Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Aunt Gertie and Cousin Martha were sitting at the kitchen table New Years Eve morning drinking ice tea and eating the last of the coffee cake left over from Christmas. "What a year it has been Gertie." sighed Martha, " I am not sorry that this one is over and we can start fresh tomorrow."

Great Aunt Claudette

Aunt Gertie sighed as well, "This has been a crazy one. It was a constant state of change. Dad is gone, Great Aunt Claudette is gone. We have changed in response to all of surrounding change. We've managed through it all. Tomorrow does bring a fresh start and while I am not a fan of New Years Resolutions, I do like goals."

The girls started a list even as they discussed how they hated lists. Make the goals reasonable and don't feel guilty. These are not resolutions, they are goals. The main difference is that a goal is something you are working toward, not an absolute change

1. Sew a little bit every day, even if it is only a 2" seam.
2. Hug the puppies. They always make you feel better.
3. Bring lunch more often than not. You feel better and eat better.
4. Don't let friends slip away. You need them and they need you.
5. Try something new every month, a new technique or activity.
6. Check out new topics that have interested you.
7. Don't be afraid to take the risk.

"I think that's enough for a lifetime Martha. You could put everything you wanted to change about yourself on this list and then you wouldn't do any of them."

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Great Aunt Claudette's Quilt

Aunt Gertie got the call from Great Aunt Claudette in Washington state. Great Aunt Claudette was Gertie's aunt on her mother's side. She had some upcoming medical procedures and wanted to make sure the family was kept up to speed on what was happening. The procedures were likely to take 4-6 weeks to complete. Gertie's immediate thought was to make a quilt to remind Claudette of all the people that love and support her as she recovered. Great Aunt Claudette was a Great Aunt as in family relations and a GREAT Aunt as in a favored Aunt.

Aunt Gertie called her mother (Rainey) and Great Aunt Earlene to discuss the project. Rainey was the oldest of the three, then Claudette, followed by Earlene. The sisters thought Claudette would love the quilt, what better way to feel the love of your widespread family that a picture quilt?

Great Aunt Earlene and Mother Rainey (That makes her sound like a nun, which Rainey was definitely not) made a few phone calls, sent a few e-mails and the pictures started to come in. Aunt Cora and Uncle Fred combed through the mountains of family pictures looking for the perfect shots and making sure no one was excluded. It was amazing how many people contributed to the picture pool.

Gertie and Martha sketched out a Storm at Sea pattern to create the three hearts. Cousin Martha suggested they place photos of Claudette's closest family in the hearts. Her husband DOC, her boys, and her sisters. The hearts would be surrounded by the photos of other family and friends. "I want the background to look like a party." Aunt Gertie commented. "A sea of photos of people that love her."

Gertie and Martha were off to Matilde's Quilt Shop to get the photo fabric. They were thinking they would use about 40 photos and would need about 20 sheets. They discussed the merits of black/white and sepia toned photos. They had all agreed that color photos would get lost in the quilt. Aunt Myrtle was collecting the photos and formatting them, but Gertie and Martha were picking the fabrics. Black/white seemed to be the way to go considering all the color in the quilt. They wanted the quilt to be happy.

Cousin Martha suggested they add a mat to the photos to make the photo blocks the size they needed. The mats would all be the same fabric for consistency. Aunt Gertie thought they could also add a frame to each picture to add color, Like pictures hanging together on the wall. Each an individual shot, but somehow related to all the others.

Aunt Gertie printed the pictures onto the special paper as Cousin Martha pressed the images, rinsed them and pressed them again. They sorted through the stack to determine which pictures needed to be square, vertical or horizontal. The two sorted and stacked then resorted and stacked. They worked through the night to put the quilt together quickly. Cousin Martha chose a fleece backing to ensure the quilt was warm enough for the chilly nights in WA.

Not a word was said to Great Aunt Claudette, but they wanted to ship the quilt so that Claudette would receive it the first week of her treatments. They hurried to send the finished product off to WA. It arrived just in time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Treats for the Little Ones

Sweetie Petey

Some would say Aunt Gertie's house had a tendency to sound like a kennel at times. She had four little puppies at her feet or in her lap at all times now. "Rotten, rotten, rotten!" Gertie would say, "Spoiled rotten!"

