Here Comes Christmas

2020 has seemed exceedingly long, while also impossibly short. Here we are just a little over a month from the end of the year, and it seems as if the year has gone by without really being lived. Certainly a lot have died. One can only hope this will all end before we find ourselves at this date next year. I was thinking about all we have to be thankful for in 2020. When I consider where we were last January, I feel a little as if we were in a blissful state of naivete. 

In January we met up with my friend Judy from high school and visited two wildlife refuges. I was in the middle of a terrible asthma attack...the worst of my life...from the bad air in that part of California, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day with her and seeing so many birds.

In February, still blissfully unaware of what was coming, we met up with Erik and Mae in Pahrump, Nevada. Like us, they were trying to escape the wet and cold of the Pacific Northwest's winter. We had a marvelous couple of days with them, and they visited Death Valley National Park for the first time. It's one of our favorite places, and we loved the opportunity to show them around.

Things were starting to get weird in March. Toilet paper and sanitizing wipes disappeared from the shelves, and we started thinking we should head for home. We managed to get a space at one of the Oregon state parks on our last night before home, just before all the state parks shut down for COVID restrictions. It was good to be home in such weird times, and I was thrilled to see the peony tubers I'd planted before we left were springing into action. 

Things started blooming in April, and I was reminded all over again why I love our home in the Pacific Northwest. We were happy to be home to celebrate Matthew's April birthday.

By May, we were deep into COVID territory. Just the same, a nice restaurant nearby had gone to quite a bit of effort to update and expand their outdoor dining options...obviously, a smart business move. We were just happy to be able to celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary with a nice dinner outside in some unseasonably warm weather.

June saw little green sprouts in our first vegetable garden in many years...so exciting!

And in July...cherries from our trees! The cherries started off Canning Season 2020.

August brought more veggies, and I put my pressure canner to use for the first time in a very long time. And let me just tell you, we've been eating those green beans. They are so good!

September...well, that's a month I hope never to repeat. We were on vacation when we learned our neighborhood had been evacuated because of a wild fire burning nearby. And all's well that ends well. We're just so grateful for the firefighters who worked diligently to save all of the homes in our area.

We were happy to be at home in October, and we celebrated our good fortune at still having a home with the kids for Erik's birthday.

And that brings me to November, and yesterday. Our Thanksgiving celebration was small, but delicious. It was an all-day affair making it, but there was some time to chill too. The kitties aren't good cooks, but they are good at chilling.

It was a table for two last night. Usually I get out all the silverware and make it all fancy. Yesterday, only the plates were in the "fancy" category. Those are Mike's grandmother's fancy china plates. They're big plates, and make excellent platforms for a big Thanksgiving dinner.

You can see now nicely they held last night's feast. I'll explain below what you're seeing with links to recipes if I can find them.

At the top of the plate is a Roasted Cornish Hen with Cherry-Port Glaze. It's a Cooking Light recipe, so diet friendly! Mine were stuffed with a wild rice stuffing. I made the whole recipe for the stuffing because it goes along with a recipe for stuffed delicata squash. And hey! I just happen to have a delicata squash to use it up! I can't find the recipe, but I'll publish it in a day or two when I make up the squash. The stuffing can be frozen too.

Okay, and then there are the garlic mashed potatoes. It's not Thanksgiving without them. I always use red potatoes and leave the skins on. For every two potatoes, I toss a clove of garlic into the boiling water and then mash them with the potatoes. Since we didn't do a turkey, I looked for a way to make gravy without drippings. This gravy recipe turned out to be surprisingly delicious. I made the Thanksgiving version. 

Next, Mike consented to brussels sprouts. He even ate some. These are brussels sprouts for the haters. They don't even taste like brussels sprouts when they're ready to eat, and they are delicious. You can find the recipe for Balsamic-glazed Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta right here. Right there in the middle of the plate was a super easy way to make sweet potatoes. You can find the recipe for Honey Cinnamon Roasted Sweet Potatoes right here. With only a few ingredients, they were easy to put together, and they went into the oven with the Cornish hens. Finally, lowly jellied cranberry sauce. Ordinarily, I'd also make them from fresh berries, but Mike can't eat the seeds. We stuck with just the jellied variety this year, but I happen to love them that way.

