Love. Sew. Much.

Dear friends,

I finished Kate’s quilt top on Sunday. It took me all day to sew on a bit of ric-rac and two borders, but I got it done. It was harder than it looked — those corners are tricky — but I finally figured it out and spent the evening admiring my work and showing my finished creation multiple times to everyone in the house.

I’m not showing it to you just yet . . . because I want to surprise you with a photo of the finished quilt. I think you’ll like it. It’s as cheerful a quilt as I’ve ever seen despite the fact it was my maiden effort and presented no shortage of problems for me to solve. If I haven’t yet mentioned it, math and geometry are not my strong suits. I’m convinced somebody else could have figured out how to construct the darn thing in half the time it took me.  But Mr. Mom says even though I learned to quilt the hard way, I’ll never forget the lessons. He claims solving a problem with your hands is a sure-fire way to remember the solution forever.

I’m so excited to ship Kate’s quilt top off to be quilted. I can’t wait to get it back even though I know I must be patient. I’m told it typically takes most quilters weeks to return a quilt — and then I still have to bind it. I’m betting you won’t see my finished quilt until late July or early August, but won’t it be fun when it’s finally ready to be photographed?

In the mean time, I do have a little something to show you . . .

Since I finished Kate’s quilt with an entire day left in my holiday weekend, I woke up Monday morning just itching to get started on my next project, which is — yep, you guessed it — another quilt!

This one is for Kate, too. Even though I’ve tripped across at least three other quilts I’d like to make for myself, I simply couldn’t say no to this idea once it popped into my head. And the great news is that this one is super simple.  (I only needed to make one quilt without a pattern and instructions to learn my lesson. I may be foolhardy, but I’m not a hard-headed fool!)

My new quilt is called a disappearing 9-patch because the foundation of the quilt is a 9-block patch that “disappears.” Take a look:

9patch2

I first got the idea for this quilt in February when Mr. Mom and I sat through several of Kate’s tennis matches in very chilly weather. I noticed she and her teammates all took blankets to their competitions to stay warm while not on the courts, so I immediately dreamed up a special “tennis quilt” for my favorite player.

I began collecting small yardages of tennis themed fabric and coordinating prints and, before I knew it, I had enough to make a quilt. It took me about an hour to cut all my fabric into 5″ squares yesterday morning. But once I finished, that’s when the fun really began. Combining the squares into new and interesting 9-patches is the most enjoyable part. Here’s another combo of squares.

9patchuncut

Now here’s the “trick” of this quilt. Once you sew nine patches together in a 3X3 grid, you cut each grid in half — twice. What you’re left with is four smaller blocks made from a single grid. It looks like this:

90patchcut

Once you sew and cut a number of 9-patch grids, you’re left with an assortment of smaller blocks you can arrange in any number of ways. I think I prefer a “random” arrangement that looks something like this.

collage

The beauty of this quilt is that you get a lot of bang for your buck. The finished quilt looks like you did a lot more work than you actually did (which is the “magic” of sewing larger pieces and then cutting them into smaller pieces). Since my first quilt looks like it was a lot easier than it actually was, it’s only fair that my second looks a lot harder.

Perhaps that’s the yin and yang of quilting?

With gratitude {for a long weekend spent creatively obsessed and sew fulfilled},

Joan, who’s a little grateful that the weatherman predicted rain all weekend, prompting Mr. Mom to cancel the family’s kayaking plans and giving her ample time to hide behind the sewing machine

Block by block.

Dear friends,

quilt

I enjoyed a quiet day alone yesterday. Kate went to a wedding while Mr. Mom and Parker took their dirt-bikes to a wilderness area for an afternoon ride.  So I took advantage of a long stretch of time to nearly finish Kate’s quilt top.

I still have some ric-rac and two borders to put around the blocks, but I’m awfully close. I just might finish it this weekend. Then all I have to do is to piece the backing before shipping it off to be quilted. I took this photo as daylight was fading so you can’t really see the fabrics very well. It looks better in person — bright and colorful but not garish. When it’s all finished, I’ll take photos in proper light so you can see the subtleties of the prints.

