Monday, December 28, 2009

Joy and embarrassment

Our Christmas celebrations included seeing relatives and eating homemade beef minestrone soup on Christmas Eve at my mom and dad's, topped with fantastic parmesan cheese and accompanied by french bread, yum! Then there were hours at home of prepping food for Christmas dinner, wrapping gifts, and the capper of the night, as always, loading the stockings (the kids' favorite stocking stuffer is the gas card Santa brings!).  This year's Christmas morning was a little less traditional this year, being that now two of our children live elsewhere, but they gathered at our house and we opened our gifts in rounds while eating cinnamon rolls and listening to a great CD of classic rock and roll carols.  Grant bought me the Moda GreenPiece BOM I have drooled over and surprised me with a new office chair.  The girls each bought me a book I can't wait to read ("Water for Elephants", and Crazy Aunt Purl's "Drunk, Divorced and Covered with Cat Hair", plus a frame for my Australia photos from Elaine, and a movie from Erica.  Nick got us movie theater tickets. 

Now for the embarrassing part.  Erica wanted UGG boots and I got her some two weeks ago.  The shop was out of her size and color except for the display pair--one of the clerks even had to climb into the window display to get the matching boot from the one left in the box. On Christmas morning, Erica excitedly opened the package and pulled out the left boot, ripped out the stuffing and stuck her foot in.  Then she pulled out the other left boot.  WHAT?  Yes, I managed to get home with two left boots.  Of course, the clerk should have checked that but I didn't either so it is both our fault.  So then Nick opens his presents from us...including a new Tshirt..with the Security tag still on! Another thing a clerk should have checked and I didn't notice either.  Lastly, I had to confess to Erica that although she wrote out a list of some items she wanted from a specific clothing store she named, I went to the wrong store during my last minute Christmas shopping and couldn't get her anything she asked for.  Strike 3!  Oh well, nothing that couldn't be fixed and they enjoyed laughing at me. 

We ate a leisurely breakfast together and pottered about admiring our gifts, but then were running about an hour and a half behind schedule, with guests coming at 2:00 pm.  The only person on time was our family friend, who actually believed the starting time, but lucky for me was good natured and helpful as I was getting together the appetizers and salads for our dinner.  Everyone else in the family was late as usual but it was just fine with us!  My sister ended up staying home as she was not feeling well, but we were 20 for dinner, sitting down to bacon-wrapped filet mignon from the BBQ grill, potatoes, ham, rice salad and a broccoli slaw, and corn muffins, with my homemade cream cheese pie for dessert along with store bought pies, truffles, cookies, etc.  It was California casual and we toasted each other heartily.  I loved having all the family there and it was a good time. 

After the crowd dispersed and some of the cleanup was done, I slipped upstairs to change into my comfy sweats and play with the gorgeous Yuletide Blessings blocks I won from Nicole.  Soon it became apparent that I was too tired to come up with the perfect layout on our bed (too small), so I stretched out for a little rest, and was pretty much gone for the night!  Grant woke me when he came up to bed, reminding me that I still needed to brush my teeth and I still had my glasses on...so what else is new?

Since then I have done some paying work at home in my transcription job, had the family over to help eat up all the masses of food left over, done the mall thing with Erica to exchange the boots and get the security tag off Nick's shirt, and taken my sister and sister-in-law to a favorite quilt shop.  We decided to make a quilt for the very gracious family friends who have let my brother and family stay at their house over the holidays while they are out of town.  We're making a version of a Turning Twenty with only 15 blocks, for a throw size.  SIL Laura bought all the fabrics and washed them, I ironed and cut, she and my sister Kathy will sew them together, and I will do the quilting and binding.  I love having a quilting party!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to All...


..and to all a very happy and bright holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wait! I'm not ready!

Christmas is upon us in a few days and my calendar needs a reset to about two weeks ago.  I only just finished writing our annual newsletter and got the photos printed at the drugstore, but unfortunately nothing has yet made it into an envelope...oh, well, it will be better late than never AGAIN this year!!

A recent post by Carol made me recall that my Aussie friend Susie bought me two ornaments when we were out shopping, to remember my visit.  Aren't these cute? 

The kangaroo is tin and the Koala some kind of plaster or resin.  They are hanging prominently on the tree for all to admire.  My sister has flown in, my youngest brother and his family drove in, my niece is coming, and soon about 18 family members will gather at our house for Christmas dinner.  The house is all decorated and the menu and seating set.  With luck I will have finished up the gift shopping and wrapping tomorrow night...wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dear Santa

The Fat Quarter Shop's blog Jolly Jabber has a wonderful giveaway and I just couldn't resist adding my wish...you can do it too by clicking the link here.

Dear Santa,

I am a Civil War print lover and this collection wows me.  Plus, my older brother has asked me to make him a quilt for his 50th birthday next year and my plan is a bowtie quilt.  I think 50 bowties in this collection's fabrics would be just right!  So, Santa, please grant my wish.  I love you!

