Saturday, November 30, 2013

Merry Christmas! Roll Tide!

Just a little holiday music to get you in the spirit of beating Auburn Christmas!

Friday, November 29, 2013

#BFSI - Black Friday Sew In

It's time for the Black Friday Sew In, and I'm extra excited this year.  I have the day off work and anticipate at least a few hours of quilting time.  I have not had time to sew much lately, so I can't wait!

Use hashtag #BFSI to get in on all the action with us on Twitter.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

We thank Thee, Father,
God, of all,
For green of Spring,
And gold of Fall!

For shining stars,
For calm of night,
For trees in bloom,
For birds in flight;

For music of
The sky and sea;
For love of friends
And family;

For woods and hills
And lakes and streams;
For laughter, song,
And hopes and dreams.

For mother's tender,
Loving care -
For things of beauty

We thank Thee for
The joy of living;
And sing a hymn
Of our thanksgiving!

From This Wonderful Day: Poems of Prayer and Thanksgiving by Ilo Orleans
Copyright 1958 by Union of American Hebrew Congregations

Monday, November 25, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Thankful for an Easy Week!

It's Menu Plan Monday and it's an easy week for menu planning!  Instead of making a freezer meal, we're using one.  We found a new yummy pizza place right near my office, so I'm going to pick that up on Tuesday after work for when Deuce gets home.  On Wednesday the office closes at three, and I'll make one of Deuce's most requested dinners, but that's really the only night I'm cooking.  And TPB has decided that he is cooking on Friday.  Saturday we're going on a surprise date night.  It sounds like such a relaxing week - completely NOT what I expected. 

Once again, I've exercised not at all, and I have no illusions that I'll get all motivated this week.  I'm aiming for next Monday to kick start this back up to at least keep any extra holiday pounds at bay.

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
  • Sunday - Roast beef with potatoes, asparagus, tossed salad
  • Monday -Use a freezer meal - Chicken Rollatini, salad, garlic bread
  • Tuesday -Deuce comes home!  Pizza night!
  • Wednesday - Deuce's favorite - pork chops, yellow rice, salad
  • Thursday - TPB's birthday dinner at the in-laws'
  • Friday - TPB is cooking
  • Saturday - Date night!  Leftovers for the kiddos
What's on your menu?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 13 - Quiltin' Jenny in the Dining Room with the Vacuum Cleaner

Holiday Grand Plan

Can you believe it's Thanksgiving week already? And Week 13 of our Grand Plan.

More important, it's The Pit Boss's birthday. Happy birthday, my love!

It's also the anniversary of our first date.  I'm not sure how many people have pictures from their first date, but we went to dinner with his cousin who had just gotten engaged and she was a little shutter happy. 

For week 13, it's all about getting ready for Thanksgiving.  Batman has still not put in an appearance, but my parents are on the West Coast in preparation so Thanksgiving has been transformed.  Last week the plan was to host the traditional feast at our house, and do TPB's birthday dinner on Friday at my in-laws'.  Since everyone who is left in town just had a big turkey dinner a few weeks ago, and his birthday often gets lost in the "I can't believe I ate so much!", we decided to have his birthday on Thursday.  My MiL will make her famous country fried steak and gravy, and I'll be making TPB's birthday cake request - Mama Ruby's Made-From-Scratch Caramel Cake.  Usually this is Mom's job, so wish me luck!

I can't wait for Deuce to come home on Tuesday night, and for a few days off work to enjoy having all my chicks in the nest. 

What's happening at your house this week?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

#TBT - Throwback Thursday - His Cabin in the Woods

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

It's The Pit Boss's birthday on Sunday, so I thought I'd share the only quilt I ever made just for him. Which is sad, now that I think about it, because there is no one more important to me!

I found this flannel panel and the coordinating fabrics at a wonderful shop in Dahlonega, Georgia called Magical Threads.  (They have knitting supplies as well.)  I took it all on retreat with me one year around 2002 when my BQF Pam and I went to the Quilter's Rescue Mission, now called Quilting in Toccoa.

It was super simple - just borders around the panel.  I did some of my earliest FMQing in the gold border and in the panel.  I wasn't sure how to quilt the sky, so I chose an imaginary point behind the house where I pictured the setting sun and quilted radiating lines out from there. 

