Saturday, January 31, 2015

67 x 87 squares

Jeff and I are on an anniversary getaway to the coast. 
Thirty-five long and sometimes glorious years, thank you very much. 
I found a Living Social coupon for a fun motel in Garibaldi, down on the dock. It is an older motel but has been recently renovated and I really like it. The decor is tasteful. 

And Jeff thinks he needs one of these for his four fishing rods.

I wanted to know why he has four rods when he never goes fishing, let alone catches anything.
But he is tolerant of my many quirks, so I didn't press the matter.
Which is just as well, because later on we walked around the docks and the town and I ran across this treasure in an antique store.

Each square is one inch, and all 5,829 of them are hand-stitched together and then hand-quilted.

It was $75 and I wanted it.
Look, I said to my darling husband, can you imagine how many hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours went into this quilt and here it sits, all unwanted. Except for me.
And he understood.
We can use it out at the Ranch, he said. Let's get it.
So we did.

The store owner told me it was from the late 1800's and had been stored in a chest owned by a 90-year-old man who had just gone into a retirement home. She claimed most of it is flour sack cotton, but if that is true, it's from the 1930's or 40's. I am hoping that one of my quilting friends will know something about it. Either way, it kills me that some family member didn't love it and want to use it. 
But now it is mine.
And I love it and will use it until I die. 
And then one of my kids had better love it and use it or I will haunt them in nasty ways until they do.
The end.

Oh, and if you want a lovely peaceful and not too expensive place to get away from it all, try the Harborview Inn and RV Park in Garibaldi. They have lots of nice little extras such as cookies and hot chocolate in the lobby and a fire pit with s'mores and good company in the evening.
Really the end.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

I cry "Uncle!"

I attended an excellent couponing class last Thursday evening and it led me on a little trip down memory lane. You see, I was a master couponer for thirty years. Let me tell you what couponing used to look like for me.
Every Tuesday morning, the highlight of my week was walking down to the mailbox to get the Food Day, a free publication from the Oregonian. I would eagerly peruse the pages for recipes for real things that kids would eat, like chicken casseroles and chocolate desserts.

These days, it is more likely to be kale pizza or quinoa milkshakes, combining foods that God never meant to be friends.

There were columns that gave tips for cooking, gardening, home improvement, mothering, and everyday life. I was fondly remembering some of those personalities this morning. Do you recall Tamera Smith Allred, she of the constant angst and riveting family stories? Did you know she still makes a living telling those stories? You're welcome. I was gratified to see that she has aged right along with the rest of us!
And then there was Nancy Strope, the food editor. She was a lovely, down-to-earth woman who gave eminently practical advice for life in the kitchen. I clipped many of her recipes and learned much of my kitchen know-how from dear Nancy, who has long been dead. You can still buy her cookbook on eBay. I have half a mind to buy it.

And then there was Dulcy Mahar and her gardening column that was written with a zesty sense of humour, and who kept writing and making us laugh until cancer carried her off in 2011, after 22 years of columns. Her columns had titles like "20 ways to pimp your yard." How could you not love that?

My main victims in the Food Day were the coupon inserts. I made an art of quickly flipping through the shiny pages and ripping out coupons I deemed to be possibly useful.
No scissors for me. Scissors are for wimps.
I always had a pile of coupons that needed filing and would take them with me to gymnastics class, where I would sit and file coupons in The Box while watching my three adorable children performing their backward bends and cartwheels.

I always had a box, where the coupons were divided alphabetically by brand names. It was my lethal weapon against the grocery industry. Combining sales at about four different grocery stores with these coupons saved thousands of dollars on groceries over the years. Sometimes it was for survival, and other times it gave me extra money for fun.
The Box was worth more than gold to me and we had some adventures together. One time, I was driving our old Colt Vista and forgot that I had placed The Box on the roof. I happened to look out of the back window as I drove down the street and saw coupons fluttering in my wake. Luckily, it was a quiet street, so I pulled over and made the kids help me salvage as many coupons as we could.
Yes, I was that avid.

