Saturday, April 30, 2005

Hectic Week

It was a hectic week at work. My convention group kept me running. On Friday I even wore flat shoes (I am known for wearing heels every day). Heels just don't cut it when you are hauling banquet chairs to help make a quick room event change. Everything seems to be going well with the group and I am glad it is the weekend.

Our snow has melted, but it is still cold (40's). Yesterday I took a walk around the gardens to inspect the deer damage. I checked 7 gardens and there is not one tulip to be found. They have eaten every one to the ground (over 400 tulips). I have never had deer damage this bad. It has zapped my zest for gardening. The hostas are just emerging and I fear they will meet the same fate. A farmer friend told me to put old shoes in the areas where I want to keep them out. He says the human scent will keep them away. At this point I am ready to try anything to protect my cherished hostas. I will be looking for a few old shoes today.

I have been doing a bit of quilting on the blue jean quilt. I must say the stitiches are very poor. It is quite difficult to quilt through denim. This is one quilt that I wish I could machine quilt. I did try, but it just too big and difficult to move around. So I went back to the handquilting. It seems a bit easier if I do not put it in a hoop. I'll just keep trudging along until one day it will be done.

I hope you all have a fun productive weekend.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

M & M Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
about 2 cups M & M's (I used dark chocolate & just threw some in)
about 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
about 2/3 cup dried cherries (again did not measure, just threw them in)

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer 30 seconds. Add sugars, soda and salt. Beat until combined.

Beat in the eggs and vanilla till mixture is smooth. Using the mixer, gradually beat in flour.

Stir in M & M's, cherries, nuts.

Bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 - 16 minutes, or until golden. Cool a few minutes before removing from pan or they will break. Makes about 2 dozen large cookies.

Remember the cookies I made last weekend? Well, they were very good, a definate keeper. I made one batch with just M&M's and another one with M&M's, dried cherries and pecans (the ones pictured). I thought I would post the recipe just in case anyone would like to try them.
Dallas said, in her comment,how she vacuumed the whole house when she got her new bagless vac just because it was so much fun seeing how much dirt came up. I did the same. All of the dirt you see here came up with the first vacuum. I was amazed. We have no pets and only two people live here. Some of the fuzzy stuff are carpet fibers, but there is a good deal of sandy-looking stuff, too. Either I am one baaaaaaaaad housekeeper, or this is one darned good vacuum cleaner.
A few months ago my 15-year old vacuum cleaner died. I had been researching the Dyson vac for some time and decided to take the plunge and order it. My dear husband was not so enthused. The Dyson is expensive and he thought another $99 Walmart model would be just fine. I printed many raves from new Dyson owners and made him read them. Against his better judgment, he finally relented and I hopped online and made the order.

Here is DH admitting he was wrong. Yes, after one use, he, too, was sold. This is a quality vac--the best I have ever owned.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Where's the Maid?

Sundays are usually my "heavy cleaning" days. I am afraid that today I am not getting too much cleaning done. I decided I might as well sew all the blocks together rather than put them all away from the star log cabin below. It is taking much longer than I expected as I have spent way too much time socializing with the seam ripper. I just ripped out a 3ft. section that I put together backwards and decided it was time to break away for awhile. I was reading Dianne's blog . She posted a picture of a yo-yo quilt her Great Grandmother made in the 194o's. What a wonderful heirloom to have. I don't have any family heirlooms like that. I wonder if one day someone will treasure one of my quilts enough to save it for over 60 years? I would like that. It is STILL snowing here. We are supposed to get another 10 inches. I have to go to a family birthday bash for dinner tonight. Hope the roads are not too slippery.
This is what I woke up to today.
What better way to spend a snowy spring morning than playing with a layout for my new log cabin blocks. I like this one.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

There will be no garden work for me today. We have 6 to 12 inches of snow predicted today and more tomorrow. One day last week it hit 80 º. We Michiganders are used to unpredictable weather. I am rather happy about it as I am still in the quilting mood and cold, snowy days just increase the desire. I just finished piecing 25 log cabin blocks. You would think I would be bored with the log cabin, but I actually find it the most peaceful block to just sit and sew. I had a big stack of blocks left from the quilt I just finished (55 blocks to be exact). I originally intended to do the entire quilt in greens, but once I finished all the blocks, I decided it was too dull, so I made other colors to combine with the green. Now I have 80 blocks done, almost enough for another king size quilt. No plans yet to put together another quilt top. I will just keep making blocks and decide what to do with them later. I have never actually planned an entire quilt. I usually just have a vague idea of what I want, start putting blocks together and eventually I have I quilt.

