Monday, September 23, 2013

The Baby Shower

I'm getting really creative with my titles, aren't I?

Last Friday my friend, Pam, and I co-hosted a baby shower for Tina, inviting the ladies from church as well as other friends here in Michigan. We had a wonderful time!

Because Tina's going with a storybook theme in the nursery, we thought it would be fun to use that theme for the shower too. I wish I had a photo of the invitation to show you, but I don't. You can see where I got the idea from, though, on Pinterest.

I got pretty much all the ideas for decorating from Pinterest as well, including the idea to pair the food with books:
Since you can't see the Very Hungry Caterpillar very well in the photo above, here's a close-up:
We also had milk and cookies to go with "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie", apple slices and apple cider paired with "Johnny Appleseed", tortilla chips with "Tiny Tortilla" and the über delicious black bean and corn salsa with "Jack & the Beanstalk".

One idea I didn't get off Pinterest you can see in the background of this photo:
See those book covers on the wall? That wasn't my idea at all; when I stopped by the library to pick up books to display by the food, the librarians offered to let me use the covers too! Wasn't that nice? I do love the library here. And the librarians. They have always been super helpful, but this was going above and beyond. I borrowed enough covers to scatter them all over the walls in the living/dining area where we held the shower.

We asked that in lieu of cards, the ladies bring their favorite book. Tina received 27 books to start a library for Simon. Isn't that fun?!
There were a lot of practical gifts, like bibs, diapers (she's going to use the bumGenius brand), thermometers, burp cloths, pacifiers, and loads of other things.

She also received some lovely homemade gifts, including this embroidered blanket with Genesis 1:1 that our friend Loretta made:
And an adorable hooded sweater that my SIL Rita knit:
I'm relieved to say Tina liked the quilt! Here's her first look at it:
And here's a photo of the two of us with it:
They plan to do an alphabet wall with various sizes and fonts of letters, so that's where I got the idea. It allowed me to use a limited color palette (aqua, white, gray and lime green) in a fun way. I wanted to make every letter with a different fabric but couldn't quite pull it off; a few of the fabrics are repeated. And I have to give a shout-out to another SIL, Sharon, who helped me pick out the border fabrics. I was very grateful for her artistic eye for color!

It meant a lot to be able to participate in this shower, since we'll be returning to Argentina in two weeks and won't be here for the birth of little Simon Joseph. I love knowing that he'll be snuggling up under something that I made especially for him.

San Francisco

Technically this isn't only about San Francisco, but the title would have been too long if I'd included all the places we visited while with Jon and Natalie: Sonoma, Petaluma, Belmont, Half Moon Bay, and, of course, San Mateo where they actually live. But since all of these are suburbs of San Fran, I think it's okay to group them together under the one heading. All agreed?

When we left my sister's house on Thursday, we meandered back through Sonoma and Petaluma. First up was a lunch stop at one of their favorite Sonoma restaurants, the Sunflower Café. I'm still dreaming about the stuffed sweet peppers! The filling including chevre, ground pistachios, honey, orange zest and a drizzle of olive oil. Sooooo yummy! In Petaluma we stopped at a fun antique store housed in a former bank; a very grand edifice stocked full of lovely (as well as downright odd) pieces, including lots and lots of artwork. I took this (not-so-great) shot from the second floor balcony, with my iPhone:
We also stopped for the requisite photo shoot by the Golden Gate Bridge:
It's quite lovely to look out from there and see the city spread out below, as well as the bay.

Knowing it would likely be late before we got to their place, Jon and Nat had already planned to take us out to dinner. We went to the Mongolian Hot Pot and enjoyed this new experience of cooking our meat and vegetables right at the table in boiling broth:
Jon and Nat chose meat and vegetables they thought we'd like, and they were spot on. It was all delicious!

Friday was a very full day and I'm including a couple photo collages to represent our wonderful day in downtown San Francisco! The first collage is all about Github headquarters where Jon works, and the second collage is full of photos we took as we walked along the Embarcadero.
From left to right, starting in the upper left corner: Natalie, Jon and Ivan in the "Github Oval Office" -- fun factoid: the dimensions are exactly the same as the real Oval Office! Eating lunch on the rooftop deck (we had southern soul food from Farmerbrown's Little Skillet). Jon in a "coding cave", one of the many different work spaces Github has provided for employees. The official seal of the Octocat -- this is in the center of the Oval Office! haha  One of the meeting rooms has a distinctly "Mad Men" vibe going, don't you think? One seriously loooooong couch! I wonder how many Githubbers can fit on that?!