AnnieO 

Monday, December 14, 2009

...and an Embellishment picture

Jasmine, my Quiltbuddy friend, asked for a picture of what my completed tree skirt looked like.  This shot was an outtake from our annual holiday greeting card photo shoot yesterday so it isn't all tree skirt...just ignore those people in the front!



We had some fun yesterday goofing up some pics.  It may be time to send out a silly shot, after so many years of  here-we-are-in-front-of-the-Christmas-tree poses.  We have done a family photo every year since we got married and many people tell us they have us lined up on their refrigerators year by year! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Embellishment

A few years ago I bought a very inexpensive felt Christmas tree skirt.  I added my own embellishments with fabric bears and trees cut from my stash, simply added with fusible web.  Although I had originally planned to blanket stitch by hand around all the figures, my shortage of time instead led to my using a fine point permanent pen to add a long running "stitch" around the edges of the bears and trees.  But it still wasn't very exciting to look at.  This year's Crate and Barrel holiday catalog showed lots of crafty type decorations using felt circles, like these stockings and especially the matching tree skirt.   I immediately thought of adding circles to my tree skirt, but the idea of cutting out all those suckers sapped my energy.  Then, brainstorm, I thought of precut shapes out of felt!  Off to Michael's I went and after a whole store search, I located some sparkly snowflakes that were sticky backed--perfect!  Two packages came home with me.


I scattered them around the skirt and then, to make it more charming, I added buttons:

My mother-in-law had given me tons of buttons when she moved to a smaller unit at the senior living place and I know many of these are old because she never threw anything away. Erica suggested yellow buttons for the trees' stars and that completed the look.  She helped me sew them on, making quick work of the task.

Though we got our tree last Tuesday, it wasn't until Friday night that it was finally decorated and the tree skirt installed.  The white snowflakes really show up well under the tree and I am pleased at last with the embellishment!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A giveaway plus a great idea shared

Abbey Lane Quilts has a great post about some Christmas tabletoppers that are quick and easy.  After my Halloween Tumbler/Fall tabletopper fun, I would like a Christmas one too, and these are fantastic.  So hop on over and see 'em and check out the layer cake giveaway.  I would love to win!

The Granddog meets Russell

Elaine came over with her 9 week old Boston terrier puppy, Scully, last Sunday.  It was his first meeting with his Uncle Russell, our Australian Shepard (9.5 years old).  Russell responded mostly by ignoring him but alternately rushing the little pup and barking a lot.  Not too friendly, but Scully didn't mind a bit--he barked and leaped at Russell just the same!


Scully watching Elaine kick the ball...


..and scurrying away as Russell brought it back.


More scampering ahead of Russell.


My favorite action shot--ears flying!


He's small but unafraid for the most part, our little Granddog.


Here he is dragging around Russell's big bone, nearly his same size! 

Elaine said she has already taken many photos of her dog, but I sent her some of these anyway, they were so cute! Her boyfriend's parents are happy to dog sit anytime, and Erica is also a dog nanny for her sister, so Scully is well sorted while his people are at work.  Elaine said Scully needs a quilt, which prompted Erica to say that her cat Amelie needs a quilt too.  That "Quilts to Make" list never seems to get any shorter, does it, but I never imagined I would be making quilts for animals!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coral Sea for Two

Upon making my plane reservation for Australia in September, I started looking for a quilt pattern.  I knew it had to be simple and striking and I wanted it to be blue and white.  I pored over my books and magazines and found what I wanted in a very old issue of American Patchwork and Quilting from 2000.  It called for 7 different solid shades of blue but that just wasn't enough for me--I wanted all the colors of the sea!  I found a gorgeous pack of Robert Kaufman hand-dyed fat quarters at my local fabric store and with the addition of one more off the bolt, plus a tone on tone white, I was set.  The directions called for making a template for the triangle-rectangle and then cutting out 252 of them in white.  Gulp.  Luckily after cutting a bunch I realized I could not flip the template.  Okay, set those mistakes aside.  I cut a couple of blocks out of the blues and then decided to make a sample block.  Oh, my, this was a fussy star!  Good thing I made the sample as I would have ended up cutting off every single point in each block if I hadn't adjusted my sizing!  So, lesson learned.  I worked on the quilt for six weeks on and off and finally got the label sewed on in the car on the way to the airport.  I hope this collage works for you--it did on my preview!


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Susie and Jon loved it and Susie said it would live on their boat. She was amazed at the unexpected gift and so so happy.  As we were out snorkeling, I said to her, "Look, all the colors of your quilt are here"...and they were!  Susie's son Matt now believes that I can make anything in six weeks. He was floored at the amount of pieces and pointed out to several people that I "sewed this bit to that bit, and those bits to those bits, all those bits to all these bits...", it was very funny!  Matt and Jessie plan to come to America someday and have promised to stop by to pick up their quilt.  Oh, well, it's on the list, Matty!