TPB has always dreamed of living out the country on a lot of land with fewer people around.  That is not exactly how our life has turned out!  I called this quilt His Cabin in the Woods since it is looking less and less like he will ever get a real one.  Sorry, Honey!

I love the three little bears and the smoke drifting from the chimney.  Even though our life is more suburban than he'd like, I hope TPB and our kids feel like they come home to a cozy house every night.

This quilt still lives on the back of our couch and is the go-to quilt when someone is feeling sick, grouchy, or otherwise pitiful and needs comfort. 

Now I want to see your blast from the past.  Link up and let us all see!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Waiting for Batman

It's Menu Plan Monday and we are on Batman alert.  Even though my SiL's due date is December 1, some new developments indicate that this baby will arrive this week.  Maybe even today, depending on how the doctor's appointment goes this afternoon.  Prayers, positive thoughts, crossed fingers, and general good vibrations for a safe and easy delivery are appreciated. 

In the meantime, I'm trying to stick to my routine.  As I mentioned, TPB and the kids have been fantastic with the new schedule, and Grace has asked if she can be responsible for one meal a week.  I can't wait for dinner Tuesday night, and I'm so proud of her!

I never made it onto the elliptical this week.  That routine seems to be going the WRONG direction, along with the scale.  I'm trying not to beat myself up about it since I have so much going on, but I also know that when I exercise regularly everything else feels better.  Fingers crossed for tomorrow morning!

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

*This is my freezer meal for the week

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 12 - Attic? Or Catch Up?

Holiday Grand Plan

It is Week 12 of the Holiday Grand Plan and we are heading into the last trimester of this little adventure!  This week's deep cleaning section is the attic, which we don't use for anything but extra insulation and storing the furnace, so I have a week to catch up on all the stuff I have missed.  Perfect timing!

It's a good thing, too, because after all my bragging last week about how I don't have to do much for Thanksgiving at Mom's, it looks like Batman may arrive this week and I'll be in charge of EVERYTHING!   I'm not that worried because I do Christmas every year and sort of have the routine down.  There will only be nine of us, and my MiL and her cousin and my aunt will all pitch in.  No one is high maintenance, so there won't be any fancy centerpieces or place cards.  Just plenty of good food and gratitude.

I made a breakthrough on gift ideas for The Pit Boss.  I now have an idea for his birthday AND Christmas, which is just about a jackpot for me.  If I could figure out our dads, it would be easy breezy from here til December.  Seriously.  Why are men so challenging to shop for?  Oh, I remember!  Because when they want something they just go buy it.  Yeah, that.

Gracie is going to make our freezer meal this week.  She has asked if she can cook dinner one night a week, and her selection this week is Crock Pot Chicken Bolognese Sauce.  I'll have her double it and freeze half for a busy December night.

I think this week my treat to freeze will be another coffee cake for breakfasts when my boy is home next week. 

Marbled Coffee Cake
  • 1 square unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 Tbsp shortening
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1/2 C shortening
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C buttermilk (or 1 C milk + 1 tsp vinegar)
  • 3 C flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350.   Grease and flour a 10" tube pan.
  2. Microwave chocolate square and 1 Tbsp shortening until melted; set aside.  
  3. Cream butter and 1/2 C shortening.  Gradually add sugar, beating well on medium speed.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.  dissolve baking soda in buttermilk.  
  4. Combine flour and salt; add to creamed mixture alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.  Do not overbeat.   
  5. Stir in almond and vanilla extract.
  6. Remove 2 C of the batter and mix with the chocolate/shortening from step 2. 
  7. Spoon 1/3 of remaining batter into pan.  Top with 1/2 of chocolate batter.  Repeat layers, ending with the plain. 
  8. Gently swirl with a butter knife to create a marbled effect.
  9. Bake at 350 for 65-70 minutes or until done.
  10. Cool in pan 10-15 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Do you have an attic to clean?  If not, what will you use this week to catch up on? 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Phone Etiquette - A Public Service Announcement

I'm just finished week three of my new job, and so far it is going well. I love the people, the company, and the beautiful environment where I spend every day.

