Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Life on a College Campus

My age puts me in a strange category. I was right between June Cleaver and Betty Friedan! Too young to really embrace the "happy housewife wearing pearls and high heels to do the laundry", and too old to burn my bra in public.

I went to college in the early 60's, carrying the indoctrination in my mind that I got in high school, you either were going to be a nun or a wife and mother, and become one or the other by age 20. I messed up on the nun thing by turning chicken 1 week before my date to receive my veil, and changing life's path before I actually entered the convent doors. So I found a great fellow, we got engaged, and I was a married woman by age 20. We used to say you went to college to get your MRS degree--for many of this age, it was very true.

So, by all this talk, you know I'm a fairly conservative person, not given to dabble in the excesses of the late 60's and early 70's. College protests on campus were not happening when I went to college, and by the time they actually were happening, I was home with 2 kids, a husband, a house and was more interested to keep peace between the kids than protests on college campuses.

I always wondered what it was like on college campuses in those days, when unrest and freedom of speech against injustices took precidence over attending class. My younger siblings were of the age to attend college during these times, but as far as I know, they didn't participate in any riots or things like that. Maybe they were just keeping that quiet, not to scare the parents or older sister. But, it was the 70's after all!

Now the community college where I work is nothing like Berkley or Kent State, but today, I envisioned myself in such a situation somewhat akin to what people might have experienced when attending college in the 70's. A gathering of faculty members and students, participating in exercising free speech, with the caveat that all speech is protected in this country. We celebrated "Banned Book Week" on our campus today, and a gathering of folks read and listened to selections from a number of banned books--some banned for a while in our country, some in other repressive societies. This was a VERY mild experience in comparison to bra or flag burning of the 70's, or National Guard troops coming in to repress student protests. No burning of anything, no police presence, just a group of people on a college campus reading things that would have not been open to be read in past days.

The importance of freedom of speech is something that I wonder if some people get. If they don't like what they hear, they scream, yell, name call, draw up petitions to have it banned, write hateful editorials, send disgusting emails. Yes, they have freedom to do this, but they want others freedoms to be repressed to suit them. I hear more stories of my immigrant students, who lived in societies where these freedoms were not open to them. They see our country as a beacon of hope for the freedom they so desperately seek.

Even with our flaws, our country is something that many in the world see as a more desirable place to live than where they were born. Many see the only opportunity for themselves is to sacrifice their home and sometimes family to come to the United States for a chance for a better life.

I just hope they find that better life. And we citizens of this country, we'd better not take our freedom for granted, because it is something that many in the world do not have.

By the way, I read from a favorite book called "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. This is a juvenile fiction book that was banned because of some of the themes written in it as it described a utopian society, designed to be a non-competitive, non-stressful, bland society, in which every person has a certain role, determined by a great unknown body of wisdom figures. Jealousy, lust, greed have all been bred out of these citizens, or removed from their psyches by medication. You think it is a perfect world until the dark underbody of the society is revealed to a wise young thinker. His actions determine the future of the whole society--it is a very compelling and interesting book. Several other of my favorites were read--Fahrenheit 451, The Kite Runner, Native Son. Thanks to Professor DF, who made this all possible. I'm really glad I participated!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bustin' my buttons proud!

I've told you about my students who have come to our college full of hope, promise of future leadership in their home countries, but short on English language experience. Each day we work together is a challenge. I know it is for me, and I'm sure it is for them. See post from earlier in September, "Giving It My All" for more information about the group.

Today, they began to make oral presentations to the class. The topic was "Five ways to make friends". They have been working on this for about 3 weeks. They've worked with the speech lab teacher, and she came to our class to video their presentations.

I asked for a volunteer to start. The young lady who jumped up to do her presentation first was one who had had that "deer in the headlights" look on her face when I first interviewed her in mid August. The only thing she could say was, "No English!" Now, here she was, eager to give an excellent presentation, very well prepared and presented, and very fluent in English. She was so excited when she was finished, so very happy because of a job well done.

By the time they were finished, I don't know who was prouder, myself or the speech teacher. These students were so relaxed, organized, well-rehearsed and naturals at standing up in front of a group and speaking. And their English was wonderful.

Just 6 short weeks ago, they could barely put two words together, and now they were making entire presentations in English.

