Friday, August 31, 2012

Do not eat the cake!

A friend sent me this photo because I love sewing and there was a time when I really played with cake decorating.  That was before the quilt bug bit me, however.  

Today my Wilton supplies are all neatly stored in their own special box, which I take out at least once yearly at Easter to use the food coloring on the eggs.

Have you taken a close look? This sewing basket is really an award winning novelty cake by Meg Davis who is a hospital chef at Northern Devon Healthcare in North Devon, England.  It took me a while to find the news post on the hospital website, but I really do like to give you the sense of where my information originates.

I'm posting about the cake because it's interesting, unbelievably realistic and all over Pinterest.  Besides, I've dabbled in cake decorating, so I have a tiny bit of an idea of the amount of work and talent that goes into making such a stunning cake.

I'd assume that the bits and bobs are all made of fondant, which molds easily, but there's no need for assumption since I read the article, which notes, "The cake is made of Madeira sponge and covered with sugar paste. All the contents of the box are individually made of sugar paste. The completed cake and decorations took some 30 hours to complete."

How difficult is it to make some of the items, I don't even want to guess.  Consider the needles.  From the looks of it, these needles have eyes.  And the tape measures have tiny lines and numbers.  A close look at the spools of thread?  There's writing on the edges.    

I don't know what is more amazing to me--that she was able to include such detail or that she stuck with it until all the items were complete.  Truth be told: I'd eat the mistakes (yes, there would be some) then I'd eat the pretty good items, then I'd give up finishing the cake and eat the really pretty items!  Maybe I'd have snapped a picture or two just to show that I'd made some progress but, really, how does one NOT eat the cake?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Isaac Recovery

Although we had no damage from Hurricane Isaac, it seems that south Louisiana and west Mississippi have their share of miseries.  Flooding, electrical outages, downed trees and other problems are the result of Isaac's wrath.
map from
We got some rain and a bit of wind, which knocked down a few trees and took out power lines, but for the most part we are basically unscathed.

I spent yesterday reading a book that I'd brought home from the library.  It's one that came in over the summer, so it's not processed yet, but I knew I'd need something to do should the lights go out and this one seemed interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book based on the true events of 1979, when a police officer was shot in the face and his family threatened.  Twenty years later the shooter's brother confessed to the crime.  During that time, however, the family endured isolation from family and friends, first as prisoners in their own home and later when they moved away from Maine in an attempt to lead a normal life.

Another interesting reason to pick up the book is that half of the story is told from the point of view of John Busby, who because he was a police officer can provide detailed accounts as both the victim and the professional.  The other chapters are told by daughter Cylin who was nine years old when her father was shot.  Cylin writes from   a childhood perspective telling about her feelings, her loss and her naivete.  
photo from

Here's an interesting note for those who would like to read this memoir or other works by Cylin Busby Ross: she is a writer of young adult books, has worked at Teen Magazine and has her own blog/website.  

I do plan to get a few more of her YA books for the library and can't wait to recommend this author to some of my readers at school.  It's going to be fun to hear their reactions to her works.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Back to the drawing board.....part 2

We've been on a five year mission at my house.  Yes, really!  I'm generally not that determined when it comes to home decor, but we have a beautiful set of bow windows in our living area.  Not long after we built the house, I gave up trying to find drapes that would take advantage of the shape of the window.  I posted our first attempts to replace the original system here.

After searching for a system that would follow the curved shape of the window, allowing us to use the window seat and still open the drapes when we want, I found a system I liked at Ikea last year while at the Houston Quilt Festival, but my brilliant husband had to cut and piece the straight and curved pieces to make them fit the bow shape.  

So, after we determined that our brilliant system would not work with the straight rods that fit on the top and bottom of the drapes, I had to rethink how to make Richard's design work.  And rethink, I did.  A true believer that when you're making something work, you might need different parts of the system than you originally think, I had picked up parts that I was hoping I wouldn't need.  I know, it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  But, understand, the extras were only a few dollars and I was sure I could use them if the rods I liked didn't work.  