I went to a church sale today. It was jam packed with people. I could hardly walk in there. Nonetheless I did find a couple of little treasures (see pic below). Then I went to JoAnne’s and whooo hoooooooo hit the jackpot! It was another 50% off already clearance priced fabric. I bought 7 fabrics (21 yards total) for $21. I passed on their regular quilter calicos fabric, the stuff that is usually $3.99/yd. For a buck a yard I want only the better quality fabric (LOL)! Everything I bought was regular priced $7.99/yd. It is already in the washer. I do love a bargain. I am experimenting with my fabric purchases (at these prices I can afford to). I am buying many fabrics that I consider UGLY in their entirety. I am thinking that when cut into smaller units, they will look much better and provide a bit of punch. I am getting bored with my usual safe fabrics.

Has anyone tried the new dark chocolate M & M’s? I bought a bag last night and am going to make cookies with them. I thought I would make a little treat for my dear husband who was by my side the entire hour in the fabric store and did not (even once) grumble. The man is a saint.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I thought Hello would allow me to post two pictures in one post, but evidentally not. I really do think I have done it before..........sometimes this stuff is so baffling.........anyway, here are the planters I did at work last year with the snake plant (also know as "Mother in law's" tongue. These two very large planters flank our dining room entrance and were my two favorites.
At work we are doing a total renovation of our indoor pool area. They are getting rid of dozens of plants, etc. Today I acquired this piece of driftwood and a snake plant. Last year I did the outdoor planters at work and used some of these plants as vertical accents . I thought I would break this large plant apart and use some on my own deck this year. I have been wanting a piece of driftwood, so am just delighted to have this piece. I just need to decide which garden to put it in. This weekend it is supposed to snow, so it might be a while before I get out there to play with it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I may have jinxed myself by writing about work. It was not one of my better days on the job. I had an important luncheon of 128 people for a good client. At the end of the event, I always like to find the client and see how everything went. I found her. I asked. She handed me a beautiful plant (see below) and said, "I'd better give you this because you are going to need it." She was right. It seems that the service was very poor and they were not happy. I apologized profusely, took money off her bill, apologized again, and I still feel down. It really bothers me when a client is not happy. After spending 9 hours at work, I come home and can't stop thinking about what should have been done differently.
The servers are not under my control. I don't hire, fire or train them. I only take the wrath of the customer when they do not perform up to standard. Tomorrow I will call the client, grovel a bit more and hope that she will not pull her next big luncheon in June.

The plant is beautiful, don't you think? Do notice that I photographed it on my quilt so that you could see that I have indeed done the binding (well, still only 3 sides).

Can't resist posting this: I arrive at work at 6:30 a.m. Made a quick check of the banquet set up, turned on the computer and looked up to find a waitress at my desk. She says, "Is it O.K. if I take a toothbrush and toothpaste?" (amenities we keep at the front desk for our guests). I give her a confused look. She says, "I forgot to brush my teeth this morning." I say, "For the benefit of your customers, I think it would be a good idea."

How does one "forget" to brush one's teeth before coming to work?????????????

And so my day begins............................................
I am happy to report that I enjoyed the retirement dinner. We sat with a very nice couple (yes, they talked!). I had a delicious veal picatta -- so tender it cut with a butter knife and the sauce was just the right blend of cream, lemon and capers. I ordered a twice baked potato which was just oozing with cheese (exactly the way I like it).