The crazy thing about San Francisco is that you're constantly walking in and out of windy areas, so I kept putting my jacket on, then taking it off...putting it on, and taking it off...All.Day.Long. Oh well, small price to pay for such a fun place!
From left to right, starting in the upper left corner: A large sailing boat that we think was there for the America's Cup. A cute tugboat. One of the piers had tile insets like this along either side, depicting ships we assume have some kind of historical relevance to the city. Ivan took this fun "artsy" shot through one of the many metal sculptures that dotted the Embarcadero. We came across this amazing display of mushrooms at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Ivan hanging onto a trolly car, and enjoying every minute!

Having someone who lives there and knows the area helps so much; Jon and Nat were great tour guides during our day in the city!

Saturday was a more laid-back day. We visited the fabulous Farmer's Market in San Mateo in the morning...
...and then relaxed at home the rest of the day. Jon and Natalie prepared a most delicious meal in the evening, after slow cooking pork in the crockpot all day with a variety of herbs and spices.
We made our own soft tacos, adding whatever fillings we wanted. I added everything except the hot peppers; I guess I've been in Argentina long enough that I just can't handle much of the hot stuff any more.
After church on Sunday, Pastor Steve took us all out for dim sum. It was a first for both Ivan and me, and we can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who hasn't tried it yet.
We are sure having lots of opportunities to try new things this furlough! (We also tried pho for the first time, at a new Vietnamese restaurant in Warsaw, Indiana.)

It was wonderful to catch up with Steve, Daisy and their girls. By the way, Pastor Steve is the one Ivan had the adventure with, back in April.

Monday was another more relaxed day, with a drive out to a beach at Half Moon Bay.
The dogs absolutely love going there! Leo runs in and out of the waves while Bailey tries to get as close as he can without actually getting wet. Those two are so funny! And adorable. Which is why I decided to create yet another collage. But this isn't only the dogs, I had to include the cats too.
From left to right, starting in the upper left corner: Leo (he's the black one) and Bailey racing along the beach. Leo curled up on the couch. Dickens, who is actually a very affectionate cat, apparently doesn't like getting his photo taken... hence, that "look". Bailey is such a cute little puggle! Both dogs like to be near their humans and are often as not on the couch if someone else is there. At the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Libby, who is shy and skittish around humans, but decided to come close enough to see what was in our bowls. I just liked this photo of Ivan and Jon with "the boys" as we call the dogs. One final shot of Bailey, who is much easier to photograph than Leo because (1) he does stop occasionally, and (2) his lighter brown coat photographs well whereas Leo always appears to be one great big black blob. FYI, in person Leo is very handsome; it's just that it's hard to capture his gorgeousness with a camera.
Natalie needed to find a clutch to use at the Github charity ball later in the week, and knowing I wanted to visit Chinatown, we took the train into the city on Tuesday afternoon, leaving the guys at home to do computer stuff.
It was a lovely day and I was especially happy to score some great deals in Chinatown.

I mentioned the Github charity ball (which was on Thursday of last week). Jon got a new suit (only his third or fourth EVER), and he looked so good in it I had to take some photos.
He cleans up pretty good, doesn't he?!

An altogether fabulous week and we are so grateful for the opportunity to go to California. Thanks again, Jon and Nat, for making that possible!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Never long enough...

I had a wonderful week with my sister, but it wasn't long enough. I'm thankful for the week, but the greedy part of me wants more!

It was a relaxing week of hanging out, fitting into their life, and laughing over nothing and everything. We find it amusing that although we look nothing alike...
...we are alike in soooo many ways. Seeing us in action and how we do things, by that alone you'd know we were related.

And because we have this shared history, we can make a face or say a phrase -- even just one word -- and dissolve into laughter.

My baby sister hit a milestone birthday this year and my gift to her was a 12"x12" photo book of that shared history. It worked out well to do it this year, since we're scanning all our photos anyway. Without giving away the reason, I had her send me her collection of childhood photos too, so I could scan them for my own use as well as put them in the book.

