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First Baby Quilt

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I was looking for a quick and easy pattern so I could make a baby quilt for my niece who is expecting her first child the end of July.  So, I headed over to Craftsy.com and looked to see what kits they might have and found one called Like A Charm Bear Mountain Expand-A-Quilt Kit.

The quilt is made up of 5″ squares and then pieced together which means it was not very difficult and could be put together quickly since the material arrives in the correct size.

I mainly stitched in the ditch and decided to “tie” the quilt together but instead of the usual tying method which uses knitting thread, I used a stitch on my Janome sewing machine that made two hearts and sewed those randomly throughout the quilt.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

With this baby quilt I also decided to use flame retardant batting called Quilters Dream Angel that I purchased through Fabric.com.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I really liked the ease of making this quilt and plan on making another baby quilt for a another niece who is having a baby in November.

Like A Charm Bear Mountain Baby Quilt

I’m on the hunt for a different pattern.  This next baby is a girl.

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The Furthest I Have Traveled

Japan Temple

In March 2000, friends were kind enough to take a trip with us to Japan.

This memory recently crossed my mind so I went back and looked at some of the pictures I had taken.

Has your path every crossed with someone who became a permanent part of your life?  That’s what happened to me. She lived in Japan and had come to the U.S. as a student to study nursing. It just so happened that she came to our church one Sabbath and I met her and we’ve been friends since then.
I had always been interested in Asian art and, I know this sounds strange, to meet someone who was Asian in person made my curiosity of Asia even stronger. This was a way for me to really get to know more about the culture.
It’s not that I didn’t know Asian people but for the most part they were Americanized. This friendship would be special.
But I digress …
The airplane trip to Japan seemed long ~ a lot of sleeping and reading.
Once we arrived though everything went smoothly.  One thing I remember distinctly is that the food all seemed to taste the same.  My friend said that they add a seasoning to their food and a lot of times it’s the same seasoning.  I had to laugh when one day we saw a McDonald’s and I was happy that we were able to taste something different.
While in Japan, one of my hopes was that we would see a geisha girl but Yoko (my friend) explained that they aren’t out often.  One day while we were walking through a plaza there was a lot of excitement as a car with an open top was coming through and inside was a geisha. I couldn’t believe all the excitement as people (who I thought were reporters) tried to snap pictures as the car whizzed by. Unfortunately, the excitement came to a quick stop as the car sped by too quickly.
Later I ran into what I thought was a geisha and took a picture with her.  Yoko explained that it wasn’t a “real” geisha as the woman I took a picture with smiled and trained geishas would never smile because it would mess up their make-up.  Interesting, no?
Visiting Hiroshima was a somber experience.  My mind could not grasp the thought of so many innocent people perishing for the government’s actions. Any killing to me seems senseless.

Hiroshima, 2000

The bullet trains were very fast and we took them from one city to another.  My husband was able to decipher the maps even though they were written in Japanese.  People were friendly when you stopped them to ask questions but most of them spoke only Japanese so most times they weren’t helpful.
There were lots and lots of bicycles ~ everywhere you looked there were bicycles.

Japan – Bicycles

One time Yoko took us up a really long hill to a grave site.  I had never seen anything like it before. The graves were so packed together.

Japan Grave Sites

I believe one of the reasons I am attracted to Asian art is the simplicity.  Clean lines ~ nothing overly bold.  The Japanese gardens I have been to create such a peace in my heart. It’s as if distractions float away.

Japan – Garden, circa 2000

And the same can be true of the architecture of their temples and prayer houses.

Japan – Temple or Prayer House

Japan – Temples or Prayer Houses

And now, the rest of the story (didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?)

Yoko and I became pen pals. I introduced her to a friend of mine (also Japanese but born in Hawaii) and they got married and had a son who next year will graduate as a doctor.

It’s been many years since we traveled together to Japan and we are separated now by a couple of states, but our friendship remains.

Funny how people can come together from different parts of the world and have such an influence in your life.

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My Mother-in-law’s Quilt

Barbara’s Quilt

Currently my mother-in-law is in a nursing home.

When we’ve gone to visit her, she has a handmade quilt on her twin bed.  It’s simple but effective in keeping her warm.  However the thing I noticed first is that it has very bland colors.  To have to look at bland day in and day out ~ well, what’s a quilter to do?

So I decided to make her a bright cheery quilt.

One of the fabrics for this quilt was purchased in a small store that we happened to enter into while we were traveling.  I don’t remember the store just the “event” of walking in, seeing the fabric and thinking “This is beautiful.  I must have some of this fabric.”

In my mind I decided that this was going to be a scrappy quilt with fabric that I already owned.  That worked for the top but the back of the quilt was a different story.  I didn’t have enough matching scrappy material to make it work.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  A scrappy quilt doesn’t need to match but in my structured head, I needed the backing to match part of the front so I did have to purchase the backing fabric.