Some of you have asked what I'm doing.  I'm one of the receptionists for a large medical recruiting company.  I prepare mailings for the marketing people and recruiters, attend to visitors, and assist with the Facilities Team and their needs, but mostly I answer the phone.  Calls run the gamut between "Can you transfer me to extension 4502 please?" to "Is this the Louisiana Department of Revenue?" and everything in between. 

I find it incredibly entertaining how quickly I have found favorites, among the callers and the employees alike, in such a short time.  There is already a list in my head of the funny requests I've gotten and the types of calls that make us shake our heads.  I have been guilty of many of these, so this post is purely for educational purposes.

Dos and Don'ts of Modern Telephone Usage:
  • Don't just hit "redial" on your phone and ask "Who called me?" All of these calls at my office come right back through to reception, and I have no way of knowing which of the 300+ employees on one of the five floors tried to reach you twenty minutes ago.  Or yesterday.
  • If someone leaves you a message, listen to it before calling back.  It might say, "I'm about to go into a meeting and won't be able to take your return call until after lunch."  It might say, "No need to call me back.  The meeting with Dr. Brown will be in Conference Room C."  It might even say, "My direct number is 555-463-1212."  
  • If you break rules #1 and #2 in the same call, please don't ask me to "hang on a sec'" while you listen to the message or check your email to find out who you are trying to reach.  Calls are stacking up behind yours like planes circling La Guardia in snowstorm.  
  • Use a hands free system or speakerphone appropriately.  Not only have I heard snippets of conversation in the background that I'm pretty sure weren't meant for my ears, but it's very hard to understand you when you're going seventy miles an hour with the window down and the radio on.  Screaming does not make it easier.  I'm just sayin'.
  • Listen to how the person answers the phone.  If the answer is "Thank you for calling Bank of America" and you launch into a four minute spiel about how your sink is leaking and the faucet might still be under warranty but maybe not before realizing you've misdialed, it's embarrassing.  Also, you've wasted four minutes my time and yours. 

Now you have a little glimpse of my new adventure.  I am meeting new and interesting people every day, and the more I get the hang of things, the more extra little tasks others are sharing to keep me busy.  I am lucky to work for a company that takes excellent care of its employees, and I especially liked yesterday when I got my first paycheck!

The kids and The Pit Boss are taking it all in stride.  Thursday was wonderful when I came home to find that TPB and Gracie had dinner ready and waiting.  Everyone at work thinks knows he's the best husband ever after he sent me roses last week and came to meet me for lunch. 

I'm trying to keep up with the blog posts, but I know you'll understand if some weeks they are a little more scattered.  We're anxiously awaiting the arrival of Batman (maybe this week!) and Deuce's Thanksgiving break. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

#TBT- Throwback Thursday - Say the Blessing

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

 Today's quilt is a table runner from March, 2008 that I designed with the help of fellow guild member Suzanne H (also the mastermind behind our hilarious holiday party every year) and made with the help of some other seventh grade moms back when Deuce was in middle school.

This was another of the gala auction projects that I coordinated.  Each year, the class makes some sort of art that is sold at the auction.  In the younger grades, it's easier to come up with projects that are so precious; however, middle school tends to be a time when their art isn't quite art, but is past the point of being cute. 

Suzanne gave me this great idea that she had done for her own kids' school.  It's a table runner with the student's own handwriting on it. 

Each child was asked to find a Bible verse related to eating or drinking and write it on a practice sheet that was a duplicate of the fabric square they would be writing on.  Then I gave them a square of fabric that had been ironed on to freezer paper and was tucked into a little cardboard template window.  

We used these squares to put the blocks together into these two beautiful table runners.  I love these so much, and would love to make one with blank squares that guests could sign when they visit.  I think that would be an awesome wedding gift. 

My mom had a tablecloth like that a long time ago.  I should see if she can find it so I can photograph it and show it to you.  There are some very special signatures on it!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Almost Normal

On this Veteran's Day, I'd like to take a moment to say
thank you for your service.
I'm especially grateful for my dad, FiL, grandfathers, and uncles,
and that they all came home.
Praying for those who are still missing
and the families of those who were lost.
We remember.