It was disappointing that the book didn't arrive while I was there (its scheduled delivery is today, actually) but I did show it to her on the computer. I'm especially anxious to find out how the photo on the cover turns out, since it's pretty large. I'm hoping it isn't overly pixellated or fuzzy. It's a formal portrait our mom had done when we were 5 and 10, and we were totally rockin' the 60s 'dos:
A lot of our childhood photos are small, many are black and white, and most are not the best quality. But it doesn't really matter, does it? Because despite the poor quality, those images bring back memories of people and places, special events and everyday life while growing up. 

I also passed along the family Bible since I can't take it to Argentina and there's no sense keeping it stored in a box where no one has access to it.
Our maternal grandfather gave it to our mom in February 1958, and over the next few years mom and someone else recorded births, deaths, and military service records on the pages allocated for them. We easily recognize mom's handwriting but are not sure about the other person, and now I think it's probably too late to ask anyone who might know.

One evening my nieces had softball practice -- in two different towns, which is typical, so we split up and I went with my sister to Emily's practice. The coach had them playing different positions throughout the two-hour practice, and I snapped this photo when she was pitching:
I started a craft project with the girls that we sadly didn't have time to finish (they have a very busy schedule!) and I helped my sister put up a few freezer meals for those nights they have ball practice and get home late, tired and hungry. We played games, watched Candice Olsen (even our TV tastes are similar!), and talked and talked and talked.

Wednesday Jon and Natalie drove up and we headed back to San Francisco on Thursday morning. We drove off the mountain, me crying the whole way down, knowing it will be several years before I see her again. There's just nothing like that special relationship you have with a sister!

As much as I miss her, we are thoroughly enjoying our time with Jon and Natalie. We took our time getting back to the San Francisco, sight-seeing along the way. Today we'll be going into the city,  getting a tour of where Jon works, and doing more sight-seeing. But more about that in the next post. Right now I need to get my walking shoes on.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

In the California Mountains

California is certainly a diverse and beautiful state.

We landed in San Francisco late Wednesday afternoon, and enjoyed some time with Jon and Nat at their place in San Mateo. They're just a few blocks from B Street, which is lined with restaurants and stores. In just one block, on one side of the street, I counted seven restaurants:
Within walking distance of their condo, I think Jon and Nat could eat at a different restaurant every night and not hit them all in a month.

Thursday morning my sister and two nieces arrived to pick us up and take us to their place in Nevada City. Since we last visited them (six years ago) they've bought a house in the country and have been busy working on the property. After a couple big storms that first winter felled a number of trees, including a couple that landed on the roof of their two-story garage/apartment, they had a crew come in and cut down over 150 trees. Sounds like a lot, right? But you can barely tell...
And it's like this every direction you look...trees, trees and more trees.

Aside from clearing out the diseased and dying trees, they've also had the driveway paved, built a new deck, added two grassy areas, and refurbished this gazebo:
It's absolutely gorgeous up here, although I think I could do without the wild animals that turn up on occasion. They had a lot of problems the first couple years with bears, that would go right into the garage to get to the garbage cans. Since getting a dog in February, they haven't seen any bears -- but that's not to say there haven't been any, just that the dog seems to be keeping them at bay. And one day while Beth was sitting on the front porch, she saw what she initially thought was the neighbor's dog coming closer, only to realize it was a bobcat! Needless to say, she made a hasty retreat into the house.

I've always loved the Little House on the Prairie books, but the reality is I probably wouldn't make a very good country girl because I'd be afraid to leave my house half the time, for fear of running into an animal bigger or faster than me.

But I am enjoying my visit with Beth and her family, and feel fairly confident that the dog's barking will give us enough advance warning should any wild animals come around.

I hope.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Black Bean and Corn Salsa

Two posts in a matter of days -- that's a record for me this year. Not having regular access to the internet has put a serious crimp in my blogging style.

Anyway, it was suggested I post this recipe. Now why didn't I think of that?!