I have a busy work day today. I don't know if I ever mentioned what I do to earn the money to buy all these plants and fabric (LOL), but I work for, as they say, "a major hotel chain". I am the sales director as well as the human resources person. I work with large convention groups and people planning meetings, weddings, showers, seminars--any event that uses a meeting/banquet room. Next week I have a large convention group coming in, so today I have to get all the final details of everything they need and do a function sheet on each event. I need to know every detail of the set up for everything from their registration to their dinner banquet to their final wrap up meeting. There are about 25 different events and I need to do a contract for each one. It is through these contracts that every other department in the hotel gets the information they need to do their part. There can be a lot of stress in this--if I mess something up, it could ruin the success of their convention and they will not be happy! Say they want "red" linen napkins, and my function sheet does not specify this---you can bet they will be in my office the next morning throwing a hissy fit because the napkins were white.

Working in the hospitality industry is really quite an interesting job. Some of the things you see are shocking--more than once our bellman have made a delivery to a room and the lady met them at the door in the buff. One morning our executive housekeeper heard noises in the electrical room and when she opened the door, she found a couple in an early morning bout of passion, on the cement floor right next to the generator. Imagine her surprise!

It is definately not a working environment for the easily offended. I am off now to see what this day holds.............

Monday, April 18, 2005

Thank you to those who comment

I am not exactly sure how to acknowledge my thank you's to those who comment. I have been trying to do so within the comment section, which is really the only way I can see to do it. I do hope I am following the correct blogging etiquette. I know it does take a bit of time and effort to make a comment and I do really appreciate it when someone is motivated to do so. I think most of us who blog LOVE to get comments. I try to remember that as I surf your blogs. Before I had my own, I never left any comments... just surfed in and then back out. It finally occurred to me that if I enjoy a blog, I should let the author know -- if for no other reason, than to (selfishly) motivate the writer to post frequently so I have new reading material! So a big THANK YOU to everyone who has commented. I have to leave now to go to a retirement dinner for DH's work friend. I don't think I will know anyone there, but I am sure I will still have a pleasant evening (unless I get stuck next to someone who hardly speaks---don't you hate that? Trying to make small talk with someone who only answers "yes" or "no".

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Weekends go by too fast. On Saturday we went to a casino in Michigan's upper peninsula with my Mom & Dad. We had a good time, but I lost all my money--oh well, maybe next time I will win it back.

Early Sat. morning, I sewed the binding to my log cabin. Today I watched taped episodes of "Simply Quilts" while slipstitching 3 sides. One more side to go and it is ready to put on the bed.

It was a beautiful day here (nearly 70 º). I worked outside a few hours, planting 6 Alberta Spruce shrubs in the rock garden. They are very tiny, but will slowly grow to about 8 feet. I love them (I already have 7 of them). I also did some more border cleanup, but was not really in the mood for that today. My energy level seems to be declining each year. I can no longer spend 8 - 10 hours working like a mad woman in the gardens. After 3 or 4 hours of rather slow paced work, I have pretty much had it. So it takes me a lot longer to get the spring chores done these days.

I had DH haul my cana lily out from under the crawl space of the house where I stored it through the winter. In the fall I just cut the foliage off the plant and stick it under there right in the soil. I never look at it again until spring. Today I looked and was sooooo excited when I saw it was alive (see those two little pink shoots? It is still way too early to leave it outside, but I will stick it in the garage each night. Looking at this, you may wonder, "Why is she so excited about that?". LOL. I know it does not look like much at the moment.

But just wait a few weeks! The foliage on this plant is magnificent (it is called Tropicana).

Friday, April 15, 2005

These guys give real meaning to the term scare"crow".
This one is reading Birds and Blooms magazine
Here is a bigger picture of the sled and child rocking chair.
I really like container gardening. Part of the pleasure is finding containers to grow things in that are different from the mundane purchased pots. The majority of my containers are not typical. A few of the things I have used are: whiskey barrell, wicker dresser (which only lasted one season), wooden doll cradle, dining chairs with seats removed & watering cans, metal milk pails, child's rocking chair with a hole cut thru the seat to set the pot in, wooden sled with a raised box built on the top, and metal fishing cans (don't know what they are called). You can plant in any thing that will hold dirt. Does anyone else have any unique ideas?

