Summer, Sewing, & Retirement

Every once in awhile I need an attitude adjustment. This retirement thing is a work in progress. Even after 2 1/2 years I can easily fall into lazy habits, get off track, cringe when I jump on the scale, and well…basically I need to refocus! Not that I am not busy but I sometimes have found myself being busy with the business of being busy.

Huh????

Last week is a perfect example. On Monday I was at the hospital all day waiting for the arrival of our newest great-granddaughter. Very exciting! I was the on call labor coach in case the young parents needed reinforcements. I have been front and center for four of my own (of course), my sister, and four grandchildren. For six others I have impatiently sat in the waiting room. I have completed 3 Lamaze classes, read countless books, and offered too many hours to count of advice by phone, visits to nervous moms, and had more than most of sleepless nights in this miracle of babies, pregnancy, and babies being born. So there was no place I would have rather been!!

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I mean, is she perfect or what????

It was also the weekend visit of one of my oldest and dearest friends, a baby shower of her second grandchild, and a visit from our oldest grandson, home from almost two years away. During the week I met a sister for lunch, had my brother staying with us (and thrilled to have him back),  met a friend for coffee and another dear friend for our usual swimming meet up. Church, household stuff, Bible study, and oh yeah…Thommmee-the most patient and understanding husband on the planet needed some attention too.

Anyway, I realized that all of this business was causing me to stress a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the moments with all of the scheduling. I was talking too much about what I still had to do (how special did that make the person I was with feel?) so….readjusting and focusing on my friends and family became priority. Fortunately, these wonderful people love me as is and were most patient with me. I have to say, I treasure each and everyone of them!

Once I realized what I was doing I reminded myself to do what I love, make Thommmee a top priority, and slow down a bit. After all, retirement does not need a checklist!

What does that have to do with sewing you might ask? One of the things I love is sewing. My newest project is making these Sprocket Pillows.

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(for a niece)

They are so fun to make and a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

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(given to a granddaughter)

I am giving them away as fast as I make them.

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(another granddaughter)

I am not offering a tutorial as I was not able to obtain permission from the website where I found them (besides her tutorial is so fantastic). You can find instructions at cluckclucksew with a template included.

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(my friends grandson-nursery colors black, white, and gray!)

They are simple, fairly quick, and come in two sizes.

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We are leaving in a few days for a trip. It will include a visit along the California coast. Our itinerary open and flexible. Brother is back to work, baby and new parents are doing fine (we saw them yesterday). The grads have graduated, no birthdays, and the diet is out the window anyway.  No sewing next week but, that is alright.

I am ready for some quiet and time with Thommmee.

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Birthdays

Do you hate birthdays? Enjoy them?  While some people plan elaborate parties others prefer to let them pass quietly by. Not our family! We make a big deal out of birthdays for every person-every year.

It’s exhausting!

I was ten years old in 1960 when our parents  decided to load up the station wagon and move five kids, across country from Maryland to California. A moving truck took some of our belongs and Dad hauled a rented moving trailer behind the car. With dreams of starting fresh, they headed out some 3,000, miles for a new life in The Land of Milk and Honey (became known as The Golden State in 1968).

In the days before seatbelts were required (or in fact used much) we were able to spread out and claim our favorite spots for a trip that would take three weeks! Perhaps it was because we had never really vacationed before that our parents made this long journey an adventure. Most days we settled into a Holiday Inn with a pool and spent the late afternoon and evening swimming in a “real” pool! No more blow up or soft sided pools for us!  We must have eaten out some but supporting a family of seven on my dad’s income alone must have been difficult. (Surely there was an ice chest full of Kool-Aid and bologna sandwiches, but I actually do not remember). Dad worked  six days a week and  typical of the times, Mom was a stay at home mother. Thinking back I cannot imagine how they afforded this trip or how difficult it must have been to uproot five kids under ten years old.  I only remember the adventure we had! To see such sights a the Mississippi River, (even Mexico), or the desert of the Southwest was a dream come true for kids who had never ventured far from home. Sure, we had seen the great sights of Washington DC but a real road trip-it was a chance of a lifetime to be sure.

I was never really clear why they decided to leave behind their brothers and sisters, a large number of cousins, lifelong friends, and even a few grandparents. They would simply tell us that they always dreamed of living in California. This didn’t make a great deal of sense since our mom was miserable for the first few years and  Dad really missed his siblings. In those days long distance phone calls were expensive and it was not as easy to reach out to those left behind. Perhaps that is why they made such a fuss over birthdays and with it began the tradition of the

Birthday Party.

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To be sure, they couldn’t have known how it would spiral out of control in the coming years but for our little California family it was everything. Soon another sister came along and now there were eight of us.

