“In order to keep a true perspective of one’s importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him.” --Dereke Bruce

LIFE WITH LYNN


Saturday, December 29, 2012

SUSTAINABILITY, Part 2




If you read THIS post ("Sustainability -- or, Going the Distance"), then you know what we're talking about.

Sustainability is, to me, the ability to consistently live our life in a pace and pattern that is realistic; having the energy to do what we need and want to do, without feeling perpetually overworked, overloaded, exhausted, or stressed.

Yes, of course, we can summon the adrenaline and do something for a short period of time that we would not be able to do indefinitely.  And sometimes this unpredictable, crazy thing called "life" requires that.  But that should be the exception, rather than the rule, of our lives.

After all, you can only "burn the candle at both ends" for so long... eventually you will be burned.

In my opinion, sustainability entails making wise, well-thought-out decisions, large and small, that are not knee-jerk or focused on "instant gratification" -- but rather, on what's better for the "long haul."  I think that some of us may be more hardwired for success in this area than others, but I believe it is something any of us can learn.

Although I already strive to live a simple, uncomplicated, quiet (although at times very busy) life, I knew I could make some additional beneficial changes.  As I mentioned in Part 1, I made the decision on vacation to set some goals and make some changes when I got home to sustain those blissful feelings of restfulness and relaxation.

My personal goals?
To exercise more (back on the morning routine, before work, which sounds grueling but really does work best for me),  to lose that pesky 5 pounds I had resigned myself to made peace with, and most importantly -- to get more sleep.  Surprisingly, the "getting more sleep" is the hardest, but that is my priority, because I have learned that all the rest of my goals depend and hinge on that.

I have a set M-F work schedule, so to "get more sleep",  I have to go to bed earlier.  There's simply no other option.  BUT, to be successful with that, I have to start winding down about 8 pm... and that means kitties fed and litter cleaned, house tidied up, computer and TV off,  PJs on, face washed, teeth flossed and brushed, bed turned down, alarm set, phone charging, clothes chosen and set out for tomorrow.   It's much easier said than done.  But I'm trying -- and so far, so good!

Now what about my friend's question, "But not everything is sustainable.  What about enjoying the moment?"  This is what I told her:  Enjoying the moment, to me, means taking time to really absorb and appreciate the beauty of the "here" and the "now."  That's a wonderful thing, and sustainability is not in conflict with that.  A happy and well-balanced life has plenty of room for both.

In fact, as we were having that long-distance text discussion, I was poolside in Cancun, absolutely enjoying the moment of warm sun, white sand, blue Caribbean water, and the delicious Mango Margarita beside me!
















Photo credits:  HERE and  HERE.

Friday, December 21, 2012

SUSTAINABILITY - OR, GOING THE DISTANCE


















My husband and I recently returned from a wonderful 2 week Caribbean vacation.  We stayed HERE (Now Sapphire Riviera Cancun), a gorgeous "6 gold apple" resort on the Riviera Maya, a little south of Cancun.  












We both work very hard and lead busy lives.  And, for a variety of reasons, the last few months have been especially stressful and busy.  We were long overdue for some much needed R and R.

Now we enjoy all different kinds of vacations... adventure vacations, cruise vacations, visiting-friends-or-family vacations.  (In fact, we've never had a bad vacation!)  But when planning this vacation, we chose an "all inclusive" getaway, an especially relaxing, low key kind of vacation.  

Typically with an all-inclusive vacation, you can be as busy or as *lazy* as you want to be.  Now Sapphire was no exception. All included and all on-site were sailing, kayaking, water aerobics, beach and pool volley ball, Zumba, yoga, Pilates, target shooting, archery, pool games and contests, cooking classes, bingo, bicycle rides and tours, music, karaoke, dancing, shows, as well as a myriad of other activities and entertainment. 

We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon, after a long day of travel.  And although it was wonderful to be there, and I was certainly enjoying the warm weather, beautiful beach and grounds, and delicious food, honestly, I did a lot of sleeping, napping, resting and dozing the first few days, barely dragging myself up to eat (but oh, I did, I assure you!) 



















I knew I had been tired before the trip, but it wasn't until a few days into our vacation that I realized just how exhausted I had been. I woke up on Sunday morning and noticed something unusual. I felt ...different somehow.  Rested. Refreshed. It was a amazing feeling!  in fact, I almost didn't recognize it!  I told my husband excitedly, "I'm not tired!"  I honestly  couldn't remember the last time I wasn't tired.  Yes, I had actually forgotten what that feels like.  That really made me think. 

BUT, what does this have to do with "sustainability" (the title of this blog post), you ask?  Well, this:  It seems obvious to me that if it takes a person almost 4 days to get rested up from LIFE, and if that person doesn't even at first recognize the feeling of being rested, then clearly something has to change!

Which caused me to think seriously about my everyday life.  Most of us have a lot on our plates, and too few hours in our day.  Many of us have stresses and problems.  And true, there is a lot in all our lives that cannot be changed; but certainly there is still a lot that can. I made a decision that day on vacation to commit to some simple lifestyle changes at home to sustain those blissful feelings of restfulness and well-being. 





