The Box was an escape artist, often hiding away in the grocery cart instead of coming home with me. A panicky call to the store would follow and, strangely, there was only one time that it went completely missing.
I may have been more than a little obsessed with my bargain hunting and couponing, because one night, when Jeff was angry about something I had done, he threw all of my coupons in the wood stove to annoy me.
True story.
Not to worry, it only took me a couple of weeks to get back to speed.

Store clerks either loved me or hated me. The former would congratulate me on all the good deals I had found and didn't mind using my homemade denim bags. The latter would scowl at the pile of coupons presented to them and wrestle with the denim bags as if they were a personal insult. You read it here: I was using fabric bags decades before it was fashionable.

I loved the challenge of couponing and often visited stores at night when everyone was in bed, just to wander the aisles and see what deals I could find. My friends all thought I was crazy, but I swore that no matter how financially comfortable we became, I would always coupon because I enjoyed it.

Well, here I am, eating my words yet again. I have almost, but not quite, abandoned couponing forever. Not because of our finances, or because I have grown tired of it, but because, like almost everything else these days, it has become overly complicated. It has become fashionable, taken over by bloggers and Extreme Couponers. It is no longer my private battle with grocery conglomerates, but a very public enterprise that requires a smartphone, numerous apps, a large binder, and the ability to read very small print. Nowadays, when I attempt to do battle with the Grocery Machine, I almost always get something wrong and end up having to return items to customer service or shamefacedly run back through the aisles to exchange an item for the correct one while the line behind me waits patiently.

So here it is. The end of an era. I pass the baton willingly to those who enjoy such an enterprise.
You know who you are.
But my denim bags are still going strong.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Part 2

If you're keeping track, Christmas Part 1 hasn't been posted yet. We took the kids to Great Wolf Lodge in September as their Christmas gift from us. I am woefully derelict in my postings so that might happen next week year.

Bethany and crew up and went to Texas for Christmas this year, so we had an early celebration. Annie and her three littles are here for a couple of months while Daddy is deployed, so life has been busy and crazy and I have no time to do anything, let alone think of a menu for yet another family dinner, so I made an executive decision to take them all out to Jac's Deli.
Jac's is a favourite with this crowd, because they cater to the gluten-free, the dairy-free, and the just-plain-picky eaters amongst us. The girls behind the counter did a terrific job taking care of all our needs and the bill was much less than I anticipated. Win for Jac's! 
I foresee a possible tradition in the making.

There were sixteen of us (ten of them children) and Jac's is a small establishment, so I called ahead and gave them our orders so that we wouldn't have to wait forever or overwhelm them with orders when we got there. We commandeered their back room and the kids had a blast hanging out together and playing games that are kept in the drawers of the tool chest seen above. 
Jac's used to be a garage, and the theme pops up all around. Bethany swears she remembers waiting in this room as a child for our car to get fixed, but my memory is sadly lacking.

Natalie and Jenny are best buds.

Miss M was sick and not very happy, although she did perk up a bit at the ice cream.

My girls. Aren't they lovely?
Well, one of them is, anyway.

After dinner and much shenanigans, we went to the Portland LDS Temple Visitor's Center and listened to a storyteller/singer tell some stories of Christmas. It wasn't a big success as the littles were antsy and didn't want to sit still (strike 1), but we made it through and then went for a walk to the reflecting pool, where the nativity statues I was expecting to see in the pool we noticeably absent.
Strike two.
The kids rampaged around the pool until it became embarrassing and then we went home.

We had a short recital of Christmas piano pieces while the kids misbehaved and Nana became grumpy, so Annie kindly offered to read the nativity and then we opened pyjamas form Nana and Papa and a few other presents.
And everyone became suddenly angelic.

And at the end of the evening I noticed something very strange under my tree.

