Click photos to enlarge them.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday Photo Hunt Word - GATHER

Today's photo hunt word is Gather.  Sandy used to own the Whistle Stop Cafe, as in Fried Green Tomatoes,  Each week she posts a word on her website and bloggers can post a picture to theirs that depicts the word.  Since I couldn't decide between the two photos, I picked both.  The first one is Minnie's five kittens from last summer.  This is, so far, the most beautiful litter of kittens I've had in the four years I've been fostering.  I wanted to adopt all of them myself.

The second picture is three different groups of cats/kittens.  Around here, if you want to eat, you share the bowl or plate.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Barb, John, Lucy, Xena, Buster, and Lilly (the family)

Daisy, Ebony, Zach, Cody, Cary Grant, Eva, Ben, Mike, Toula, Delcy, Trish, Aster, Jilly, Bridgette, Micky, and Meg (the fosters)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Photo Hunt Word - JOY

I've found a website called the Saturday Photo Hunt.  It gives a particular word each Saturday, and people post a photo on their blog to represent that word.  The word for today is JOY, and this is my photo.  The kittens are from the same litter and were born at my house in August, 2011.  They're four weeks old here, but the adult, Bridgette, is not their mom, Delcy.  Delcy came to my house as a pregnant cat, and the only space I had available was in a room with Bridgette.  They quickly bonded and she became Aunt Bridgette after the kittens were born.  Bridgette really does smile in her photos.  Truly a joyful moment for all.

Pierce, Nita, Cary & Bridgette

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bridgette Plays Hide and Seek

There's nothing unusual about the cats playing, it's who's playing.  Bridgette!  She was rescued from behind a grocery store eating out of a dumpster and spent months hiding under a bed.  One day she escaped from the room when I went in or out, and didn't hiss or growl at anyone loose in the house.  She was allowed to stay out, but never bonded with anyone except Delcy, her kittens, and other kittens in the same room.  Today, she actually PLAYED with the other cats.

Bridgette was laying under the quilt Lucy lays on.
 Meg came over and Bridgette grabbed her.
I don't think Meg expected that from Bridgette.  "What the.....?"
 Bridgette went behind the quilt.
 Delcy, her buddy, and Ebony came to see.
 Then Xena and Micky came.
 Micky and Cary checked things out. Bridgette's foot is barely sticking out of the quilt.

 Cary says, "I know she's under there!"

Lucy layed there the whole time, completely bored.

"She's gotta be?"

"I just know it!"
"There's her tail!  I told you she was here!"

 After that, Bridgette ran out from the other end of the quilt and rested by a scratching post.  But, Cary didn't see her.

 Poor little guy's still looking for her.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tussle Training 101

The cats have been unusually playful the last few days when we've had gloomy days and on-off rain and drizzle.  I walked in on mom, Delcy, the black cat, wresting with her son, Cary, in the living room.  Mom was teaching her son how to protect himself if he ever got in a real fight.  All part of cat training and passing on the wisdom of millenia.  Here is some of Mom's Sage Advice.

If you pick a smaller opponent, you can keep him away with your legs.

If they're distracted, you can knock them over.
Now, we're going to practice headlocks.
Get on your back, grab them around the neck, and go for the belly or neck.

See, like this.
Not bad.

Well done, Grasshopper, but try to make it look less like cuddling.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pom-Pom Balls and Laundry

Wednesday I went with my Wed friends to the St. Louis Art Museum to see the Monet exhibit.  It was okay, but I'm much more impressed by artists who paint realistic pictures than impressionists.  I feel it takes much more skill and talent to paint a face that really looks like a face than to combine pretty colors on a canvas.  Just my opinion.  We had lunch in the Central West End, a revitalized, trendy older section with lots of restaurants and antique shops.  Ate at Dressler's Restaurant and had a fantastic cheeseburger with onion jelly/jam.  I printed out about 8 recipes from various cooking sites and will be making some next week.  It's like caramelized onions in a sauce.  Awesome!

While I was gone, the cleaning fairies came.  They obviously cleaned under the oven and fridge because this greeted me when I got home.  There were 58 pompom balls, one silk flower and one mouse.