In the end, the extras are what I've used.  (so there!)  Tonight we are sitting pretty with drapes that work quite well.  The systems are the same, but the drape attachments are different.  On the back window I've put the original panels on the straight rods.  On the bow window are the drapes on the sew-in attachments.

So if a slew of kids and grandkids show up for a hurricane party, we'll have space for everyone to sit and drapes to block out the ugly weather.   Now won't that be a great way to party?  I'd rather have a different kind of party, but we can't argue with what God sends our way, so we're planning to make the best of it.  Hopeful prayers that no one is injured or harmed and that the damage is not too great.

So what do you think?  Not too bad for a five year project?  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to the drawing board.....part 1

While our kids were busy helping their dad prepare for the hurricane that is now supposed to arrive sometime around Tuesday or Wednesday, I was in the studio working on drapes for the living room.  

After we built the house in the early 1990's, we invested in vertical shades that worked very well for quite a long time.  In fact, they worked until the grandchildren got old enough to play with the pull strings.  At some point, the system just didn't work anymore: it would stick, some of the blinds were missing, and none of the blinds would twist open.  It was getting old and hopeless.

I really liked the burgundy color and purchased fabric and the backing to make some drapes, then began the search for a system that would follow the shape of the our bow window and still open.

Fast forward at least five years: I still had not found a system that would do what I wanted.  Every system I found had some sort of support that blocked the drapes from opening.  Last year while in Houston for the International Quilt Festival, my sisters and I went to Ikea.  

Voila!  Ikea had a system I loved!  Called the Kvartal system, it did not follow the shape of our bow window, but there were some sections that curved to form 45 degree angles.  I purchased what I thought would maybe work and brought everything home.  My husband is brilliant!  He took what I purchased and made the system that was in my head!

Did I tell you that my husband is brilliant?  I made the drapes, attached them to the top and bottom pieces and hung them in place.  It worked but not well.  The problem, it turned out, is that the top and bottom drape pieces are straight but the system is curved.  Darn!  Back to the drawing board.

It all looks good here, but this is not going to work, after all.  It's just too hard to move the panels.  I haven't given's just a matter of putting my brilliant hubby back to work!

Sunday, August 26, 2012


See this?

This is The Weather Channel model for Isaac's path.  That purple line runs right over our house.  In fact, if I were to zoom in, I think I'd see the studio. 

I'm joking, of course, (maybe to keep from crying) but it does appear that the hurricane is headed for us no matter which of the paths it takes.  We are prepared, but I'm sure that there are many who are not.  I hope they get ready by Tuesday because I'm very certain that there will not be a thing left on the shelves by tomorrow afternoon.  

To prepare we've tanked up the vehicles and have extra fuel set aside to run the generator.  We'll move the generator to the house tomorrow so that we don't have to go out in the storm if (or when) the lights go out.  We've picked up non-perishables to feed an army; have extra batteries, candles, and water; and have made sure that loose furniture and such are put away.  

While Haiti cleans up, we are getting ready for the same storm.  We are watching The Weather Channel continuously, for one.

The kids came over the weekend to cut up and haul off a limb that had fallen last week.  They also cut the grass and did a few other things to help out.  Rich had a heart cath procedure so he's not able to do those things.  Will and Stacey were a great help in taking care of doing what Rich normally does.  I'm especially grateful to them because it would have meant my doing those things with Rich trying to help.

If you don't hear from me again for a while, it's likely that the reason has to do with a visit from Hurricane Issac.  I expect electricity, internet and phone services to go out for at least a few days.  

I'm good, though, I do have a hand crank sewing machine to keep me busy when I'm not cooking and cleaning for the army of kids and grandkids.  

We do tend to pile up together during these events.  I think that's so we can take care of each other and know we're all safe.  But it could be because misery loves company.

Happy Quilting,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: Just Listen

According to her website, People Magazine calls Sarah Dessen's novel, Just Listen, "A cut above chick lit," meaning it's a book better than most books for young girls.  On this count, I'd have to agree.  