I was sharing my thoughts with a good friend who asked,  "What exactly do you mean by 'sustainability'?"

Good question.  To me, sustainability is the ability to create and maintain a positive life change.  Positioning and giving yourself every advantage possible "go the distance",  the "long haul." Not everything is in our control, of course, but much is.  Sometimes far more than we may realize.

My friend then said, "But not everything is sustainable. What about enjoying the moment?"

Another good question -- and I have some thoughts on that, too.  (Of course!)  Stay tuned for "Sustainability, Part 2"!


Our favorite spot.  Many happy hours spent here!






















To view a Photo Journal of our vacation,  please look HERE.



Thursday, May 10, 2012

LOL! ( x 2! )

These 2 videos CRAAAACKED ME UP!
Toooo funny!

 

And a sequel:



Monday, May 7, 2012

WEEK NIGHT WONDER - CHERYL'S PEPPERONI PIZZA SOUP














1.  OK, so if you read THIS POST, you know that one of my favorite things to do is take favorite tried 'n' true flavor combinations and serve them up in new and different ways. 

2.  And if you read THIS POST, you know that I recently reconnected with a dear friend, Cheryl, from very early childhood.

Add 1 + 2 and what do you get?  A KILLER soup recipe that she recently shared with me.   It's one of Cheryl and her husband's favorites, and now, it is also one of ours!

Here's the recipe, as Cheryl sent it to me:

PIZZA PEPPERONI SOUP
                    2  15 OZ CANS OF BEEF BROTH
                    1 LG. CAN OF CRUSHED TOMATOES
                    8  OZ CAN OF MUSHROOMS
                    1 LARGE ONION, CHOPPED
                    1 MED. GREEN PEPPER, CHOPPED
                    8-10 OUNCES OF SLICED PEPPERONI  (I cut mine in 4 pcs, like a pie wedge)
                    1 LB GROUND HOT SAUSAGE
                    1 TLB OREGANO   
                    1 TSP BASIL
                    MOZZARELLA OR PROVOLONE CHEESE


                    SAUTE THE ONION, GREEN PEPPER AND SAUSAGE, CHOPPING THE SAUSAGE IN SMALL PIECES AS IT BROWNS. DRAIN WELL. ADD THE MUSHROOMS AND STIR.
                    TRANSFER TO A CROCK POT, THEN ADD ALL ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS. STIR WELL. COOK ON HIGH FOR 4 HOURS. SERVE IN BOWL TOPPED WITH SHREDDED CHEESE. ENJOY
                    WITH A HOT LOAF OF CRUSTY BREAD.....


Now since I view all patterns, recipes, etc., as only general GUIDELINES and not strict instructions (LOL!) here was my tweaking:

I used fresh mushrooms (12 oz) because I had them.  I added several cloves of fresh garlic, used 2 onions, and a mix of red, green, and yellow bell peppers because we love them.   I used 8 oz. of a specialty-brand pepperoni stick, cutting it into slices and then fourths, like Cheryl does.  Probably went heavier on the herbs, I seldom measure!

AND I didn't use a crock-pot because my crock-pot is too small, so I simmered it on top of the stove in my dutch oven for a few hours.  BUUUT, I can see how it would be GREAT in a crock pot, and super quick and easy --  thus easily meeting criteria  ;o)  for my "Week Night Wonder" category.  I was also a little fussy about the cheese (fresh mozzarella) and bread we used (after all, it is Pepperoni PIZZA soup, the cheese and "crust" is critical!)  I chose a rustic artisan loaf, cut lengthwise, and oven-toasted till lightly browned and crunchy.  *YUM YUM YUM!*

So thanks, Cheryl, for a recipe we loved and will definitely REPEAT... (in fact, Barry is already asking for it again!)  I will think of you every time I do.






Tuesday, April 24, 2012

JOGGING DOWN MEMORY LANE!














OK, so the COOLEST thing happened to me!

A dear childhood friend, who I hadn't seen in DECADES, was thinking of me recently, googled my maiden name, found me through Google Profile, and emailed me!  I was soooo jazzed to hear from her!

She still lives in my old hometown, in the same neighborhood we grew up in.  We have had the best time strolling  jogging  streaking down Memory Lane!

Cheryl 













So, we both remember...

...Playing Barbie by the HOURS on a blanket under her big shade tree.   (I was enormously jealous of her double red plastic Barbie case and impressive collection of tiny clothes and accessories!)

... Happily DECESRATING the big Sears and JCPs catalogs.  We would pour through them, imagining we were wives/moms and on a budget and carefully "spending our money", choosing just the right clothes, furniture, accessories, etc., for our families!  We would also cut out the people and other pictures from the catalog pages and arrange "vignettes", sticking them to the wall -- arranging and rearranging!  

