Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I got to test-drive a Millennium!

Yellow Bird Art has a new toy - an APQS Millennium quilting machine. It was just set up over there and the staff is learning how to use it. I stopped by on Monday during a surprise ("Mom! I was supposed to be at speech practice 20 minutes ago!") trip to Lansing and found Amy trying it out on some plain muslin sandwiched with batting. She actually let me try it. It's so fun! I have never actually seen one in action before. It's stitch regulated, so it's like a Steadi-Cam for quilters: You move the controls where you want the design to go, and whether you move fast or slow, the machine still stitches the same length of stitches, so it's wonderfully even. It still takes practice and control on the part of the quilter, and my quilting was pretty hilarious (I tried Grandma Burger's ocean waves and they looked like letter Cs made by a serious dyslexic), but I can see how cool it would be to really learn how to do this.

Of course now I want one...

Master K's room is big enough to hold one and has lovely light! I have major plans for his room after he moves out.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Google Love

Yet another reason to love Google (and we might as well learn to love our new masters): Google Calendar. I love how when I add a new item it is smart enough to figure out what I meant, not just what I typed. For example, I can click in the general direction of, say, Wednesday, and type "8:50 eye doctor appointment Onalaska", and what it does is adds an entry at 8:50 a.m. Wednesday titled "Eye doctor appointment Onalaska." It figures out that when I click on Wednesday and type 8:50, I probably am putting in a time, it is not precisely on the half-hour that Google works on so it will have to specify a different time, and that I probably meant 8:50 a.m., not 8:50 p.m. So smart.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

There's laundry to do, but --

The Sound of Music is on television tonight and Lil Miss A has never seen it before, and she and I are watching it together. So much fun to see it all new!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Saturday's Apron: My Pressie from V

Isn't this pretty?

It's a new apron made from an old pattern and repro fabrics, evidently by Simplicity itself. My sister-in-law V sent it to me for Christmas. It's very crisp and pretty and nice and big, too, for good coverage. And it has pockets. And I'm wearing it right now.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Judy's Block of the Month: Block 8

P.S. Yes, I know the middle is a mess. I thought this block was so ugly that it was hard to be careful with it.

Judy's Block of the Month: Block 7

Catching up on Block of the Month: Block 6

Finished by Friday: Lengthening Lil Miss A's Coat

I bought this woollen coat at a garage sale on a very hot day last summer when Lil Miss A couldn't stand the idea of trying it on, so I just held it up to her, and it turns out the sleeves were too short. All I did was take the cuffs off and add new ones made of scraps of black velvet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Shallow Thoughts - BACONIZED!

Just some Monday morning silliness on a minus-9-degrees-F day in Iowa. Pig country, you know.

Click here.

Edited: At 7:55 local time, it's now minus 11 degrees. The poor furnace is running like crazy. It's on emergency electric heat because the loop got too cold. Life is an adventure.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can't wait to show you - but I have to!

I'll bide my time and post on Saturday... but I have something wonderful to show you. Something apron-related. Okay, it's an apron. And I am not supposed to know about it but I preopened my Christmas present from my sister-in-law V and it's AN APRON!! Does she know me or not? Anyway I put it away again and will officially open it later this week. And then I'll take a picture.


Finally, a decent picture!

Barry took this portrait of me in the nearly finished kitchen tonight so I finally have a decent picture of myself. Bo wasn't supposed to be in the picture but he sneaked in and looked so pitiful that we didn't kick him out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Saturday's Apron: A One-Hour Apron for Jane

Jona posted directions for a One-Hour Apron on her blog. Of course I had to make it more complicated, so it took longer than an hour, but I am in love with it and don't want to give it away now. :o) I will anyway. Tomorrow is the Sunday School Christmas play and traditionally that's when everybody gives little gifts to our children's Sunday School teachers. So this apron will go to Jane. She is a bright, sunshiny kind of person and the apron will go right along with her personality.

The original pattern calls for a fat quarter of fabric to make up the main front piece and a half yard of something else for the waistband/tie and the hem piece. I pieced the front (it ended up a little bigger than a fat quarter) and then I backed it with a solid piece of fabric to hide all the seam allowances. This apron would actually be reversible. The back is an orange print that coordinates nicely with the waistband fabric.