And, you didn't think we'd skip dessert, did you? Silly you. No. Of course, we had Pecan Pie for Two

I like this recipe. It contains no corn syrup or granulated sugar. The sweetness comes from honey and maple syrup. Also, I tried the crust that comes with the recipe for the first time. Usually, I'm making this in the RV, and so I use Pillsbury. This crust is made with olive oil, and no butter. It was simple and good, and I wouldn't have known the difference.

So there you go...another Thanksgiving done and gone. Christmas is next. Might as well get ready. We still have lots of leftover side dishes, although the Cornish hens are gone. I'm putting a turkey breast in the slow cooker, and so we'll have a repeat of last night's dinner. Also, I'm doing some canning today. Intriguing, no? What could it possibly be? The canning won't take long, and then I'll get back to my sewing. Top-stitching will probably rule the day.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Good morning, my friends! Turkey day is here...for better or worse. It isn't the first time we've spent Thanksgiving away from our kids. The first time was in 2017, when we made our trip around the perimeter of the United States. We missed them terribly that year, but our dinner was good. This year will be the same, but it's harder to be separated when there are only a few miles between us. We've talked about visiting via Facetime, but nothing else has been said about that. I had in mind to get an early start yesterday. Then, I looked at what was going to be involved in cooking our dinner for tonight, and decided it was a one day affair. Hopefully, I won't regret that decision. Either way, it will mean an early start.

Instead of cooking, I spent the day sewing, and I got a lot done. I even got caught up on housework! A red letter day! As I mentioned yesterday, I was in the middle of making the next Shop Hop block. I had the embroidery for the name plate finished:

Next, I cut the focus fabric. We visited BJ's Fabric & Quilts when we traveled to the Oregon Coast to see the Neskowin Ghost Forest. I was amazed to find a quilt shop in such a small town. You can read my post about the quilt shop right here. Our visit to the Neskowin Ghost Forest was a rainy day tragedy. We'd like to go back when the weather is better, but you can read about what we saw on that rainy day right here. Seeing the ghost forest caused me to choose this fabric for my quilt:

When the quilt block was finished, it looked like this:

I'm loving these Polaroid blocks for this quilt. You can find the pattern for the picture block right here. Here are all the blocks I have for this quilt so far:

Okay, so with that finished, I moved to the next WIP on my list, and got started on the fifth of 12 blocks for New Mexico Kitchen. This is the image from the pattern cover. Sorry it's so grainy.

Each block for this quilt comes with a recipe for the food represented in the block. Here's the recipe to go with this one:

So, the first step is to create a background for the applique. I've been looking at the cover picture and trying to choose something similar.

Somehow, I wasn't up for starting the applique, and so I took a long break after I'd made the background. Then, surprisingly, I was able to get all the fusing done when it was time to quit for the day.

Like many of you, I'll be spending the biggest part of today in the kitchen. Still, I'm hoping I'll have at least a little time to start on the top-stitching for this block. It still needs to have borders added, and then there's the damnable fringe for the table cloth. It's the one part of this quilt that is extremely annoying to work on, but I do like the effect. There's both machine and hand embroidery to do as well, so this block is far from finished.

And that brings me to now. I'm going to do a little slow-stitching, and then I'll get started on some wild rice stuffing for our little Cornish game hens, and I'm going to make a pecan pie for two. Most of our dinner will have to wait until this afternoon, but I can get a start by cutting some things up and refrigerating them until it's time to start cooking. 

So, one last time...Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. I hope the end of the day finds you in a food coma, no matter what's on your Thanksgiving table for this scaled-down celebration. Let's hope next year finds us in better times.


Staying Home

When the shopping list for the week was made up over the weekend, we'd planned to do the grocery shopping on Tuesday. Then, in a moment of courage and heroism, we decided to do all of our errands on Monday. Staying home yesterday made it all worthwhile. 