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

I stopped at JoAnne's Fabric Store after work today to look for some largish containers to plant some Dahlias. I found many nice resin containers that would work, but at prices from $19.99 - $29.99 each, I had to pass. While walking around the store, I spotted a 90% off sign. Closer inspection revealed that it was on St. Patrick's day merchandise. On the floor were some green metal containers to hold beer. They were the exact color I paint most of my recycled containers and they were the perfect size. The only problem was they had rather garish glittery gold writing and green shamrocks on the front side. I reluctantly put them down and as I was walking away the idea struck to sand off the glittery stuff and then spray paint them. I grabbed 3 of them at a cost of two dollars each.

When I got home I immediately set about sanding and painting. It was incredibly easy and the paint I had was an exact match. In less than 20 minutes I had them done. I let them dry for about half an hour, then took a hammer and nail and punched drainage holes in the bottom of each. I planted the dahlia tubers and then decided I needed a marker so that I would remember what I had planted. I thought of writing on a wooden stick, but in past years that did not weather very well. After a few rains and the hot sun, the writing was barely legible and the space is very limiting. I decided to use the computer to make labels. Then I used Avery laminating sheets to enclose the paper and half of a straw so I could stick them in the dirt. I am quite happy with the results.

I was on a roll and remembered a nice stump I had thrown behind the rockwall last fall. It had a nice size planting hole, but the hole went completely trough the stump so all the dirt would fall out. Last week I saw a man on a TV show staple screening on the bottom of a similar stump. A quick look in the shed yielded a nice piece of old screening. A trip to the basement and I found a staple gun. It even had staples in it! Today is just my lucky day. It ended up being about a 10 minute task and is now ready for planting later next month

Still full of energy, I decided to do some more clean up of the flower beds. I spent a total of about 2.5 hours outside working. It was a lovely afternoon, warm and not windy. I feel like I accomplished a lot for a work day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I have been working on dressing my deck greeters--two wooden crows that I have had for quite a few years. Each year I scour garage sales to find clothing for them. A toddler size 2 is the perfect fit. It is fun to find accessories for them to carry. They are just a whimsical addition to my outdoor decor.
In a few weeks they will take their position at the main entrance to the deck.
Here is a picture of the doomed burning bush. The damage to the lower part of the bush does suggest rabbits; however, there were deer tracks all around, so I am assuming they are the villains.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Chicken Bow Tie Pasta & Rice Soup

I love soup. For an early dinner tonight I made a delicious Chicken Rice & Bow Tie Pasta soup. With a couple of pieces of garlic toast, it was the perfect light meal. It is very easy to make, especially if you have chicken left over from a previous meal.

Chicken Bow Tie Pasta & Rice Soup

2 cans chicken and rice soup
2 soup cans water
2 14 oz cans chicken broth (I used Swanson)
a large handful of bow tie pasta (two handfuls, if you have small hands!)
salt and pepper to taste
good sprinkling of parsley (I used dried)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
1 TBL Chicken base (or a couple bouillon cubes), optional
-just to add a bit more chicken flavor-(add either before adding salt, taste, and add more salt if needed)

Bring the two cans of chicken broth to a boil. Add the bow tie pasta and simmer about 10 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Add the remaining ingredients. Heat through. Serve.

Quilts in the Garden

I spent about 5 hours outside in the gardens yesterday. It was a warm day and it felt good to be digging in the dirt again. I accomplished quite a bit--raked and cut down dead flowers in 6 of my smaller gardens. The deer damage over the winter is bad this year. They are eating my tulips as they poke through the ground. Last year I planted about 200 more tulips and I was expecting a nice show this spring. Now I will be surprised if even half of them make it. They also ate all of the bark off a large burning bush shrub. It is likely to die now. There really is not much I can do to keep the deer away (short of putting up a high fence around the entire property). I have just learned to live with them. I am throwing in a picture of last year's garden bench with quilted pillows. I tend to use a lot of my extra blocks to make quick pillows to use outside. It is not something you want to spend a lot of time on as they will get ruined. But I like the coziness they add to the garden. Last season I spent a few afternoons lying here with a good book.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Denim--New Quilting Direction

