilts opened a new child (Breonna) who wants a quilt of EMS Babies. So we have a home for all those squares before we even send them. Some will be duplicates of what others stitch but they may have to use duplicates to get the 35 necessary to make the quilt. Any that they cannot use for Breonna's quilt will be stored in the Any Child stash for emergency cases. Only God could have known that the need would be there!
Here is a picture of the chart I am stitching- I am almost halfway done.

And these are my favorites of the ones that our group has already completed - I couldn't choose just one :-) These were stitched by Raynett (TX) and Wilma (WA).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Menu Monday

Well it is 11 p.m. on Sunday evening so I am going to go ahead and post the menu for this week. I am trying to use some of the freezer meals to make things simpler. I think I will have to keep doing the freezer meals to always have a couple weeks in the freezer. If I do 5 each week it would not be nearly the task that 25 was. I look at recipes now and say to myself - that could be done as a freezer meal :-)
This week will be a Weight Watcher challenge. With dinner out 2 evenings and Super Bowl snack food on Sunday I doubt I will lose any weight this week. I'll just be happy to not gain any!

Monday -
Smothered Steak (freezer meal)

Tuesday -
Spinach and Artichoke Pie (freezer meal)
Caprese Style Salad

Southwestern Slow Cooker Chicken and Potato Soup (leftover from Sunday) or a large chef salad

Thursday -
No cooking - some ladies are going to a local smokehouse to encourage a friend who is going through a divorce. Her wedding anniversary is Thursday.

Friday -
No cooking - Marriage retreat

Saturday -
Southwestern Turkey Sandwiches
Baked chips
Dill pickles

Sunday -
Super Bowl party food

Flowers in a shoe

This is the third quilt square I have stitched for the Stitchers' Challenge at Quilts for Seniors. I bought this chart as a kit and have just been waiting for a reason to stitch it. This is for the gardening theme of the challenge. I think I may have to do a second one for our purple bathroom.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I love to read - especially fiction with a little romance and suspense. I think that is how I 'escape' sometimes and live vicariously through the characters. Some of my favorite authors right now are Debbie Macomber (I'm reading her Cedar Cape series), Maggie Sefton and Cleo Coyle. It is very interesting to me to notice the new genre of books - stories of multiple characters all revolving around a common theme like a hobby or locale.

The Debbie Macomber series is about a town in Washington and you meet several characters in the first book that continue throughout the series. Each book revolves around the one main story (based on the family who lives at the address in the title) but also has the other story lines flowing parallel in the book. In the second book, she added a few new characters and briefly mentioned some that were more prominent in the first book. Reading them makes me feel like part of the homey community and I want to read the next one just to find out how everyone is doing :-)

I just finished her second book, 204 Rosewood Lane. These are books that once I start, all I want to do is read. In this one she resolves the 'missing spouse' from the first book and adds some romantic twists and a couple pregnancies to keep the reader waiting for the next book.

Currently I am reading Needled to Death by Maggie Sefton. In her first book the main character has to deal with the death of her aunt, the last of her family (she thinks :-) which was the result of a vagrant trying to rob her in her home (or so the officials think). Of course it couldn't be that easy or there wouldn't be much to write about.
She quickly becomes friends with the staff and clientele at the yarn shop/coffee house next door and even takes up knitting. Of course, the main character is instrumental in solving the mystery of her aunt's death and thus begins the series.
In this second book, one of the suppliers to the yarn shop is found murdered by the main character - so here we go again. It also is an easy read with a core group of characters that continue from book to book.
I did learn a few helpful knitting tips and how alpaca farms operate. Each book has a pattern and recipe so that is also a plus.