We're home for quite a while, although Mike often drives into town for this or that thing. Yesterday was for D-cell batteries. I'm mean...who even uses D-cells any more? I've noticed gopher activity in the peony bed again. If the gophers eat my peony tubers, I'm going to be pretty darned mad. So, the D-cells are for these stick-em-in-the-ground posts that emit an occasional buzzing vibration. The batteries are supposed to last 6-8 months, which will take us into next spring easily. Take that, Varmints! And all of that to say that I'm feeling blissed out at the prospect of not going out again until next week sometime.

Of course, I started the day with some slow stitching. You never doubted it, right? I stitched up the next crow among the murder of crows. They're starting to get noisy.

I'm guessing I'm about 2/3 of the way across this now. 

It's probably time to think about making up the next block for the Pieces of the Past quilt. These are colored with crayon and so it takes some time to get them ready for stitching. These are the blocks I have for this quilt so far.

With my slow-stitching done, I had a couple of housekeeping chores to finish, and then I readied myself for a day of nothing but sewing. When I made my way into the sewing room, Smitty came down from the clubhouse. Apparently, he volunteered to be my sewing cat for the day. He was a little sleepy and needed to wake up.

After he had his cup of coffee, he was ready to get to work. (Yes, coffee. He isn't a savage, you know.)

With his help, I sewed together the third "flower" block.

And then, I made the four blanks.

That makes 6 of 7 rows complete. I laid out the blocks, and here's how they look so far.

The triple Irish chain is one of my favorite traditional quilt patterns. I've had it on my to-do list for a long time. This was started in April of 2019, and I'm pretty happy to have it this far along. Even the "blanks" for this quilt take quite a bit of time, and so that was about the end of my sewing day. 

Next up, I'll be making the next block for the Shop Hop 2.0 quilt. These are the blocks I have so far for this quilt:

So, I traced out the name plate for the next block.

While Mike and I watched the evening news, I stitched it up. Now it's ready to be sewn into a quilt block.

I can recommend having some ears beside you when slow stitching. The job goes so much more quickly.

So with our scaled-down Thanksgiving feast scheduled for tomorrow, it's tempting to get a head start by making a few dishes ahead today. I'm not sure if I'll do that since a scaled-down feast will take a lot less time. I'll have to see how the day plays itself out. By the way, a few of you wondered how I do the slow cooker frozen turkey breast. Well...nothing could be easier. Here are the steps:

1. Thaw the turkey breast. Remove the wrapper, and check inside the cavity for any surprise packages. (I once cooked mine with a packet of gravy inside.)

2. Place the thawed turkey breast inside the slow cooker and lid the top.

3. Turn the slow cooker on low. Depending on how hot your slow cooker is and the size of your turkey breast, it will take 6-8 hours to cook.

Easy, huh? I've done dozens of turkey breasts this way, and they make the best hot turkey sandwiches.

Okay, so maybe some cooking...lots of sewing. That's a good plan for the day before Thanksgiving. How are you spending the day?


Irksome Errands

We did all our running around town yesterday. We delivered packages to the post office, dropped off some donation items at Goodwill, picked up two big bags of birdseed at the feed store, and then went to the human feed store for groceries. My Christmas mask worn a few days early made me a little less grinchy at the grocery store yesterday.

Looking at this picture reminds me that my nose is pretty well healed now. There is just the slightest ridge where the incision was made. I'm told I can massage that in a few weeks to help break up any scar tissue, but it really looks pretty good. There's just the slightest bit of bruising left, but I think it's safe to put this whole episode in the rear view mirror. There's so much that is best put behind us just now, don't you think?

When we got home, Smitty and Sadie were chomping at the bit to get outside. Sadie didn't stay out for long. It's wet and cold, and the fireplace is where she wants to be. Smitty, on the other hand, sat patiently for around half an hour, just as you see him below. He probably had his eye on a moving gopher mound. After a while, he came back to the house, empty-mouthed. Not all hunting expeditions end well, and so he came back inside to go hunting in his dry food bowl. 

As you might guess, his "pawsterior" was a little damp. We have a special kitty towel set aside for these emergencies, and the kitties like it when they get dried off.

It was late in the day by the time I made it into the sewing room. I finished one of the "flower" blocks. Each one takes about 45 minutes to make.

There was still a little time left in the day, and so I made one more.