I chose this quilt pattern because it’s a little rustic and seems old-fashioned to me. While I’ve always appreciated the handiwork required of intricate and artistic quilts, my favorites have always leaned toward the folk art variety — something you  might have seen 70 years ago on an iron bed in a cabin in the woods. I like the contrast of the rustic pattern with the bright and modern fabrics I selected, especially since my girl is a big fan of bright colors. I think it will look terrific in her college apartment next fall.

You don’t have to look very close to notice my many mistakes. A friend’s mother is an expert quilter — expert, as in she’s had several quilts selected for the prestigious Paducah show. She’s been giving me encouragement and she recently told me every quilt has a “God” block — that one block in a quilt that’s imperfect. (Some quilters call it the “humility” block because when you leave it in, it shows your humility before God.)

That made me laugh when I heard it because I was pretty sure I would be making about 42 God blocks, which makes for one divine quilt.

With gratitude {for the light at the end of the tunnel on my first big sewing project},

Joan, who’s already itching to move on to quilt #2, a project she is excited to reveal soon

Summer snap.

Dear friends,

summer

Summer has snapped ’round my house.

How do I know? Every change of season and arriving holiday announces itself via the mirror above my buffet. The latest bedecking involves twinkly lights (but of course), some printed burlap ribbon, a red-white-and-blue wreath, a handful of mini-flags, and a pennant banner I made a few weeks ago.  The opening day of Memorial Day weekend seemed like the perfect time for a little redecorating. I’ve got a big supper planned for tonight — beef brisket, coleslaw and baked beans — and I thought we needed to mark the official start of our summer fun with seasonal decor.

By the way, the phrase “summer fun” is used carefully around our house. When Kate and Parker were in grade school — back when their Grannie was still their nanny — I got the notion they were frittering away their summers like lazybugs. So one May I spent hours developing a summer curriculum that involved trips to the library, book reports, chores, and all sorts of forced, Mom-approved activity. I created a tabbed binder with to-do lists, charts and progress reports and insisted my mother, Grannie, implement my regimen. I labeled my big binder of instructions”Kate and Parker’s Summer Fun Plan.”  You can imagine the look on their faces when I unveiled my creation.

You can also imagine how well it went over, with both the kids and their reluctant drill sergeant. Let’s just say no trace remains of the binder and I rarely utter the word “fun” right after the word “summer” lest I be ridiculed out of the room. Ever since then, my approach to summer with my children has been decidedly laissez-faire.

Speaking of laissez, here’s where I plan to do most of it this summer:

deck

This is the easternmost corner of our deck, and it’s the view you see from our living room sofa. Our deck is giant and wraps two sides of our home. We grill near the kitchen door, eat and recline near the dining room windows, and have our coffee here, right outside the living room. Though you can’t see it in this photo, just to the left of this spot is my cutting garden. Since I plant from seed every year (because I’m too lazy and too cheap to buy seedlings), there are no blooms yet. But in another couple of weeks, I’m sure there will be a riot of color to gaze upon from this spot. I can’t wait.

Here’s a shot from last year to tide us over:

newflower

With gratitude {for a long weekend and the urge to enjoy it with nothing more than good food and good company},

Joan, who figures if spring sprung, then summer snapped, although she has no idea why she thinks so, and is generally confused by things like past participles and probably should have avoided  this train of thought

A king-sized makeover.

Dear friends,

photo[4]

Last week I made a quick business trip to St. Louis and, while I was there, I picked up a few things for Kate’s room. The results are shown in the Instagram photo above.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think there’s nothing that perks up a bedroom quite like new bedding. In addition to buying a white seersucker duvet, I purchased a bright paisley quilt, some new throw pillows, and three fun art canvasses, which we hung over her bed and then strung with twinkly lights.  All the items came from Target.

Kate had no idea I was planning a makeover and she was thrilled with the results.

Can I just say that’s something I absolutely LOVE about my daughter? She and I share similar tastes in home decor, fashion and jewelry, so I often shop spontaneously for her. I’m not sure if I always hit the mark, or she shares my commitment to gratitude and accepts my gifts graciously. Either way, it’s nice to have a daughter who doesn’t seem to have a picky bone in her body.

