You can call it a mid-life crisis if you want. I prefer an empty nest embrace.

Dear friends,

I think I’ve told EVERYBODY but the readers of this blog that I bought a new car.

You already know about my tragic crash on the ice, wherein I totaled my beloved eight-year-old Honda Accord that was supposed to see me through Kate’s tuition bills.

And you know about the list Parker gave me for car shopping.

Turns out, I bought the third car on his list. And it wasn’t even a close decision.

Here’s why:

2013-Subaru-BRZ-Carscoop2_1

I’ll understand if you want to cry that you have car envy. My Saburu BRZ is a very sparkly charcoal grey (think “glittering slate”), but otherwise looks just like the one in the photo. I’d show you mine but it needs a good wash after picking up a few layers of winter road grime.

My car is a two-seater with a six-speed manual transmission. With a top speed of 140 miles per hour, incredible handling, and enough bells and whistles like XM radio, bluetooth, and navigation to dazzle me, it’s the car of my dreams.

Darn that boy knows his mother.

You know what I love as much as anything? That Mr. Mom loves this car. I think he loves it as much as me and it’s the first time in our lives I’ve seen him like this.

The thing is, Mr. Mom used to design, build and race drag cars. He’s worn a Nomex fire suit and a five-point harness and driven the quarter mile in so few seconds it would make most people scream. In his early 20s, he built the engine and transmission for a 1968 GTO, which for some folks is the holy grail of muscle cars, and he still likes to talk about the charms of that pretty little ride.

At the time, I had recently purchased a used 1982 Nissan Pulsar and I was crushed when he suggested it was a POS. I, of course, thought it was the cutest little sports car ever, but I think he had a better sense of its many design and mechanical failures after replacing the car’s ball joint and brake rotors in the parking lot of my apartment complex on a bitterly cold day in January 1986.

Is it any wonder I fell in love with the man? I mean come on. He did a $300 repair job (in 1986 dollars!) for free after meeting me only 10 days earlier, all because he felt sorry for the college girl working three jobs who couldn’t afford to fix her car or even to tow it to his shop.

Anyway, the man just doesn’t get excited about production vehicles, so when he said he liked this one, a LOT, after I already knew I was smitten, my heart went pitter-pat.

Since I drove it home on December 12th, I’ve taken way too many photos of my BRZ and posted several on social media in ways that would suggest I’m a newly licensed 16-year-old male, not a 50+ female. And I’ve showed it off in person to anyone who will give me a minute.

I don’t even care. I.Love.This.Car.

And I’m shouting it for all the world to hear.

With gratitude {for the car of my dreams that is also loved by the man of my dreams},

Joan, who knows how to get on it, and isn’t afraid to, so drivers in Missouri watch out

PS: Check out this smokin’ cockpit

2013-Subaru-BRZ-interior

Day 9 and 10: Recharge.

Dear friends,

sleep

Every now and then, the Energizer Bunny winds down and needs a recharge.

After quilting for 12 hours straight on Saturday, I slept nearly 10 1/2 hours Saturday night.

As if that wasn’t enough, I took a 3 hour nap Sunday afternoon.

And I had popcorn for Sunday Supper.

Sometimes, extreme lethargy can be a beautiful thing.

With gratitude {for a magnificent 24 hours of nothing},

Joan, who can’t remember the last time she slept uninterrupted for more than 10 hours and thinks getting old could be a lot more tolerable with better sleep

Day 9: The weekend.

Dear friends,

www.pinterest.com

No additional words necessary.

With gratitude {for time to quilt, cook, and nap — all without pantyhose and heels},

Joan, who can’t stop humming Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend,” cheesy as it is

Day 5: Buddy!!!!!

Dear friends,

If you’re of a certain age and pop culture sensibility, the name Buddy (spoken with great enthusiasm or followed by multiple exclamation points) refers to a particular elf of the overgrown variety. Of the looks-like-Will-Ferrell variety.

But in our home, we squeal with glee about a different Buddy.

cakeboss2

I’m talking about Buddy Valastro! The Cake Boss!!!

You may recall that CupKate and I went all the way to NYC (Hoboken, actually) to meet Buddy and visit his bakery. His pastries were beyond compare, but Buddy was nowhere to be found.

Turns out, though, Buddy is going to Tulsa. Which is precisely why the best part of my day yesterday was buying VIP tickets for Kate and me to meet him at this event.

It will be a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! I’ll drive to Kate’s college and pick her up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, then we’ll drive on to Tulsa for a dinner out and an evening with our favorite pastry chef and reality television show. I’ll head home the next morning and, 24 hours after that, she and her teammates will head to our house for Thanksgiving break.

