happypathbookclub

our book club reads happy books!

A Thankful Week!

Welcome to Monday!

Today wraps up a very busy week for me – probably for you too.

Of course it all kicked off last Sunday with Book Club and our traditional November soup party at Beth’s house.

Our book was China Dolls by Lisa See.china dollsThis was a fascinating book about a subject I knew very little about. We had a very interesting discussion.

Another highlight of course was Beth’s soup! She went with a dual Autumn/Chinese theme, so there was  Butternut Squash soup and Chinese Chicken. I had the squash and it was delicious – I heard the chicken was great too.

As always, the fun and food was excellent.

Onwards to Thanksgiving!

I must admit when I think of Thanksgiving my heart is with my entire family. I grew up with Thanksgiving being a minimum of 11 people. Anything smaller never feels Thanksgivingy enough to me. The Thanksgiving in 2009 at my  Mom & Dad’s Northeast Philly twin home with 32 people kind of was the pinnacle. Fun for sure, but no one wants a repeat!

Here’s why:

tgiving2tgiving3

If it looks like every one had to sit down and stay there until everyone got up, and if it looks like we were jammed in there so tight some of us could barely move our arms to lift our forks to our mouths, you’ve got the idea!

So when Trish decided that she didn’t want to brave this kind of crowd with baby Nadia, I completely understood and pulled out all my Thanksgiving recipes and started to cook.

Things I’m grateful for:

1. Our band of four has increased to six- more than halfway to eleven!

2. I get to buy cute outfits like this:nadiath3. A husband that makes things like this awesome cranberry jalapeno sauce.

cranberry4. That I remembered to not put the potato peels in the garbage disposal, even though they are garbage and it is called a garbage disposal.

potatopeelsWe have changed the garbage disposal twice after Thanksgiving due to potato peels, and I would rather be jammed into a small room with 32 people and try to eat a turkey dinner than do that again! I will just call it the “water that is a little bit grey with a couple of  teeny tiny pieces of garbage in it disposal”.

On Saturday we celebrated my baby sister’s 50th birthday. I have two sisters that created beautiful scrap/memory books for each of the siblings 50 birthdays. On Saturday all 11 of us and our spouses got together to present the final scrapbook. It felt like a milestone and another thing to be grateful for: that my Mom, Dad, and all 9 children could be together to celebrate this event.

On Sunday, we celebrated yet another milestone: Nadia Clair was baptized.

She wore the christening dress her Mom wore (another little girl in a white dress):

christening dress

Such a joyful day!

baptismchr1chr2chr3

 

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Latest Finish!

I completed this project in August.

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I delayed posting about it because I felt like it needed one more thing:

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Meet my grandbaby, Nadia Claire!
She is such a delight and I love her so much!

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“The Blessings”

Book Club was at my house this month. The book was “The Blessings” by Elise Juska.

blessings

I really enjoyed this book. As I noted at book club, it reinforced for me how much I love a depressing book! Although, I did not find this book as depressing as most other club members did. While the Blessings face many challenges in the course of the novel, doesn’t every family? And I found the way the family supported and accepted  each other inspiring. I found many of the relationships moving, particularly the one between the matriarch and the young widow, Lauren. I also loved the style in which it was written. Each chapter is told from a different family member’s point of view. Other book club members wanted the details that were missing from each person’s story, but I feel like all the snippets came together beautifully to tell the story of the whole family.

One thing we all agreed on: we loved that the setting was Philadelphia. Although all but one of us live in the ‘burbs, I still consider myself a Northeast Philly girl. The details of the story were very different, but this family felt very much like my own. And while I have never actually ate pink fluff, I know exactly what it is and have avoided it on many occasions. I actually considered that it would be the perfect refreshment for book club, but decided to have something that people would actually want to eat! I decided to go with some classic Philly food: pretzels, Federal donuts, and Goldenberg Peanut Chews. And a little fruit salad just because it’s good for you.

FederalDonuts-HalfDozenInBox-2

So we had a good book discussion and good food, but something else that caught my attention was Janet’s fun Birthday project. To celebrate a milestone birthday, she has set a goal to do 50 fun things this summer. It has been fun seeing what she has been up via her Facebook posts!