I was so proud of them. I know why they were chosen for the honor of recieving a two year scholarship to the United States. They have excellent leadership qualities, and it showed clearly as they completed this assignment. They will be using these skills in presenting ideas to their countrymen when they return, to become young leaders in their countries in business or government.

Awesome! I'm bustin' my buttons proud of them!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

My first three baby quilts

Here are the three baby quilts I made in 2008. They barely cover a crib mattress, The one is displayed on a toddler bed, which uses a crib mattress.
Farm animals theme for the little farm boy in Iowa
Found the cutest fabric for this one, which was for my neighbor down the street. Jungle animals were the embroidery motif.
Trucks are the motif for this one. It was made for my neighbor next door, cute little PJ, who knows my name, my car, and all the colors of my flowers in the yard, at 18 months of age! What a cutie he is!

The designs for the embroidery are from Dakota Collectables "Cuddly Animal Quilts" and "Fun For Boys". I do my embroidery on a Janome 10000 machine, quilting on a Janome 6600.

Soft Blankie

Here it is, the soft blankie I made for newest member of the family Jaden Isabella.

I've been planning this quilt since mid-summer, I remember buying the "rubber duckie" fabrics before the run of Joseph The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was finished, because I showed it to one of my quilt gurus when she came up from Mid-Missouri to see the show. Getting started came slowly because I was pretty tired of the four walls of my sewing room after sewing all those costumes, but now it has been together as a quilt top for a couple of weeks. I needed to wait until Jaden arrived to embroider the vital statistics on it!

The theme comes from Jaden's dad and mom's theme that they like, Rubber Duckies!

Now that Jaden is almost 2 weeks old, I figured it was about time I finished it.

I used my simple pattern of 6 x 9 rectangles for the blocks. I embroidered on 5 of the blocks, and the other four were patchwork. I wanted it bigger than the 3 baby quilts I made in early 2008 using this same pattern and sizing, so I put a wider border on this one. This one ended up being about 40" x 50".

I changed my mind about how to finish the corners of the border. Originally I was going to put a square block in there, but didn't like the look. I had already cut the side borders off even with the bottom of the quilt blocks, so I had to add something to fill in. I came up with a rather complicated miter system, which caused me a lot of grief, and isn't exactly as precise as I would have wanted it to be. But my local quilt guru advised me to just forge ahead, saying that after it was quilted, you wouldn't notice that it wasn't as exact as it should be. I guess she is right. She also gave me more advise--NEVER DO THAT AGAIN! (Will I listen, probably not!)

The whole quilt rather sings out the whole first verse of the Rubber Duckie song, (Use Ernie's voice as you sing this!) "Rubber Duckie, You're the one, You make bathtime, so much fun, (and on the border) Rubber Duckie, I'm awfully fond of you!"

Hope Jaden enjoys slobbering on it, rolling on it, cuddling in it, carrying it, sleeping with it, and singing that cute little song for many years to come!

Monday, September 21, 2009

A friendly kind of place

My Free T-Shirt! Notice they don't show red convertible sport cars as their potential client vehicles--so I was somewhat out of place while doing business here! No Coach purses or suburban ladies in this business!

While visiting my friends in Small Town Missouri, my hostess noticed that my front tire had a crack in the tread. Upon inspecting it, we noticed that there seemed to be something hard in the center of the crack, perhaps a nail. I panicked, realizing that Small Town Missouri businesses usually were not open on the weekend, and I was afraid of driving on the interstate at night with a bad tire.

I had to make some hasty plan changes, and my friend, Coach C, recommended a new place in town that was a tire store. He described where it was, I knew the place, so I went to seek out help.

When I drove up to the place, THERE WAS A PARTY GOING ON RIGHT THERE (Singing "Celebration" in my mind!--get the groove on that?) Lots of cars, people running around, every kind of vehicle you can imagine was parked out there, but mostly pick-up trucks. You see, this is a working class community, full of hard-working folks, mostly small businessmen, farmers, ranchers, construction workers. Also, it is rural Missouri, so you see your share of "colorful" characters. I swore I saw ZZ Top's brother there, with a fine combed beard down to his belly button!

The party was because the business was celebrating their grand opening. They had breakfast--coffee and donuts, lunch--barbeque and beverages, free t-shirts, your name in the box for a drawing for an attendance prize--they were all but giving away the tires.