It’s all kinds of awesome. And just the delight of planning it made for the best Monday in a long time.

(Especially a Monday on which my biorhythms are still adjusting to the time change and I’m cranky.)

With gratitude {for Monday surprises and mother-daughter junkets},

Joan, who’s pretty sure Buddy will think Kate and I are the coolest mother-daughter fans he meets on his entire tour

Day 2: The drive.

Dear friends,

On Day 2 of this month of Thanksgiving, I had the afternoon off. It was a brilliant autumn day. Sunny skies and mild temps and the prospect of the open road called to Mr. Mom and me like a songbird.

We drove down some of our state’s loveliest back roads, where corn fields and tiny towns dotted the landscape. The fall foliage was in full splendor and we couldn’t believe such a perfect convergence of time and opportunity had landed in our laps.

We ducked into an out-of-the-way roadhouse in a town with the proud name of Defiance, where we shared a cup of coffee with the Friday afternoon patrons enjoying their beer and cigarettes and lonely-hearts country songs.

We talked about buying this cottage, then that one, then another, and retiring right here (no there!).

And then, on our way home, we decided to pull over near the top of a ridge so I might snap a photo as a keepsake of our day. We knew there was a view to be had if only we could find the right spot. Mr. Mom, who’s half a foot taller than me, nosed around for few moments then declared he’d found just the place, but I couldn’t see a thing through the dense underbrush. He offered to pull back the branches of an overgrown shrub for me and, there, like Brigadoon, appeared the most magical view in all of Missouri I think:view

It was the perfect Benediction to a perfect autumn drive.

With gratitude {for unexpected gifts born of an everlasting companionship},

Joan, who’s posting this just in time to put on her running shoes and head for the race

Legit.

Dear friends,

I came home today to the best stack of mail, ever!

First, there was a sweet and thoughtful handwritten letter from my CupKate . . . the kind that makes a mother’s heart melt and that somebody will no doubt find after I die amongst my most treasured keepsakes.

Then, there was a typed form letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue. Magpie Quilts is legit! I have a tax ID number and am finally authorized to do bidness in the Show Me State.

<Picture me here doing a spot-on Steve Martin/Navin Johnson impression after the phone book arrives in The Jerk. “I”m somebody now! Things are going to start happening to me now!”>

As I have a habit of reading the mail over dinner, I very nearly did the happy dance over my plate of Mr. Mom’s homemade spaghetti. For a day of the week that normally produces little to cheer over, this Monday kicked boo-tay.

So here’s the deal: I finished a new quilt last week. And because it doesn’t make sense to mail my quilts one at a time to my cousin in Oklahoma, I’m going to post it for sale here. If none of my 47 faithful and 13 random readers are interested, I’ll ship it off to my bidness partner after I finish two or three more and the shipping cost is worth it. (Yes, I’m going to keep saying bidness through this entire post. I’m sorry. Chalk it up to Government-Stamp-of-Approval giddiness.)

By the way, I’m still thinking about opening an Etsy Shop for Magpie Quilts, as a friend suggested I might develop a Missouri following who will be disappointed that my creations are only available in Oklahoma. (I realize she was probably just being nice, but I’m willing to run with it.) Anyway, it’s going to be a while before I can make that happen for a variety of reasons mostly related to not enough time in the day.

So here it is folks . . . Listen hard and you can hear the drum roll reverberating in my head.

Sunday in the Park (Strawberry Jam, #2 in a series) — $125.

cherrystripe

A picnic basket. A shady spot under an oak tree. And a soft and colorful quilt on which to stretch out and spend a lazy afternoon with your sweetheart. These are the elements of a relaxing Sunday in the park, and Magpie Quilts’ latest design creates the perfect landing spot for your next outdoor excursion.

Strawberry Jam is the second in a series of Sunday in the Park quilts. It is made from 100% cotton fabric and features cheery and modern prints, with a touch of old-fashioned gingham. The front is an expanse of whole cloth featuring pink “berries,” punctuated by a column of multi-colored geometric and floral patterns.  The back features four large panels of pink gingham with window-frame sashing made from the primary print. The quilt is entirely hand-made — pieced, quilted and bound by a single artisan in her Missouri studio — and measures 58″ X 60″, making it suitable for covering your lap as well as your picnic spot.

All Magpie Quilts are safe for the washing machine if laundered in cold water with a gentle detergent and dried on a low-to-medium setting. The batting is an 80/20 cotton-polyester blend, which gives the quilt an exceptional drape and a light weight. The quilt was made in a smoke-free environment and has been pre-washed to give it the vintage appearance of well-loved linens.

If you’re interested in Strawberry Jam or have questions about Magpie Quilts, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or email me at magpiequiltsbyjoan@gmail.com.