Barbara’s Quilt

With this particular quilt I decided to send it “out” for quilting.  This saddened me because the previous quilts I have made I have not had to send out.  But at the time I still had my small Brother sewing machine and it was so difficult to get the material through the harp of the machine to sew it.  And I did want it to be special.

So ~ no blood on this quilt.  Haha  Seriously, on some of the other quilts I’ve made it was tough getting it through the machine since I pinned it and sometimes I poked myself quite hard with those pins.

Here’s the quilt in full (minus the backing which, of all things, I forgot to take a picture of):

Barbara’s Quilt

The large turquoise colored fabric is what I had purchased while traveling.

Not too bad, eh?

Since my sister-in-law was visiting us, I sent the quilt with her to deliver to my mother-in-law since she lives in another state.

Her response when she opened it:  Such bright colors!

I had done my job well.

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Summer Has Arrived in Minnesota

Astilbe and Red Bridge

Seems like every year I have to hire help to remove the Minnesota invasive plants off our acre of land – buckthorn and the garlic mustard plant.

At first it appeared that the garlic mustard was almost under control but unfortunately our neighbors don’t clear theirs so one side of our property is more heavily infested than the others.  Unfortunately Roundup will be the only way to kill them.  It’s a lot of back breaking work to get every single plant removed.

Fortunately the buckthorn is under control this year so that has left time to work on the landscaping closer to the house.

Although we’ve removed approximately 85 trees (both large and small) our property is still fairly shaded so getting plants that have color can be a challenge.

This year though I’m quite pleased with how things are turning out so far ~ mainly because the deer haven’t eaten anything yet.  HAHAHAHA

The front yard caused minimal work with the exceptions of pulling a bunch of maple seedlings that had grown 2-3 inches and adding 15 bags of bark.

The large leafed aster really surprised me and had spread out so much that I had to cut it back. Fortunately this is one plant that the deer don’t find tasty.

Front Yard Landscaping

I could have planted more impatiens but last year the deer ate them all and I didn’t want to invest more money on feeding them.

Front Yard Side View Landscaping

The astilbe both in the front and the back yards are so beautiful.  I had planted some along the driveway but those haven’t done as well – hmmm, perhaps because they don’t get sun?

White Astilbe

This magenta astilbe always makes me feel happy.  Something about this shade of color gives me a sense of peace.

Magenta Astilbe

Last year I laid down a bunch of black weed control tarp that looked awful but we weren’t sure what we wanted to do so I left it that way all summer.  This year I did some landscaping in the area and added bark.  It came out looking pretty good and once the plants grow it should look great. Two new plants I added are peonies and yellow day lillies.  This portion of the yard gets afternoon sun so we’ll see how they fare.

Small Backyard Landscaping

Most of the backyard is covered with hostas that I divide in autumn and replant elsewhere in the backyard.  Unfortunately deer love to eat hostas so we spray Deer Repellant on them after every rainfall.  One missed spray and the deer know they have found a new feeding ground.

Every year, a friend and I spend many hours weeding in the backyard and this year I became a little wiser.  Rather than having to re-weed later in the summer I picked up a large container of weed deterrent called Preen.  Once the weeds are pulled, Preen is spread over the area you don’t want weeds to grow in then it is watered in.  So far, this has worked in preventing the weeds from returning.  This does give me more bare spots but I’m hoping to add decorations in some spots along with replanting hostas in those areas.

Backyard Hostas

Lastly, the red bridge in the front of the house has brought me much comfort.  I put it together from a kit and stained and painted it myself.  Every 3 years or so I bring it in and re-sand and re-stain it.  The paint has held up well over the last almost 8 years.

Astilbe and Red Bridge

It’s the end of June and I’m hoping that the deer continue to stay away from our yard.  When we have visitors, they love to see them but when I see deer I think of how they’ll eat my plants and of how they bring ticks onto the property.  These are animals who should be appreciated from afar.

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A Late Spring in Minnesota

Walking through the Oakdale Nature Reserve in Minnesota, one sees the beginning of spring. A sky blanketed in shades of blue gives respite to a soul that is longing for respite from a very long winter.

Spring in Minnesota

Yet, it’s May.  And although spring will “catch up” to summer quickly, it will still be a short spring. Not that I have any say in the matter, but I prefer a long spring and a short summer.  The Minnesota insects will be out in full force way too soon.  Tick season has already started and the mosquitoes aren’t far behind.

Oakdale Nature Reserve

For now though, being present in this moment is important.  Too many times we dash through the day without really enjoying “now.”

Oakdale Nature Reserve

Oakdale Nature Reserve

A week later, the world seems to have started to turn green.

Spring in Minnesota

For now, thoughts of insects and hot humid weather escape my mind as it savors this moment.

