Friday, November 27, 2015

Christmas decorating made easy

A couple of years ago we started letting the girls decorate the tree by themselves. Daddy put up the tree and the girls took over. They loved putting up the ornaments, often analyzing ornament placement like they were painters staring at a blank canvas.

Each year they take on more Christmas decorating. This year they did nearly all the work. My job was to take down the existing decorations to make room for the Christmas decor. Daddy put up the tree as usual. The girls took over from there.

They created a Santa brigade in the dining room. There is a nutcracker army in the family room. Every room has some holiday cheer. I was allowed to put bowls filled with ornaments in a few places and crystal figurines above the kitchen cabinets. Other than those few touches, the girls created our Winter wonderland.

They did a lovely job. They liked being in charge of decorating. They liked working together to decide what went where. Mostly they liked being trusted with the responsibility. They kept proving over and over again that our babies are growing up.

Now if I could only get them to be as excited about taking it down...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving planning requires a pencil not a pen

We're hosting Thanksgiving, as we have done the past few years. So far I know that my Mom and my Sister-in-Law Linda will be here. The rest of our guest list is a bit more fluid.

My brother Dave's youngest son is still playing high school football. He team has gone far in the playoffs. If they win one more game they will play in the state tournament Thanksgiving weekend. Winning means they will probably be eating with us. If they lose, then Dave and family are going away for a quick family vacation, as they have done for the past few years.

My brother Steve's middle child plays high school hockey. His team is in a Thanksgiving tournament. He won't know until Wednesday if he is joining us for Thanksgiving. The schedule is decided as each game is played. Winners play in one bracket. Losing teams play in another bracket.

How do we plan? We plan for everyone to show up. If they do we'll have a full house with lots of noise. If they don't then we'll have leftovers. Either way we're ready for a fun day. Now we just have to wait and see who comes to have fun with us.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rodeo secrets

A few years ago the girls started spending the weekend with Uncle Len and Aunt Debbie. They always come back with funny stories and great photos. Their favorite weekends involve the rodeo at Gordyville. Of course they love anything with horses, but they really like watching the rodeo performers.

This year when we took them down to the rodeo Daddy and I decided to spend the night in Champaign. We told the girls we were going to see a movie, but we had a different plan. We went power Christmas shopping.

I mean we were on a mission. We had a mental list and target stores. We shopped for our girls and others on our list. We had a few child-free hours and we meant to use them well.

When we were done we went back to the hotel room with a lot of bags. We had great success, finding most things on our list at great prices. During our adventure we managed to wander the University of Illinois (where we both went to college) campus, visit a local western shop and work our way through a mall. Our niece, Mikki, was quite surprised to see us at the mall. I can't imagine any scenario where she thought she's see us in the mall that Saturday night.

We carefully packed everything into our suitcase. A few items we left out because we didn't care if the girls saw them. Plus, they wouldn't fit in our suitcase even if it was empty. I was giddy. We managed to cross of nearly everything we needed to buy in one power shopping trip.

On the way home the girls talked about how much fun they had. When they asked what we did, we steered the conversation back to the rodeo. We told them we wandered campus and went to dinner. They thought it was boring, but we were quite happy, even if we couldn't share the joy.

Now they are a bit worried. The girls have asked a few times when we are going to start Christmas shopping. I keep telling them not to worry about it. The brunette twin asked why I always get such a big smile when I talk about Christmas shopping. She knows how much I dislike going to our local malls. What she doesn't know is I'm smiling because it's done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Repairing past projects

Every winter I start a quilting project. Usually I start a new quilt with the idea that I will give it as a gift at some point. This year I'm going back to fix three of my personal quilts.

The first quilt is a summer coverlet. My Gramma Cartwright made many of the squares. Some of the seams were splitting. I went through and fixed those seams, and then added some additional quilting to support the older seams. The actual quilting comes in when you put the top and bottom layers together. Sometimes it's decorative; other times it's pretty straightforward. Either way the main purposes are to support the block seams and keep the top and bottom together.