It got me thinking about having fun too! So even though I don’t have a specific goal in mind, here are some fun things I have been up to:

1. Booked a vacation to Jamaica! As we know, anticipation is half the fun.

2. Made plans with my friend Mary to attend Quilt Odyssey again this year! I’m really looking forward to it and can’t wait to hear about all Mary’s quilting accomplishments since I’ve seen her. I know she was as  inspired as I was last year and she got busy with her quilting too.

3. Went to see the movie “Jersey Boys”. What made it even more fun was my son asked me to go with him. It was nice to go with someone who wasn’t just going because he owes me for “Edge of Tomorrow” (and he still does!). It brought back nice memories of seeing the Broadway show together and we both really liked it way more than we thought we would. I must say I was never a Clint Eastwood fan and when I heard he was directing and producing it, I was nervous. But I’m happy to say I was wrong. He did a great job translating a fun show into a fun movie. Music, the mob, and merriment! What more could you want? Go see it!

3a. I saw the trailer for “Gone Girl” before “Jersey Boys”! I had seen it on the internet before, but seeing it on the big screen got me excited all over again! Creepy and amazing! I must admit, when I saw “opening October 3rd”, my immediate thought was, “I hope Trish holds off having the baby till after this date”.  She is the #1 person I want to see this movie with (even if she has to leave the theater 10x to go the bathroom!). She’s the one I know will enjoy seeing what kind of movie they make of the wonderful novel. And she will enjoy bashing it with me if they wreck it. (Hello, “Time Traveler’s Wife!) But I have high hopes for the movie. David Fincher who directed “The Social Network”, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, and “House of Cards” is the director. Hopefully he will do his usual brilliant job. And while I initially had my doubts about Ben Affleck as Nick, the idea is growing on me. He has the right look, and the one-facial-expression-for-every-occasion acting style he displayed in “Argo” may work for portraying  a dazed man who is the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife.

Watch the trailer! And do fun things  this summer!

 

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Hey! I Wrote a Blog Post!

I’m happy to be back blogging after a short hiatus. The main reason for the absence  is because I missed the March meeting – for the first time! (Except for the very first meeting, but I hadn’t joined the group yet.)I was so bummed that I had to miss the meeting , because the book was “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Stinson.rosie projectI had read the book back in October, so I wanted to re-read it to refresh my memory. I mostly hate re-reading because I feel like it takes away  time I could be spending reading something new. So I listened to it on CD. To be honest, I think I loved it even more on audio. I never heard how everyone else liked it – please leave a comment and let me know!

 

This month’s book was “Drama High” by Michael Sokolove.

drama high

This book seemed like a no brainer to me because our book group is composed of former “drama mamas” and high school drama participants. And the story is very local – it is about the drama program at Truman High School and its drama teacher Lou Volpe. I may be exaggerating a little when I say Bensalem High School considers Truman its arch rival, but I was interested to see how everyone responded to the book. Some of our members have met Lou Volpe and seen the productions chronicled in the book. Most of the members seemed to enjoy the book. The two members that really hated it were members of BHS drama not so long ago. I understand why they were irritated – BHS has a great drama program and teacher also. But it was a reminder that there are great teachers everywhere and they make a big difference in children’s lives.

I can’t resist posting a memory quilt picture of my great times at drama high:BHS Drama quilt frontThe most fun I had at book club was sharing this piece of news I received right around Valentine’s Day:

bib

I can’t wait to be a Grandmom! Here’s how I’ve been practicing:

When I see a brand new baby, I do not say, “That baby needs a hat!”        I’m not sure why I get the urge to say the phrase  that irritated me the most when I was a young mother. (And what was I thinking – that baby probably did need a hat!!)

 

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Made with Love

I must admit, from a sewing table perspective, I’m spoiled.