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With only two of us sharing the same birthday month, that left seven months in which to celebrate. December with no birthdays allowed us to focus on Christmas and in November, with no birthdays, Thanksgiving was our big event. Easter seldom interfered with any birthdays so we pretty much had a celebration about every month. We did not  invite friends to these birthdays. It was all about family! We had a special dinner followed by your favorite cake (which Mom always baked) and ice cream. Presents were always a part of the festivities. With little to spare (I am sure) our wonderful parents managed to provide a very special celebration. It was never about the extravagance of the gifts but always more about the giving.

In late 1970, things changed, I got married! Now a new person was added to the birthday rotation. The following year we had a daughter and another birthday to celebrate. Two years later another daughter until  there were soon four little ones. I know some of their fondest memories are the birthday celebrations at grandma and grandpa’s house. Adding to the numbers was a slow process and many of the dynamics in the family changed. A brother and sister were married for awhile, eventually a nephew was born, another sister married. And still the birthday parties continued-for every person, every year. Naturally I took over many of the celebrations at my home, my parents added a pool to theirs. Usually it was grandma and grandpa’s house. Dad just loved having his family at his table. The kids loved the pool. We all pitched in.

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As the size of the family increased so did the number of birthday parties. In 1997 Dad died. It really was his love of family and celebrating that kept this in motion  We began to make some changes. My sisters and I established the…

Annual Sister’s Birthday.

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(hamming it up at the Sister’s Birthday party)

  The brothers had a joint party in the spring.  More grandkids and spouses were added.

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(hey, this is supposed to be a happy occasion!)

My son moved out of state with his daughter.  Birthday parties were combined. Then Mom was gone. Still the parties continued. A grandson joined the military and moved away.  Great grandkids slowly arrived.  People had jobs and families to deal with. The kids pitched in and organized and had parties in their homes.  We had beach birthday parties, pool parties, camping parties,  pizza parties, and barbeques.

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Sure, some people couldn’t make it to every party but that didn’t stop us. You can’t change tradition…

…or can you?

Over the last years or so, some of the adult kids have said no to having a traditional party. Occasionally they will opt for small affair of some sort.

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At first I resisted. After all, these were my kids but… here we were some 56 years later. Thommmee and I seldom miss a party. I am tired. A few years ago I told the kids I was done with the party planning business. Invite us and we will come. At first this worked well. They jumped to the challenge.

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(looks like a forest fire!)

They made quarterly birthday events but then… slowly… something strange happened…. some birthdays went ‘semi’ celebrated (at least in any formal way). Sure, we still dropped by with a gift and good wishes or mailed birthday and gift cards. The younger kids were still being celebrated. I closed my eyes and

just let it all happen.

We go when called and never forget (no not one) birthday. My siblings and I still celebrate-so far. As for the big  Sisters  Annual Birthday…? I don’t know. We lost a sister last year and another is planning to move away. That leaves just two. We haven’t yet decided what to do. My brother is off on his own adventure and we don’t know his plans. Yes, the other brother will have a party at the end of the month.

The loving tribute started by my parents has now come full circle, I think. It is, perhaps, time for new traditions to be established. We were taught the value of a loving  family and that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Hopefully these values will continue to be passed on.  I am so grateful for these many years together and many celebrations.  At times it has been difficult to embrace the changes. I am ready to let go. Its funny to me that the kids will not allow me to miss my birthday celebration while refusing to have one of their own.  Despite celebrating with my sisters they always insisted on having some special celebration with me. I always  feel a bit strange about this. Maybe it is their way of giving to me what they received all of these years, or because they love me, or simply it brings them pleasure. Whatever the reason I am going to lovingly accept their gift this year with no fuss-simply gratitude.

Birthdays will somehow always remain a very special part of our family.

Thanks Mom and Dad. You were the Best!

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(I bet they are smiling)

 

 

 

In Search Of Fall

Autumn.

Such a lovely time of year…or so I hear. In Southern California we don’t get much in the way of fall so on our recent road trip we searched for signs of the changing seasons.

Near the painted desert in Arizona we did not see many signs of autumn.

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But it was nice nonetheless.

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We stayed in a charming Bed & Breakfast.

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By the time we reached Missouri we began to see a few signs of fall colors. Not as much as expected. It seems fall is late this year and our trip was a little too early.

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It was rather lovely at The Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri.

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If you don’t know the story (and I didn’t) about the founder of Precious Moments,

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it is worth reading this touching story.

Ste, Genevieve, Missouri was our next stop. This is a quaint town along the Mississippi River.

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Fall also means Homecoming and Football games. We attended a local Homecoming parade here and it brought back memories of fall days gone by.

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The Mississippi River, clouds, and a bright blue sky also made me think fall.

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Warm days and cool nights.

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In Chicago, however,  we pulled out our coats. We had the opportunity to take part in the Buffalo Bro radio show. Buffalo Bro is a true Chicago icon. A real cowboy in the Midwest. He is also a muralist and a professor when he is not hosting a University radio show.

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(Did I mention he is also my brother-in law?)

