Saturday, November 26, 2011

Boston memories

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, my husband and I took off in the car on our way to Boston to celebrate my 50th birthday on the 29th and for me to do research at the Harvard Houghton Library, which holds many of Louisa May Alcott's manuscripts. We also stopped in Concord to see Orchard House, where Alcott lived for most of her life.

Unbeknown to us, the Storm of the Century would hit right on my birthday and dump a record amount of snow in New England and surrounding areas. For us, on the lucky side, that only meant that we didn't get Legal Seafoods for dinner, as we'd planned, and that a good friend, who lives in Massachusetts, couldn't make it to that dinner, and that the next day we didn't get to see our College Daughter who know teaches in western Massachusetts. And while the weather forced us to head back early Sunday morning to make sure we could get back here by that Monday afternoon, we didn't get buried in snow or had to suffer power outages or the other difficulties that many people woke to that Sunday morning.

Unlike Ohio, where the trees were already barren by then, New England was dressed in all its fall glory (before the storm) and it was a delight to see scene after scene of glorious colors (inspiration for a fall quilt next year?) even with the mounds of snow that had collected everywhere we drove by.

That round trip ended up being the fourth, and last!, of this year, in which I've traveled six times, counting two trips to Puerto Rico. We have sworn to ourselves that next year we'll be a lot more circumspect in our travel plans. But just being in Massachusetts makes me happy so I'm glad that we did this and that I had such a memorable 50th birthday.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had nine people over for dinner tonight, counting the two of us. Our College Daughter and her mother, three students who stayed on campus, and a couple of friends. The table had to be expanded creatively but it didn't feel crowded and we had a lovely time.

The 19-pound turkey came out looking beautiful after nearly four hours of roasting and it tasted good though, in my book, it could have used more seasoning. Next year, I will season the turkey early in the morning the day before and let it stand overnight. This one I seasoned late in the afternoon yesterday and it didn't absorb as much of the garlic, olive oil and Herbs de Provence adobo as I'd wanted. In addition to tons of turkey, we also have enough stuffing and mashed potatoes to feed a small army. We could do a second Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow!

The apple and pumpkin pies (the first one made by me and the second store bought) are all gone, but I'm left with most of the sweet potato pie. I was the only one to eat that pie so it was not a winner tonight. Everything else was, though, so one strike isn't bad.

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving Day. It's not a bad idea to count blessings and to feel very fortunate to be able to do so.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The quilt blocks (almost ) finished

An inordinately busy October kept me from these pages for almost a month. First, my mom was here for cataract surgery for about three weeks of that month and, thankfully, all went well and she had a very nice visit.

Then, my husband and I drove to Boston for my 50th birthday. We took the opportunity to visit the Louisa May Alcott home (Orchard House) in Concord as part of my research for the book manuscript. I also worked at Harvard's Houghton Library and got to handle LMA's personal scrapbooks (her handwriting was almost illegible because of hand cramps!). There are many photos upcoming of that trip, which found us in Boston on the day that the Snow Storm of the Century hit.

Going on the fourth road trip of this year (my husband counted Chicago in February, Annapolis/Richmond in May, Canada in August and Boston in October, plus two airplane trips to Puerto Rico!) meant missing my quilting class on the day of my birthday so I was quite behind when I arrived early yesterday for a scheduled make-up class. But, as life will have it, the teacher's father had to have heart surgery in Columbus so she totally forgot (with reason) our appointment. After returning home late Friday night she had to go back yesterday because he had suffered some complications. I'm praying that he will be alright.

All was not lost in the class department, though, because the lady who arrived to volunteer to help at the shop is a consumate quilter and she was enthusiastic about helping me catch up. This meant that, although my "flying geese" have yet to be sewn together, I was able to make the "pinwheel" block and the special "applique" block for which the teachers left us a hastily hand-drawn pattern so some of my classmates are struggling with having it fit right over the square of the larger block below. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be a problem for me.

There is, of course, more to the quilt than these blocks (the blue background on the photo is only the carpet in one of our rooms where my husband took the photo) and still lots more work to be done (I think we'll run into three more classes and not just the two that we're supposed to have in December). But I'm very happy to be caught up with the rest of the class and ready to start the finishing touches for my third wall-hanging or table top quilt. There will be another full class starting in January and I am tempted to take it with an eye to getting to where I feel I've mastered the "beginning quilting" level. I guess that's the great thing about quilting, that you don't have to move grades until you're ready.

Meanwhile, I am working away at my book manuscript after a very busy start to the semester with advising and events I helped plan. I work best with deadlines so I've decided that I want to have at least two chapters fully finished by the end of this calendar year and the whole manuscript done by May so that I can only worry about class planning in the summer. I'm going to hold myself to that since the hardest thing about being on leave is that it's all up to me. Which is both good and bad.

Next up, photos of our trip to Boston and of the Storm of the Century. Stay tuned.