All my reading is not just fluffy romantic mysteries though. I read The True Woman by Susan Hunt as part of a ladies Bible study this fall and winter. It was a good book and created a lot of really good discussion and sharing. Each chapter begins with a real life story of a woman and her struggle (many really hit home!). It helped me to see how God has given women a special place in His plan and that we have a great responsibility to our husband and children - but also that He has given us each other for encouragement and support. We need to be developing relationships with other women within our church family - not just the 'Hello, How are you?" on Sunday morning but really getting to know them.
Our church is starting a "Spritual Sister" program which grew out of Secret Sisters that we have done for several years. Women who wish to participate are matched up by a drawing of names and they are to touch base every week with prayer requests and accountability for their walk with God. My spiritual sister is a vibrant young mother of 3 (early teen and preteens) and very active with her children. I'm excited about getting to know her better and developing a God-honoring prayer partnership.
Last quarter, I attended a women-only Sunday School class which studied a book by Susan Hunt called By Design. It also was a good reminder of our special purpose in God's plan and ways that we minister to His people. There are some new things happening in our church community because of that.

One of the ladies is going through a divorce and her wedding anniversary is 1/29. She will be home alone that night as her ex-husband will have their daughter so some of us have invited her to go out to eat and have our own little 'encouragement party'. She was so happy to have something to do that night! And we all have an excuse for a night out :-)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cross stitch houses

This is a house that I cross stitched for the Stitcher's Challenge at Quilts for Seniors.
There are 6 themes and each stitcher will stitch one square in each theme before the end of June.
If desired, the stitcher may stitch 2 squares for one of the themes and omit another one.

I chose to do 2 house squares and will not do one of the other themes. Both the house charts are from a kit that we used in 1994 for our family ornaments. I had a hard time deciding which 2 houses to stitch.

This is the other square. I know a lot of the older men have been volunteer firemen in their youth (or at least a lot of them that I know) and thought they would like a firehouse.

Freezer Meals

My sister came to visit last weekend and we made 50 freezer meals (25 for each of us) with the help of DD19 and DD17. We spent a lot of time chopping and dicing fresh vegetables before assembling the meals. I couldn't resist taking a picture of all the veggies before we got started.

We worked from about 8 am until 4 pm with a short break for lunch. When we got done we were more than happy to go out to O'Charley's for supper.

On Sunday morning I made a fritatta for breakfast and a spicy vegetable soup for lunch using the extra vegetables. Mostly we had onions, red and green peppers and mushrooms left over from the meals. A lot of the recipes called for diced vegetables by the cup and it is hard to judge how many cups you can get from a pepper or onion. I added some canned tomatoes (one can with chilies), frozen corn and green beans to the soup. We also used only part of a bag of frozen hash brown for the freezer meals so I used some of those in the soup. It was good - but it sure opened up the sinuses.

Menu Monday -- on Wednesday??

Things have been pretty hectic here - not sure why - and I haven't been doing very well with planning meals. I have the main entree planned out in Weight Watchers - but haven't been keeping to that so far this week. Have to get back to it if I want to lose the last 5 pounds!

Monday -
Shrimp Scampi
Creamed Spinach

Tuesday -
Crock pot Chicken pot pie (mix)

Wednesday -

Thursday -
Two Bean Chili (freezer meal)
Corn muffins

Friday -
Cornmeal battered fish and chips

Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs with Chile and Corn

Sunday -
Potato and Canadian Bacon Slow Cooker Chowder
Fresh Veggies

Sunday, January 11, 2009

25 pounds! Woo-hoo!!!

This morning was weigh-in (in the privacy of my own bathroom) and I have officially lost 25 pounds. That means only 5 more to reach my goal. After staying stable for the last 4-5 weeks, I lost 3 pounds last week. Of course, I did not expect to lose any weight over the holidays and I was just happy to maintain. It has been hard to get back to the menus after the holiday eating but it was worth it to hit this milestone.

I thought Sunday was going to be a real challenge for the WW food plan. We had planned to go out to eat to celebrate our annual wage adjustments at work and the end of the first semester of school for the girls. When we got out of church DD19 was not feeling well and by the time we stopped at the house she really did not feel like going out to eat, so we made do here at home. So instead of a restaurant meal I had leftovers.

Menu Monday

Monday - Cashew Chicken/Rice
Mandarin oranges

Tuesday - No planned supper as we girls are going to a baby shower. There will be lots of snacks and I am taking pretzels and Spicy Sweet Mustard which is very low in points.