I know, most people have railways or kittens or stockings under their trees, right?
I have a Daniel, 'cause I'm lucky like that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hip Hip Hooray...for Venn Diagrams

I've been pondering Venn diagrams lately.
I love the visual representation of set theory, and it has stuck with me ever since first learning of it in elementary mathematics. Mr. John Venn made them popular in a paper he wrote in 1880, but the concept has been around for much longer. Mr. Venn humbly referred to them as "Eulerian circles", which are a looser form of set diagrams and were invented by a Swiss mathematician a hundred years earlier. 
Now you know more than I knew five minutes ago.

I doodled around a bit tonight. Here are some of the Venn diagrams of my life.

This one is a homage to my dad. He always told me that if I learned to play the piano I would be popular, and, in a way, he was right. I have enjoyed many unique experiences and met some wonderful people through my ability to play the piano proficiently. And I have earned something of a living for thirty years teaching the skill to other people.
So, yay Dad!
That's me in the intersection. Kind of. Depending on your definition of "popular."

This is not me.
This is the opposite of me.
But I do know some people who fall into this intersection.

But this is also me.
Probably with a loose screw.

This is Bethany.
She may be the only person in the world who is represented by this diagram.

This is also me.

Or maybe this would be a better visual, with one being a subset of the other.
Because only people who watch Dr Who have any reason to be scared of weeping angels. 

This is our friend David. 
We went dancing together on Friday night and learned the horseshoe.
Are you jealous?
I think more men should dance with their wives and then more wives would be happy.
Dancing makes me happy.

This is Jeff.
He also dances with his wife.

And this is happening tomorrow.

Don't worry, it's only for a couple of months till Daddy gets home.
Life, it's a-changin'.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The fire is so delightful

By golly, we've been having some weather lately. For a couple of weeks, it was so wet that various fungi have been popping up in regions hitherto uninhabited by such wonders. Little fragile brown toadstools, big white and brown ones, and all kinds of in-between. I kept threatening to take photos, but never did.
Then this week has been frigid temperatures and gusty winds, followed by some freezing rain yesterday. This morning dawned bright and clear, so I took my camera as Barb and I walked our usual route and captured a few bits of beauty.
The sun was still low in the sky and glinting off the ice on the grassy field. 

Things were warming up fast and the icicles were melting, but we found some things that had only just been hit by the sun.

I love that this rose bush has hips, a flower, and icicles, all at the same time.

Here's something you don't see every day: icicles on palm trees.

This tree was covered in berries that were in turn covered in ice. I didn't notice the reflection of the berries on the leaf until I looked at the photo on my computer.

I think this might be my favourite: black-eyed Susan seed pods, covered in ice so that they looked like glass spheres. I think I can see my reflection in the pods on the left.

And tonight I am really enjoying the lovely fire that Jeff built when he got home from work.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Life's a beach

London came to visit for the last two weeks of September.
Oh yes. She brought her mom and dad with her.
The day after they arrived, we all went to the beach. 
Papa enjoyed entertaining two of his three favourite baby girls. And they seem to enjoy him, for some reason.

These girls love to spend time with each other, from the thirteen-year-old down to the one-year-olds.

Aunty Jenny and London are mutual fans.

And the boys are always thrilled to spend time with their Uncle Charlie.
I think there was an apparitional Natalie hanging around as well.

A raccoon decided to pay us a visit and we all had fun watching him from the back decks. He was not at all cautious and rather large.
Personally, I find raccoons to be rather scary.

It was a beautiful afternoon so we all traipsed down to the beach.
Sam and London chased seagulls.

The older kids chased waves. That's about all you can do in the chilly Oregon surf.

London and Madelyn played together in the sand for the longest time. We all dote on these wee girls, they are so stinking cute. And the two of them together are cute to the nth degree.

Thomy got buried in the sand somehow.

I love pictures of cousins having fun together. 
It is one of my main goals in life.

When everyone was as wet and sandy as possible, we went back to the house and ate dinner.

After dinner, we stood on the balcony...

...and watched this.

And then the men and older kids went home. The poor souls had to go to work and school the next day. The moms and the little kids stayed overnight and went shopping at the outlet mall the next day, because we're all about that.