Why the sudden urge to re-make her bed? Well — it’s not so sudden. When we moved two years ago, she inherited the king-size bed from our guest bedroom. Because we were moving from a four-bedroom home to a three-bedroom home, we chose to discard her full-size bed rather than the spare king-size bed. Since she was leaving for college after a year, it made more sense to keep a bigger bed in her room for the occasional guest. The only problem was that by inheriting the bed, she also inherited the bedding, which neither of us really liked that much but which we made do.

I’ve been window shopping for bedding ever since — but just never pulled the trigger. Last week, I was so happy to have her home for the summer that I broke down and loaded up during a quick dash into Target. Besides, Target has great prices and the re-do met my affordability threshhold.

I think the bright oranges, yellows and pinks look terrific with her turquoise walls. And you can imagine how blank the wall above her bed looked before we hung the art. In the words of my favorite philosopher, popularly known as the Dude, the art “really tied the room together.”

If you’re interested in a closer look at some of the items, you can find the duvet here, a version of the Love pillow here, the quilt here, and the three canvasses here and here and here.

I’m delighted that Kate has a summer oasis to call her own with a true college-coed vibe, instead of the stuffy, old-lady vibe created by our former guest-room castoffs.

With gratitude {for a quick-fix and the opportunity to spread some love to my favorite college girl},

Joan, who bought the Eiffel Tower canvas because she studied French in college and still dreams of aller a Paris un beau jour

My Sunday soup ritual.

Dear friends,

photo[1]

I’ve gotten into a routine lately where I make a big pot of vegetable soup on Sundays. I had fallen into a bad habit of eating lunch out (which is both expensive and fattening), so about a month ago, I pulled out my favorite soup recipe from blogger Phoo-D and solved my problem.

Every week, I make my soup a little differently depending on what’s in my fridge. This week I had a beautiful red pepper, some broccoli that needed to be used, three not-quite-limp carrots, and a purple onion. I normally use celery but I was all out. I always have canned corn and green beans in my pantry, so I typically throw those in. Occasionally, I’ll use cabbage or potatoes, but this week I used a can of navy beans. (I was out of black beans, which is another favorite.) Sometimes I add a handful of barley, but this week I threw in some wild rice. My favorite is when I’ve got a couple of over-ripe tomatoes and/or zucchini setting around but, alas, I had none of those this week.

In addition to the soup, I always cook a whole grain — typically brown rice, but last week I made whole-wheat couscous. Then for the next five days, I pack a lunch that consists of 1/2 cup of grains topped with two cups of vegetable soup. It averages about 275 calories and is chock full of healthy nutrients and fiber. Best of all, it’s very filling and keeps me going without a thought of snacking until dinnertime.

In addition to varying the vegetables each week, I also vary the spices. I have a simple Italian version (fresh rosemary because I have a huge bush right outside my door, plus dried marjoram, oregano, parsley, basil, and occasionally some herbs de Provence). I have a Mexican version (cumin, chili powder, and cayenne). And I have an Indian version (turmeric and garam masala). While Phoo-D’s recipe doesn’t call for it, I usually also add about a half-cup of whatever wine I have on hand, as well as a cube or two of bouillon.

I find that when I eat my standard breakfast (a hard-boiled egg and piece of fruit) along with this lunch and a reasonable dinner, I feel so much better. I’m prone to heartburn and bloating if I eat too much dairy and processed wheat, so limiting those items to dinner (and then only in modest portions) helps me feel so much better and manage my weight.

By the way, if you’re at all tempted to skip the apple cider vinegar in this recipe, don’t. Because the recipe relies on water instead of broth and uses very little oil, the vinegar gives this soup a depth of flavor that it needs. Of course, I just mentioned that I often throw in a bouillon cube or two, but it doesn’t really need it. I do it because I find that if the soup has a hint of beef or chicken flavor, my kids are more likely to eat it.

This recipe makes a hearty amount of soup — enough for everyone in my family to eat it for lunch on Sunday and then for me to pack lunches with it all week. And it keeps well in the refrigerator for a full seven days. I’ve even frozen this soup after a week when I had leftovers I couldn’t bear to throw out.

Bon apetit!