Lilly, Meg, and Cary

I threw a couple handfuls on the floor and after one cat found them, the others sensed fun and came running.  Many are back under the oven.  The rest are scattered throughout the house.


Later, I was folding laundry and Cary thought it was a wonderful place to play.  Several of the gang love to play with my socks.  John wears the same brand of sock in a larger size, but they only like my socks.  They take them out of the dirty clothes basket and from next to my bed.  Buster is the main culprit.  Some days I'll find 5 or 6 of my socks littered all over the house.  He probably had a great time doing it.  I guess I have stinkier feet than John.


Isn't he adorable?

Lucy and Cary

Lucy wanted in on the fun.  Cary had just smacked her on the nose.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finally, the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

It's no secret among my friends and family that I can't make a decent chocolate chip cookie.  No matter what recipe I try, and I've tried a ton, they all turn out like crepes with chips in them.  Flat as pancakes.  A foster mom, Lisa, did give me a recipe that worked, but it had a box of dry pudding mix in it and really stopped my nose up because I'm allergic to corn, and pudding is mostly cornstarch.

At retreat, Katy brought the best CCC's I've every had in my life.  Thick, chewy, and soft.  It's from a Dierberg's grocery store recipe booklet giveaway, but it's not on their website.  I emailed Katy for the recipe earlier today, but haven't heard from her, yet.  We're going to Darlene's for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow and I was doing my cooking today.  I made dressing, the green bean casserole, cooked some frozen corn, and peeled pounds of apples to cook.  I looked in my stack of printed-from-computer recipes for Sallie's Stewed Apples from her and Laura's Vintage Kitchen Recipes blog.  I pulled it out, but there was another sheet of paper stuck to it.  It was a copy of the Thick and Chewy CCC recipe from Dierberg's that Katy used.  I swear!  I don't even remember how I got it or who from, but there it was.  Like magic!  All because I had some apples that were getting old and needed to be used.  Thanks, Sallie.

I mixed them up and baked one sheet.  I could tell after I added the flour that this dough was different.  It was stiffer, just like my grandma's cookie dough. 

 How's that for a cookie!  You can't believe how impressed I am with myself after 40 years of trying to do this.

The difference is replacing 2/3 of the butter with shortening and using more brown sugar than white.

Is this not magazine perfect?  Okay, I could have used a prettier plate than my 30-year-old Corelle.  And the cookies are as delicious as they look.  My husband was suitably impressed.

Since this recipe was already published in Dierberg's recipe leaflet, Everybody Cooks, and given away free, I don't think there's a problem posting it with credit to them.

Dierberg's Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie

4.5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
3/4 c.  white sugar
1 c. solid shortening (Crisco)
1/2 c. butter (1 stick), softened

3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 pkg. (24 oz) chocolate chips
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Mix dry ingredients together.  In a large bowl, beat sugars, Crisco, and butter together till light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat at low speed until well combined.  Add flour mixture all at once and beat on low until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips (I used the mixer) and nuts.  I don't like nuts in my cookies - I'm a purist.

Drop by heaping tablespoons (I have a scoop) onto a baking sheet.  Bake 375 degrees for 9-10 minutes until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on baking sheets for 1 minute.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Makes about 7 dozen.

NOTE:   The cookies literally slid off the sheet.  Not a crumb stuck.  This is a double recipe from the chocolate chip packages.  My Kitchen-aid mixer came in very handy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Invasion of the Giant Sock Monkey

It's well know in the guild that I dislike sock monkeys.  Dislike is probably too kind of a word.  I hate them.  It all goes back to my childhood when I would spend an occasional Friday night at my grandparents' house, staying with my aunt who was only four years old than I was.  Aunt Becky had a four-poster double bed and had a sock monkey doll.  The thing had wires in it's arms, and Becky had it wrapped around a bedpost at the bottom of the bed.  It stared at me all night long with those beady eyes and that stupid big red mouth.  Since that was about 50 years ago, I'd like to tell you that I've grown up and gotten over it, but I can't.  I still hate them.  It's not like I go screaming from the room or anything.  They just give me the creeps.