...Playing "Invention" (we double, double, toil and troubled crazy, goof-ball mixtures like laundry soap and kitchen salt and Elmer's Glue... not sure now what we were actually trying to invent??! Shoot, not sure we even knew THEN!!  And um... to be honest, this endeavor was not our greatest achievement, LOL!)

...Working feverishly on a secret language that only we would KNOW, and creating a comprehensive DICTIONARY of ALL the words -- oh, I kid you not!!!  (By the way, I even remembered that "mojo" was our code word for "bra" -- something I did not yet own but aspired to need one day!)

...Playing "Jewelry Store" outside, again BY THE HOUR, making "brooches" out of clover or daisies stuck down through leaves, "earrings" from pussy willow buds or buttercups, "rings" from long braided blades of grass!  We would meticulously CREATE our jewelry, then display it artfully on rocks and bushes and hedges, and then carefully (and seriously!) "shop" the wares!  Don't laugh, it was great fun!

What don't we remember?  We don't remember EVER "being bored", watching TV, arguing or fighting.   Even from very young ages, we both clearly remember always being treated by the other with kindness and respect.  We were never mean girls!  

She was the one who first told me about periods.  Her mom gave her a pamphlet, and as a public service announcement (LOL!), she shared the info with me.  And since discussing these types of subjects was NOT my mother's strongest suit, I was deeply appreciative! 


Cheryl is HILARIOUS, some of her emails have left me LOL.  And her memory is awesome, she remembers things that I had long ago forgotten.  For example, that 3 feet tall "walking doll" I had with the eerie, freakishly large eyes and the stiff-legged, stilted walk that always slightly spooked me.  :::shivers!:::

We have found that we have a lot in common.  Just like me, she is married to her high-school sweetheart AND she is a slightly OCD, jewelry-lovin', cat-crazy QUILTER, too!  Can you believe that?!

So it's been a blast reconnecting with her, "catching up", and fondly remembering the innocent days and endless summers of our childhood.  

Thank you, Cheryl, for thinking of me, looking for me and finding me.   But most of all, thank you for being such a sweet and good friend to me "way back when".  xoxo!





















Photo credits:  HERE and HERE.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

WEEK NIGHT WONDER - TEX-MEX SKILLET BAKE

















This simple skillet supper uses shredded potatoes as a base. The potato mixture cooks on the stove top first to get it browned and crisp on the bottom.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 4 ounces Mexican chorizo (I used TJs soy chorizo, no need to pre-cook)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce
  • 1/3 cup grated white onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 pounds Yukon gold or baking potatoes, peeled and shredded (YES, I used a bag of Ore Ida shredded hash browns with bell peppers and onions - VERY EASY and delicious!)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped avocado
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • 6 radishes, thinly sliced

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon canola oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Remove the casings from chorizo. Add chorizo to pan; sauté for 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Add garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds. Remove sausage mixture from pan. Combine the sausage mixture and enchilada sauce.   (NOTE:  If you use soy chorizo, like I did, just mix all these ingredients toether, no need to pre-cook!)
3. Add remaining 3 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Combine grated onion, salt, pepper, potato, and egg; toss. Add potato mixture to pan, pressing gently; cook for 10 minutes (do not stir). Spread enchilada sauce mixture evenly over potato mixture; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand for 10 minutes. Cut into 6 wedges.
4. Combine avocado and juice; toss gently. Stir in cilantro and remaining ingredients. Serve cilantro mixture with casserole.

THE FINAL WORD:  Don't skip the avocado/cilantro/radish topping... it really MADE THE MEAL!  *YUM!*




PHOTO CREDIT:  HERE

Thursday, April 12, 2012

WEEK NIGHT WONDER - REUBEN CASSEROLE














So one of my favorite ways to cook is to try familiar, delicious, tried-and-true flavor combos and use them in an unexpected new way.   Like the Taco Soup or Stuffed Pepper Burgers I made recently.  Um, *YUM*!

Well, we LOVE Reubens.  But sometimes I'm not especially in the mood for a sandwich for dinner, you know?  Well, enter Reuben Casserole.  All the flavors (and more) of a Reuben, in a hot, creamy, satisfying comfort-food-at-its-finest casserole.

There are a lot of variations of this (apparently it was not an original idea!)  But I combined several recipes that I found online to create my version of this casserole.  We were very happy with the way it turned out. It was delicious.  It was also fast, easy, and fun.  PERFECT for a busy weeknight supper.

REUBEN CASSEROLE

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups (give or take!) mashed potatoes.  (Leftovers from your Sunday supper work great here!)
1 pound high-quality deli corned beef, sliced and then cut into1" slivers.
1 pound Swiss cheese (I like mild Alpine Lace, but use your favorite Swiss), sliced.
1 bag sauerkraut, drained
1 (8oz) jar Thousand Island dressing
1/2 c chopped fresh sweet onions
4 or 5 slices of lightly toasted, buttered Jewish rye bread, cubed.
1 cup sharp grated cheddar for topping

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray.