With gratitude {for a creative passion that is definitely lighting my fire},

Joan, who wishes to say one more time that Magpie Quilts is the brainchild of a woman who grew up in a heartland town she calls Mayberry, where catching fireflies on summer nights, sleeping under quilts hand-stitched by the local quilting bee, and sharing the bounty of a backyard vegetable patch never went out of vogue. Her quilt designs combine both vintage-inspired and contemporary fabrics in unfussy patterns that evoke a simpler time, a slower pace, and a love for the creature comforts of home.

Superstitioulicious.

Dear friends,

black cat

Source: Etsy

Friday the 13th might be a day of superstition for most but it was delicious for me.

First, I was walking across campus when a group of college boys whistled at me. It was bizarre to say the least. They were sitting under a tree talking in a language I didn’t understand. I walked right past them and as soon as they were behind me, I heard the unmistakable and conspicuous male signal that needs no translation. I can’t remember the last time it happened to me and, given my age, I would have figured it was meant for any other female within 100 yards except there weren’t any. I smiled bigger than I’ve smiled in a long time and kept on walking — with, possibly, slightly more pep in my step because I was clearly rocking my black skirt and super-cute pumps. Mr. Mom says the boys must have been leg men, claiming it takes one to know one. I don’t know and I don’t care because it sure made my day.

When I got home, I had a hand-written note in the mail from a friend who was recently Unaquilted. I’ve told you about Sweet Sarah before. She’s getting married soon and was the surprise recipient of the blue quilt featured in yesterday’s post. She’s marrying the little brother of one of my “J” friends and I couldn’t resist giving the lovebirds a quilt to cuddle under. I wrote that I hoped they’d make lots of memories with it, perhaps even spill a little wine on it in the interest of having fun as newlyweds.

In her thank you note to me, Sarah said:

Thank you so very much for our first (and favorite) wedding gift . . . We used it in our engagement pictures and it looks great. We loved your note about making memories with it and somehow it ended up with bird poo on it during our photo session. We both laughed because it got broken in right off the bat. Thank you to you and (Mr. Mom) for being a couple to look up to. You both are an inspiration to me.

Now, lordy be . . . if there’s anything more encouraging than a wolf whistle, it’s got to be a heartfelt message like Sarah’s.

Who needs a lucky day when Friday the 13th is this superstitioulicious?

With gratitude {for admirers of all ages and genders},

Joan, the long-legged Magpie

Remember when I told you I was blessed with confidence?

Dear friends,

magpie

Well, my confidence is buoyed by an unflagging optimism. And the optimism causes me to believe I am very nearly superhuman.

Mr. Mom doesn’t subscribe to my theory that confidence creates optimism, by the way. He says there’s something about my childhood that makes me crave chaos. And so when life is calm, I create self-imposed havoc by taking on too many projects, putting too many irons in the fire, juggling too many plates until a few come crashing down.

He’s such a Daddy Downer.

Anyway, the real point is that it appears I am happiest when I’m juggling. And lately I’ve been juggling a new endeavor that has me bursting with excitement.

I’ve decided to start a quilt company.

I’m convinced I’m the next Heather Jones or Elizabeth Hartman. Or as Mr. Mom said, “I think you could do for quilting what Ree Drummond did for home-style cooking.” (Okay, so he’s not always a Daddy Downer because that was pretty sweet, albeit delusional.)

Anyway, my little company — known as Magpie Quilts — is currently located on my dining room table. And I haven’t actually sold anything yet. Oh, and did I mention I don’t aspire to go all Kelly Rae Roberts and get a merchandising deal (although I lOVE KRR and am thrilled she’s hit the big-time)?

Here’s what I want: to make as many quilts as I have time for and to send them into the world, free of charge, to surprise recipients and spread happiness. And world peace. (Okay, world peace is a tall order so I’ll settle for happiness.)

I know — that’s kind of what I’m doing now. So you might think why do I need a company? Because these darn quilts I’m making are darn expensive. ($200 in materials alone for the last queen-size one I made. Have I mentioned I have two mortgages, a child in college and another child nine months away from college?)

So my business model is this: make just enough money to off-set the cost of everything I give away. It’s kind of brilliant. I might just turn modern capitalism on its head and win the Nobel Prize in Economics. (There’s that confidence thing again.)

The first step is getting a tax ID number so I can buy wholesale. (Retail is killing me, Smalls.) I sent my application and tax bond to the Missouri Department of Commerce yesterday. The next steps are to buy some fabric, make some quilts, and sell some stuff. (I am also a master of planning simplification.)