I picked up the book from my library counter with the intent of putting it away.  
Because I do enjoy Dessen's books, I thought I'd thumb through it quickly to decide whether I'd come back to it later.  I read the book in its entirety yesterday afternoon.  

Admittedly, I had to work to finish it before lights out at 10:00 (Rich thinks a schedule will help me to get more sleep) but, honestly the book is neither difficult nor long winded.  I like that in a book, especially YA lit.

Annabel seems to have it all--a modeling career, friends, family, money, etc.  However, there are two things in Annabel's life that are kept deeply hidden: one horrible event that she cannot bring herself to tell and her inability to confront others or deal with uncomfortable situations.  Though she has lost two best friends, fears her mother's weak emotional state and runs from the only boy she has ever cared for, Annabel survives on sheer will power, using her inner strength to steel herself against the unspeakable.  Observing family dynamics and seeing changes in family members and friends strengthens Annabel so that she is able to face her own secrets and fears. 

Definitely a great read,  Just Listen is one I'd strongly recommend to any young adult looking for a realistic novel that portrays serious themes, well-developed characters and contemporary music genres.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Book Review: Vanishing Acts

Imagine being a young mother with a life you love and appreciate when one evening the police knock on your door.  

For Delia Hopkins, the police are a regular thing: she and her dog work to rescue other people.   When the police come knocking on one particular night, however, Delia's life changes forever.

Every bit of her life, she soon discovers has been a lie committed by her father to prevent her mother from finding them.  Delia's name, her earliest memories, everything in her life is suddenly different.

When her father is transported to Arizona, Delia, Eric and Fitz follow him, each for different reasons.  With her best friend and fiancee in Arizona, Delia attempts to save her father, get to know her mother and find herself.  

Picoult's book had me enthralled from beginning to end.  I wanted to know how Delia's relationships with her parents, her fiancee, and her friend, Fitz, develop.  Details of Arthur's life behind bars, Delia's mental state and work, and an underlying theme of alcoholism keep the novel moving and provide shifts in the story that makes it fresh and fast. 

I appreciate the moral issues that Vanishing Act raises and found myself thinking about many of the questions Picoult poses.  This is one book I'll be recommending to students when they visit the library!

Monday, August 20, 2012

More Old Memories

Continuing from last night's post of old photos from my mom's house.

In this photo three of the grandsons as little boys sitting on the front steps at the parents' house.  My oldest son, William, is the one in the middle; the other two boys are Angie's, Chris and Philip.  

One of the things we noticed right away is that there are no shrubs around the porch.  Mom planted flowers every year, but they didn't do well because there were always kids jumping off the porch.  When these boys got big just a little older, she tried to deter them by planting holly shrubs because they have serious stickers.  That just taught them how to jump high.  We got lots of laughs about mom's shrubs. 

This is mom wearing some crazy glasses.  She loved doing outrageous, crazy things.  We have photos of her with all manner of craziness going on.  Dad was the stodgy one: he wouldn't even laugh at her!  We girls, on the other hand, encouraged all the craziness she could muster.  Her favorite comediennes were Carol Burnette and Lucille Ball.  Is there any wonder?

Christmas at mom's.


An ordinary day for dad...relaxing on his recliner with the newspaper.  He loved to read every bit of the paper and had a subscription all his life.

Angie, her two boys, my son Will, Jeanne and Lisa.  I must be the one snapping the picture....look how blurred! 

Feel free to leave a comment and tell me what you think.  Do you have old photos?  What do you do with them?  How do you share them with others?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Old Memories

These old photos were some still left at my parents' house.  I promised to scan them for my sisters and post them so they'd access.  Some of them are recent enough that I'm able to at least identify the subjects.  Some have short notes dating them.  

Some are just old photos: there's no way for me to identify the subjects, the dates, the backgrounds.  They are still interesting, though, and we decided that we wanted a way to share them.

First up: three photos of my parents on a trip to Colorado when they were still young enough to venture into the mountains.  There are no children in the photos, so Iassume that the youngest of our family, Jeanne, was already in the Air Force and living in ND.  Chances are pretty good mom and dad are on their way to or from a visit to Jeanne's.