Wednesday- Philly Steak Pizza

Thursday - Crockpot Vegetable Soup
French Bread

Friday - Crock Pot Chicken
Green beans

Saturday - Dinner out - this is our 'rain' date for our celebration dinner

Sunday - Spicy Thai Beef-Noodle Soup

My sister will be here over the weekend so she will get to go out with us to celebrate. We will be working all day on the Freezer Meals and it will be good to go out to eat that evening and be able to relax. Since she is doing Weight Watchers also, we can hold each other accountable.

Cross stitch squares

These are 2 more quilt squares that I stitched. I did these on Saturday. They stitch up quickly and once I start one I want to see it finished. They remind me of pencil sketches, so it makes me feel like an artist. (Jill, I know you are doing the skater also but duplicates are okay since these will be donated to Love Quilts for emergency needs.

These are for a stitch-along at Cross Stitching for Charity (CSFC). This is an online Yahoo group that I moderate. We encourage each other as we stitch for various charities that make quilts or pillows for people who are sick. These will probably go to Love Quilts.

The CSFC group has several stitch-alongs going at a time. For this one the participants are all stitching these sports figures that are done with a single color of floss. We are using many different colors so they will be a rainbow of designs when we are done. Someone donated a big stash of floss to the group because she no longer did cross stitching so I sent everyone who signed up to stitch a square a skein of floss.

These are quick stitches but they are challenging because you have to keep the back of the square really neat or the colored thread will peak through the little holes in the cloth. So I decided to scan the backs of my squares too. I know some stitchers who scan the back of all their projects to 'show off' how neatly it was done. With quality stitching, the back should look like a mirror image of the front. How do you think I did on these?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Recipes Blog

I have decided to do a second blog with my recipes. That way if you aren't interested in the recipe you don't have to check it out. I will put a link on my menus for those items that are in my recipe blog. This way I have my recipes available too :-)

The first recipe is Slush

Heart Puzzle

This is a puzzle I framed for DD17. She found the puzzle at my parents' house several years ago and wanted it because she loves hearts. The puzzle was a gift to my mom years ago (she passed away in 1995). DD17 put the puzzle together and asked about hanging it in her room which I said we could do. So the puzzle laid on top of a hutch we have in the family room for about 2 years before I did something about it.

I bought some Hodge Podge and the white frame at Michael's this morning. The frame was 50% off so it was a good deal. The puzzle fit in the frame perfectly so we did not even use the Hodge Podge. That way if/when DD17 gets tired of the framed puzzle we can take it apart and use it as a puzzle again.

It really is a fun puzzle. The hearts appear to be ceramic (probably plastic) and each one has a unique design. It is fun to just look over it and each time you notice something different about one of the hearts. It is 18 x 24 inches and look really nice on her wall.

Of course, while I was in Michael's I had to use the 40% off coupon that expired today. Since the frame was already on sale I could not use it for that The Hodge Podge was only $5 so that wouldn't be much of a saving. So I picked up a punch that I had my eye on. It is a row of slots about every 1/2 inch and will be perfect for weaving ribbon along the edge of a card or scrapbook page. I think it will be cute to use with the scallop punch. I can't wait to do some card making and scrapbooking - maybe next weekend while my sister is here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Another baby blanket

This baby blanket is for DH's new niece, due early next month. It is crocheted in a shell stitch that is fairly simple and makes a nice feminine style. I made a similar one for my nephew's baby, Mayda, last fall. The yarn is Caron's Simply Soft. It was so nice to work with and it has a little bit of a sheen. I would like to make others using it - and if I make the afghan for the co-worker, I will suggest that yarn. I used the Orchid and White.

I did not make my first row long enough and the blanket was pretty tiny when I finished so I added several rows to the border. It took me a while to get the corners the way I wanted them but I am pleased with it. I added the row of white to make it look like the larger border was 'planned'.