I first had this at a family potluck in June. Kristie had no idea what she was starting when she brought it! It's pretty much my Kryptonite, and I can't get enough of it. Other people seem to feel the same way.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it is so adaptable. I've made it a little differently each time, depending on what I had on hand. Of course there are the basics, but after that you can add or delete to your heart's content. Also, while you could just use a can of corn, with all the great fresh sweet corn we've been getting this summer, I haven't had to resort to the canned stuff.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa
3-4 ears of corn, cooked and the kernals sliced off (or a can of corn, drained)
can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup diced fresh tomatoes (or can of diced tomatoes, drained)
1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
1/2 cup diced sweet peppers (optional)
1/2 cup diced cucumbers (optional)
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1/2 cup Ranch dressing

Mix all ingredients and chill at least two hours. Serve with tortilla chips.


Okay, easy-peasy and oh-so-good! Tell me, what would you add to (or delete from) this recipe to suit your family?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Some Pretties

This is more for me than you, whoever might be reading this. I wanted to document my time at the AQS Quilt Show in Grand Rapids, since this blog serves as my online journal. But hopefully you'll enjoy the quilts too.

It's been over 20 years since I attended an AQS quilt show, back when they were only held in Paducah. I was thrilled to learn they were having a show practically in my back yard, while we are in the U.S. this summer. Even more fun, I was able to go with two friends!

We'd signed up to attend the show on Thursday and Friday, so when we arrived in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, we took the opportunity to visit a couple museums who had special quilt exhibits in conjunction with the show. At the Grand Rapids Public Museum we were able to view a dozen quilts from their collection.

This Virginia Star Variation was made sometime in the late 1800s but they don't know who made it.

Charity Goold worked on this President's Wreath from 1860 through 1880.
Isn't it amazing how the colors are still so vibrant over 150 years later?! And the detail is phenomenal. Charity carefully stuffed the red roses and buds to create dimension.

Thursday I took an all day class, and I shared one of the few photos from that day on my Project 365 blog, so I won't repeat it here.

I spent Friday looking at the hundreds of quilts in the show. Seriously, it was sensory and inspiration overload! I took lots of photos, and most of them weren't so great. I really need to learn how to use our new-to-us camera.

Anyway, I'm only sharing a few of them here. I tried to pick a good representation of the wide variety.

"In Orbit" by Evelyn Evers of Canada is one of those mind-bending, optical illusion quilts:
Absolutely stunning but thinking about the math that had to go into making this quilt just makes my head hurt.

When I saw the name of this quilt ("Sushi III"), I had to take a photo for Tina.
I sent the photo to her via e-mail while she was hanging out with a group of female friends who all love sushi, and they thought the quilt was fabulous. It's definitely fun and colorful! Made by Mary Kay Price from Oregon, who used reverse appliqué, batiks and hand-dyed cottons.

This one made me smile.
Jan Berg-Rezmer of Michigan used raw-edge appliqué, fabric paint and photo transfer to create "Ask The Cowboys". This gorgeous art quilt made me want to try my hand at another portrait quilt.

There was a section of the show devoted to individual competitions by various quilt guilds. These small quilts packed a punch!

Across the Squares Quilters from Charlotte, Michigan, had an "Under" theme and I really liked the playfulness of this one by Carol Randell that she named "Under Cover".
The quilt "fort" was just adorable and you could actually lift it to see the little girl playing underneath.

Bridge Project 2013, hosted by the Eureka, California, based Fiber Art Friends, had so many lovely little quilts -- I think I took a photo of each and every one of them. But for the sake of brevity I'm only including one here.
Diane May created "Bridge of Dreams" and I really liked her use of color.

And finally I just had to share a photo of this stunning piece by Mark Sherman, that took over 3,000 hours to complete!
Included in the Master Pieces section, "Wings and Feathers" has won multiple awards -- for obvious reasons -- and absolutely blew me away. Here's a fun article about Mark, if you'd like to know more about the man behind the butterflies.

I included two photos of a quilt by another man, this one from Cairo, Egypt, on the Project 365 blog. Two of the Tentmakers of Cairo were at the show, displaying several dozen quilts and demonstrating their technique.

And although I thought I'd taken photos of a few of the Caohagan quilts, apparently I did not. But I am linking to their website, because the quilts are just so much fun. Caohagan is an island in the Philippines that's actually owned by a Japanese man. Confused? Yeah, me too. However, I applaud his introduction of quiltmaking which has provided a sustainable income for the burgeoning community of quilters. All the quilts are designed free-hand and the islanders use of color and pattern make for some super happy quilts!

So there you have it, a quick overview of the AQS Show in Grand Rapids. So what do you think? Which was your favorite quilt?