I learned to sew on my mother’s White sewing machine in a built-in cabinet. It looked very similar to this:

White Sewing Machine 77MG and Cabinet

When I got my own Kenmore  sewing machine shortly after I got married, my husband got me a great sewing machine cabinet to put it in.  It has lots of storage and a hydraulic lift so you can use the machine flush with the table or  on the table top for free arm sewing. When I got my Brother sewing machine, my husband modified the opening to accommodate my new machine. It looks like this:

brother

When I got my new Babylock Jane, he tried to modify it again, but for various reasons it didn’t work. The machine is too heavy and it has a vertical bobbin that is awkward to access without the extension table attached.  I’ve been using my Jane on the top of the old sewing cabinet. But as I mentioned, I am spoiled and I am used  to sewing in a set in table. Also, I have been working on so many projects lately (including Leah Day’s Building Blocks Quilt Along) I thought it would be nice to have my Brother set up too. Less thread changing, foot changing etc. So  I went on the hunt for a DIY sewing table.  As predicted, Husband was not impressed with the Ikea table. Once he found a table he thought was suitable, the hard part was over. (The hard part for me, that is!)

Of course I forgot to take a picture of the table before we modified it, but here’s a link:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Dining-Table-Natural/5924565

We began our project with  a lot of staring, pondering, and  planning (probably the most important step!),  followed by a lot of measuring and a couple of trips to Home Depot and Harbor Freight.

Then it was time to break out the power tools!

Before we cut out the big  hole for the machine Husband cut out holes at all the corners so we could have rounded edges.

table top

“Duh” moment of the day: I was sent in search of a circle that would match the curves on the corner of my Jane. After a short hunt I found a prescription bottle, and as Husband drilled he mentioned  that the proper tool for the job  would be a stencil  with all different size circles on it. My reply? “Oh yeah – I just bought one last week!” (I’ll be FMQ circles soon!)

circles

In case you were wondering, the prescription bottle measured  exactly 1.5 inches! (That’s all I’ve done with the stencil so far – good investment!)

Time to cut the big hole:

table hole

Next we cut some boards and  attached them to the bottom of the table with construction adhesive and screws into the side of the table. We clamped them till the glue set. (well, till we were tired of waiting!)

table clamps

Then it was time to cut a piece of birch to size and get out the nail gun. I always get nervous when the nail gun comes out but we managed to get the wood attached with no stray nails in the brain, eye, etc. Excellent!

bottom

Here’s the finished  table, complete with a hole drilled  for the wires and to accommodate the presser foot knee lift. I love it!

jane

If you’re thinking about making your own sewing table, I say go for it! (says she who had her husband do it!) There are some important crossover skills between quilting and carpentry. In particular, the “staring, pondering, and planning” part. Also, the “measure twice, cut once” part. Although, in this case I would recommend “measure 5 or 6 times, cut once”. Fabric is a little less expensive to replace than a wooden table!

My husband hates when I talk about him on this blog. But on Valentine’s Day, I just have to. He has always indulged and spoiled me, whether it was buying me an awesome sewing cabinet at a time in our lives when it was a big extravagance,  or taking the “easy little projects” I find for him and taking them to the next level. He always supports me and my crazy ideas whether they are small (thread holder) or big (starting work full-time at a time in life when most people are thinking of retirement). Love you, hon – thanks for being my Valentine!

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Holiday Cheer

I find myself complaining a lot lately when I have a day off. I complain that I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done accomplished. I complain that I didn’t have any fun. I just complain!

This past Thursday, I took a vacation day and I accomplished everything on my “to do” list. The list was pretty short: enjoy the day and have fun!

The main event of the day was the Langhorne Borough Holiday House Tour, run by the Four Lanes End Garden Club. This is an annual event in Langhorne, but my first year attending. What a great event! I went with my Mom, a dear friend, and her mother-in-law. The houses were spectacular – I wavered between wanting to go home and decorate my house and thinking I wouldn’t even bother. I could never get my house as beautiful as these houses! We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I took a few outdoor shots:

 

holiday house vic

plant langhorne

All the houses were beautiful, but if I had to choose just one to live in, it would be this charming farm house:

house tour farm

We had lunch at the Langhorne Hotel.

Crab cakes – yum! It was a great afternoon, spent with great company. It filled my head with lots of great ideas, which I probably will never do! I’m realistic – although I love beautiful plants and flowers, I am more of an admirer than a creator in that area!

And my head is full of other things I want to create because of what I did next. My husband and I took a one hour ride to Byrne Sewing Connection.  My husband was there a couple of months ago when I had a “quilting emergency”, and I’ve been wanting to get there ever since. Their hours and my hours never seemed to coincide though. Since they are open till 7 on Thursdays, I figured I would take advantage of my vacation day and take a ride “just to look”.