And then the other teacher, who happens to be Miss B, will get these pot holders.

Used up a lot of scraps on these and had fun! These are not colors I usually work with.

Finished by Friday: I forgot to take a picture!

Not only am I posting this a day late, but I forgot to take a picture! Friends of ours, Mike and Sara (mostly friends of Barry's, as he has more contact with them, but they are some people I think extremely highly of) are expecting their first baby in a few weeks here. I made a bright and colorful baby quilt for them. It's backed with flannel for fuzziness against baby skin, and the batting is Thinsulate, so it will be very lightweight yet very warm.

I wish I had taken a picture! It's not actually given yet but Barry has it at work ready to bestow next time he sees these folks. Maybe they will take a picture of their baby wrapped in the quilt for me to post someday. (hint hint)

Edited to add: At least I can show you part of the quilt. I used the fabric panels for this soft book, only I cut them all apart to use as 9-inch blocks for the quilt. Lots for the baby to look at, lots of colors. Doggies, too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

That'll Teach Barry to Skip Out on Meetings

The New Albin Fire Department had a big meeting last night, only Barry didn't go, as he was off getting free continuing education credits for his EMT-b certification. With him conveniently out of hearing range, they went and elected him assistant fire chief.

I am reminded of Flanders and Swann's The Reluctant Cannibal (in which the RC's dad is the Chief Assistant to the Assistant Chief). In the interests of getting completely off the subject here, here is a clip for you:

The Reluctant Cannibal - Flanders And Swann

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Listening in on a conference call

Right now I'm in a conference call with Jay Cannon, the COO of Webmedx (my employer). He just told us that about 35% of medical transcription is down outside of the USA AND that nearly the same percentage is done by ASR technology. He stresses that we need to transition to being paid for what we know, not what we do.

On Worshiping Blessings, not the One who Gives Them

I meant to tell you that last Sunday's sermon was delivered by one of the lay members of St. Peter's, Dan Porter (Pastor was away watching his daughter graduate magna cum laude from college, praise God). One tiny little part of Dan's message seemed like it was pointing straight at me. I think he actually got this from the book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold Kushner. The point was that one must guard against worshiping blessings, rather than the One who gives the blessings. It's very easy to do. Another pitfall is mistaking blessings for the favor of God, i.e., feeling like we're pretty okay with God when we can see obvious blessings in our lives, and suspecting that we are not on his Good List when those blessings are not evident to us and everybody else. It's the health-and-wealth gospel at work.

So here is a personal example: Right now I can see God's hand all over the place in our job situation. You would not believe all the things that are working out beautifully for us. We have been granted favor with employers on both sides, with colleges, with the high school, with our bank, with our church - everywhere there is favor. It's getting so I expect everything to work out perfectly and will be surprised when some tiny thing does not go right.

So does this mean when things stop going perfectly, as eventually they must, God doesn't love me anymore, or wants to test me, or is waiting for me to learn a lesson so He can stop taking away blessings? Hardly. And does it mean God is incompetent, or uncaring, or that I've used up my quota of blessings for one month/year/decade/lifetime? Nope.

I'm not sure what to do to combat this attitude other than being extremely grateful and finding things to give thanks for all the time - and not just financial things, or health things, or job things. Lessons learned, kindnesses from a friend, mercies shown, the accomplishments of a child. Intangibles. Also blessings given to others. If I look in others' lives for blessings for which to give thanks, then I will see pretty clearly that it was nothing I did that got them blessings, it was merely that their God wanted to give them something for some reason beyond my fathoming - and possibly I will understand that the same happens in my own life.

CNN's Bad News of the Morning

I try to catch the CNN online headlines before I start working in the morning. This morning, I learned two tragic stories: One about a small child who strangled to death in his seatbelt as his mother frantically tried to free him while calling 911. (An officer managed to cut the seatbelt in time to get a pulse back, but the baby is gone.) Pray for that poor mother! I cannot even imagine what she is going through, and will be going through for the rest of her days.