It's Menu Plan Monday and my new schedule feels almost normal.  I'm getting into a bit of a groove, and it feels manageable for now.  The menu planning is a fairly well established habit at this point, and we're taking advantage of the lull between sports to spend Saturday morning cleaning the house together.  I try to throw in a load of laundry when I wake up, then move it to the dryer before I leave for work.  When I come home, at least one load is done so I can fold and put away while we watch TV and catch up.  Since the kids do their own on the weekends, it hasn't been a problem to stay on top of it. 

I didn't do so well on the exercise front this week, but I think that was partly due to the whole daylight savings time issue and partly due to the rainy, cold weather.  I was awake, but couldn't drag myself out of my cozy bed except for one day. 

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

*These are my freezer meals for the week

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 11 - Thinking of Thanksgiving

Holiday Grand Plan

It's Week 11 of the Holiday Grand Plan and we staring down Thanksgiving!

Luckily for me, Thanksgiving is at Mom and Dad's, so I don't have to do too much to get ready.  Unless Batman shows up early, in which case all bets are off.  Each year I make a turkey, a pie or two, and occasionally a side dish. 

It's very casual, so I don't have to get hung up on holiday clothing.  We like to be comfortable, so my only rule is that everyone has to wear a clean nice shirt.  In my humble opinion, holidays should not feel like more work than work.

Deep cleaning this week is supposed to be the garage and storage areas.  That is a mixed bag for me.  Cleaning out the garage would be a fantastic idea.  I typically save the storage area cleaning for when the Christmas decorations are out of it and when I am putting them back.  Unless you want to talk about the unfinished room in the basement where the furnace is, which I definitely do NOT.  Ugh.

My treat to share will be the Cranberry Bread I told you about yesterday.  I'm thinking of making it in mini loaf pans to share with my team at work.

For my freezer meal this week, I think I'm going to try my MiL's chicken and dumplings.  I've never made them because she makes them and brings us the leftovers, but this would be a wonderful dinner to have on hand when Deuce is home for his Christmas break.  If it works out, I'll share the recipe.  Remind me.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cranberry Thanksgiving

This book is from when I was a little girl, younger than Gracie is.

I love this story for so many reasons:  I love Thanksgiving, I love cranberry bread, and I love the message about not judging a book by its cover.

I remember reading this with my mom as Thanksgiving approached and then making the "famous" cranberry bread recipe on the back of the book.  It freezes beautifully and makes a delightful breakfast on those chilly autumn mornings.

Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread
(Get Mother to help)
  • 2 C sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 C butter or margarine
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 3/4 C orange juice
  • 1 1/2 C light raisins
  • 1 1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries, chopped
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into a large bowl.  Cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.  Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice all at once; stir just until mixture is evenly moist.  Fold in raisins and cranberries.
Spoon into greased 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pan.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from pan; cool on a wire rack.

If you choose, you may substitute cranberries for the raisins to have an all cranberry bread. [This is what I do. - ed.]

Recipe tested by the Food Department of Parents' Magazine

Thursday, November 7, 2013

#TBT - Throwback Thursday - Pocket Full of Prayers

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

Today's quilt has a very special story behind it.  Nine years ago, my friend Lisa was rushed to the emergency room because of numbness in her face and a terrible headache.  After several days of panic, worrying about an aneurism or a stroke, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and scheduled for surgery.

Her group of friends pulled together and did what we could.  We brought dinner, we ferried kids, and we drove her to chemo and radiation.  Mostly we prayed.  We prayed together in groups saying the rosary and we prayed alone in the early morning hours of Adoration.  We prayed hard, and when it was over and the tumor was gone, we rejoiced.

Unfortunately, that joy lasted less than a year before the tumor was back.  When we found out that it had returned and that Lisa would have to leave for The Brain Tumor Center at Duke University in a matter of days, I turned to the one thing that helps my heart when it hurts.  Quilting.

Gracie's note to Lisa
I sent a mass email to all of Lisa's friends and asked them to bring me little things: prayer cards, notes of encouragement, religious medals or relics - anything they thought would make Lisa feel our love and prayers surrounding her while she was far away.

I had seen this envelope quilt block on Simply Quilts with Alex Anderson, and immediately started cutting out the pieces.  Within 48 hours I had the quilt together and a huge collection of items to put in each little pocket.  As each person came to see the quilt and bring their contribution, we shared stories and hugs and a few tears.