Layer the sauerkraut in the bottom of the dish.  Pour the Thousand Island dressing evenly over the sauerkraut.
Layer the corned beef next.  Layer the cheese slices.  Layer the mashed potatoes.  Top with onions and rye bread cubes.  Cover with foil and bake for approx.30 minutes.

Remove foil, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top, and return to oven (uncovered) for about 10 more minutes.

Let stand outside the oven for 5-10 minutes, then serve.   ENJOY!

PS:  Honestly, I'm not exactly sure how mashed potatoes made it into a Reuben Casserole, but several of the recipes I found did indeed call for that.  And since we LOVE mashed potatoes, I added them.  Ditto with the chopped onions... not really a traditional Reuben *thang*, but does add a nice crunch and flavor to the topping. 


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Something for Zoey


















Our good friends have a beautiful baby girl named Zoey.  Zoey is impossibly adorable and I am simply crazy about her!

I'd been itching to *make something* (you know me!) and had the compelling desire to make a little something for her.  I found this pattern company online and fell in love with their stuff.  I mean, really, what is NOT to love?!  

When our daughter, Kendra, was little, I sewed A LOT for her.  I had tons of fun choosing fabric, mixing and matching, and creating darling one-of-a-kind clothes and accessories for her.  And (bless her sweet little heart!) she loved and proudly wore what Mom had made.  It was win/win, and YES, I miss those days!

So now that I no longer have a little girl of my own to sew for (*sniff*), I guess I will just have to start sewing for friends! 

THIS is the pattern I chose.  (Lots of different fabrics to choose and a strip pieced skirt -- right up my [quilter's!] alley!) And this is Zoey's dress (made in size 12-18 months) in progress:

























I gave the present as a surprise on Wednesday.  The next day we saw our friends at a special event, and would you believe Miss Zoey was already wearing her new dress and headband!  Zoey's mom was so sweet and appreciative; she said she "LOVED IT!" and would have bought that little dress in any store, "no matter the cost".  Yeah, I was ticked pink and positively bustin' buttons!  

The dress seemed to fit perfectly (I was a little worried about that!) -- and do you know that darling baby kept that headband on ALL EVENING LONG!  You can see why I adore her?!

So afterwards I got to thinking that the little dress needed a pair of bloomers to match.  I had some of the feature fabric left so I got busy this morning to do just that. I told my husband that I hope Zoey's mom doesn't regret encouraging me, LOL!!!  (You know, like feeding a stray cat?!)

















And here's Miss Zoey in her new outfit.  Isn't she precious?























TOP PHOTO CREDIT:  HERE

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

WEEK NIGHT WONDER - SWEET POTATO CHICKEN CURRY

















OK, so I have been holding out on your guys.  No, not reeeeeally!!!  But I have been a cookin' fool and have made some really good stuff lately (if I do say so m'self, and I do!) and decided it's past time to share some of it with you.

Here's my typical cooking gig.  I love to cook on the weekends, and if I'm gonna do something fancy-schmancy, that's when that's gonna get done.

But funny thing, we like to eat during the week too, LOL!  But week nights follow work days, and frankly, I am tired.  So my Monday - Friday recipes always need to be easy-peasy.  Healthy and delicious is a given.  "One-pot" is a bonus. 

So, shooting for once a week or so, I thought it would be fun to share a "week night wonder" that WE have made and enjoyed.  And if, in the process, you add a few new favorites to your own personal cooking repertoire... then SCORE!

SWEET POTATO CHICKEN CURRY
Elevate your chicken curry with the addition of sweet potato and by serving the mixture over steamed jasmine rice.
  • YIELD: 7 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
  • COURSE: Main Dishes

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

1. Combine curry powder, coriander, turmeric, salt, black pepper, red pepper, and bay leaf in a small bowl.
2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion to pan; cook 10 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high; return chicken to pan. Cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in ginger and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add curry powder mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Stir in potato and chickpeas. Cook, uncovered, 30 minutes. Add peas; cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; stir in lemon juice. Discard bay leaf.

-- Cooking Light,  Nov 2009
Photo credit: HERE

MY NOTES:  I served ours over steamed basmati rice with toasted cashews and for total easy-peasy-ness, TJ's frozen naan bread.  But I will make this recipe again, and next time, I plan to make my own naan bread.   Like from THIS recipe, or THIS one.  *YUM!*

Sunday, March 25, 2012

TOTE TALK! (Plus free tutorial and pattern)



































You know by now this isn't a "craft" blog, although you probably also know by now that I am a fan of all things artsy and craftsy!    So, I just had to share my latest little project, the tote bag pictured above.

Here's the back story.  A girlfriend invited me and several other friends to her home for a two-evening quilted tote bag class.  This was supposed to be two classes of 2 hours each: four hours total.  The teacher, "Miss Nancy", gave us handwritten instructions copied onto pink paper.  I am not a sewing newbie, yet I was perplexed and often lost during the class.  We stayed late (very late!) both nights, and still had about 10 hours of "homework" to do on our own.  I kid you not!  It did come out adorable, but there is just NO WAY I wanna spend THAT MUCH TIME on a tote bag, no matter how stinkin' cute it is!