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Fall finally showed some of its colors in Wisconsin where we visited our granddaughter and her family.

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Kansas offered miles and miles of farmlands.

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And prairies… but not much else.

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Heading home through the Rocky Mountains…

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… we finally found the fall colors we were in search of.

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Finally…

 as we drove by Las Vegas in the early morning hours, we reflected on the 4,700 miles and 14 states traveled.

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We returned home to 100 degree weather.

Coats went back in the closet and guess what?

I didn’t mind a bit.

After all…

There is no place like home.

Not just another road trip!

Whew! We just returned from a whirlwind 9 day road trip. Our goals were to visit a cousin in Northern Idaho and to see Yellowstone National Park. We kept our plans somewhat flexible and managed to see at least parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada with over 2,000 miles driven. It was a marvelous trip but I am exhausted.  I have decided to share just a few highlights of our trip and allow the pictures to do most of the talking.

Mono Lake, California

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You can see the effects of the drought clearly here.

A night in Boise, Idaho at an adorable guest house

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A 2 night visit with family in Sand Point, Idaho.

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Lake Pend ‘Oreille

The cousins lovely home on 28 acres

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We really appreciated their hospitality.

Next stop…

Yellowstone National Park

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Geysers and Paint Pots dot many parts of the park.

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WOW!

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Buffalo sighting!

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I didn’t know about this gem.

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A view of the valley taken from the canyon edge.

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Impossible to express the vastness, diversity, and beauty of this place with just a few pictures.

Our Kamper Cabin located at Flagg Ranch was just outside the park. A new take on camping but very convenient. Just the basics.

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Possibly my favorite of all was The Tetons

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View of The Tetons from Lake Jenny

We came across this quaint chapel in the middle of Wyoming

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Looks more like an old ranch.

Of course I could go on and on but I will spare you. I know we all have busy lives, blogs to write and blogs to read. I do appreciate you taking a moment to stop by for a snapshot of our trip.

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Until next time…

Summertime!

I have been a bit absent and distracted from my blog for the past few weeks. I have tried to keep up with my favorite bloggers but may may have missed a few of you. It might take me some time to catch up.

What have I been up to????

Well…

I have been granddaughter and doggie sitting for a few weeks.

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 (while their parents have been in Alaska!)

A few beach trips…

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 …and poolside with grandkids or my swimming buddy.

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Giving sewing lessons…

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My recent project of sewing 150 zippered bags is complete and they are now finding new homes across the globe.

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Making more strawberry jam.

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(seems I give it away almost as fast as I make it…or eat it!)

 Hitting a few yard sales. Picked up this great rattan chair.

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 (One of the cats thinks we bought it just for her)

Planning a trip to Idaho via Yellowstone and the Tetons later this month. (Did I say road trip?)

 Heading to Big Bear Lake in the local mountains for a 3 day camping trip.

(No campfires allowed due to the drought and high fire danger)

 Catching up on some housework

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 with a little help.

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 And summer has only just begun!

Saying Good-bye to Summer

Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer. The stores have been full of back to school shoppers. Already the pens, pencils, and notebooks are being pushed aside to make room for the Halloween goodies.  Kids all around us have started back to classes with a few stragglers  preparing to resume their studies within the next few weeks.

 For us summer for has meant beach outings,

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road trips,

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 playing outdoors,

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and swimming pools.

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It has been enjoying cool mornings before it gets too hot,

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 evening sunsets,

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and tomatoes from our garden.

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We have had some 100 degree plus temps and higher electric bills-but for us in Southern California, this is just the beginning.  September and October will bring us Santa Anna winds, hotter temperatures, higher fire danger, and more serious drought conditions. It will also extend our summer and allow us to enjoy more of the fun… wpid-2013-10-27-11.50.52.jpg.jpeg

…until we are so tired of the heat we will welcome with open arms the coolness of  a late fall.

The best part of the year is still to come!

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November is my favorite month. We will have pleasant days and chilly nights. The winds will have blown all the dust and dirt away.  There will be blue skies.

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We will pull up our blankets at night and run around in jeans and a t-shirt during the day.

We will take a rides

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and go camping in the desert for Thanksgiving.

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Before we know it (dare I say it???)

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It will be Christmas!

Oh the things you see…

We have been away from home for almost two weeks. We have seen some absolute beauty, reconnected with some wondeful people, had a fantastic time, and well…seen some most interesting things…

…like the biker in the Colorado mountains…

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…with his tiger riding shotgun…

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…the custom trailer designed to look like a sports car…

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….and the drive through the Eisenhower Tunnel in the Colorado mountains.

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Loved seeing the Clydesdale horses at the brewery in St Louis…

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…the funky (but cute) area near the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque…

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…and the New Mexico rest stops.

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I cherished spending time with family…

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…meeting interesting characters…

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…enjoying the sunrises…

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… and the fun we had seeing it all…

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…together.