The second quilt is one I made in college. I remember finishing it while I was on winter break during college. This quilt needs a new binding. The one I originally sewed started as white edging. It's some dirty-looking color now and is coming apart. It is long past time for a new binding.

The third quilt had a completely different problem. If there is such a thing as over-quilting, I did it on this project. The middle block is a large piece of red material with white dots. I did a lot of handwork on the block. As the years passed, the fabric simply wore away on the block. There are parts that simply don't exist anymore. I haven't decided exactly how to fix it, but I have a few ideas. I need to cover the worn parts while still showing some of the original hand quilting.

There's one quilt project I might take on after these three are done. It will be a huge project that I haven't quite been able to crystalize yet. I have the first quilt I made. It's more than 30 years old. I hand sewed everything from the blocks to the quilting. My youthful ignorance led me to put too much batting between the top and the bottom. I thought it would make it warmer. What happened is the seams started pulling and splitting as I washed it over and over again. It has been sitting in a closet for a while now. I want to get it out of the closet and back into regular use.

Fixing this quilt will require pulling apart the original quilt, fixing the seams and re-quilting the original top to a new backing. Part of the reason I haven't done it before is it seems overwhelming. I always had another project on deadline. I didn't want to start it unless I had time to finish it.

When the first three projects are done, I hope to have a final plan to fix my first quilt. If I can put it all together in my head, I'm sure it will come together nicely.

Friday, November 6, 2015

The dog bed

When we bought the girls their bunk beds we ordered a twin over a double. We decided it would be a good idea to have a bed big enough so the girl could sleep together. They have always liked to snuggle together, whispering secrets late at night. Holly changed the dynamics when she started sleeping in bed with the girls. Now whoever sleeps in the double bed gets to snuggle with the big furry dog.  

Since the bunk bed has been apart Holly goes back and forth between beds. The other night I woke up to some noise coming from their bedroom. I walked into their room to find Holly spread out on the twin bed. She had her head on the pillow and stretched nearly to the foot board. Did I mention she's a big dog?

The commotion I heard was the girls trying to convince Holly to get off the bed. The brunette twin explained that she got up to use the bathroom and found Holly spread out on the twin bed when she came back into the room. Holly wasn't interested in moving. She turned her head so she wouldn't see the girls trying to get her to move.

I told the brunette twin to sleep with her sister. On the one hand I didn't want to deal with Holly. It was late and I didn't want to fight with the dog. On the other hand I told the girls that once they let Holly sleep in their beds that they wouldn't be able to get her off the bed. Who knew Holly would eventually try to claim an entire bed for herself?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Back to beginner riding lessons

The girls and Erin share a birthday. This year the three girls plotted their perfect birthday. They wanted to take a horseback riding lesson together. This presented some challenges. Our girls are advanced riders. Erin is a beginner, having only taken a few lessons. Monday the stars aligned when I called the stable. They had three spots available in the beginner lesson. 

All three girls were so excited that it was hard to believe they made it through school. When they all got into our car they were electric. They all talked at the same time. Somehow they all understood what was going on in each conversation.

When they finally made it into the riding ring they all had huge smiles. I had forgotten what a beginner class looked like until I saw the riders struggling to keep control of their horses. Some horses just walked to the middle while the riders tried to keep them on the wall. Some horses decided to walk when they were supposed to be trotting. 

Our girls looked a little bored at times since they were used to the advance lessons. Before they went into the ring I told them to remember that they have already gone through the beginner lessons. Their instructor recognized the problem and offered to have them ride bareback. The blond twin had her horse's saddle off immediately. The brunette twin decided not to do it.

After the lesson all three girls smelled. It was so strong that I kept opening the car windows to get some fresh air. The girls decided they should bottle the barn smell. They were sure they would make a fortune selling the fragrance.

Sometimes I watch their lessons and forget out far they have come. I see where they are rather than remember what it was like when they first started riding. Tonight was a good reminder about how hard the girls worked to earn their advanced rider status. It was fun to go back, but they will be happy to be in their advanced class Friday evening.