Spring in Minnesota

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Jewel of the Seas – Review

Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas

As we were looking forward to celebrating my husband’s 60th birthday and our 37th wedding anniversary, we decided to book a cruise on the Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas.

Unfortunately, unlike other Royal Caribbean cruises that we have taken, this one was very disappointing.

The Royal Caribbean online process of printing forms before arrival made check-in quick.  On previous cruises, we have always had someone show us to our room but perhaps that nicety is dated as no one showed us to our rooms.

A couple of weeks before our cruise, we had noted on their website that we had two events that we were celebrating.  Those events were never acknowledged by RC except when we told the waiter later in the week and he was nice enough to gather people together and sing to my husband.

Well ~ here’s everything that went wrong …

  • We had no cold water coming out of our faucet.  For three days the  plumber worked in our room until we were told that it was not fixable and they gave us a $100 shipboard credit.  This was quite odd as the restrooms throughout the ship all had cold water.
  • The shower water was lukewarm at best.  The plumber was able to change the hardware to fix it.
  • The bed linen was ripped in quite a few places.  After I told our cabin steward, she made sure they were changed immediately.  But really, don’t first impressions matter?
  • The curtain liners were filthy.  We didn’t mention this as we didn’t expect it would be fixed.
  • We had asked for My Time Dining which meant that we could call and reserve a time for dinner.  The first day we went to do so we were told they couldn’t take any more reservations as they had too many people.  The next day I went back early in the day to reserve a time for dinner and I was told that they didn’t have any place to put us and that we would have to stand in the “no reservations” line and hope that someone didn’t show.   This was very odd as on Day 5 we were seated at a table and the waiter told us that the table had been empty the whole time of our cruise.
  • A friend had sent us a cake for my husband’s birthday/our anniversary that was to be delivered our first day at dinner.  When it hadn’t arrived after the second day our son went and spoke to the front desk and was assured that it would arrive that evening.  It didn’t happen.  The following day a group of staffers came to our table singing happy birthday at dinner ~ unfortunately they sang to me with the name of my friend instead of to my husband.  The cake that was delivered was ~ well, quite unprofessional, wouldn’t you say?  It looked nothing like the picture that our friend was shown online.

Royal Caribbean Birthday Cake

  • We only went on three excursions and the beach excursion was pitiful.  We were alloted a certain area to sit and since we hadn’t rushed out of the bus to get a seat, we were in the back row and all we could see were umbrellas in front of us.  But we could not move from that area.  However, the Barbados Harrison Caves Tour was pretty good and it went quite far under ground.

  • Most of the food was good although there were few options from day to day and sometimes you didn’t get a very satisfying portion such as this ravioli entree with 5 small pieces.

Royal Caribbean Ravioli

The scenery on this cruise though was amazing.

St Kitts

I especially like trees so had to take a picture of this one.

St Kitts

Antigua was also pretty.  We had nice weather while we were there.

Antigua

Antigua

One day while we were sitting in our room, there was a knock at the door.  When we opened the door we were handed a plate with a cover on it. After removing the cover we were surprised to have had chocolate covered strawberries delivered.  But … like, why?  No reason was given.  Perhaps this was their way of saying “sorry that we can’t find seating for you when you want it?”

Chocolate Strawberries

We did enjoy the weather on this cruise and of course, being with my husband and “boys” always makes me happy.

Charlotte Amalie West, St Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Winter to Spring in Minnesota ~ A Slow Process

Minnesota Spring

Although the calendar date for spring to begin has passed, it still looks and feels like winter.

Minnesota in Spring

A long brisk walk cleared my head as I took deep breaths of the cool air.

Minnesota Start of Spring

There is so much beauty that can be found when one looks for it ~

And the stories that trees tell when you take the time to really look at them.

The buds haven’t yet started to grow ~ not even an inch ~ but there is hope in the waiting.

Minnesota Start of Spring

Big blue sky country is not just in Montana either ~ Minnesota has it’s own beautiful big sky.

Minnesota Start of Spring

And then it happens ~ hope springs from the ground to satisfy the heart longing for the season of spring.

Minnesota Start of Spring

The transition from winter to spring is a slow one in Minnesota yet it will satisfy a heart longing for warmth and transition soon enough.

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Of Mailmen and Packages

Shortly after we purchased our house, the doorbell rang and I went to answer it.  A portly man with a smile on his face could be seen through the side windows.

Opening the door, the man said “Hi, I’m Bob and I’m your mailman.”

This was the first time a mailman had actually introduced himself to me.  Must be the Minnesota nice that people talk about here.

As the years rolled on, Bob and I became friendly.  We shared laughs about family and when there was no mail for us, he would put a note in the mailbox that said “no mail today.”

When Bob was going on vacation he always let me know.  I joked that perhaps I should put our mail on hold while he was gone.  I said it jokingly, but I had so many problems with the temporary mailpeople that I actually considered it.

