Pedro’s Quilt

DSC_0089It’s done.

I finished it.

Pedro’s quilt is on his bed.

It’s not perfect.

Actually – it’s full of mistakes.

But it’s also full of love.

And dreams.

And prayers for his future.

Pedro graduates in less than three weeks and my role as his teacher will end.

But I will always be his mom.

No matter where he journeys in life –  he will take a part of my heart with him.

And this quilt.

I hope.

A Million Little Decisions

We started in on the basement one week ago.

It began as a simple project – just replacing our small, very dated TV stand with a much larger unit someone had given us.

But that project lead to rearranging book shelves, which lead to replacing the nasty metal craft cupboard, which lead to…

You get the picture.

By the time we went to bed last Saturday we had created a monster of a project.

Every inch of available floor space was covered with stuff – all of the contents of the craft cupboard, books, toys, boxes, totes.

Just to get a jar of spaghetti sauce from the pantry shelves one had to first scale “mount donate”, leap over two tubs of playmobil, and zigzag through boxes of apples, spaghetti squash and random canning jars.

Oy.

Twas a massive project.

I have touched a million little pieces and made a million little decisions. Marbles. Colored pencils. Paper of all kinds. Movies. CD’s. Books. Beads. Yarn. String. Puppets. Props. Costumes. Sewing patterns. Fabric. Games. Paints. Glues.

Even a disco ball.

It has taken me a week – but I see the light at the end of the tunnel, or at the least patches of carpet under the piles.

But it will soon be streamlined and organized.

Neat and clean.

And it will look better – much better.

And someday – hopefully – I will replace the millions of brain cells I lost in the midst of all those pieces.

Someone send chocolate.

Laundry Lessons

DSC_0005I had the most enlightening conversation with my oldest daughter, the EMT, recently.

We were discussing Christmas gift ideas when she mentioned that somebody could always give her another laundry basket so that she would never have to put laundry away again.

I looked at her puzzled.

She said, “What?! I have an entire laundry system!

“There’s the very dirty that I can wear maybe one more time,

“And the semi-dirty that I can wear a couple more times,

“And the kinda clean that I can wear a few more times,

“And the totally clean that I haven’t worn since I washed clothes the last time.”

“Oh – and then there’s my hoodies – I never wash them.”

I shake my head in disbelief and ask,”These are all in one basket?”

“Oh yeah.  But I know where every pile is. I have a system, mom.”

I shake my head in disbelief.

She went on, “Well, except for my work clothes,  they usually have blood or vomit on them so I wash those right away.”

Wow. I’m glad for that.

I think.

So – if all of her clothes are kept in a laundry basket on the floor – just what can be found in her dressers?

Wait. Strike that. I don’t really want to know.

A Word of Warning

BlenderI love my immersion blender.

Have you ever used one? It’s so handy to whip things up without pulling out the big blender.

And so easy to clean! You can just put it into your soapy dishwasher and turn it on. Bingo! Extra suds and a clean immersion blender.

It’s portable, lightweight – and cheap. I got mine for $5 at a garage sale.

There is – however –  something about immersion blenders that you should know.

While they are very easy to clean by sticking them in soapy water – if you have not thought ahead and removed your dish cloth – the immersion blender will grab the dishcloth and wrap it up around the blade.

Then the blender gets very heavy and takes on a life of it’s own – spinning out of control sending dirty dishwater all over your kitchen.

And I do mean all over.

Cupboards.

Floor.

Counter.

Clean dishes in the drainer.

And all over you.

When you finally have enough sense to unplug the blender – you will need to spend several minutes untangled your dishcloth  – possibly even cutting it.

Then you get to spend the rest of your morning cleaning your kitchen.

The cupboards.

The walls.

The floor.

And finally yourself.

Just thought I should warn you.

You’re welcome.

 

…And it is Finished – Finally

quilt

The quilt is finished.

Finally.

It was the first solo quilt project I started after a beginners quilting class over 20 years ago.

Each piece was hand cut and hand stitched.

I spent hours of my first pregnancy stitching my way through morning sickness, doctor’s visits, back pain, and heartburn.

I finished the piecing, struggled with the sashing, and started hand-quilting it together.