Today, Aunt Gertie had decided she needed to make the little ones treats. In general Gertie and Cousin Martha had been eliminating processed foods from their diets. They both liked to cook and had large freezers to store the bounty. It seemed only natural to extend that idea to the puppies, although not to the point of making their regular food.

Aunt Gertie scanned page after page on the Internet trying to determine which recipe her little brood would like the best. There were so many choices, peanut butter, bacon, cheddar... In the end she chose a bacon recipe. What dog would turn down a bacon treat? What person would turn down a bacon treat for that matter? Cousin Martha uncovered the mixer and gathered the ingredients. She fried up the bacon with a few extra pieces for quality control. They would taste the bacon but let the little ones test the finished biscuits. Both Gertie and Martha preferred their treats to be a little sweeter, more like chocolate.

As usual, the kitchen was soon a mess of flour. "Why is it I can't cook with flour without a fine dusting settling all over my kitchen?" Gertie asked. Flour, eggs, bacon bits, bacon fat, and a little salt all went into the mixer, was rolled into balls and into the oven. They looked like those little candies on paper Gertie had as a child, only all the little bits were biscuit brown. They baked for 30 minutes and were crispy when they came out with the aroma of bacon. The little puppies all knew goodness was in store.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August? ...Already?

Aunt Gertie was in her Florida backyard, tending her dying tomato plants. The heat this year had just been too much for them. The few pieces of fruit they produced had been eaten by the stray animals. As she surveyed the garden wreckage, she started to think about the variety of greens, yellows and browns before her. A feeling of Autumn came over her as she stood in the 100+ degree heat. It was hot now, but the weather was going to change soon and bring visions of pumpkins and multi-colored leaves. Maybe this year she would make that scarecrow quilt...or the pumpkin with the witches hat...or that pattern of the witch she accidentally purchased twice.

Cousin Martha could see Aunt Gertie's puzzled look as she stood by the remains of the tomatoes. "We can replant tomatoes in September Gertie. No need to be so sad." " I know." Gertie replied. "I was contemplating some of those quilt ideas that need working out and the unfinished tops waiting for me. It's time to review my journal and look through the unfinished pile. If I start working on one of those fall quilts now, I may be able to use it in season."

Cousin Martha gazed off over the dead plants and remarked, "What about that picture of Aunt Myrtle's front know, with the pumpkins on it? Or maybe just one of the faces."

"I know." Gertie replied, "So many ideas and not enough time."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Aunt Gertie's Tomatoes

Once upon a time, Aunt Gertie and Uncle Hap lived in Florida. They had followed a job that payed substantially better and moved all of their worldly belongings to Jacksonville. While they don't live there any longer, they have kept the house and visit it often. Cousin Martha was not surprised when Gertie wanted to head south for the weekend. "Time to check on those tomatoes" Gertie explained.

Aunt Gertie had spent most of her tomato growing years in the northern part of the country. She would prepare the ground in late April and early May, waiting for the danger of frost to pass.  She would have starter plants in the house waiting anxiously for the opportunity to plant them. The plants would usually go into the ground around Memorial Day. They would require the occasional watering and Gertie would pray for thunderstorms. Something about the lightning always provided a growth spurt.

The move to Florida had provided a new tomato challenge. The soil and climate were dramatically different that Aunt Gertie was used to. The benefit to understanding would be a much longer season. Some say you can grow tomatoes year round in Florida.

The house Aunt Gertie and Uncle Hap had purchased had a "Dominican Dance Floor" so named by the air conditioner repair guy. It was an old front porch that had been left standing when the house was built and the mobile home was moved out. Uncle Hap had taken it down before it fell down.

Aunt Gertie asked to have a box made for a raised bed for her tomatoes. The soil around the house was very sandy. The raised bed would provide a little more control over what the tomatoes would grow in. They put the box where the old "Dance Floor" had been.

Aunt Gertie researched the growing seasons. She could start the plants indoors in February. There was still a danger of frost in Jacksonville, but that ended in early March. The little tomato plants went outside in pots, just in case they still needed to spend a nigh indoors. Later in March Aunt Gertie added the basil plants. "You can't have tomatoes without basil." she would say.