One time a package was delivered to our unfriendly neighbors across the street.  I had been waiting for my package and saw when the mail woman arrived.  I then received notification that my package was delivered.  I called the carrier annex immediately and the mail woman said she remembered delivering it across the street.  In spite of their best efforts, the post office was never able to retrieve the package from the neighbor  so I never saw the package.  The company that it came from was kind enough to send me another one for free.

Such was life without Bob.  Sigh (laughing)

One day Bob came to the door and told me that he was going to be retiring in 6 months. I know, I know … one must not become dependent on someone so dependable.

I told him that he couldn’t retire but I knew it would happen.

A week before Bob’s retirement he put an invitation to his retirement party in the mailbox.  Unfortunately we were not able to make it.

A few months later, our new mail carrier arrived ~ John.  John was a little different.  He came at different times each day and did some of the oddest things.  For instance, one day I received a package and John put it on top of our mailbox since it didn’t fit inside the mailbox.  Hmmm … why not drive up to the front door and leave it there? I pondered.

Anyone could have driven up and taken the package with no problem.  Fortunately I saw what he did.  Unfortunately for John I called the carrier annex and issued a complaint. “Don’t worry, we’ll talk with John” they assured me.

Since John did not arrive around the same time every day, I didn’t wait to see when the mail arrived ~ 11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm ~ there was no consistency.

One day I was waiting for an Amazon package and the I received a message that the package had been delivered.  Heading to the front door, I peeked outside but didn’t see a package. So ~ I went to the mailbox.

And there it was.

Stuffed Mailbox Package

John had stuffed the package along with the mail into the mailbox so I couldn’t remove it. Even with my small hands, I could not put my fingers in at the sides to grasp the package.

Sigh, sigh and sigh again …

I went into the house and called the carrier annex.  What would possess John to shove this package in the mailbox so that it couldn’t be removed? I wondered. Was he lazy? Did he have an appointment that he was in a hurry for?

The supervisor at the carrier annex apologized and said someone would be out by the end of the day to remove the package for me.  Sure enough, as promised, the female carrier came to the front door with the package and mail in hand.  She apologized.

It seems such a small problem in life ~ a stuffed mailbox package, doesn’t it? Yet when a lot of small things happen and start adding up they can become large in our minds.

That’s why we have to keep our focus on the bigger picture and allow these smaller problems to roll off our shoulders ~ so they don’t become one large piece.

I’m glad that I can talk to God about both the little and the big things in my life and that He cares about all of it.  It lifts all of it off of my shoulders because I know that He will always have my back.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

And John?  Well, he hasn’t made any mailbox deliveries anymore ~ he brings them to the front door.

 

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Do You Feel Like You’re Sinking?

 

Turtle ~ Keeping Your Head Above Water

Do you sometimes feel that in spite of all your best efforts, you’re starting to sink?

It can happen anytime ~ people get in the way of your progress, procrastination creeps in slowly and then one day you barely have your head above water.

Here are some words of encouragement ~

Keep your head up, your eyes straight ahead,
    and your focus fixed on what is in front of you.

 Take care you don’t stray from the straight path, the way of truth,
    and you will safely reach the end of your road.

 Do not veer off course to the right or the left;
    step away from evil, and leave it behind.

Proverbs 4:25-27

Keep moving forward ~ even if it’s at a turtle’s pace.  Any progress is progress. You can do it!

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Mushroom Stroganoff with Spinach and Peas

 

Mushroom Stroganoff with Spinach and Peas

Today I decided to make a recipe from the Sun Basket website.

Have you heard of Sun Basket?  They are a company, similar to Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, where you can order meals by having the ingredients of that meal delivered to your home.  Then you can make it when you’re ready.  They send along a recipe book for all of the meals for that particular week.

I usually only order 2 different meals when I need a break from trying to think of what to make and want to try something new ~ which is not too often.

Like Hello Fresh, I’ve received food that is not good to use, mainly vegetables that have gone bad.  Sun Basket is good at giving me credit but the fact is, you don’t have the complete meal that you anticipated you would and you wind up having to substitute.

This Mushroom Stroganoff with Spinach and Peas recipe is not one that I ordered but it was in the recipe book and sounded interesting so I decided to try it.

I am not a mushroom eater ~ and I would never eat them raw.  But I’ve tried the cremini mushrooms in this recipe and they actually taste pretty good so ~ why not try a new recipe?

Surprisingly this meal came out quite good.  I say surprisingly because the cream is made with almond milk which is a little bit of a twist, wouldn’t you say?

Mushroom Stroganoff with Spinach and Peas

Although the recipe does not call for parmesan cheese, I shaved a little on top.

Here’s the link where you can find this recipe.  It’s pretty easy and makes for a filling meal.

Enjoy!

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