I decided to quilt a simple grid on the plain blocks of the jean quilt. Quilting the stars on the pieced blocks is taking way too much time, so I am changing direction midstream (not something I would recommend doing unless you are totally FED UP and feel sure you made the wrong first choice AND you are keeping the finished piece for yourself, so who really cares?). I am just going to outline quilt in all of the light triangles and call it good. If you look closely, you may be able to see this in the bottom block. This will cut the time down to about 20 minutes per block. I have done 4 blocks already this morning. I am much happier with the quilting pace now--I am just not willing to spend over 100 hours quilting this one.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Unproductive Week

I have not accomplished very much this week. The log cabin is still awaiting its binding. I have been doing a bit of quilting on the denim quilt. Quilting the stars on the denim is quite a chore and I am not enjoying it nearly as much as I did the log cabin. Perhaps it is time to take a quilting break and get out into the gardens. It is supposed to be about 65 degrees tomorrow, so I am planning my first day of raking pine needles and cutting down dead flowers. I have not been outside in the fresh air since about October, so it will be a welcome change.

Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Live to Work or Work to Live

I just returned from a mini vacation (two nights away). Today it was back to the old grind of getting up and going to work. I am feeling like I want a bit more free time & I was trying to remember when I have had more than one week off work. It was 16 years ago next month - when I got married. Life is passing by so quickly & I am spending too much time working--that is my conclusion.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

The Last Stitch

8:45 a.m. I called to my husband to bring the camera. He snapped this picture, thus recording my last quilting stitch in the log cabin.
All quilted

My Website

I have a gardening website that I started a couple of years ago on tripod. This morning I had an email from Tania requesting more info so she could create a similar arrangement on her deck. I was totally flattered that someone wanted to imitate my planting. I am always on the lookout for inspirational gardening websites with pictures. It is hard to find sites that show the garden as a whole--I want to see the layout of the borders--not closeup pics of individual flowers. If you know of any, please let me in on the secret.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Bitten by the Bug

The gardening bug has bitten and I am looking through last years pictures to remember what will be coming up soon. Here is my sad looking rock garden today
This is what it will be in about 6 weeks if the deer do not eat all of the tulips before they bloom.

Log Cabin Progress

I just spent the past 1.5 hours on the log cabin quilt and I am down to only one and a half more blocks to quilt! I will probably finish the quilting tomorrow. Now that the gardening season is almost here, I need to get the whole quilt finished so I can move on to outside activities. I have really enjoyed the hand quilting on this one and am almost sad to see it coming to an end. Because I quilted along each seam, I did not have to do any marking. I still use the old pencil-marking method and it is not one of my favorite parts of quilting. Does any one else still use a pencil? Most of you probably machine quilt. I have attempted machine quilting, but, alas, I have NO talent in that art.

I am planning to make a few matching pillows for the log cabin. I may try an envelope style with a fringed border for one of them. So many projects, so little time!

I need to go wash my new Amazon purchases and get them put away. I was reading the instruction booklet for the KitchenAid and I guess I need to do some beater adjustment before I can use it. I need to go find a screwdriver for that. Do any of you have a KitcenAid and, if so, do you like it? Please tell me yes, as I have just spent a decent wad of cash on this baby, and I really want to like it!

The Gardens Awaken

Spring comes late in Northern Michigan. We have had a few days of warmish (high 40's) weather this week and the majority of our snow has finally melted. Today was the first day I was able to get out and take a walk around my gardens. If we do not get more snow, I should be able to get out in about a week and start the spring clean up. Because I have so many gardens, spring clean up is a MAJOR task for me--hours and hours of cutting down the remnants of last year's flowers. From late spring through fall, I spend almost all of my free time in the garden. It is my true passion. It is hard to believe that the mess you see here today

Already contains all the sleeping beauties you see in this picture from last year!

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