Since I’ve got that day-job obstacle, I plan to sell my stuff in the booth of a local antique mall. (I’m a little too busy to ring folks up and collect sales tax, after all.) And even though I plan to price my quilts affordably, I realize not everyone is going to be a big-ticket spender, so I’m planning an entire line of small soft goods and packaged fabric bundles in the $5 to $50 range for the impulse buyer. (You gotta diversify your product line, after all, even if your store is a 6′ X 6′ booth!)

I scratched out a to-do list and a modest business plan while eating my salad at Panera today. I figure it will take me at least 90 days to get things organized and accumulate enough inventory to open up my booth. But then I’m off and running!

It might be a bust. But, I’m okay with that because — after all — I’ve got a day job and Magpie Quilts will thrive, even if limited by my modest budget.

If it’s a boon, well I realize that could be a problem, too. I’m not sure what I’ll do if I sell my inventory faster than I can replenish it. I guess I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it.

In the mean time, I’m “pert near” bubbling over with creative energy. Bear with me, will you, if my posts are a bit one-track? Like my proposed product line, I’ll try to diversify my writing. (Just as soon as I finish stitching up my new company.)

With gratitude {for happy, creative, productive seasons in life},

Joan, who wishes to reinforce her Unaquilter pseudonym and shout her manifesto from the rooftops: Fabric Happiness for Everyone!

Labor of love.

Dear friends,

I had the most wonderful holiday weekend — four days to be exact — nestled in the comfort of family, food, and love’s labor.

Kate was home from college with no agenda other than relaxing and catching up on family time.

Mr. Mom was home and, with the mountain burden finally lifted from his psyche, happy and present. (As opposed to restless and distracted — not that I’m criticizing him, but holy cow it feels good to be on the brighter side of that ordeal).

Only Parker was absent — busy earning money in Missouri’s productive hay fields — but still popping in long enough to share a meal or two with a family hungry for each other’s company.

Since no one had an agenda, since everyone was content to just be (with long stretches of “being” in front of the television to keep up with the US Open), I was happy to putter. And my puttering consisted of light cooking and cleaning with some heavy-duty sewing.

You could have guessed, couldn’t you, that I would tackle another project during the long weekend? I started Friday morning and finished Sunday night and couldn’t be happier with the results.

johnnaquiltcu

This one is going in the mail today to a friend. That’s all I’m going to say, lest I ruin the surprise.  But few words don’t mean few photos, so here’s another view:

johnnaquiltfront

And another:

johnnaquiltback

If ever I worried I might someday become a crazy cat lady, I can now release that fear for I have become the crazy quilt lady. I’ve definitely descended deep into the rabbit hole, but it’s become a labor of love, a vast creative outlet that offers an irresistible opportunity to stitch up a tangible and lasting expression of my love and admiration and send it to an unsuspecting recipient.

It’s like the quilt lottery, only you don’t have to buy a ticket and I’m the real winner (with huge recurring payoffs in joy).

With gratitude {for long weekends with my favorite people and pastimes},

Joan, who thinks a quilt with an inspired back is a lot like a purse with a pretty lining . . . delightfully unnecessary but so worth it

Parkie Park and the Blue Moon.

Dear friends,

I had a magical day yesterday.

There was, of course, a blue moon and I stood outside in the cool night air to bask in its rare glow. It was a lovely, peaceful moment, standing in my yard in the moonlight while listening to the quiet hum of my home from just beyond its shadow.

Then I came inside and took this photo of my boy.

parker

He ate an after-school snack then fell asleep on the sofa and stayed there until bedtime. After snapping this photo I rubbed his head because I can’t help it. Rubbing the head of men I love is a compulsion. Then I thought about how when he was seven he used to hold my hand and tell me stories, and now he’s nearly seven-feet tall and still tells me stories but won’t hold my hand. So I rub his head when he sleeps and I touch him whenever I’m within arm’s reach because I can’t help that either. He’s nearly grown and sports a beard but he will always be Parkie Park to me and I can’t imagine not reaching for my beautiful boy every chance I get.

Then we all turned in, and just as I was about to fall asleep, Mr. Mom said very quietly “I love you, Bunny. I figure I ought to tell you at least once every blue moon whether you need it or not.”

It made me smile because we say “I love you” almost every single time we fall asleep together. Sometimes I say it, sometimes he says it, but we almost always say it, one then the other. And not in that perfunctory “luv ya” way you might say as you hang up the phone.  We say it in a quiet, deliberate way. Almost like a prayer because it’s that important.

I fell asleep thinking there’s no greater blessing than loving mightily and being loved in equal measure. Under any kind of moon.

With gratitude {for the magic of big moons and big hearts},

Joan, aka “Bunny,” and various and sundry pet names that shall not be disclosed

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