I told them of my dilema, and they said they would get to it after they helped 3 other customers. I say by watching the show unfold in front of me, and realized that they were doing a very nice business to go along with their generousity to their clients. One young man started working on my tire worked and worked for about 15 minutes, when he finally came in to tell me he couldn't find a leak in my tire. In the meantime, I had been offered breakfast, lunch, a free shirt, a potential prize, a clean bathroom, and a chance to wait in a nice facility. Now that's hometown hospitality for you! Then, the young man told me--"Ma'am, there isn't anything wrong with your tire, so I can't charge you anything, I didn't DO anything!" I tried to offer them something for their work--he did work on it for over 30 minutes, but he wouldn't take a cent.

You can see why I liked living and working in that community. The people who live there are good and generous souls, willing to give you a fair amount of work for the amount of money they charge for services. I've had some bad experiences with folks who were not qualified to do the work they said they could do, but for the most part, the folks that live there were good workers, and great people to deal with.

Try getting off on the by-ways someday--this business is located on old Route 66--and they are a fine bunch of people. I hope they don't give the whole store away and can keep their business going in this lousy economy. Thank you MY PLACE TIRES! Wish I could have given you some real business, but I'll recommend you to all my friends!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Muddy Encounter

I think of myself as being a golfer. I do love the game, love to watch the pros on TV doing their thing. Occasionally, I do actually get out there and swing a club and let the golfballs fly myself!

The last time I played golf was 2006. There were a lot of months between then and Saturday, when I played again. This is how my whole golf career has gone, play a game here and there with many months or years in between.

I was the principal of a small Catholic School for 7-1/2 years. We opened the school in 1997. The parents' group decided in the second year of operation of that school that hosting a benefit golf tournament would be a good way to raise money for the school. Little Small Town Missouri had a very generous group of benefactors, who supported a variety of good causes, especially those involving children and education. So this golf tournament had been a very good source of support for our school over the years.

In 2006, I was preparing for the golf tournament weekend by going to the driving range to sharpen up my drives. On the night of my birthday that year, Sept. 7, I treated myself to a late night bucket of balls to top off a very nice evening of dinner out with my children. I was reving up and doing well when all of a sudden the fates changed the way the day was going. I'm usually fairly good at hitting balls, but occasionally I hit an errant shot. I launched one, it didn't go forward it went sideward, bounced off the sideboard, flew up to the cover over the driving bay, and the ball came down and clocked me on the forehead. In an instant, blood flowed, searing pain shot through my head and a lump the size of a golf-ball raised up on my forehead! This was a shot that left its marks on my face for weeks, as the bruising around my eyes sank all the way down my cheeks, the lump remained for a long time and the pain didn't go away! One very bad thing was that my daughter was getting married on Sept. 16 that year, and I had to use a lot of make-up to make my face presentable for being photographed as mother of the bride. I was still nursing the bruising and lump when the golf tournament came.

So with that experience in mind, I somehow wiggled out of commitments to play the next two years. The excuses were legitimate, because I had other commitments during the week-end when the golf tournament was held. But that painful experience of getting clocked by a golf ball remained in my mind, making me fearful to try golfing again.

But this year, I was free to play, and it sounded like a good idea, and I thought it would be fun! Memories of the bad experience were fading, and I had a "team", and our "coach" was ready for the challenge.

Coach C had his wife, D, on the team as well as a high school golf team recruit, who would play golf with anyone at a drop of the hat. The guys carried us, for the most part, but D and I didn't shame ourselves too badly. Not while we were swinging the clubs, at least!

This golf course is a 9 hole course, and somewhere out in the hinterlands (very far away from the club house), they built a restroom building. You can escape from most of the middle holes to make a dash in and out of the restroom. This is made all the more critical of a facility, because the beer babe/beer dude is constantly roving the grounds to provide beverages for the players.

So D and I decided to quickly use the facility while we were near, and we took our cart over, around the water hazard (many sacrificial balls of mine are in that pond!) and to the restroom. On our way, we hit a patch of muddy ground. The usually nimble golf cart got bogged down in the mud instead of flying over it. The more we tried to move it, the more mud it slung and dug the wheels in further and further. I tried rocking it forward and backward to no avail. So D got out and said, "I'll push". This sounded like both a good and a bad idea, but in this case, her small pushes seemed like they were going to free us from the goo! All of a sudden, with a mighty push, and a tromp on the accelerator, the cart zoomed ahead, throwing D off balance, and I looked back and she had done a face plant on the ground! I quickly jumped off, she was laughing hysterically, and she jumped up showing she was unhurt, to a standing ovation given by those on all the surrounding holes, who were watching our little clown act! We took a bow, and sheepishly headed off to take care of business!