As we were making this tote, I kept getting ideas on how it could be done easier and faster.   So when the class was over and the tote fiiiiiiiiinally done... I decided to put my money where my mouth is and make a second bag, trying out my ideas.  *SUCCESS!*  Yep, the second bag, using my "tweaked and revised" directions, only took a few hours, start to finish.  It was a very fun and "instant gratification" type of a project.  Just the kind I like when I don't want to make a long term commitment to a quilt!  LOL!

So with many thanks and all-due-respect to Miss Nancy, herein I present...

“MISS NANCY’S PATCHWORK TOTE BAG”
(w/ LYNN’S REVISIONS AND SIMPLIFICATIONS!)

FINISHED SIZE:   Approx  17” (wide)  x  14” (tall)
This tote can easily be made with 5 fat quarters and 1 yard of coordinating fabrics. 
(Or simply “mix and match” from your stash, and cut pieces to size as below.)

Also needed:  Warm and Natural, or other thin cotton batting.   
(Approx. 60” x 40”; or in pieces a little larger than:   18” x22”;  18” x 14”;  18” x 8”;  5” x 96”)

NOTE:  Photos below are from various stages of both totes... the one I made in class (the flowered one) and the one I made on my own (the kitty one).   I apparently didn't have the wherewithall to get all the pictures from one project!  ;o)

CUTTING:

BODY OF TOTE:
5” x 22”    Side #1, cut one
5” x 22”    Side #2, cut one
10” x 22”  Middle, cut one

BOTTOM:
18” x 14”, cut one

OUTSIDE POCKETS:
18” x 16”, cut one

STRAPS:
5” x 48”, cut two (For 1.25” wide finished straps)

TIES, OPTION 1: 
Makes softer, floppier ties:  3/4" wide finished (2 fabric layers)
2” x 12”, cut 4  
-or-
TIES, OPTION2:
Makes firmer, stiffer ties:  5/8” wide finished (4 fabric layers)
2.5” x 12”, cut 4:

LINING:
18” x 36”, cut one  (NOTE:  Depending on exact finished size of tote body, this may be approximate.  Do not cut this piece until tote body is done and you can double check this measurement.)

INSIDE POCKET(S)  --  OPTIONAL:
18” x 16”, cut one for one inside pocket , or cut 2 for two inside pockets

BINDING (top finish):
6” x 36”  (for 1” finished binding)

PIECING/QUILTING
(NOTE:  ALL SEAMS ARE 1/2” unless otherwise noted.)

BODY OF TOTE:
Sew one 5” x 22” piece on each side of the 10” x 22” piece along long edges .
Press seams toward darker fabric.
Size of tote body at this point should be 18” x 22”.

Cut a piece of batting larger than 18” x 22” and lay the tote body (right side up) on the batting and carefully smooth it out.  Pin the tote body and the batting together with quilting pins (large straight pins).

Using your favorite method, mark two diagonal, intersecting 45 degree lines (I use a Hera marker, which only creases the fabric.   Hera markers are available online or in most quilt or fabric stores.)  If you don't have a Hera marker, use a water soluble or disappearing marker, chalk, etc.


















Then, using a walking foot with a guide, quilt the tote body in a diagonal “grid” pattern, with lines 1” apart.  (NOTE:  If you don’t have a walking foot with a guide, you will have to mark ALL of your grid lines.)
Press, “square up” and trim batting even with tote body.

This is the front side of mine (before trimming batting) :














This is the back (batting) side of mine:


Carefully measure and cut tote body in half crossways, making 2 pieces, each 18” x 11”.

TOTE BOTTOM:
Cut a piece of batting larger than 18” x 14”.
Lay the tote bottom piece on the batting, smooth out, and pin as above.
Mark with two diagonal, dissecting 45 degree lines, and quilt in a 1” diagonal grid pattern as above.
Press, “square up”, and trip batting even with tote bottom.

OUTSIDE POCKETS:
Press 18” x 16” pocket piece in half lengthwise, right sides out.  (Will now measure 18” x 8”)
Cut a piece of batting 18” x 8”.
Place the batting carefully between the layers of fabric, edges even, smooth out, and press.
Topstitch 1/4" from the fold.  (This will be the top of the pockets.)
Pin the 3 layers together and mark/quilt as above in a 1”diagonal grid pattern.
Cut pocket piece in half crossways, making 2 pieces, each  9”x 8”. 

ADD OUTSIDE POCKETS TO TOTE BODY:
Using the photos of the completed bags as your guide, place one pocket in the center of each tote body half, raw “bottom edges” of pocket and tote body even.    Stitch pocket to tote body along both sides (long edges) of pocket using a 1/4" seam.  (The straps will cover these raw edges later.)   
(Note: if you want the side pieces of your tote bag to be alternating fabric between front and back as mine are, then “flip-flop” second tote body piece before adding pocket.)