Australia Travelogue, Part V

Wednesday, Nov 16, Port Douglas: sunny, hot, with a calm wind. I made breakfast tacos and we enjoyed a leisurely time at the table. Susie and I had planned a walk with Jonesy (her Cavalier King Charles spaniel) but ran short of time and off we went to collect her Aunt Wendy and head to the marina to meet Jon, first stopping for provisions.  Their boat was gorgeous, three levels, with a roomy lounge and kitchen, two large cabins downstairs, a bunk room, 2 baths and even a washer and dryer!  All beautifully fitted with wood trim and fine metal. The bridge at the top was loaded with every technical tool/toy one could want, and surrounded with a clear vinyl cover that zippered off if wanted.  We set off for MacKay Island, about a 1 1/2 hour trip.  This was the marina view from the front of the boat as we left:


I thanked Jon for ordering the perfect weather and asked if he had had to put in for it far in advance?  He said, "Oh, yes.  There's always a queue!"  It was a glorious day.

Below: We approached Crocodile Island on our way.

Jon and Susie happy to be out on the water!

Invited guest Aunt Wendy, also happy to be on the boat.

The Low Isles.  Pretty low!

Croc's head--big.  Boat nearing us--looks small!

I have learned a little about photography through my mistakes, and now try to include items for scale.  It sure helps me when I am trying to get a good and interesting shot, even with my little point and shoot camera!


Above: The rainforest covers the Croc too.

The sea was glassy and calm--perfect for motoring.


But look at our wake--you could have surfed it!  Susie said watching the wake is like gazing into a fire: mesmerizing.  Jon says standing here near the tender and right over the engine room gives you such a feeling for the speed of the boat.  It's a powerful thing!

Our goal: MacKay Islands region.  This was a small spit of sand on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.  No vegetation, but lots of seabirds, driftwood, coral remnants, and shells.   We anchored off the island--which was quite a process, the boat having just been fit with a new anchor mechanism.  It took a good 15 minutes for solid anchoring to hold.  Lunch was next--yum--and then I presented them with their quilt (see next post!).

We got in our "bathers" and stinger suits and the tender was lowered.  The captain liked to drive fast and we circled the island's far end, spotting a few turtles on the way and cruising over the gorgeous warm sea.  I put my hand in and declared I had finally touched the Coral Sea.  Once landed and tied up to a piece of buried driftwood, we got a few snorkeling pointers from Jon and Susie and set off to explore the amazing coral reef.  I had some trouble with the mask fogging up a lot but otherwise enjoyed the wide variety of coral, fish, and huge clam shells.  My near-sightedness made Jon promise me a prescription mask for "next time", but it was quite shallow and there was plenty to see.  Susie was left without flippers so Jon pulled her along as we explored for about an hour and a half.  It was wonderful, never to be forgotten experience.


Here is the bedraggled but happy crew.  The dark areas in the background are the reef.  A very nice Australian lady took our picture.  She and her kids were spending time on the island.  They lived on their boat had been anchored offshore for several weeks.  She said she homeschooled her kids and had just sent off their final packets so they were on holiday.

The gorgeous boat--all 58 feet of her!  We climbed back aboard and headed back to the Low Isles to look for more turtles.  Even though it was mid afternoon, the sea remained calm and there was little wind. As we approached and circled the Isles, we noticed all the public moorings were taken, so we used a private mooring with permission, closer to the smaller of the Low Isles.  

This is a manned lighthouse and the isles are protected due to being the nesting site of a type of pigeon.  We saw flock after flock of them flying in, low over the water.  They were just about impossible to photograph and all my shots were wasted.  Susie threw out some bread, looking for three bat rays that usually greet them at this site, but we had a visitor of a different kind: a Giant Trevally.  This one was about 3' long.

He wasn't really interested in the bread but swam back and forth under the boat while Jon was getting the tender in the water and we were getting in it.  Unfortunately, due to the angle of the lowering sun it was very difficult to see into the water and we abandoned plans to snorkel here as well, and set off for home.

It was sailing night and there were lots of boats out on the gorgeous calm night.  Several outrigger crews were practicing as we motored into the marina entrance, and we watched the sun go down behind the clouds covering the rainforest's mountain range.


This one little pink cloud floated above as we made our way to the marina.  Later, after the boat was all hosed off and we were walking up from the boat in the dusk, we heard a hiss and then a bark--Susie said it was a bat--but we saw nothing.  A fingernail moon with a full circle of light around it was rising in the sky.  It simply could not have been a more perfect Great Barrier Reef experience.  I will treasure it forever and thank Jon and Susie for the fantastic opportunity.  It was the one thing I really wanted to do and the day was an absolute "10".  Maybe even an "11"!  Another stop at the market and family dinner with more family arrivals finished out the evening with lots of laughter and fun.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crazy week, still sick, sorry no blogging!