Later, she reflected on the location of the muddy patch, just downstream from the restroom--was it the leachfield for the septic tank? That could only bring more and more giggles out of me, thinking of potential smart remarks about where we landed in our golf cart drama!

The one good thing about the whole thing is that 2 60+ ladies were not soiled from inside because of lauging too hard, we actually made it to the restroom, but not a moment too soon!

Our cart, golf bags, a couple of body parts were full of mud. The source of the mud will remain a mystery, we can only really hope that it was good clean mud, not a real connection to the nearby restroom! It was enterainment for everyone, and gave us a good story to tell of our 2009 golf tournament!

We were good, we came in at 1 under par. Too bad, if we had been one shot worse, we would have won money (bottom of A flight). But then, there is always next year! Hope we're not too old and feeble to play, because we may need another good laugh in a year's time!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The most precious gift

The most precious gift was just delivered yesterday. Sweet babygirl Jaden arrived yesterday at 2:22 p.m. Her mom, Sweet K and Skaterboy are the proud parents. Monkeygirl and Mr. Monkeygirl are the proud grandparents. So that makes me, SewWhat? a GREAT-GRANDMOTHER! Well, really a STEP Great Grandmother.

Little Jaden was the object of many admirers last night in her hospital room with her mom and dad. She slept peacefully as she was passed from grandparent to grandparent, uncle, neice, friends and GREAT-GRANDPARENTS!

The little mother and father must be the youngest members on the hospital floor to be new parents. She is 17 and he is 19. Kids themselves, they are struggling with the whole responsibility now in their arms, how to care for and raise their own child. Needless to say, they need a lot of love, support and prayers from everyone as they begin their journey.

Keep them in your prayers, we all will. We hope to have more pictures of our newest member of the family. Now I can get going on finishing the RUBBER DUCKIE quilt, built for little Jaden, just awaiting her arrival to get the vital statistics embroidered on her quilt. We love you, darling baby Jaden! And congratulations to Skaterboy and Sweet K on the arrival of your little bundle!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A sewing prodigy

I had really intended it to be for Christmas, but my granddaughter caught me off-guard Monday night. You see, she and her mom and brother paid me a very surprise visit, and she spied the little electric sewing machine I had purchased for her on my dining room table. Before I knew it, she ran over, picked it up, and cried ecstatically "Oh Thank You Grandma for the sewing machine!" Too late to hide it for Christmas!

I fended off her attempts to free the sewing machine from the box (you know how that is, with wires, tape, and bands keeping the product from moving in the box all the way from China). So tonight when I babysat her and her brother, we unwrapped the machine. She sewed a couple of times with it. When she wanted to change the color of the thread, we found out the joys of little sewing machines with needle guards--threading them can really be a challenge. It took me at least 15 minutes to do it. No kid would ever have the patience to do it themselves!

Her brother took a turn at it also. The thing will actually sew--SOMETIMES, that is. It is something she seemed interested in, but I probably would have been better off by paying 15 more dollars and getting a small portable sewing machine, but one that isn't a toy.

She is interested in the process. I'm not sure how much patience she might have to actually sew something. But she seems fascinated to watch what I do. On Saturday, we were making her a "Glinda of OZ" dress from some very sparkly fabric, and she was by my side putting pins in, taking pins out, and watching. She does this with her mom in the kitchen, and can mix, pour, add ingredients to cakes and other recipes without spilling. So, she is learning domestic skills by watching, and who knows where this will all lead.

Her mom did the same thing with cooking. By the time she was six, she was tired of watching, and pushed me out of the way to do it herself. This little princess has pushed both of us aside more than once in the kitchen. Now, I hope I can make her do the same thing with the sewing machine--and really become a sewing prodigy!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clean machines

After the workout I've given my sewing machines, I felt I owed them a spa treatment to get them back into tip-top shape. Spa treatments for sewing machines means you get Mike to clean out your trapped lint, and oil your many working parts, and tweak you till you run flawlessly.