Next: the oldest photo of them all, in sepia!  I have no clue who the gentleman is, who the children are, when or where this was taken.  I like to think that maybe it was a great-grandfather, but I have no idea how to figure it out as there's no information on the back.

The next is a black and white of six friends posing in front of the Andrew Jackson statue in Jackson Square in New Orleans.  I think my mom is the second one from the left in the white glasses.  

Then we have this darling little baby sitting in a 1950's chair.  I'd guess this is my sister Courtney, but I really can't say.  The timing is right and the baby sure looks like Cookie did.  I'd venture a guess that she's sitting in Uncle Tat and Aunt Velma's house but, again, I can only guess.  This is one cute baby, though!

The characters in this next picture are easily identified: My dad is surrounded by several of us.  I'm going to wait for my sisters' to help identify the girls.  I may be the blond squatting at his feet, but that's all I'll guess for now.

Don't you love old photos?  I have a few more that I've scanned but I'll have to post those later: I have a test to finish up and lesson plans to write for tomorrow, so it's back to work for me.  
Have a great week! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bread Pudding

I've played with a couple of recipes for making bread pudding, but I've found "the bomb," as the kids say.  This recipe is unbelievably delicious--sweet, crunchy, and flavorful.

I thought that since I love this recipe so much, I would share it with you.  Warning: It's good, but it comes with the price of calories!

Bread Pudding 

  • 10 slices white bread
  • 2 c granulated sugar
  • 2/3 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 c butter or margarine
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 c milk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp rum extract
  • 1 c chopped pecans
Spray 9X13 baking dish.  Cube the bread and spread in the baking dish.  Using electric mixer, blend sugars and margarine until fluffy; add eggs one at a time.  Pour in milk; add extracts mix well.  Sprinkle pecans over bread cubes.  

Carefully pour sugar mixture over bread cubes and allow bread to soak up mixture.  (I speed the process by pouring the mix into the corners and the center, then stirring the bread around so all of it gets to the puddles.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More classroom work

Although school has already started and we've had almost a week of classes, I'm still working on my classroom.     I needed to add curtains on the window and to dress up the cinder-block walls, which are painted a light off-white and look very big when empty.   
Rich came by after school yesterday and helped me with a few things.  I had already hung some posters and put up a bulletin board. 

I found a pretty border for the bulletin board and let that set the color scheme: aqua blue, pink, orange, lime and red.  Since our school colors are red and white, I decided to use red for the background.  The large pieces of paper have my classroom rules on them and a few other procedures that the kids need to know.  The smaller circles are hand-cut polka dots to coordinate with the polka dots on the border .  

After I made the curtain for the window, I still had some of the fabric left and even had a coordinating stripe, so I made curtains to hang over the book shelves.  This way the things I store won't show.  

The book shelf on the far right wouldn't fit in it's space.  So Rich somehow took off a brace and slid it into the area.  Now the shelves are all the same depth.

I actually have a working blackboard, but I don't use it much because I couldn't find any chalk.  I've since picked up some at the store. 

And finally, a great friend, Janice, who also works at BHS and uses my classroom for one block, brought in the wires I needed to get the smart board working!  Yay!  Now we can both use the smart board, the small white board and the chalk board as we need.  

I had scrubbed the desks, shelves and boards before school started, so now everything is in working order and looks good.  

I guess you could say we're finally ready, although they've been coming for several days now!  Sometimes that's how it works.  Later, updates on the library, if I can remember to take some pics.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A new discovery!

While cruising around on the internet last weekend, I made an interesting discovery.  I don't remember exactly how I found it, but there was some sort of post or note, or something, that I clicked on.  

Voila!  there on my computer screen was a listing of Louisiana Quilt Guilds.  All in one easy about that?  