DH's youngest sister and husband have tried for many years to have a baby and then adopted an infant almost 3 years ago. They were debating about trying for another adoption when she became pregnant. She has miscarried several times so we were all praying that this one would be different. The adoption is a great story! They were approved to adopt through a local agency and the next day they got a call that there was a young lady who was in labor and wanting to give her baby for adoption. She was a single mom to a 2 year old girl and the new baby was from a one night stand relationship. They went to the hospital met the mom and then went home to 'think about it'. It took them no time to decide that they wanted the baby. So the next day they went back to the hospital and he was theirs. Of course, they had to wait to make it official after the waiting period and making an attempt to notify the father. They brought their son home when he was a day old and had absolutely NOTHING! At least this time they have had 9 months to get ready :-)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Freezer meals

My sister introduced me to Saving Dinner. You can purchase menus complete with shopping lists at a very reasonable price. My favorite Saving Dinner product are the Freezer Meal packages. Each one has 5 menus that can be put together and frozen - then assembled and cooked in short order.

In 2007 my sister was undergoing chemo and radiation for breast cancer. I went to her house and we made up a bunch of freezer meals in duplicate so we each had 25 meals all ready to go. A few of the meals were not so popular at our home but for the most part everyone liked them. Here we are in her kitchen slaving away. It was really quite a production!

My sister got the idea that we needed to do this again - except now she is in a 3 bedroom apartment and has a kitchen about half the size of what she had before. So she will come here next weekend and we will do another bunch of freezer meals.

Of course, that picture was pre- Weight Watchers online and losing almost 25 pounds (and keeping it all off over the holidays, even losing a pound or so from Thanksgiving to New Year's!). A nice thing is the saving dinner menus include WW points. I purchased some new menus for this round - and one is the Healthy Heart menus. My sister started Weight Watchers online this week so we will be using the chicken, fish and healthy heart plans this time.

Here is a picture from Christmas of the three sisters.
I am the middle one. One sister is 15 years older than I am and the other is 19 months younger. The younger sister is the one who is coming to make the freezer meals. We have 4 brothers (the youngest is deceased).

My weight loss is not so obvious in that photo but I can sure tell by my pants! Some of my pants are so baggy I look like a clown. Just a few more pounds and I am going to buy me some new clothes - I have less than 10 pounds to lose to meet my goal but I may try for more just to keep up with my sister :-)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

First square of 2009

This is my first charity square of 2009. It is for Cristina through Quilts for Older Children. Her theme is 'Religious'. I chose the verse from a leaflet I have and combined parts of 2 borders to make it larger. (The design is really straight on the fabric, I just had it on the scanner a little off kilter)

I should memorize that verse to remind myself to rejoice. It is so easy to moan and complain or worry about the future that it takes real effort for me to think back on what God has done and rejoice.

I'm back in the cross-stitching groove. I completed this square in one day (I stayed up until almost midnight to finish it since I was so close). Now on to work on my EMS Baby Chipmunk and the other

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Finished blanket and Menu Monday (late again)

I finished the baby blanket last night. I did it in 5 days which is longer than some. One I finished in 2 days as I had a business trip to Chicago and I knitted the whole 10 hours I was riding in the back of the van :-) The baby shower is next Tuesday so I made my deadline easily.

I used Homespun yarn by Lion's Brand. It is varigated so it makes a natural striping to the blanket. It is knit on the diagonal, beginning with 5 stitches and increasing every row until you reach the middle, then decreasing every row. It is a plain knit with the 'yarn over' to create an eyelet type edging. One of these times I think I will run a silky ribbon all the way around through the eyelet openings, tying bows at the corners.
I love how this photo shows the striping. I did not plan it when I placed it on the chair but the stripes are almost lined up perfectly. You can see the eyelet edging where the one side is lapped over the other -looks like a design right down the center in this photo.

