The gingham dog went "bow-wow-wow!"
And the calico cat replied "mee-ow!"
The air was littered an hour or so,
with bits of gingham and calico"
(Eugene Field)



What makes me happy in the summer?

•hanging with friends, lunching with friends, cards with friends, creating with friends, iced tea with friends, lemonade with friends...

•floating in the pool feeling my heart beat and my blood flow, appreciating my body's natural functions...  my favorite is to swim at nighttime by moon light and then to go right to bed all refreshed and alive.  (also swimming with the dogs to cool them off)

(photo by Kelsi Bitgood @2012)

•gardening and appreciating all that I've planted in our yard and all that nature brings...truthfully, I haven't been so good at this this year (weeds, weeds, weeds), but I'm trying not to beat myself up about it.

•quiet, dogs following me everywhere, time by myself.... no rushing, peaceful mornings.... no deadlines...

•cleaning up the annual summer basement flood caused by hurricanes, leaking water heaters, exploding plumbing, dying washers, over-watering of the gardens around the house...  Every summer something floods our basement, which is usually dry, and causes a huge clean-up.  This year the flood was in my workshop area of the basement and caused a HUGE clean-up and the washing of a couple hundred yards of fabric, re-organization (it needed it---I've been putting it off for a couple of years), the disposal of many school books that I haven't used in a long time, the drying out of other school books that I want to save.  It was a huge clean-up this year!  (This doesn't exactly make me happy,
but it does make me re-assess and appreciate my life regularly.)

•and creating.  I love to "moodle"---to play with various arts and crafts supplies and see what I can come up with.  I love fabric and paper and cards and scrapbooking and embroidery and hand-made objects of all kinds.  I try to follow no rules and to see what I can come up with. 

• I make hand-made birthday cards for many friends and family to send throughout the year.  Although I work on this all year, I try to get a supply together of about 50 to start the year, making each card appeal uniquely to the recipient, a little something that would make them happy on their birthday.  I address them and keep them in a box with a monthly file.

•I make Christmas cards and gifts during the summer, too.  For many years I made a new, unique, sewn ornament every Christmas to give as a Christmas gift.  One year I made crazy-quilted hearts, another year crazy quilted Christmas trees, covered with hand embroidery of all different colors and stitches, and each unique.  Each year I made 40-45 of them, made bags and tags to coordinate and also decorated a small Christmas tree in my kitchen with that same theme.  I haven't done this in about 5 years, but it's something I would like to bring back.  I have an idea for this year (no picture---it has to be a surprise!)

This is what I do in the summer.  What do you do?



Craziness runs in our family.  That is, a true love for crazy quilts.  It started when my mom and uncles were cleaning out my Poppop A's house in Mt. Ephraim, NJ and found a very old crazy quilt in a plastic bag in the basement.  (By the way, that's the worst possible place it could have been to preserve it.  Whoever had placed the bag there did not know of the treasure within.)

The earliest dates embroidered on its surface are in the 1860's.  The names stitched so carefully and beautifully are Bessie and Anna--- names on my mom's family tree from the 19th century in Virginia.

Velvets and political campaign ribbons and scraps of silk and linen, remnants of early patriotic flags and memorabilia, traces of fancy gowns and baby clothing and a mile of hand embroidery painstakingly joined one eighth-inch stitch at a time.  It's magnificent and a testimony of someone in our family's dedication , creativity, thrift and...craziness.  The colorful stitching...herringbones, feathers, daisy chain, french and buillion knots, chevrons and half chevrons, buttonhole wheels and bonnet stitches...all artistically layered upon each other, decorating and celebrating every seam and in the center of the patches, too.

My mom and I embraced the idea of craziness and learned how to make crazy quilt panels ourselves.  We never aspired to creating a full size bed cover in this pattern, but we made small pieces. We started collecting pieces of velvet, silk, ribbon and lace.  We studied other family crazy quilts and compared them to ours.  We studied them in books and in museums.  We poured over every inch of our family treasure and tried to discover the secrets stitched and hidden in each of the fabric patches by one of our family members more than 140 years before.

In time  my mom started collecting pieces of other people's craziness.  She would only buy pieces with the most exquisite patterns or spectacular stitching, the finest examples she could find and save and treasure.  She decorated what used to be my bedroom as a kid with her crazy quilted treasures.

Our respect for this art grew and was something that we shared.  We explored embroidery stitches and threads and ribbons together.  We shopped for them, we shared and traded them, we studied them and got excited about them.  We made Christmas ornaments to practice our piecing and stitching and then shared them with others.  We made crazy quilted gifts for each other.

My mom had learned embroidery from her grandmother when she was very young, starting at age 7 or 8.  She was very skilled at it, precise and talented.  Each stitch was perfect and identical every time she picked up an embroidery hoop.

I, on the other hand, had no formal training and bought a small pamphlet and started practicing.  My stitches are not perfect and professional-looking.  And I'm okay with that.  I do the best that I can.  My stitches have improved over the years, but they will never be as perfect as my mom's nor the woman's on the family quilt.  And I'm okay with that, too. They reflect the best I can do on that particular day.  Like my mom and the others before us, my history is reflected in my stitching.

When my mom died suddenly and unexpectedly in January 2012, it seemed perfectly fitting in the funeral parlor and during the church service that her casket be draped with the family crazy quilt.  Most of the hundreds of people who attended the funeral had never seen a crazy quilt before.  I shared with them snippets of all that it embodies for our family... the past generations, my mom's generation and mine, and the next... and how it is evidence of the crazy threads that bind us together.


last day of August, boo hoo!

This card is for my girls, who I miss a lot today.

Through all of the missing, I'm holding on to my "bulletproof postive attitude" today! (Thanks, Kal!)
I found a nice quote by Erma Bombeck that inspires me and makes me want to do more... of
"When I stand before God at the end of my life,
I would hope that I would not have a single bit
of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything
you gave me.'"
Now that would indicate a life well spent!
Working in the basement today on my last day of vacation from school. I'm a homebody, and it will be hard to dedicate myself to work again. Ah, well! But cleaning the basement is the best way I can spend the day today!


day three

(Although I have not blogged in many a moon, I am picking up right where I left off)

Thank you for being patient.

This is day three of the rest of my life. Thursday S & I took J, our youngest child, to college, and K, our oldest child, moved back to her college, too. So it's just S and I home alone, empty nesters...

It's strange, and it's very, very quiet here. Some differences. When I leave a room, it's still the same way when I get back. I was able to do all of my loads of laundry without being interrupted.

I had lots of computer time. I made a delicious dinner with only two chicken breasts, not 4 or 6.

There has been no drama, no facebook, no outbursts. Just calm & quiet & peace.

It's too quiet. But I am adapting.

I made the girls cards to send tomorrow. My plan is to send them each a homemade card every week. I've been pretty good about that with K her first three years of college. Here is one of the cards that I am going to send.

A shout out to Kristina Werner

for her design inspiration on this one. I like the way the stitching on the left balances everything.

I think that K will truly love this one.

I think that J will love this one.

and finally, one for my friend S, who is going through some hard times.

S and I are embracing the new adventure. He spent the entire weekend down the shore on his sailboat. I went down Friday evening and Saturday afternoon and we took a speed boat to a restaurant and rode bikes all around Longport and had some sandwiches watching the sunset on the beach and jetty. I love to ride my bike so much!

Wonder what day four of the rest of our lives will be like?