It was at this point I got tired and frustrated.  I had measured a little wrong – okay a lot wrong – and it wasn’t laying right.

I gave up, tucked the unfinished quilt in a box and promised myself I would finish it after the baby was born.

Fast forward 20 years, 5 kids, and 2 moves later. I found the quilt in that same box – with the quilting needle in the middle of a stitch, exactly where I left it.

As I picked the quilt up and smoothed it out – I knew I had to finish it. I found my quilt frame and picked up where I left off, finally putting the final stitches in the binding this week.

It’s not perfect – not by a long shot. Those imperfections didn’t magically disappear as it sat in storage.

No – the quilt didn’t change – but I did. I was finally ready to look past the mistakes and see the beauty.

I was ready to accept it for what it was and appreciate the lessons it taught me.

That sometimes we have to work with what we have.

That if we focus on the negative we often lose sight of the positive.

That if you just take a step back, and get the bigger picture, the little things don’t seem as important.

This first quilt will never win any prizes – but in my heart it will always be a work of art – a visual reminder of the life lessons it’s taken me 20 years to learn.

Homemade Laundry Soap – Powder Version

Washing Soap

I’ve been making my own homemade liquid laundry soap since March – and really like it.

So when my friend Kimmer sent me a recipe for a powdered laundry soap a few weeks ago – I was curious.

I noticed right away that this recipe included many more ingredients than my first one.

Which got me thinking –  so what was really necessary to get our clothes clean?

I did some research on line (at Pinterest of course! ) and found that a basic laundry soap includes just three things – Borax, Washing Soda, and a bar soap (the  most common being Fels Naptha or Zote, but some even use a regular bar of Ivory soap or even a store brand).

The most basic recipe for powdered laundry soap is simple:

1 (4lb. 12 oz.) box of Borax
1 (3 lb. 7 oz.) box of Washing Soda
28 ounces of soap grated finely (this is 2 Fels Naptha bars)

Mix them together.

That’s it. Super simple. Use 1 tablespoon for a small load, 2 tablespoons for a large one.

Now – if you want to get fancy – you can also add:

1 (3 lb) Container of OxyClean- This will help with stain removal and will keep your whites whiter (I added it in this batch – and got a handy dandy scoop as an added bonus!)

1 (55 oz) Bottle of Purex Crystals Fabric Softener This will help your clothes feel softer and smell wonderful. (I did add it to this batch – my girls love the smell. It’s a nice touch if I have it on hand.)

The verdict – it was super easy to make – once the soap is grated you just have to stir everything together and you’re ready to use it. Our clothes smell clean, look clean, and there are no soap marks or detergent residue that I can see.

(Although I should admit that I have only used it in warm water loads – people claim the soap dissolves even in cold water – but I’m still a little skeptical.)

I still have my homemade liquid laundry soap on hand – same three basic ingredients, it’s just a little more involved to make it and I’m sure I could always add the Oxy-Clean and Purex Crystals to each batch if I want to.

So the big question is – liquid or powder?

Bottom line – I like them both.

It’s simply a matter of personal preference.

They both cleaned my laundry and saved me money.

And that’s what works for me!

Topsy Turvey

Jan and I were barely out of the driveway taking Matt to the airport when the kids started taking over Matt’s room.

And I do mean taking over.

It was time.

Matt lived totally out of his suitcase this trip – making it very obvious that he really didn’t need the space. While Angel Girl was having a hard time sharing a room with Dagmar because of her strange work hours.

(Going to work at midnight and coming home to sleep at 8 am makes it hard for Angel Girl to use their room during the day – not to mention the pager thing and the phone calls at all hours.)

Something had to change.

It was obvious I could no longer keep my shrine to Matt’s childhood. While he will always have a place to stay when he comes home (which I hope is frequently!) – he will no longer have a room to call his own.

<heavy sigh>

His siblings carefully and reverently (I hope) packed away the things he left at home and stored them in the attic.

Then things got a little crazy.

When the dust finally settled sometime Saturday night –

~  Dagmar got Matt’s room

~  Buddy got Matt’s dresser

~  Dagmar got Buddy’s dresser

~  Buddy got Matt’s bed

~  Pedro got Matt’s desk

~  Angel Girl got Pedro’s desk

~  We burned 5 bags of trash

~  We gathered three bags of clothes to donate

~  Millions of dust bunnies were exterminated

And everybody’s happy.