Now, I will get busy on some charity cross-stitching. I need to get a religious square done and mailed before 2/1/09. I have started another that is due on 2/1/09 but it is for the Yahoo group I moderate and that deadline is flexible - so I will put it aside and get the other one done first. One of the charity groups has started a Stitchers' Challenge. Six themes are posted for a six month period. Each stitcher does one square per theme with the option to trade off one theme. The themes are sport, dog, cat, houses, in the mountains and flower/gardening. I have enjoyed looking through my pattern books (I have a full 4 drawer file cabinet of them!) and pulled some that I think will be fun to do and please the recipients. These will all go to senior citizens. I will post them as I get them done - or maybe post them when my group of 6 are done. It is just one way to 'enable' our addiction (like we need that ???)

Today is an icy day - no school and I am working from home. DH tried to go into work this morning and had trouble getting up the hill in our subdivision so called and told them he would be in later. He left about 2 hours late - after the salt truck made it around the cul-de-sac. DD17 is still asleep but I have some jobs for her later. DD19 is north of us at her cousin's house and will be traveling on to Chicago with a friend and one of her cousins today. The weather up there is better - just a light dusting of snow. She will spend a couple days with my sister and then head back later in the week when it will be springlike again.

All in all it is a good day to settle in and cross-stitch. I have the "So you forgot to defrost" chicken in the crockpot and will put some Honey Grain Rolls in the bread machine later. That will make a nice hot supper for tonight. I have to get serious again with my Weight Watchers as my sister has decided to join too so there is a little competition now :-)

Here are the menus for this week:

Monday -
Ham and Beans
Corn Muffins

So You Forgot to Defrost Chicken
Honey Grain Rolls
Twice Baked Potatoes (I made extra baked potatoes on Sunday so I could have these today)
Mandarin Oranges

Italian Beef Sandwiches

Thursday -
Spicy BBQ meatballs
Broccoli with Orange Sesame Sauce
Honey Grain Rolls

Friday -
Herbed Cheese Stuffed Shells
Honey Grain Rolls

Saturday -
Crusty Grouper with Cucumber Salsa
Parmesan Pea Risotto
Cooked apples

Sunday -
French Onion Soup

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Charity Cross-stitch

For several years I have been cross-stitching for charity through several organizations. Most use counted cross-stitch squares to make quilts for sick or terminally ill children. Others make quilts for senior citizens to let them know we haven't forgotten them. I am moderator for a Yahoo group (CSFC) that enables stitchers to contribute to a number of charities and we have also made a few quilts within our group to give to relatives or friends of our members.

I have posted my final squares for 2008 in my webshots album, 2008 Cross Stitching.

This cherry pie will be part of a quilt for Jake at Love Quilts. He is a young boy who wanted 'fun foods' for his theme. This is a Mary Engelbreit kit that I found on E-Bay and added the border to make it large enough for the quilt square.

This is the same chart done for Quilts for Seniors who makes lap quilts for senior citizens. This is for their teatime theme or it could be used for the kitchen theme. They use smaller squares so I did not have to add a border but I did the background grid to personalize it.

This Care Bear will go to Cuddle Cushions who makes pillows for sick children. One of the groups I belong to (Quilts for Older Children) has ongoing signups for Cuddle Cushions. The moderator posts scans of fabric squares that she has to donate to Cuddle Cushions and the stitchers sign up to do squares to match up to the fabric. This will go with a fabric that has a blue background and smiling stars scattered around. It is perfect for this chart.
This is another Cuddle Cushions donation. The fabric for this one is lime green with pink and purple accents. It has Care Bears scattered on the fabric as well.

If you would like to see more of my charity stitching, you can use the link on the years below.
This year I did 68 items for charity (5 of the photos in my album are gifts I made so they don't count as a charity). In 2007, I did 123 charity items which also included bookmarks and ornaments. In 2006, I did 114 and in 2005, I did 66 (I did not start stitching for charity until April of 2005 or I would have hit 100 then too). I slowed down in 2008 because of other craft demands, like a scrapbook for DH19's high school graduation - and knitting about 8 baby blankets. Well -back to the most recent baby blanket. I am anxious to get it done so I can get busy on some cross stitch squares that are due by 2/1/09.

Christmas is officially past- plans for January

Christmas is officially past - the tree is down and packed away. All the other Christmas decorations are packed up - a few gifts still need to find homes - but all signs are gone. I still need to dig out the usual pictures and knick knacks that sit on the shelves and end tables. The snow village and all my snowman decorations are still out. They will stay out until close to Easter.