I took the machines to the shop on Tuesday evening, about 4:45. The place closes at 5. Their usual turn around is one week, and I figured I could live without them for a week.

What a surprise I got when I got home the next day, at 10 a.m. the next morning, they had called me and said, "Your machines are ready to be picked up." What? The store was only open 10 minutes and they are ready? I must have heard that message wrong!

So I called to check out what was the real story. It turns out that Mike is not only an excellent sewing machine mechanic, he is also an early bird! He starts work at 4:00 a.m. So at least I know he spent a little more than 10 minutes working on my machines!

Now, I hope they are happy little machines for a while, and don't give me any trouble when I sew for the remaining costume gigs I have this year. It's the least they can do for me for giving them this super treatment! Their spa treatment costs more than a human spa does, hope it relaxes them and they work great now!

Giving it my all!

I'm working with a class of 15 English Language learners. They've been in the U.S for about a month now, and that is about how much experience with English that they have. So our class sessions have a very high learning curve. It is just as high for the teacher as it is for the students!

I guess I must admit that I'm not getting any younger. Yes, I did just have a birthday this week, deeper into the 60's and onward to the 70's! Yikes, how did that happen so fast? I love teaching, but after 1-1/4 hours of working so hard to be understood, and making sure that I am understood, I'm just wiped out!

Today the restroom was closed (couldn't take care of nature's needs), the elevator was broken, so I climbed up to the main level with my huge backpack, and realized just how tired I really was after my class! I remember feeling this tired last Thursday after working with them.

Now, these students are the loveliest group of people. They are amiable, hard working, willing to give maximum effort to learn. So, how can I slack off? I can't and don't want to! We make progress every time we meet, but we have a very long way to go! And it is hard work!

So, students, I'm willing to give it my all if you are willing to take the ride with me! Just give me and elevator and a working restroom when I'm finished, so I can make it home, OK?

Kitchen Table Talk

There is no better talk than sitting at the kitchen table and chatting with your BFF. She and I chat online every morning (or nearly every morning). It is fun to keep up with her life, and she with mine, throwing a little gossip in every now and then. We sometimes talk on the phone. but today, we got a chance to engage in several hours of good ol' kitchen table talk!

It worked out that she and her hubby were coming up from Mid-Missouri for a doctor's appointment this morning, but then they were picking up their son from the airport tonight. What were they going to do with all the time in between?

They did a little shopping, ate lunch and then decided to check out the Museum of Transporation, which is a lot of fun. Being mature adults with no kids in tow, they did the perfunctory tour and then opted for the air-conditioned station house for a cool soda and a sit down. Then they came to my house for dinner.

Now, I don't really do much cooking lately, but for good friends, I'll make the effort. I was late coming home from school, and I had nothing in the house to feed guests, so I had about an hour to get to the store, get home, clean up the house some, and start the dinner before they came.

Her hubby spied the comfy recliner chair, and test drove that into slumber land after his busy morning and afternoon. She and I chatted and chopped at the kitchen table, preparing our dinner. When the dinner was ready, we enjoyed a delicious repast together. It was all the more tasty because it was shared with some very good friends!

Then we had a couple of hours to burn until they had to get to the airport. What a nice time we had, chatting about life, situations, kids, and activities, FACE TO FACE.

If I had a back fence, my BFF from Mid-Mo would be the perfect back-fence neighbor. Heaven help us if we were, because we'd never get anything done, we'd be chatting over the fence all the time.

But, until that happens, and one of us moves, we'll just enjoy these special times we have together, chatting it up at the kitchen table!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Next Costuming gig

My next costuming gig is the play "Doubt". This was made into a movie in 2008, starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The plot is based on the idea in 1964 that priests who abused children could get away with it. Sr. Aloysius wasn't going to let that happen on her watch.

Here is the beginnings of several costumes.

This play is being presented by Clayton Community Theatre, and will be presented in November, 2009. Auditions haven't been held yet, but I wanted to get a start on costuming to see if this would work out OK and meets the directors approval.

The theatre that this is presented in is only lit from overhead, so the director asked me not to make the nun's bonnets too deep. They are much deeper than this in reality, but I think this is a good compromise.