The plants grew slowly in March and April. The temperatures had started to climb. Most days were above 90 during the day and then down into the 50's at night. Acting on a tip from a neighbor, Gertie moved the plants into partial sun. The strong Florida sun was too much for them and as the summer arrived, would burn up the plants. The other major change was the amount of water the plants needed. The sun was so strong, Gertie had to water the plants every morning. She didn't want to water at night and have all that moisture cause mold. If she watered during the heat of the day it would evaporate and not help the plants at all. Morning waterings allowed the moisture to permeate the soil before the heat of the day started to evaporate it.

The tomatoes responded beautifully. Aunt Gertie had fresh tomatoes from the backyard in May.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The New Little Girl

All the preparations were made. Aunt Gertie had finished the little blanket for the new baby. Cousin Martha had finished the little bed for The Boys to share. Aunt Gertie had borrowed a larger cage from Aunt Myrtle. Aunt Myrtle has a German Shepherd, Anka, that no longer used her box. Aunt Gertie and Uncle Hap had gone through their dog supplies to make sure they had collars, bowls, leashes etc for a larger dog. They felt they were ready. They had checked with the vet to determine what puppy shots etc. would be required.

Aunt Gertie had been researching online and found a puppy at the local shelter that was a German Shepherd Mix, 6 weeks old. Perfect. Hap and Gertie wanted a rescue dog. They understood they would not know what the Shepherd was mixed with. Off to the shelter they went and as you already know, most people cannot go to the shelter without coming home with a new pet.

Dolly was adorable, although small. She was 6 weeks old and only 3 pounds. Dolly was the smallest in a litter of 6 and the only girl. Her brothers had apparently been 4-5 pounds and had all been adopted already. Poor Dolly was the only one left. After a call to the Vet, Uncle Hap and Aunt Gertie were the proud parents of a new little puppy. They immediately went to the pet supply store to get a new pink harness for Dolly and some puppy food.

Dolly come home and immediately fit in with the boys and was bossing them around by day 2. She gained 1 pound the first week. Things were looking good.

A couple weeks later Aunt Gertie made a vet appointment for Dolly's next puppy shots. They weighed her at the vet and she was only 4.5 pounds. Aunt Gertie had been getting suspicious anyway. Dolly's bone structure looked too small to be that of a Shepherd. She asked the vet what he thought and almost couldn't believe what he said.

"Definately part chihauhau, maybe beagle, maybe miniature pinscher. Definately no part shepherd. Small feet, small head, small ears means small dog."
"Well, How big do you think she will be?" Aunt Gertie asked. "She will not reach 15 pounds." the vet answered very matter of factly.

"I supposed I can buy her little dresses then and maybe a little pink bag to ride around in." Aunt Gertie told Cousin Martha. So the truth was out Aunt Gertie had set out to get a German Shepherd and come home with a Chihuahua. Look out world, we have a guard Chihauhau now, dressed in pink.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Getting Ready...

Aunt Gertie and Cousin Martha arrive home from Daytona in the late at night. Cousin Martha thought they would sleep in the next day, but Aunt Gertie had other idea's. The phone rang at 7:00. "Martha, Be ready to go to the quilt shop today. I need a few things to round out our purchases from Daytona. We have work to do.

On their way to Matilda's Quilt Shop, Aunt Gertie explained her hurry. She had spoken with Uncle Hap and they had decided to get a German Shepherd mix puppy from the Animal Shelter. Aunt Gertie wanted to buy some puppy themed fabric to go into a puppy blanket and made a little dog bed for The Boys.

Aunt Gertie currently had three little puppies, Sweetie Petey was an 8 year old Shih Tzu.

BooBoo was a 7 year old Pek-e-poo.

Smarty Pants Bailey Boy was Uncle Hap's traveling 3 year old Shih Tzu.

They had lost Charlie (Charlemagne, as in King of the Franks) last year (11 yr old Great Pyrenees) and Aunt Gertie was missing having a large dog around.

They had been discussing the possibility for some time and Uncle Hap had finally agreed a larger dog would be good protection.

Aunt Gertie had thought long and hard about what she wanted in a puppy. She wanted a female. With three little boys, she felt she already had too much testosterone in the house. The Boys would play Who is King of the Mountain a little too often. Aunt Gertie did not need another king. She wanted a puppy so that she could make sure it learned proper manners and so that it would learn to play well with the little boys.