It feels so good to have the open space in the living room. The tree takes up one whole corner and becomes the focal point. Now we are much more comfy.

DD19 is heading to Chicago to visit my sister on Monday and will not return until Thursday, so it will even seem like she is back at college for a few days.

DD17 of course will be back at high school and taking the semester final that had to be re-scheduled due to a snow day in December. She will be happy to be done with that too. Of course, it is the class she dislikes the most (she dislikes all of her classes at times) and the one she struggles with. Thank God it is only one semester so she is done with it after tomorrow.

We have some big plans for January. My sister is planning to come visit and we are going to make Freezer Meals from Saving Dinner
We did that in 2007 when she was preparing to undergo treatment for breast cancer so she would have some easy meals in her freezer in case she needed them. (Fortunately she did not need many of them as her church family kept her in meals and one friend in particular brought her something every couple days). But they are really convenient and we are going to do some again.

And also in January is a marriage retreat that we are attending. I am on the committee and will be in charge of the registration so we will both take off a day for that so I can be there earlier to get things set up. This is the first marriage retreat led by our church so we are trying to "talk it up" with the other couples. So many are afraid that they will be forced to talk about things they don't want to or that by going it tells everyone they have marital problems. They don't realize that everyone has marital problems of some sort. The retreat is meant to encourage the couples and focus on what God has said about marriage and our roles and responsibilities in a marriage.
DH and I attended a Weekend to Remember a couple years ago and it was great for our marriage - of course, we still have problems and we don't do everything we planned to do for ourselves at that retreat, but at least it made us realize that we have the same goals and need to work together not pull apart.

Well, back to knitting until it is time to leave for church. I am about 2/3 done with the baby blanket. Will post a picture when it is completed.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Alone again and knitting

The guests are all gone and it is just the 4 of us again. The house seems so quiet-- mostly because DH and DD17 are napping, DD19 is reading and I have been knitting. It is so nice to have company and also nice to get back to normal.

I am knitting a Diagonal Baby Blanket for the youth pastor and wife's new baby which is due the end of this month. The shower is 1/13 and I started the blanket yesterday. It is a simple pattern and can be knitted or crocheted. It is made using Homespun yarn by Lion's Brand. I have made so many of them that I began purchasing the yarn on E-Bay when I could find it at less than what it is in the stores. I was fortunate to find the yarn at $3.99 at Michael's last week (usually $5.39).

I am about 1/3 done - and should be over half done by the end of the day. I do mine on a circular needle and make it larger than the pattern (at least 144 stitches across the middle row but sometimes more depending on how the yarn goes). I use 4 skeins of yarn and increase until I am almost at the end of the second skein - then start decreasing. I like this pattern because it doesn't take a lot of thinking and checking the chart - and it is a nice soft blanket when done. The Homespun yarn gives it a varigated/striped look too. I am doing this one in the Waterfall color. It is one of my favorites. I think I have made about 8 of them this year.

I also started making lists of what Christmas decorations I have - going from room to room. I got the kitchen and dining room done this morning. My plan is to put it all in a home inventory and also indicate in which box (the storage boxes will be numbered) the item is stored so I can keep better tabs on the decorations. I realized that I did not get out 2 of my snowmen decorations out this year so there must be a box that DH missed when he brought them all out of the basement - most likely a Christmas tin and not a box as I use a lot of the empty popcorn tins to pack away the items and then sometimes sit the tins around the house to 'decorate'.

I decided to make the Ham Lasagne (asparagus on the side) tonight because I did not get the chicken in the crock pot early enough. I can put the chicken in the crock pot before leaving for work and then cook some rice when I get home. Sometimes I remove the chicken from the sauce and stir in Minute Rice into the sauce but the family doesn't care for that (sure is easy though). The girls have left to get together with some other church camp friends who are home from college for the holidays - so DH and I will be eating alone. Sure will be different than the last week or so :-)