STRAPS:
Press each strap in half, lengthwise, right sides out.  (At this point, straps will measure 2.5” x 48”)
Then open, and with wrong side up, turn each long edge into center fold, wrong sides together, and press.  (At this point, straps will measure 1.25” x 48”.)
Cut 2 pieces of batting, 1 1/8” x 48”.
Open each strap and insert batting between either of the fabric folds.  Refold carefully and press.
Stitch 1/8” or 1/4" (your preference) along each long edge.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:

ADD STRAPS:
Position one strap on one tote body piece as follows:
Center a strap over the seam between the pocket and the side piece of the tote.  Being careful that strap isn’t twisted, center the other end of the strap on the other seam between pocket and side.   Pin in place.
Following your previous strap stitching, stitch strap to bag, starting from the bottom.  Extend your stitching 1” past pocket (toward top of bag).  Reinforce stitching at top by triple stitching, or stitch a decorative “barn door” pattern:


Repeat with other strap on other tote body piece.

BOTTOM:
With right sides together, sew a tote body piece to each long edge of the bottom. 
At this point, you should have:














Press each seam toward bottom and topstitch on bottom 1/4" inch from seam.














LINING:
Measure size of open tote shell.  Cut lining the same size.   Set lining aside for now. 

TOTE SIDES:
With right sides together, fold tote in half; stitch each side.  Press.   

BOX CORNERS ON TOTE:
While still inside out, make mitered/box corners by pressing each corner into a flat triangle, matching the bottom seam to the side seam.  Measure down the seam 1.75” and sew horizontally across the triangle.  Your seam should be 3.5” long.   Stitch again to reinforce.  See diagram below (borrowed from HERE).  
















Repeat on other corner.   Turn tote body right-side out.

OPTIONAL :
If making inside pockets, add these to lining now:
Press each 18” x 16” piece in half, making an 18” x 8” pocket piece.
Top stitch 1/4" from folded edge.
Sew to right side of lining, stitching pocket on both sides and across bottom, with pocket top (opening) 4.5” down from each raw, short edge of lining.   
NOTE:  After attaching to lining, pockets can be divided by stitching one or more vertical lines as desired.

With right sides together, sew lining in half along sides.   Turn right-side out.
Make box corners as above. 

With wrong sides together, place lining inside tote, and line up the top raw edges.  Pin and baste.
  
BINDING:
With wrong sides together, press one short edge of binding under 1/4".
Then press binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides together.  
Starting with the 1/4" turned down edge, position binding along top raw edge of tote.  Pin.  (TIP: start binding where it will be hidden by the strap.)  Leave the first 2” unsewn.  Stitch in a scant 1” seam,  tucking in and overlapping ends about 1”. 
Blindstitch vertical overlap where binding meets. 
Turn binding to back (lining side) and hand stitch (blind stitch) in place.
  
TIES:
For OPTION #1 ties:
Press each strap piece in half lengthwise, right sides together;  sew 1/4" from raw edge, to make a “tube”.   Turn right-side out.  Press, tucking in each raw edge 1/4".  Edgestitch short ends. 

For OPTION #2 ties:
For each strap piece: Turn both short edges in 1/4" (wrong sides together) and press.  Then press fabric in half lengthwise.  Then fold in each long edge to the center and press.  Edgestitch all four sides. 

Position and stitch straps on outside of each tote side, approx. 1.5” from strap toward side seam and 2.5” down from top of tote. 

STABILIZER FOR BOTTOM (OPTIONAL):
Cut a piece of plastic mesh (the kind used for plastic needlepoint projects, and readily available in craft and fabric stores) the size of the bottom:  3” x 17”.    If desired, cover with fabric to match lining. 
Place stabilizer in bottom of tote; tack in place if desired. 

ENJOY!
































So, how fun are these bags?!  And just perfect for totin' around your *stuff* or giving as a gift.

If you like this bag, please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know.  And if you make one of your own, I would love to see what you've done!

And before I end this post, and because you also know that I am certifiably CAT CRAZEEE, I just haaaaad to share a couple of pictures of my chief sewing companion and right hand helper, my Ragdoll kitty Bentley (aka "Squeak").  OK, HOW FUNNY IS HE???!



Friday, March 16, 2012

Grieving is Not for Wimps











If you read my last post, you know that my mother died in January. She'd been with us in our home, with Hospice support, for a month before her death.

I think about her and miss her every day.  In ways large and small, she is always still *right there*... in my mind, and in my heart.

Apparently sometime when I wasn't looking, the traditional, well-known "5 stages of grief" became 7 stages.  I do agree.  I never thought that denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance could really encompass it all... and that was before I'd ever even had this kind of up close and personal experience with grief.  The 7 stages of grief, according to recoverfromgrief.com are: shock and denial; pain and guilt; anger and bargaining; depression, reflection and loneliness; the upward turn; reconstruction and working through; acceptance and hope. 