With gratitude {for lunch alternatives that make life a little healthier and a lot more flavorful, as well as a mother-in-law who recently gave me a 7-quart cast iron Dutch Oven — perfect for big batches of Sunday soup — after hearing me lament the constraints of my 4-quart pot, which she also purchased},

Joan, who wishes to send love and hugs to her friend Phoo-D on the birth of her second daughter, Sarah Jane

A prayer for Oklahoma.

Dear friends,

OK

By now, you probably know the horrible news about my beloved home state. I had a business dinner last night that kept me away from the television until after 8:00 pm and, by that time, the news was hard to absorb.

Mercifully, all of my friends and family are safe. Most of my friends and all of my family are in the northeastern part of the state and, though a couple of tornadoes passed over my hometown, none of them touched down. And none of my Oklahoma City-area friends were caught in the Moore devastation. I spent the evening checking Facebook and other social media to confirm their safety.

As nerve-wracking as it would have been to be there, it was also difficult to watch from afar. When I heard a tornado warning had been announced for my hometown, I reminded my friends via Facebook that our home, which is still for sale and is occupied by a friend/caretaker, has a basement for anyone needing shelter. Later I learned many of my friends had indeed taken shelter at a variety of locations — an act that many native Okies only do when it’s “really bad.”

Like every native Okie I know, I have my share of weather stories, including once being in an untethered mobile home that was momentarily lifted in the air by a small twister. I know well the feeling of being separated from loved ones as tornadoes passed through the area and being frightened for their safety — in the days before cell phones and social media — until they arrived home. I clearly remember the May 3, 1999 EF5 tornado that hit OKC because that storm system made its way to the small town where Mr. Mom and I were huddled with our kids in a first-floor bathroom. I remember so many “bad ones”  that I and my loved ones always managed to sidestep, including a 1974 Tulsa tornado that caused minor injuries to my brother and lifelong anxiety for my mother.

What I’ve been blessed never to know is the heartache that accompanies a tragedy like yesterday’s. And it seems all I can do is count my blessings and offer prayers for those in need — of shelter, of recovery, of healing, of the hearts of all of us who have comfort and assistance to offer in the face of so much loss.

With gratitude {for the safety of so many of my Oklahoma family and friends},

Joan, whose second expression of gratitude will be a contribution to the Oklahoma Red Cross and who will be anxious to hear about other opportunities to provide aid

In the eloquent words of my friend Don: “Today we are neither Cowboy or Sooner, Democrat or Republican, Red, Yellow, Black or White, Christian, Muslim or Jew, Conservative or Liberal, we are through the grace of God, those sons and daughters of these wind blown plains, that are called Okies. We will fuss and fight later, but for now we’ll roll up our sleeves and all pull together and rebuild this Great State.  So help us God and hold us steadfast.”

Sunday Supper revisited.

Dear friends,

sundaysupper

Back when I blogged under the name of Mayberry Magpie, I created a series of Monday posts called “Sunday Supper” about the family dinner I had created the evening before. I typically created elaborate place settings and menus, and then shared many photos of the table and all the recipes from the meal. On a handful of really complicated meals with multiple dishes, I even created step-by-step timelines to help the novice cook time her supper so that all dishes were ready to serve at the same time.

It was quite an undertaking. I often planned my meals a couple of weeks in advance, and I spent the entire day prepping, cooking, photographing and writing. I had a small but faithful readership and I did it because 1) planning and serving lovely meals is the thing I most love to do, an expression of art and love so inextricably linked to who I am that I very nearly consider it a calling; and 2) as silly as it sounds, I felt like I had found a creative niche. There are thousands of food blogs, but none other (that I knew of) that combined both cooking and table arranging into a single beautiful package. And I was always proud of the fact that I had no training and no hired help or stylists and I could say “Yes, that’s really what our table looked like for dinner and that’s really the menu I prepared.”

I suspect some thought my posts were for show. But the truth is I’ve not been blogging about Sunday Suppers for more than two years, but my family will attest that we still eat lovely meals I’ve prepared on tables set with china and linens most Sunday nights. I have an insatiable appetite for collecting dishes and linens and I figure my weekend enterprise puts my obsession to good use. Not to mention that the meals are usually pretty darn tasty.