I laid the third one out on my little cutting mat. I like to lay them out this way, and then I can carry them to the sewing machine to be sewn together. This is how I left it when I quit for the day.

It was covered with a large ruler because...you know...elves.

Today I should have no problem finishing up the third one, and then making the four "blanks" that will complete the 6th of 7 rows for this quilt.

For dinner last night, I tried another new recipe from the Cooking Light Diet. This is Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa. This was really good and so simple to make. It's marinated for just three minutes in a mixture of fresh lime juice, cilantro, and olive oil. Then it's grilled, and topped with a simple salsa. I used the chicken breast fillets, rather than full chicken breasts, and so it cooked quickly on my grill pan. 

I served it with some of the corn we grew in the garden this past summer. The corn was taken off the cob, blanched, and then frozen. It was so sweet and tasty. The chicken recipe is easy enough to make in the RV, and so we'll be having this again for sure.

So I didn't do any of my housekeeping chores yesterday after such a grueling in-town adventure. I'll have to catch up today. I'll intersperse my chores with my block-making. The third flower block won't take long, and then I'll need for "blanks" to finish the row. After that, I'll move on to the next block for the Shop Hop 2.0 quilt. And let me just end by saying I'm very happy not to be going out again until after Thanksgiving.


Moving Slow

There was no time for sewing on Saturday since we spent the day unpacking and cleaning up the RV. Since unpacking always has me dragging my feet, not much was accomplished that day. And that left Sunday for a lazy day fest. We got some things done, but mostly, we sat around looking at our iPads, catching up on things we'd missed during our unplugged days. 

Of course, no day is complete without a good slow-stitching session. I'm about one-third of the way across this first section of Calendula Patterdrip's Cottage. 

There was some housework to do, and I got started on the laundry. It was nearly 2:00 p.m. when I made my way into the sewing room. It seems like it's been a long time since I spent any time there. I had this "Burt Reynolds among cats" with me to help out with the heavy lifting.

Purrt Reynolds among cats...that's absolutely purrposterous. Smitty don't let that kind of talk go to your head or you won't be able to fit through the catio door.

I'm back to working on my WIPs list for the remainder of November. Next up is to make another row of blocks for Jenny's Flower Garden. Here's where I left it last time I worked on it.

The next row has three "flower" blocks and four "blanks." It requires 156 scrappy 2 x 2-inch squares. Sadie helped me keep count, making hash marks on that scrap of an envelope as we went.

When I was finished, I had a little box full of them. I really need to dump them into a zip-lock bag so I can draw them out more or less randomly. 

That effort took us to nearly dinner time, and so I quit for the day. Besides, Sadie was 'zhausted. She was ready for a nap next to the fireplace by then.

Today is one of those days dreadful to contemplate. We need to run some errands: mail packages at the post office, replenish our supply of bird seed, drop off some donation items at Goodwill, and then...horror of horrors...grocery shopping. We're going to go a little later in the day to give the store time to restock their shelves after the weekend-before-Thanksgiving shopping. Yikes. Our scaled down Thanksgiving feast this year will include Cornish game hens, but I also have a frozen turkey breast for the slow cooker on Friday. Even though our meal will be small, we want some turkey leftovers. The rest of it will be fairly traditional. I have the hens and the turkey breast, but I still need to purchase most everything for the side dishes. I'm hopeful the store won't be too much of a madhouse, but not really counting on it.

So, with all of that going on, I doubt I'll feel much like sewing today. We'll see. I'd like to at least get a start on the blocks. There are just two rows of blocks to finish before it's ready to be sewn together. 

How is your Thanksgiving planning going this year? Whatever your plans, please stay safe and healthy. We want you along when we start getting ready for the Christmas season.



Sightseeing at Cape Disappointment

 As I mentioned in yesterday's post, our Thursday afternoon turned bright a sunny. We grabbed the opportunity to get out and do a little sight-seeing. Our first stop was this lookout above the state park. Looking to the north, we saw this:

A few of you have expressed curiosity about how Cape Disappointment got its name. The sign pictured below explains it.

If you're interested in reading about the quest to settle this part of the world, I can recommend two good books: Astoria, by Peter Stark, and The Men Who United the States, by Simon Winchester. Both are excellent. Just by coincidence, I read them sequentially, although I can't remember which I read first.