The priest will wear a vestment made of the green cloth, trimmed with the cross applique. I was lucky to find this collection of embroidery patterns at my sewing machine store yesterday. It was only $40, and has dozens of designs. I will use at least 4 of the designs for this play. The piece of software I was originally looking at for cross designs was $99, and I really didn't like all the designs in it that well. I could very well use some of these designs again.

What do you think? Good Meryl Streep interpretation? Yeh, I know--NO WAY!

My mother's hobbies

I thought I knew my mother well. And she passed some of her likes and dislikes on to me.

We both loved Dr. Pepper. She took the original logo of Dr. Pepper to heart--it was a clock with the numbers 10, 2 and 4 on it, that is when you were supposed to drink Dr. Pepper. I definitely take that to heart, except I might hit it twice a day on those hours! Oh, and I like Diet Dr. Pepper--not available in the early days of Dr. Pepper.

My mother was a seamstress. She sewed some very awesome garments. I remember several things she made for me, like my graduations dresses from 8th grade and from high school. She was very precise with her sewing. When she tried on the 8th grade graduation dress, a beautiful 50's shirtwaist, with a very full skirt, made of pale blue gingham, it was too short waisted. She figured out a way to make it longer in the bodice by putting a false belt in, covered by the real belt. She was clever.

I also remember a beautiful purple wool dress she made for me for a high school "dress up day". We picked the most difficult pattern, and the most beautiful fabric, and of course, we chose this very close to the designated day. I remember her staying up very late the night before, but when I woke up on dress up day, there it was, finished to perfection, and I felt like a Vogue model wearing it to school.

I recently viewed some photos of her when she was just married to my father. He was in the army, and was ready to be sent to the war. She went with her mother-in-law to visit him at his camp on the east coast. She was wearing a beautiful plaid wool suit, with MATCHING HAT. I know she made it, and it was totally awesome.

I remember many of the lessons my mother taught me about sewing. When I take short-cuts and don't do it like she would do, I feel her presence over my shoulder giving a disaproving eye. I answer her back, sending my message up to the heavens, "Yes, Mother, I know, you wouldn't do it this way--but I'm short of time, and IT'S ONLY A COSTUME!"

Last night, I got out a couple of books that had been on my shelves for years about quilting. In the books were some other signature items of my mom--namely, magazine pages cut out with more project ideas on them, and oh, by the way, the receipt for the book I was reading tucked inside of it. (She did that with all of her "fun" purchases--for what exact reason I don't know, but it is somewhat interesting to see these in retrospect.) She did like the idea of quilting, although I know she never did a big quilt project. She did do some very exquisite patchwork projects, and her work was in great demand, especially by her sister.

Her sister was a real quilter, and had a button posted in her basement fabric stash that said, "She who dies with the most fabric, WINS!" Both my mother and my aunt passed away in 1997, and I got to be the judge of this contest. My aunt won! But Mom made a good run at the prize? I still have the button attached to the wall in my sewing room,--girls, you will have to be the judge, I'm not sure who I'm competing with, but I'm giving it a run for the money!

So in the quilting book, I got a lot of ideas for future fun quilt projects. It would be fun to sew for the fun of it, rather than having a deadline. But without a deadline, I would probably start and never finish. But I have ideas for a wall hanging for my sewing room, many of these ideas came from the book of my mother's, and it melded with another idea I saw at the sewing machine store yesterday. I'm going right now to play with stuff, and I'll let you know what comes of it.

Oh, as for dislikes, Mother disliked rubber bands in the kitchen. Can't say I've acquired that dislike, but I do remember her disgust when one would turn up near food. We all have our wierd ideas, don't we? I don't like mayonaise (real stuff, the fake stuff is OK). My youngest daughter has acquired that dislike. So some of this stuff does pass on.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One more thing...

That little lonely water lily actually bloomed this summer, that is before it was taken over by the creeping invasive plant that is growing all around the pond. This is the first time it bloomed in 3 years. It was beautiful. They only bloom in high sun, and if you blink, you'll miss the show!

Speaking of gardens....

Early summer, after small impatiens plants were put in corners of the pond
September 5, the impatiens look like wedding bouquets!

Last year a friend and I went on something called a "Water Garden Tour". You could tour any number of about 60 different people's water gardens on Saturday and Sunday in late June. Most of these people were members of the St. Louis Water Garden Society. The inspiration for my own water garden took shape during this tour.