Yeah... I'd say that pretty much covers it all.

I'm surprised at how accurate that is.  I don't think I ever really felt the anger and bargaining part... but other than that... oh yeah.  Been there.  It is getting easier, though.  Thank goodness or I'd have never lived through it.  The first 2 weeks were horrific.  Truly torturous, suffocating pain.  The next two weeks, not much better, but at least I could breathe.  Then slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, I started to feel better.  Hour by hour, day by day, the veil of hurt started to lift a little.

Oh, it hasn't gone away... and I know it never fully will.  And I wouldn't want it to.  But I also know that she wouldn't want me to feel that way forever, either.  She would hate that.

So I'm carrying on... trying to be strong... trying to learn to live without my mother.  *sigh*   I guess I'm doing OK.

A few things really blindsided me, though.  Once she was gone, every photo, every letter, every little memento of her took on such new significance with me.  Pictures I had for years suddenly became incredibly precious, because the dawning reality was: there would be no more.

And every morning at 8:00 I still think, "Time to call Mom ---"  Oh.

Every time I drive by her apartment building, I still think, "I'll stop and visit Mom ---"  Oh.

When I'm planning dinner for family or friends, I still think, "I want to invite Mom ---"  Oh.

When I read or hear a corny joke that I know she'd love, I still think, "Gotta tell Mom ---"  Oh.

I wonder how long that will last?

My humble (though admittedly rookie) advice to others who are dealing with grief after losing someone they love?  Be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself time.  Take a nap, take a walk, take a bath.

Keep a journal, if that helps you.  Two weeks after my mom died, I wrote her a letter.  I knew she wasn't ever going to read it, but it helped me immensely to put all those powerful, swirling emotions and feelings down on paper, giving them identity and a voice.

Treat yourself and others kindly.   I think that is so incredibly important.  Sometimes when we are in terrible pain, the human tendency is to strike or lash out at those closest to us.  Try not to forget to appreciate and cherish those who are still with you.

Allow yourself tears, but remember it's OK to laugh and smile, too.

But most of all, find peace and joy in remembering -- because every precious memory that you carry in your heart means that in some very special way, they are still with you.



Top photo credit:  HERE

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

AMAZING GRACE

3/31/23-1/17/12



















This memorial post is dedicated to my dear mother, Grace, who passed away in my home on January 17, 2012.

When I think of my mother, I just can't help but smile.  My mother ADORED her family, and treasured her friends.  She was loving, generous, funny and feisty.  Anyone who knew her described her as "full of life".   With her love of bold, bright colors and *alotta bling* (rhinestones and sparkle and goldtone, ohmy!), plus her VERY witty sense of humor, she truly was the life of any party.

My mother would be the first to tell you that she was a little bit "spoiled".  An adored youngest daughter and pampered wife, she would often brag that she had never balanced a checkbook, painted a room, stripped a floor, planted a garden, hung wall-paper.   ("Why?", she would ask, "when someone else would do it for me?!")

So (obviously!) there were many things I did not learn from my mother, but that's OK, I could learn those on my own.  But my mother did give me one invaluable, priceless gift -- that I never could have learned without her -- and that was unconditional love.  My mother loved my sisters and me with a fierce, protective, mother-bear love -- and we always knew this.

I have always been close with my mom.  When I was little, she used to lovingly refer to me her "shadow", because where she was, I was... stuck to her like velcro.  I loved nothing better than sitting on the porch with her on warm summer nights, side-by-side and "talking", feeling ever-so "adult".  As I grew a little older, we had our normal teenager vs. adult squabbles, but honestly, they truly were few and far between.  As I grew into adulthood and got married, we remained close, and she even moved 100 miles to be closer to me, my husband and our son.  She was always a supportive mother and doting grandmother, and she loved her sons-in-law as her own.

My mother was 88 years old when she died.  The first 85 years were active, independent, healthy, wonderful years.  At age 80, after the death of her second husband (whom she married at age 68 after a less-than-one-month courtship -- I kid you not!), she sold her home and moved into a lovely senior high-rise apartment.  Talk about easy livin'!  And in her usual "Grace fashion", she charmed the managers and the maintenance staff alike (the little stinker didn't even have to change a burned out light bulb!) and made many dear friends in her building.



















At that time, she was taking only a thyroid pill and a blood pressure pill -- period.  When she was 85, she had a very scary episode of brief confusion and left-sided weakness, was taken to the hospital, and diagnosed with a TIA (commonly called a "mini stroke", because the symptoms, thankfully, fully resolve.)  The doctor prescribed an aspirin and an anti-platelet medication and in a few days, my mom went home, fit as a fiddle.



















A couple of months later, she fell in the hallway of her apartment building, and broke her right hip.  She had surgery, went to Rehab (where she charmed all the doctors, nurses and therapists) and soon returned again to her independent apartment living that she so loved.