And tired.

And slept very well.

Change is emotionally and physically draining.

But you know – it’s also kind of freeing.

And It Is Done.

I made it.

When I woke up the morning of Christmas Eve, I knew that it would be at least New Year’s Day before I came up for air again.

I was right.

Here it is – several days into the New Year, the tree is finally down, the decorations put away for another year, Christmas letters are read, a new calendar is hung, Matt’s back in Colorado,  and I’ve finally come to the end of the laundry piles.

And there – at the bottom of the last pile was the Christmas table cloth, just like last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

We always eat by candlelight on Christmas Eve, and the candles always drip, and I never seem to have time to get the wax off so I can wash it and pack it away.

And so it waited. Until now.

Today’s list includes, finding my iron, several layers of paper towels, layering them with the tablecloth in the middle, and methodically melting away the wax.

It’s a slow job. But one that doesn’t involve thinking, or even much moving. Unlike the other jobs associated with packing away Christmas.

And for me – it signals the end of the holidays; my last task before I can close the book on Christmas 2012.

And then I can finally say, “It is done.”

My Tea Addiction

TeaI think it’s safe to say that I am slightly addicted to tea.

Every day I drink several super sized mugs. And I do mean super sized. My nieces called them “Aunt alinna’a BIG tea”.

The problem with a tea addiction is that one tends to buy a lot of tea.

And that tea soon takes over the cupboard.

I have Christmas teas from two years ago.

Three kinds of Chai teas from one of Dagmar’s past obsessions.

Green tea, black tea, white tea, and herbal tea.

A little bit of this.

Three bags left of that.

Enough already.

I have decided that from now till Christmas I will drink up the tea in my stash and clean it out. Even if they aren’t my favorites.

I will drink Chai tea.

I will drink sugar plum fairy tea.

I will drink the little bit of this and the little bit of that in my tea cupboard.

And I will like it.

Then – I will start restocking with all my favorites. 🙂

The kettle’s boiling – anyone want a cup of tea to help me out?

A Quilt Adventure

It was during a random conversation between my niece and I about our shared interest in quilting that the idea for a quilt trip was formed.

And it – as some ideas do – stretched and changed until it became a reality last weekend.

Group Picture

My mom, Angel Girl, one sister,2 nieces, and I traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska to explore the International Quilt Study Center and Museum at the University of Nebraska.

Although not everyone in our group were quilters – we all appreciated the beauty and history of the quilts displayed.

I loved the old quilts the best – the ones carefully cut out of old garments or the bits and pieces of left-over material.

Everyone chose a favorite. Angel Girl chose a autograph quilt from the 1930’s which included autographs from the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University.

Quilt

After fully immersing ourselves in quilts for several hours – we decided that it was past time for lunch.

Our criteria – something unique that we wouldn’t get at home.

After much deliberation – our choice was The Pho Factory – a brand new Vietnamese Restaurant close to the museum.  It was fab-u-lous!

After almost drowning ourselves in noodle bowls bigger than serving bowls, we left with an appreciation for chop sticks and a new addiction to Vietnamese fish sauce. (Well – at least I did!)

We grabbed a bubble tea to go – and were not thrilled to learn that the “bubbles” tasted like black licorice.  The strawberry slushie “tea” part was yummy, though.

By then it was time to get out of Lincoln. The Cornhuskers played at home that night and traffic was getting heavy.

Since most of  Nebraska was in Lincoln at the game,  we headed back to Omaha and my nieces’ favorite bookstore downtown.

Book Store

In a family of bibliophiles – it was like Christmas morning.

Books from floor to ceiling – stacked on chairs, on the floor, in boxes. Thousands of books.

I wanted to touch them all – but I only bought one.

We would still be there if it wasn’t for the lure of Ted and Jerry’s ice cream. With fun flavors like coffee and doughnuts, black raspberry chocolate chunk and Dutch chocolate in hand – we headed back to my nieces for pizza.

And yes – we ate our dessert first.  It was an adventure day after all!  🙂

It was a little later than we planned when we finally headed for home – but we filled the day with fun and memories.

All that because a random conversation sparked an adventure idea.