Just a quick post to say the crazy work week kept me from finishing my Australia Travelogue.  Tomorrow I'll get to it, I promise, since I will be getting home EARLY on a Monday for the first time in many months, as job #3 is Erica's purvey now, yay!

And I am STILL sick!  Mostly I'm sick of blowing my nose, popping my ears, and coughing, although my energy level seems okay and I am sleeping better.  Two weeks of this cold is more than plenty, thank you. 

I have yet to purchase a single Christmas gift, though I did get to some decorating today and Grant put the Christmas lights up on Saturday while I was out.  The wreath is on the door and the mantle and kitchen decorated. 

More tomorrow, really!  I have trip pics, crafty pics, granddog pics, it's a photo explosion about to happen...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Australia Travelogue--Part IV

Tuesday morning, 11/17 dawned sunny and hot again, just gorgeous for our plan for the day, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.  Another drive to Cairns for Susie.  It was really nice being a passenger and getting to read signs like "Overtaking lane ahead.  Consider followers", and speed limit signs of 80 or 100.  Susie bought my ticket and we boarded the gondola for the trip up into the rainforest, above the canopy. The information pamphlet Susie read from indicated that in order to avoid disturbing the rainforest too much, the towers had been airlifted in.  Amazing!  As we rose to the first tower, a large white cockatoo flew over the gondola.
The rainforest used to cover all of this area all the way to the sea, but has been cleared for settlements and sugar cane fields.  Most of the fields had been harvested a few months before I arrived so the plants were short.









Most of the housing has metal roofs and are light colored, so different from home!  Susie thinks it may be for cyclone ratings--asphalt shingles would likely just blow off.











Between the towers as we got deeper into the rainforest, the foliage changed.











We got off the gondolas at the first station and took the pathway into the rainforest, listening to a guide.  There were many types of trees, most of which he explained had no tree rings because there is no winter in Tropical Queensland. 

This huge tree (note people at bottom left for scale--and we were on an elevated platform) was covered with thick vines.

 
He had a face, arms, and hair!













We got back on the gondola for the ride to the Barron Falls Station.  In the distance we could see the town of Kuranda, where the Skyrail ends. 


Normally raging, Barron Falls was a mere trickle.  Tropical Queensland is known to have two seasons, Dry and Wet.  This year's Dry has been just that, and the Wet was late!

The Barron River still looked pretty full as we crossed it on the way to Kuranda.  We saw no crocs sunning themselves on its banks, though, to my disappointment!

Kuranda was a logging town in its infancy, then in the late 1960s was a popular destination for hippies and of late has been trying to become an artist's colony.  There were lots of tourist shops and galleries.  I loved the wrought iron signposts.  This one had a man with an axe chopping at it.

The world's largest ant perched on this trashcan.

A 4 foot tall praying mantis guarded this signpost.  We did not visit the butterfly sanctuary or other wildlife centers this trip.  Maybe next time...

I found some souvenirs.  I gave these to the girls at work.


And even came home with a couple of things for me.





We wandered around Kuranda for a little while.  I liked this shop:


Then we headed back to the Skyrail for the trip down the mountain.  A couple ahead of us were debating at the front of the line.  The man put his wife in the gondola, then turned and walked away.  She stayed in for a second then got out.  We were shown into another gondola and then the crew member asked if we would allow the lady to ride with us, which of course we agreed to.  She said her husband decided at the last second that he couldn't go in the gondola and she wasn't so sure herself about heights so felt it was better to have companions!  Her husband was taking the train down.  They were Danish and had been visiting their son who was at university in Brisbane, and had been traveling around Australia for several weeks, seeing lots of wonderful things.  She took our picture before getting off at the lower station to walk in the rainforest while we went on to the bottom.  That's me on the left, of course, and my dear Susie.



Susie drove us down to the Promenade of Cairns on the water, among the big hotels and downtown buildings.  We lunched on my dime at a little Italian place, sitting outside and watching the boats, ships, and tourists.  As family was going to be coming into town that night, we stopped at the "Supa" on the way home and shopped for dinner.  I decided to make a rice salad but could not find black beans so settled for borlottis.  I also picked up some corn tortillas so I could make breakfast tacos, which I should rename SoCal Tacos as they are not just for breakfast.  We had a lovely dinner and it was wonderful to meet Susie's brother Rob and his fiance Debbie, and her Aunt Wendy, and to meet their friends.  Jon had me try "tomato sauce", as he thought it was the same as ketchup, which it was.  Sue's son Matty and his girlfriend Jessie and I discussed all kinds of food and the differences between there and home.  Next up: a Boat ride!