Well, they say troubles come in 3's, and right before her 86th birthday, she was rushed to the ER with a heart attack.  I rode in the ambulance with her, and never left her side, even while the doctors and nurses were actively working hard to save her life.  And save her life they did... and after a few days in the hospital, and a heart catheterization, mom went to our local hospital's Transitional Care Unit  (where she again quickly became everyone's favorite patient) and then back home again to her apartment.












Now the doctors added a few heart medications to the daily mix, and she used to say, "With all these darn pills I have to take every morning, I don't have room for breakfast!"  But thankfully, while she was admittedly a little more tired now than she had been before, no other problems occurred (except for a skin cancer successfully removed from her leg), and life continued well for my then 86 year-old mom.  I started balancing her checkbook for her (hey, someone had to do it!), setting up her pills (she hated doing that!), and continued the regular mani-pedi's.  But she still was still happily living independently, driving, doing all her own shopping and meals, socializing with her friends, getting her hair done and attending exercise classes.














Because she had become quite hard of hearing (and the dang hearing aides never really worked well for her... we can put a man on the moon but we can't develop decent hearing aides??!)  I would take her to all of her doctor's appointments.  I kept a notebook of careful notes, and she always deferred all questions to me.  Here is one actual conversation that took place at her PCP's office:

MD:  So, are we having any problems?
Me:  Nope, she's doing great!
MD:  Good!  How's the hip pain?
Me:  Much better, not needing any of the pain pills any more.
MD:  Great!  Has she seen the dermatologist yet for that spot on her back?
Me:  Yep, last week.  He said it's nothing to worry about.
MD:  That's good news.  How about the eye doctor?
Me:  We see him next week.
MD:  Good.  So, did you get the routine labs done?
Me: Yep, on Monday.  Your office should have received the results by now.
MD:  Good, I'll go check.
Mom:  [sitting on the edge of the exam table, tapping her toes impatiently]  *Hmph!*  I don't even know why I have to come!

This past October, we had a big family dinner party at my house (one of my mother's grandsons was home from Alaska), and the next week, I hosted a Spanish tapas party with friends.  My mother was definitely the  Belle-of-the-Ball for both events.  She was beautiful, lively, funny, sweet, and feeling good.

But sadly, within 2 weeks of those parties, and without warning, she was rushed to the ER with crushing shortness of breath and a new diagnosis of congestive heart failure.  One heart attack, several episodes of flash pulmonary edema, two thoracenteses, renal insufficiency, a complete heart block and a devastating new lung cancer diagnosis followed.  She got weaker every day, but still, through it all... she remained amazing Grace.











She was in the hospital and then TCU for 5 weeks.  We virtually lived there.  My daughter barely left her bedside.  My sisters came from out of state.  My mother had so many visitors that at one point, we had to ask them to be limited, just so she could rest.  She began to speak about being "very tired" and "ready to let go."  She had private conversations with each grandchild and great-grandchild, and assured them all of her love forever.  She gave away her cat, her car, and her wedding ring.

On one particularly difficult day, a dear friend named Dean came to visit.  She smiled at him but said quietly, "I can't really talk right now."  And holding her hand tight, Dean said softly, "That's OK... I just wanted to see you, Grace."

On Dec 20 my mother was discharged from the hospital -- to my home with hospice services.  We rearranged our living room to accommodate the hospital bed, over bed table, oxygen concentrator, bedside commode and new lift chair, so that on good days she could be engaged and involved in our daily family life.  We hung curtains in each archway and on the French Doors for privacy.  She was warm and cozy covered in soft cotton blankets and a light down comforter.  She often had a kitty or two at her feet.  We joked that she was the Queen Bee and we were the willing worker bees!  With the help of my husband, daughter, sisters and the hospice team, we were able to care for her, keep her comfortable, and even have a surprising number of laughs along the way.  We looked at each day as a gift.

She enjoyed Bonanza (do you know it is on aaaaallllll afternoon???!) but every now and then I'd wrestle the remote off of her (!) so I could watch a show or two of my choice, LOL!  She was a fanatic for Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune (on Mondays through Fridays at 7 and 7:30 pm respectively, but opposite on Saturdays, and not at all on Sundays... who knew?!) and on good days, she loved calling out the answers before the contestants.

She was home with us exactly 4 weeks.  Yes, we had some hard and scary moments.... but in general, having her here, surrounded by the love of family and *home* was one of the most rewarding and satisfying things I have ever done.  It just felt so *right*.

I am proud and humbled to be able to say that in the last weeks of her life, my dear mom was never alone. She knew we were here with her -- come what may -- and she knew she was loved.   My husband and I were at her bedside as she passed away early that morning, and I know she knew it.   I know we will never forget it.

Thank you for everything, Mom. I love and miss you so much.  And I always will.

3/31/23- 1/17/12













For more posts on my dear mother, please look:

HERE

HERE

HERE


And for a wonderfully fun, touching blog tribute by my niece (The Daring Librarian) for her dear Grandma, please scroll down to the end of  THIS POST.