At the Mercy Center, our sleeping rooms are on the second floor and our sewing room is on the first.  We have to walk through the chapel to get from one to the other.  Three years ago, as I was going through the very dimly-lit chapel on my way to my room to change into jammies about 11pm, I got the creepiest feeling I've ever had in my life.  In England and Scotland, I would go to every dungeon in every castle just to "feel" something.  Got nothing.  Seeing or feeling a ghost has been my fondest wish for 50 years, but I'm about as psychic as a block of wood.  Except in this chapel.  I had the most intense feeling of dread that someone was not only watching me, but was going to jump out and kill me.  I've never been so scared in my life.  As soon as I got into the hallway, the feeling stopped.  Went up, put jammies on, but now, I had to go back through the chapel to get to the sewing room.  It was only 11:15!  I still had three more hours of sewing in me.  I felt like an idiot calling someone in the sewing room to come and escort me through a church, so I sucked it up and ran through.  The feeling was gone and nobody killed me.  When I related my tale to the group, one of the more religious members said that was God telling me to come back to the church.  I told her God has a very sick sense of humor, and that wasn't God.

So I've been to three retreats since then and no more eerie feeling.  However, the guy that runs the kitchen said he often hears a person whistling when he comes in early in the morning, and he's the only person there.

Anyway, when I got to the center Monday, I went directly to the sewing room with all my crap.  When I wanted to put jammies on later, my clothes bag would be down there, I could change in the bathroom, and not have to make two trips through the dreaded chapel.  So, when I did go up about 1am to go to bed, Darlene went too.  We were the last two and closed the room up.  I put my bag down in my room and went in the bathroom and stopped with a sharp inhale, and backed out.  There was a dark shape on the toilet!  I couldn't find the light switch reaching my hand around the corner!  It wasn't there!!!  It was on the bedroom wall!  HOLY CRAP!!!  Scared the shit out of me!!!  There sat the biggest damn sock monkey I've ever seen!!!

Knowing Darlene wouldn't be in bed, yet, I tapped on her door and asked her if she knew about this!  She claimed ignorance but came in my room expecting to see a bug or spider.  Not even close.  Nobody told her anything, because they knew we were good friends and she'd tell me.

Nobody enjoys a good joke more than I do, so once again, I sucked it up, touched the damn thing, and put Morty to bed.
At least he wasn't staring at me all night with those beady eyes.

The next morning, I took him down to the sewing room.  Going with my first instinct, I'm letting out years of pent up hatred for sock monkey's everywhere by strangling him.

Morty pleaded with me for his life.  He'd do anything.  He'd even do some of my sewing so I could have a break.

Well, this could work.
He needs practice on his quarter inch seam, but he wasn't too bad.
Then he got a backache from sewing and had to lay down on the stage and rest.  Being a foster mom, I know how important it is to spay and neuter, so while Morty was sleeping, I neutered him and put a bandaid on his tummy.
When he woke up, he was thirsty.

Coming back from lunch (also through the dreaded chapel) Morty wanted to stop and give thanks that I didn't throw his butt out my second story window the night before.

After dinner, Morty was ready for something a little sweet, and had some of Darlene's brownies and a wee sip of vodka to ease the pain from his neuter.
Morty had a little too much to drink and had to take another nap.  A little better look at his bandaid.

Everyone wanted to know what I was going to do with Morty when we got home.  Ha.  Not going to happen.

As pieces of the story came out, Jeanne found Morty at Walgreens and put him in my room.  Since I hadn't been in it at all the first day and evening, the door was open.  Everyone was very disappointed with me.  Poor Morty sat on my toilet for hours and hours waiting for me and no one got to be there when I found him.  Gee, I'm so sorry to disappoint you all - NOT.  Now, I have a whole year to plot my revenge.  They'll never see it coming.  And Morty went home with Jeanne.  Nice job, Jeanne.  You really got me this time.