The site, you ask?  It's  

I'm posting it for two reasons:  I think it's an interesting find, and I want to be able to find it again.  I guess I could put it somewhere else, but I thought I'd share it with you.  If you're interested in quilt guilds in your state or other part of the world, (hello, Jan-Maree and Rita) just click on Home then go to your own state or nation.  Also available are games, quilt shows, calendars, books, and publicity ideas.  
Happy Quilting,

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Songs of the Humpback Whale

photo from
I finished Jodi Picoult's Songs of the Humpback Whales over the weekend.  Although I have loved every book I've read by Picoult, this is not my favorite.  In fact, on Saturday I was telling Richard about the book and found myself getting a bit annoyed.  

I've been trying to decide how to recommend this book to students, but honestly, I'm not sure I can.  I can easily give a book talk that will turn them on to the book, but recommend?  I'm just not sure.

Firstly, there's no real purpose for the overly extended drive that the two protagonists, a mother/daughter duo, take from San Diego to a small town in Massachusetts.  Who, traveling cross country on a very limited budget, will go an extra 1000 miles?  No one.  

Secondly, there are too many repeats of parts of the story.  Told from the points of view of several characters, the story is told by one character then retold by another.  I get it: different people see things differently.  But not in this novel.  It's as if Picoult simply took advantage of cut and paste on her computer.  
Jodi Picoult
photo from her website

Finally, I was very disappointed with Jane's behavior.  She leaves her husband, Oliver, at the beginning of the novel and drives across the U. S. to meet her brother and, after arriving, falls in love with Sam.  That she has an affair is one thing.  She falls for him, believing that he is her soul mate.  But then she leaves Sam to go back to Oliver.  No.  Not real life.  Sure, Jane is upset.  Jane cries.  But leave?  

Either Jane is married to Oliver and, saying she believes in marriage, does not have the affair.  Or she is miserable in her marriage, which she says over and over, and leaves Oliver for Sam.  Having had an affair and finding her true self in the process, she would not throw it all away.  

Daughter Rebecca,15, is aware of her parents' bad marriage and accepts that her mother is happier with Sam.  Why would she expect Jane to return to California as Jane seems to think?  A daughter who loves her mother as much as Rebecca does would not expect her mother to throw away her new-found happiness. 

My distaste for this novel is okay, however.  I'm now reading another Picoult novel, Vanishing Acts and, already on page 125, I'm loving it as much as I love and recommend My Sister's Keeper and House Rules.  

Sunday, August 12, 2012


This weekend I had the idea of hanging some old boxes in the studio to use as shelves.  The area above my sewing table has one shelf that Richard built last summer, but it didn't take long to fill the shelf up with glass jars of notions.  

Above the shelf I had a quilt, a calendar, and a clock.  Changing these things has become something of a bother.  I had to climb on top of the sewing table every month to change the calendar and occasionally to change out the quilt or fix the clock.  That climbing got old very quickly: 52 year old achy knees do not appreciate any kind of climbing,

I found these old boxes many years ago while at an antiques place.  They may have cost me $10 total, but when I got home with them, I had no idea what to do with them.  They went into the shed and hung out with Richard for several years.  

Once I had accumulated several other vintage finds, I decided it was time to do something with my old boxes.  So I dragged them into the studio, cleaned them up, and stacked them on the side of the sofa to eventually turn into a side table with storage.  

 I don't know what gave me the idea of hanging them on the wall.  I think I saw something on Pinterest.  I climbed on the table, took off all the stuff above the shelf and played with the boxes until I found an arrangement I liked that also worked with the existing studs.  Richard dropped in a couple of screws while I held the box and made sure each was straight using his level.

Because I am a little worried about what will happen to the fabrics where the quilts touch the wood, I've put down some plastic bags.  I plan to get some heavier plastic and hot glue it in place so that all sides of the boxes are covered, but for the purpose of taking photos the bags will do.  

I'm using the smallest box to put some of the larger glass jars in.  They hold vintage laces and buttons from my mom and grandmother.

The other two boxes will hold small quilts.  I folded up the quilts that go into the largest box and, for fun, rolled up the quilts in the medium sized box.

I must admit, I really like the end result.  And since I don't often have a need to move these quilts, I won't be climbing on the sewing table quite as often.
Happy quilting,