Lisa loved the quilt and all of the messages.  I hope it comforted her during the next three years of constant travel to and from Duke, chemotherapy, blood draws, hospital visits, and dealing with insurance companies. 

Lisa died four years ago last week, the morning before Halloween.  Sometimes I still can't believe it.  I was so sure that she would be the miracle. 

I learned so much from Lisa in that five years about attitude and determination; even the doctors were baffled at times by how she just kept going.  She was a wonderful friend, an awesome mom, and a true inspiration.  I miss her so much!

This quilt is perfect for letting someone know how special they are to you.  It is easy enough for a true beginner, and would work for so many occasions, especially when words are not enough. 


Now I want to see your blast from the past.  Link up and let us all see!


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WiP Wednesday - No Strings Attached

WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

I'm linking up with WiP Wednesday over at Freshly Pieced.

Work is still going great but I have not had a bit of time for quilting. As Jaye always says, I'm going to have to make time to sew at least one seam or fold one piece of fabric or cut out one thing each day. For now, I'm pretty much coming home, getting dinner done, eaten, cleaned up, and then crawling into bed with a load of laundry to fold and some Big Bang Theory.

As predicted, I didn't finish my challenge quilt in time for Monday's meeting. I'll have to write another post about that meeting later, but the quilts were fabulousHowever, I'm not abandoning the project; I believe it will be a perfectly mindless way to work sewing back into my schedule.  

String piecing is great for any pocket of found time, whether it's five minutes or two hours, and doesn't require a lot of figuring out where you left off the last time.  If I find some time to cut, there are no worries about exact measurements or accuracy either. 

At our last WannaBees meeting, I spent the time cutting strings from odd chunks of fabric so that I have a varied stack just sitting and waiting for me by my machine.  I tried to cut them at slightly wonky angles and vary the widths for more interest. 

So far it hasn't helped, but you never know.  What are you working on?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Getting in the Habit

It's Menu Plan Monday and I'm feeling like a pro already at this whole work life balance thing!  Ha ha!  Just kidding. 

However, I will say that writing a weekly post is a huge help, and I cannot imagine trying to do this a year ago when I wasn't in the habit of knowing what was for dinner at 4:45 on any given day menu planning.

I did manage to get up early and get on the elliptical 3 times this week, and I'm slowly inching my way back down the low point of my weight loss after it had been steadily going up.  The Pit Boss and Gracie are getting in on the action as well now that she's done with cross country, and have been walking George and Daisy together.  That makes everyone happy!

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

*This is my freezer meal for the week

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 10 - Time to Pay the Piper

Holiday Grand Plan

It's time for Week 10 of the Holiday Grand Plan, and we've made it past the half way point.  It was a great week, and a big part of being able to enjoy it was the work we've done so far.  My first week of work went well; everyone was so welcoming and friendly. 

Then my big boy arrived home on Wednesday for his fall break, and it was so great to have all my chicks in the nest again.  I slept great for the last four nights!  We celebrated Halloween with some wonderful friends, then watched the high school football team win against their crosstown/region rival by one point in a nail biter. 

Yesterday we celebrated my MiL's birthday and an early Thanksgiving with The Pit Boss's family.  It was delicious!  We finished it off watching the 'Noles beat Miami.  I'm exhausted but so happy!

This week is supposed to be for deep cleaning the family room, but remember back on Week 2 when I did the family room instead of my office?  Yeah, now it's time to pay the piper and get my office under control.  And not a moment too soon!  After a summer of working from home, it's due. 

My freezer meal this week will be my marinated flank steak.  We are supposed to have some spectacular fall weather this week, with sunny days and highs in the low 60s.  I want to enjoy grilling out a few more times before it turns chilly.

As far as goodies to share, I'll be doing some replacing this week.  We ate up the Peanut Butter Fingers yesterday along with all of the other desserts Gracie, Mom and I made. 

During my lunch break from work one day, I hit a toy store and found two more gifts to ship to California.  I'm almost ready to get that box wrapped and packed.  It's the only thing I mail for the holidays, and it feels good when it's ready to go.

Now I have another question for you who work outside the home: do you buy a gift for your boss?  Coworkers?  Where do you draw the line, and what are some of your best ideas? 

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