And Jan swears she didn't have anything to do with it and had a legitimate alibi.  If she had done it, the monkey would have had a complete wardrobe of clothes.  That's true.  Last year, Jan gave us all a fabric "paper doll", like a gingerbread man shape, and told us to dress it like ourselves and we'd vote on who did the best job.  We all had a lot of fun with that one.  Mine had a red t-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes, blond hair and a small cat.  I brushed a cat and used a glue stick to put cat hair and threads all over Little Barb.  Jan's doll had a box and about five changes of clothes!  Then, somebody kidnapped Little Barb from the table and held her for hours in a dark, scary box until mama correctly guessed who kidnapped her.  It didn't take long for me to figure out it was Jan.  She kept asking if I'd figured it out, yet.  And whispering to her neighbor, Rita.  So obvious to someone who watches every police procedural show on TV.

Morty didn't creep me out as much as I thought, so I guess I have Jeanne to thank for that.  But, I still wasn't taking him home.

Retreat Projects 2011

These are some of the projects we worked on at retreat.  Most of us bring 3-5 projects, thinking we're really going to get a lot done.  Most of us have the fabric already cut out so we can just sew and get them finished quickly.  Most of us don't finish their first project until the last day, and some of us don't finish our first of four projects we brought.  That would be me.  I thought I had more cut out and pieced, since I worked on this last year, too, but hadn't opened the bag until I got to the retreat.  I had a 23" x 30" section done of 68" x 102" for a twin quilt.  I did finish the top today at home.  The rest of the quilts pictured are the tops only - not quilted - unless otherwise stated.

This is my Trip Around the World done in bright pink, orange, blue, green, yellow, and purple. It's laying on the floor by my table.

When I got home, I added the blue inner border, then the piano key border.  I don't know what the binding color will be, yet.  I like to make happy quilts, and this is certainly a happy quilt.

This is Katy's quilt top done in gorgeous fall colors.  Sorry, I don't know the pattern name.

 Jan's scrappy strip quilt top.

 This is only a portion of Reba's Jelly Roll Race quilt.  This is quilted and bound, and she brought it for show and tell.  I love this quilt and plan to make a JRR quilt, too.

Quilters will know what this is.   Non-quilters won't care, and the explanation isn't easy to do and won't make sense without pictures.

Reba made this pastel Jelly Roll Race top at the retreat.  This is the left half.  Her other quilt is hanging over it.

 Jeanne made a JRR top, too, and added little squares between the strips.  Jeanne hasn't felt well lately, and hasn't done much sewing, so we're all very proud of her for getting the top done.  Good job, Jeanne.  Get a border on that puppy and call it done.

More about my good friend, Jeanne, in the next post.

Darlene's quilt top done in different shades of blue.  This is only a portion of it.  I must have taken the picture before she got the other blocks sewn on.  It's a very striking top.

Another of Reba's quilts.  It's an "I Spy" for her grandson (I think).

Rita's batik quilt.  She made it for her pastor, much to her husband's chagrin because he wanted to keep it, and Darlene quilted it.  I don't know this pattern name, either.  Batik quilts are always stunning.
 Lee Etta loves scrap quilts like I do and makes wonderful quilts with hundreds of different fabrics.  She brought several tubs of precut strips and would reach in one, pull out a strip, and sew it on regardless of color.  That's what you have to do with many scrap quilts - disregard the color.  It goes against everything we've spent decades learning about quiltmaking.
 This is Rita's scrap quilt.  Her daughter wanted a quilt made from her daughters' clothes.  In order to make it large enough for the bed, Rita had to call her daughter several times and have her send more clothes.  Every single square is from something worn by Rita's granddaughters.  How special is that!

Jan is working on her top, and I don't know this pattern, either.  I didn't think to walk around with a notebook and write things down.

Ree is making a quilt for the Quilts of Valor.  It will be hand quilted by the ladies of the group and presented to a man or woman who has served for our country. 

I apologize to Joan.  I know I took a picture of her black and red Yellow Brick Road quilt, but it's not anywhere to be found.  It's one of my favorites and the YBR is probably my favorite pattern of all time.  I've made five of them.  In my previous post, you can see a part of Joan's quilt on her picture.

So, our retreat is over for another year, and we're very sad about that.  We live for this all year long.  This was one I know I'll never forget.  You'll hear all about it in my next blog - Invasion of the Sock Monkey.