Ever since my “quilting emergency” I have been contemplating the idea of a spare sewing machine. That idea morphed into the idea of getting a strictly straight stitch machine that would be better for free motion quilting. I had been doing some research. And that led to this:

jane

My brand new Babylock Jane sewing machine!!! I had to overcome a lot of guilt to buy this machine. (notice the perfectly good Brother machine in the background!) But after a weekend spent quilting on it, I must say I am so glad I got it and I only regret not getting it sooner. Three exclamation points do not really express how happy I am with it.

So that was my super fun vacation day, but as chance would have it, the fun did not stop there. While I was on the house tour, I got a text from my daughter. Did I want to “Run the Lights” at Shady Brook Farm on Friday? You bet I did! I had never seen this light show and it was so fun to run through all the holiday twinkling lights:

shady brook

To quote my good friend  the Grinch:

“What if Christmas, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas …perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Ok, my Baby Jane came from the store, but what really got me into the spirit of the holidays was spending some fun time with people I love!

grinch

I hope everyone else is taking time to enjoy the holiday season too!

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Shenandoah Adventure!

 

Or… accidental camping trip!

On my way!

 

car

I call it an accidental camping trip because when I signed up for it at the last-minute, I pictured cushy hotel rooms, beautiful views (which I would enjoy sitting on a comfy chair with an adult beverage in my hand) and restaurant meals. I was mistaken! (but not too sadly)

Here’s my “cushy room”:

room

After I got used to the musty smell, I actually kind of loved my room. The wood paneling is made from the original Chestnut trees that used to abound in the Shenandoah forest, but which are now sadly no longer there. (No, an abundance of  wood paneling was not the cause! An Asian chestnut blight was the culprit)

Upon arrival, I headed for my first hike, Mary’s summit:

 

fri hike

If this trail looks a little steep, do not be fooled – it was actually very steep! And this was just the beginning of the trail. But the trail lunch at the top was delicious and the view  was spectacular.

group fri

(Note spectacular view in background)

On Saturday morning a couple of us got up to watch the sunrise at Big Meadow. It was one of many favorite things I did all weekend. It was beautiful, quiet, and another opportunity for deer watching.

sunrise

Saturday morning it was breakfast at the campground where my niece and her husband were camping. (Yes, all my delicious restaurant meals turned in to delicious campground meals. Which would have been fine except for the cooking and cleaning up part!)

A rare event that should be captured on digital image when it is observed…

Pat cooking!

cooking

Our Saturday morning hike was the Milam Gap trail and this was my favorite hike of the weekend. An easy trail through a beautiful forest. The sights, colors and sounds were beautiful.

 

pretty trail

We came to a small clearing that had flowering bushes with hundreds of butterflies flitting around. This picture does not come close to conveying how enchanting it was:

butterfly

Another great thing about this hike: it was the only one our entire group did together – and there was no crying of fighting!

group sat

And now we come to Saturday’s hike. In all fairness to my hiking companions, they did warn me that it was “challenging” and was mostly a rock scramble. But they also told me the panoramic view from the top was awesome. I have no picture of the view from the top because I did not bring my camera, because I needed both hands to cling for dear life to the rocks so I would not tumble to my death off the side of a mountain.

Here is a picture of the trail I found on the internet:

 

At one point I was sure I was going to get one of my limb stuck in the rocks and I would have to cut it off to free myself like Aron Ralston in “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”. But then I remembered that I didn’t have a dull pocketknife with me. And I was with about 7 other people, most of whom had cell phones. So, I kept crawling to the top. The view was pretty nice, but I had a hard time enjoying it because I was too busy worrying that someone was going to fall off the mountain.

A word about wildlife: we saw deer and butterflies too numerous to count, turkey, vultures, hawks… and bears!

Photographic evidence of bears!

It was a truly great weekend. It was beautiful and  relaxing (Well, the rock scramble, not so much. Being without TV or internet, kind of nice…but I am glad to have it back!) Best of all was getting to spend an extended amount of time with family. Even though they duped me into quasi camping, I’m so glad they did!

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