And back to that calling thing — I feel so strongly about the value of family meals that I wrote this on my former blog:

     Family meal time is sacred. A home-cooked meal served on a lovely table in the company of loved ones will cure nearly all ills — nutritional, social, and spiritual.  Join me each week for a Sunday Supper that combines delicious food with inspiring tablescapes — the perfect combination for mealtime communions that create lasting memories.

I still feel that way, though I haven’t gone to such great lengths to share the results. But this week, I decided to wade back in to my old blogging waters . . . at least up to my ankles.

Last night we enjoyed one of the tastiest but simple meals I’ve prepared in a long time. I made this grilled tri-tip roast and served it thinly sliced with black bean and corn salad. That’s it, other than a few accompaniments like homemade salsa and corn tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and warm flour tortillas. I wrapped my beef in a warm tortilla with sour cream and cheese. Kate ate her beef with bean and corn salad over tortilla chips, nacho style. Parker and Mr. Mom simply consumed huge amounts of both beef and bean and corn salad. It was a style-your-own supper that worked for everybody.

And as usual, the table was colorful and pretty with black toile dishes, rattan chargers, a striped runner, red linen napkins, and a centerpiece of roses and hydrangeas.

table

Oh, and dessert was probably the best part! I warmed banana nut/chocolate chip muffins in the microwave and served each with a scoop of butter pecan ice cream and a drizzle of caramel/date topping. It was easy-peasy with a huge taste payoff, thanks to homemade muffins and the best date sauce you’ll ever eat. (For those interested in giving this a try, note that I followed the muffin recipe to the “T” except I added a half cup of chocolate chips.)

dessert2

It was my friend and longtime reader Deb who commented on yesterday’s post and encouraged me to tell you about this Sunday’s Supper. And after being a lazy blogger for so very long, I decided to take her up on it, albeit with a slightly different format. Thanks, Deb, for reminding me how satisfying it is to share our family meals with a wider audience.

With gratitude {for faithful readers far and wide and and eager diners ’round my table},

Joan, who never knew how much she liked dates until she discovered the Date Lady (an Ozarks gem!) in a Springfield grocery store and is delighted to support a Missouri entrepreneur

Debt of Gratitude Corn and Bean Salad

(Also known as Joan’s Favorite Summertime Dip)

1 can of corn, drained
1 can of black beans, drained
5 green onions, chopped, including green parts
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 TBLS olive oil
4 TBLS lime juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Combine first 8 ingredients and set aside.  Whisk together olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.  Pour over other ingredients and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  Serve with tortilla chips.  Serves 8.

A bright spot.

Dear friends,

As you know if you read yesterday’s post, there was no TG in my IF this week. In addition to working Thursday and Friday night and all day Saturday, I ran over my dog, which is a sure way to ruin one’s weekend.

Things are looking up for Sunday, though.

I made some yummy banana-nut muffins for breakfast and I have this mouth-watering recipe on tap for our first Sunday Supper since Kate moved home for the summer. (And everybody knows how much I love family suppers!)

And . . . I added a lovely burst of color to our otherwise neutral living room in the form of a new rug and some throw pillows. Take a look:

living

As you can see, my furniture and my jute rug are all shades of camel. And my walls are white — which makes for a pretty bland room. (I know some would say my neutral palette is “calming” but I’m a person who craves color.) My pottery and art add pops of color, but I wanted something to grab your attention.

Here’s a close-up view:

rug

Isn’t it amazing what a colorful rug and pillows can do for your room?

I’ve selected some bright yellow fabric to sew a slipcover for my ottoman. And I hope to reupholster the sofa in a luxe navy velvet if I ever save enough money.

In the mean time, my pretty new rug perks things up considerably.

And sometimes, a bright spot is all a girl needs.

With gratitude {for a quick fix},

Joan, whose also thrilled to have her favorite grocery shopper back in the house, despite what it means for her snack habits

Bad. Badder. Baddest.

Dear friends,

Yesterday was a crapola day.

It started first thing with a severe vision disturbance that is a sure sign of an impending migraine. I was on my way to a meeting when my vision got all wonky. I don’t know how to explain what it’s like except to say it’s sorta like looking through a kaleidoscope and sorta like looking through goggles with Vaseline smeared on them.

In case you’re wondering, this was bad.