Many of the gardens we toured were absolutely awesome. Some took up the entire back yards. One family had an artesian spring in their yard. They took this liability and turned it into an asset, as it became the source for the water for an entire backyard of water garden pools. They threw some tiny catfish in the pond the year before, and when we were there, the fish had grown into huge 20" long monsters!

Some of the people we visited were vendors of the products that water gardeners use, and their yards were a display for their products. One guy's yard was so absolutely awesome, with huge waterfalls, deep pools, and a shallow wading area for the kids. That is where I got the idea for impatiens growing right next to the water, with their little roots tucked into the rocks. These posies obviously like it, because they've grown so huge in my water garden right now.

So, it gives me great pleasure to go out on a daily basis to feed my fish, admire the flowers, and hear the waterfalls flowing. It is my zen garden, and I love it.

Alpha and Omega of tomatoes

The Alpha of Topsy-Turvey Planter The Omega of Topsy-Turvey Planter--see the red tomatoes? No they are hiding, but there are two about 3/4ths of the way down.

The alpha of my garden tomato plant
The OMEGA of my garden tomato plant! It's taking over the entire garden!

I picked and ate my first red tomato from my plants a few days ago. Even though it was a little tomato, it did have a very good homegrown taste. I noticed that two from the Topsy-Turvey planter are getting red, so I'll have some more to eat soon.

The Topsy-Turvey needs water at least twice a day. On hot dry days, the leaves wilt quickly. I forget often, and always hope for revival, which it has done. The only problem is that there is blossom end rot on the tomatoes, which I think comes from uneven watering. My fault, my bad!

The garden tomato continues to grow longer, lankier, and puts out more flowers each day. It is just getting going and soon we'll have frosts! I have a portable greenhouse somewhere buried in my shed, I'd better get that out and put it together to maybe keep the plants alive to ripen the rest of the tomatoes.

My little squash plant is trying to produce, but the small fruits are rotting before they get more than 2" long. I don't know why, unless they are getting too much water. I got my lawn reseeded last week, and the directions were to water it every day. Perhaps it is too much water for the squash. I have a sprinkler system, so there is no way I can control NOT WATERING this one plant.

It has been a fun experiment, and next year I'll get started earlier, and maybe my crop will come in mid summer, for me to enjoy for several months, not just weeks.

For a Sweet Baby Girl

For a "soon to be born" baby girl--center panel is for her name, date of birth and weight

Since momma and daddy love Rubber Duckies, this is the theme of the baby quilt

I spent a rainy Labor Day weekend Saturday down in the basement, making the blocks for this baby quilt. I had used this pattern to make three baby quilts last year, 1 for my grandson, and 2 for neighbors who were having babies all around the same time.

The quilt blocks are 6" x 9", and I use a Janome 10000 Embroidery machine for the emboidery blocks. The embroidery patterns are from Dakota Collection, and this design set is called "Cuddly Animal Quilt". I've made several of the quilts using this collection, and they all turned out very cute.

I have just done the piecing on the quilt top as of today. The checked fabric the quilt top is laying on will be an extra row of border to make the quilt bigger. The last ones I made just covered a crib mattres, and I want this one to have more overhang. I am thinking of making a pieced border using up all the fabrics I cut for piecing and didn't use. I'm researching that right now to see what design might work best.

My one quilting friend told me about corner blocks. I had some fabric in my collection of colors that went with the main fabric that was all little blocks. I'm really glad I did that because it helped me get the sashing lined up straight. It still isn't perfect, but it is flatter and more rectangular that the last ones I made. I guess you learn with each project.

I have to wait until she is born for the name to be embroidered in the center. I'll work on the borders until then. I believe I can give it to the momma a few days after the baby comes, they won't mind!

It's fun, and I used inspiration piece of fabric with ducks printed on soft red plaid. I teamed it with soft greens and blue. It has sort of a vintage look to it. I like this color scheme, rather than bubble gum pink or pastel pink which so much stuff is made out of for a baby girl. Hope the parents like it as well. I'll show you an update when it is completely finished. The backing will be soft off/white and yellow ducks on flannel. Very snuggly!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taken to the woodshed

When you're in charge, you get to plan, improvise, create, evaluate. You get the praise for a job well done (if it is a job well done), and you get taken to the woodshed if something goes wrong!