Looking to the south, we saw this:

From there, we drove to where the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center was located. Sadly, the museum is closed because of COVID, but it was still worth the trip. We saw some things we'd previously been unaware of. There was a short hike from the parking lot to the museum. Along the way, we read these two signs.

At the top of the hill, one could visit the museum in different times. I liked the quote from Jefferson on the side of the building.

Here, a sign explained what we could see from the ocean side of the building. (Remember that you can make the image larger by clicking on it.)

Looking north, we could see the north jetty:

Looking south, we could barely see the south jetty. I wrote some about this when we visited Fort Stevens this past summer. Also, we were as close to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse as we've ever been. It's possible to walk out there closer, but the trail was closed without explanation.

Here's another difficult-to-see image showing you what we're looking at.

And another closer view of the lighthouse. You can read more about it right here, and you can also learn of how treacherous it is to navigate these waters. 

As we turned to walk back, we were standing above Fort Canby. Looking down, we could see where one of the hidden cannons was once mounted to protect the coastline during World War II.

So, let's just take a little walk through Fort Canby, shall we? But first, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the many ways you could die out here today. Please watch your step.

Sorry about all the sun flares on the image below. I couldn't see them until I took the pictures off the camera, but here's Fort Canby. It's smaller than Fort Stevens on the Oregon side. We visited there a few years back. You can read more about it and compare the two right here.

Here are a few informational signs. Sorry to post so many pictures of signs here, but this stuff all interests me. If you're not up for reading signs, then please scroll on by. There's more below.

Here's a little information about Fort Canby. Remember that this area along the Oregon coast was the one place where the United States homeland was attacked during World War II. Also, there was concern about enemy ships navigating the Columbia River to reach farther inland.

In this next image, I'm standing inside Battery Harvey Allen looking out. On the right is where one of the cannons was mounted.

These next signs were inside the structure and they explain the layout of the place.

Here, I'm standing outside the entrance.

This next image shows the interior of the battery. The two subsequent images explain what you're seeing in the lettered sections.

Here, I'm standing outside the structure. The cannon was mounted on the center right structure.

Here are a few of the rooms inside. In this next image is the room identified above as the "guard room." The "office" was its mirror image. Both rooms had fireplaces.

This room is a storage room. Looking out, it looked like this.

To my left were these shelves.

I like seeing these images of the old uniforms and equipment. My father was a WWII vet, and it gives me some idea of his life long before I was born.

If I'd been alive, and we'd been stationed here, we would have lived like this.

There are other forts farther north in Washington, but these are the three in the local area. We have not yet visited Fort Columbia.

So once we'd seen our fill, we walked back to the truck and drove into Ilwaco in search of something for lunch. As we were leaving, a mother deer passed in front of us along with this young fawn.

We stopped off for some fish & chips. This little cafe known as the Loose Caboose was kind of a lucky find. With Washington restaurants shut-down for all but take-out food again, they brought menus to our truck, and then we called in our order. In a few minutes, the food was served up piping hot, and we drove back to the RV to eat it. Yum. There's nothing like fresh seafood when you're visiting the beach.

After lunch, I sat and stitched the binding for Friendship's Garden in one sitting. And that there's a finish. I started this quilt on March 9, 2018, while we were on our USA perimeter tour.

On our final morning at Cape Disappointment, I stitched down the binding on my challenge piece. You'll have to wait until February 1st to see it. Sorry.

Also, I stitched this far on Calendula Patterdrip's Cottage. This section is 50 inches wide, so there's still a long way to go. Recall that the bottom portions of the stitchery will be completed when the blocks are sewn together.

The wind died down for our trip home, and so we crossed the tall scary bridge in Astoria. It's not so scary from the Washington side.

And that was our trip. It was well worth it, even though the weather didn't cooperate much. It was nice to get a change of scenery, and I have no complaints about spending most of the time stitching. It was very relaxing. 

The RV is unpacked now, and I can start getting back to normal, such as it is in these COVID times. I have some housework to do, and I need to make up a shopping list for our drastically scaled down Thanksgiving feast. I'll say more about that later.