And wouldn’t you know it — I had recently switched purses and failed to transfer my medication to the purse I was carrying. Fortunately, a colleague who also suffers from migraines slipped me one of her capsules right as I stepped into the meeting.

Unfortunately, it’s not the exact prescription I take. So the effect was pretty weird. I felt like I had the flu and a wicked case of heartburn simultaneously. That I talked my way through an hour-long meeting in my flu-heartburn-kaleidoscope vision state is — in my humble opinion — a testament to an enviable talent at faking a whole lot of things.

Which might be a good thing normally, but the flu-heartburn-kaleidoscope vision state was definitely badder.

By the time I left the meeting, my migraine was nearing full bloom, so I went home and laid in the dark for two hours, mostly sleeping. When I awoke, I felt considerably better, although I kept asking Kate the same question. When she pointed this out to me, all I could say is “Sorry. I have a migraine.”

Still, I made it back to the office before 3:00 pm and put in two good hours, after which I had a couple of hours to spare before a business dinner. As I drove home, that’s where things really fell apart.

My sweet new puppy, Lily Pad, got too close to my tires as I pulled into the garage and I ran her over.

By the time I killed the engine and got out of the car, she was lying in the grass beside the garage with both back legs splayed to the side and wailing for mercy. Mr. Mom heard the commotion and came right out. Lily was bleeding and quivering and a pitiful sight to behold.

I’m guessing you can imagine how I felt. Flu-heartburn-kaleidoscope vision was a cake-walk compared to running over your dog, which is B-A-D-D-E-S-T.

Mr. Mom scooped Lily up and we headed for the Vet’s office. It was after 5:00 pm on a Friday, so we called ahead and the doctor was kind enough to wait on us.

Fortunately, she was only a little banged up. Her tail was split open and she had numerous abrasions, but no broken bones. The doctor gave her two shots — an antibiotic and a steroid — and a prescription to help her through the next few days. Mr. Mom treated her abrasions and we returned her to a shady spot in our yard by Ed’s side.

A few hours later, Mr. Mom observed her running full-tilt after a squirrel in our woods so we figured all was well. We’ve taken to calling the delicate Lily Pad a new name — Iron Dog.

With gratitude {for pliable puppy bones and a happy ending to an otherwise sucky Friday},

Joan, who is easily amused by Lily’s coonhound nose, which compels the pooch to retrieve and carry any object handled by her family, including empty flower pots

lily

In the nest.

Dear friends,

nest

Kate came home last night. When she and Mr. Mom drove up just as the sun was going down, my shoulders relaxed a little and I couldn’t help but sigh in relief. I gave them both big hugs in the driveway and thought about how lucky any mother is to experience a homecoming of loved ones.

We spent the evening hauling boxes, unpacking, and listening to her funny college stories — all four of us plus her boyfriend, Jake, and her dog, SweetPea, piled on her her bed as if it were a life boat and we might drown if we left her side.

I couldn’t be more content to have her back in my nest for the summer. I hope we’ll make time for all kinds of fun, like watching old episodes of West Wing, going on float trips, participating in our annual girls weekend, making shopping trips to St. Louis, and engaging in any other activity that sparks our mutual interest during the glorious 90 days of summer she’ll spend in Missouri.

Kate’s looking for a seasonal job and enrolling in two summer classes, so her schedule will no doubt be tight. Still, just the opportunity to cook a few of my special “Sunday Suppers” while she’s home will satisfy this hen’s need to fuss over her chicks. Oh, and I hope to finish her quilt so she can go back to school knowing there’s nothing better than a mother’s love in which to wrap oneself tightly.

By the way, we had a fabulous time in Phoenix. Kate’s team lost in the “Round of 16” but they gave the #3 team in the nation a run for their money in a very competitive match. Given the ordeal our girls have been through, I’d say just qualifying for the National Championship was a victory. They only lost one player to graduation, so they’re a young team with a highly promising future.

As you might imagine, I took a ton of photos during our four-day trip.  I won’t bore you with a travelogue, but I will share with you this favorite from the tournament awards banquet:

teamphoto

With gratitude {for my favorite girls, tennis, travel, vacation time with family, and all things summer},

Joan, who would love to hear what you’ve got planned for your summer