That was what happened to me today.

A simple request for some pay for someone who did me a favor led to an inquest, a grilling, rationale questioned, admonishment to never to it that way again, the possibility that someone else's job is on the line, and general roasting till I was fork tender. Not exactly what I expected to be on the agenda today, but it was.

We never had a woodshed at my house, but we did have a paddle. And we had a parent who knew how to use it when things got out of hand. You know that old routine, Spare the rod and spoil the child--that wasn't what my father thought! So I've had my share of scoldings and sore backsides as a result.

Well, I won't reveal any more about the circumstances than what I've already said, but let's just say, I left with my tail between my legs, a sadder but wiser girl! Guess that's part of the job of being in charge--nobody told me about that when they recruited me. But, I've been in that position before, so what's new?

Whew--what a day!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The first Tomato

From this modest little garden patch grew a mighty tomato plant. It is the tinest plant in this picture (Back row, next to the house foundation.) The Squash plant next to it did much better in the first few months, but the bunnies feasted on the tiny little fruits as they developed.

Now the plant has overtaken everything else in the garden plot. It has been propped up, and it is still sprawling out, covering the flowers, and itself bearing more and more flowers and fruits. Right now there are at least 20 tomatoes in various stages of growth on the plant, plus more flowers.

The wierd thing about this garden plot is that it gets very little sun. During the high summer months, it got about 4-5 hours of sun a day. Now it is in almost constant shade, as this garden faces east, but has a 2 story monster house 12 feet away from it, causing the sun to never hit it now that fall is approaching.

I thought tomatoes needed sunlight to thrive, but obviously there is something in this garden area that is making this tomato plant happy. And today I picked my very first ripe tomato! Note the date, Sept. 1! I hope the first frost is late this year, so the rest of the little green tomatoes will have a chance to ripen.

Not impressive in size, note the golf ball next to it. But it ripened, and it's all mine! Can't wait till the rest of them get ripe! Hooray! I got the first tomato before (not Fourth of July), but LABOR DAY!

Patience is a virtue, of which I have next to none!

Today I almost lost the last little bit of patience that I have. I bit my tongue, kept my cool, and didn't snarl at anyone! But it was one of those kinds of days that makes you want to yell at someone!

I am teaching some very eager students from Central America, Mexico and Caribbean Islands who are here on a scholarship. They are very wonderful people, except that their English language skills are very limited. I speak and you can tell by the blank looks on their faces that they have no clue. So daily, I must invent new ways to get my point across.

Now these dear students have only been in class for one week. But I have several procedures that I am trying to set up for the duration of the school semester. One is a procedure for them to record on a computer their pronunciation of a script as a homework assignment. Then they need to save what they have recorded and then send it to me via email. In reality it isn't difficult, but if you don't know what the teacher is saying, it can be a challenge to master all the steps.

I explained what we were going to practice. Then I walked them across campus to the tiny little lab we were to work in. I have 15 students, and the lab had 7 working computers. We could barely fit into the room! They doubled up on chairs, and we began. About half-way through the experience, I began to doubt my sanity of trying this so soon! But, one by one, miracles started to happen, they recorded their short assignment and really got a kick out of hearing themselves speak! Then, one by one, they discovered how to email their sound files. When we were done an hour later, all had successfully done their recording, saved their recording and then sent it to me. I could hardly believe it worked, but I was holding on to sanity by a thread by the time I left the room!

Then another one of our students had to make a dramatic change in the classes she was taking, switching from a day class to a night class on another campus. This was more than I could bear! I had no answers for her questions--"Why did this advisor send me here? Why weren't you here to help me? Why did I have to wait? Who can I talk to now? How will this work?" And then calling folks for answers mid-afternoon yielded mostly voice mail answers. So I got creative, said she should just go down to the other campus, find the teacher, ask the teacher to let her into the class, and then go register. This was all "after hours" for me, since I work part time and had been there since 8, and it was now knocking on 3 p.m.

I definitely earned my 20 pesos today. And I retreated to my sanctuary of the bedroom chair knowing I had kept my cool, got the job done, and didn't offend anyone by blowing up in their faces! The students don't deserve it, no matter how their complicated lives cause us to have to bend over backwards to try to help them out of their messes.

And tomorrow, I get to do it all over!