And then there was the story of a sweet little baby boy who was legally adopted by a Utah couple, only to be, again legally, removed from their home and sent to foster care because he has Native American blood and the tribe wanted him back. He does not have enough Native American blood to actually join the tribe, but he has enough that the tribe can remove him from a non-Native American home and send him, not to his birth mother, but into foster care! What is this world coming to? Even though the tribe has the right, why on earth did the tribal lawyers pursue the case? On principle alone, I imagine, maybe so as not to create a precedent. This is why in my prayers I pray that our legal system will change to seek justice, truth and light, not just winning. Pray that justice, truth and light will win in this one, for the sake of that little boy and his family.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Benjamin's Song, Funny Bulletins and Nativity Sets

Today at church Barry and I sat at opposite ends of the pew, as usual, like bookends, keeping the children sitting up straight with their pages all facing in the right direction, so to speak. (Last week we sat side by side for the first time in I don't know how long. I loved it. Today we were back to normal.) We sang "It Is Well With My Soul," which I always think of as Benjamin's song. Benjamin was my nephew, my brother's eldest child. We received a phone call one awful day in his mother's pregnancy with him, telling us that Benjamin had died in utero. An hour or so after that we had to go to our church small group study and we sang "It Is Well With My Soul." Ever since then, it's been Benjamin's song to me. After a couple of years, I got to the point where I could sing it without breaking down, but then this morning for some reason it all just came rushing back again and I went all teary over it and couldn't sing. And I was a wreck for the rest of the service. Every song made me cry, all the prayers made me cry, singing the Doxology made me cry... Oh brother. Funny how that can happen.

The one thing that did not make me cry was this hilarious picture on the cover of the bulletin. It's from Augsburg Fortress Press, and the note says it is a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (16th century). Look at some of those faces in the crowd! Methinks Bruegel was a frustrated caricature artist. Look at the group down here in the left bottom corner. "Be nice to Bruegel, and if he ever offers to put you in one of his paintings, say thank you, but no."

And then we came home for lunch, and finally put up the Nativity set and got out Christmas decorations. We were really slackers this year. We usually put them up the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Part of it is that after living in no-kitchen chaos for months, I don't want anything extra, don't want to see messes, don't want to have to hunt for anything that's been put in a slightly different place from usual, and so I am less than thrilled with the idea of getting out decorations, which amount in my mind to "just more stuff." But I stifled the humbug that is me and we hauled the boxes up from the storeroom.

First was the Annual Assembly and Arrangement of the Nativity Scene, supervised by Maria, starring a cast of porcelain figures, grunt work done by Lil Miss A and Master K...

... followed closely by the Annual Feline Inspection of the Nativity Scene and Comfy Nap By the Stable, starring Briggs Stahl.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another poured in -- Viterbo University

Woot! That's the one Miss B's dad and I were really watching for -- and our pastor, too. She got accepted as a nursing major, tho she has to reapply for the actual nursing professional program by the end of her freshman year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

College Acceptance Letters are Pouring In

Well, one did, anyway. It poured in just this afternoon, in fact. To the University of Iowa. And they said right on the letter that she can go into the nursing school. Now that is a huge plus because many places won't let you know if you're going to be accepted to their school of nursing till you get your freshman year out of the way.

Now we just need a nice fat financial aid package to go along with it. :o)

By the way, the Army Reserves recruiter came over a couple of nights ago and talked with us about the Reserves. If it were me making the decision, I would have signed up on the spot! Good thing it's not my decision. Or not exclusively my decision. Miss B says I have been brainwashed by the Army. Incidentally, I couldn't take my eyes off the patch on the sergeant's right arm: A shield with a black horse head on it. I kept wondering if it could be the Black Horse Cav, the only thing I know about which I learned from reading Tom Clancy novels, and indeed, it turns out I was right.

Anyway, this is a huge relief. Miss B was starting to get a complex because she had not heard and had not heard anything and her friends were all getting multiple acceptances. She has not gotten any rejection letters, either, so we kept telling her not to worry, just to make sure she had submitted everything she needed to.

Black Beans Galore



1) Five meals' worth of refried black beans (1 for last night, 3 for the freezer, 1 for this weekend sometime)
2) Three more meals' worth of whole black beans (like for chili), all in the freezer
3) One supper's worth of baked beans, which is simmering away in my tiny adorable 1-quart crock pot this very minute.

Beans are wonderful.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How cool is this?

Bon-Bon and Paprika! (No, they're not ours)

See my crawler over there to the left? ===========>
You may have to scroll down aways, or up, depending on how old this post is by the time you read it. Anyway it's adoptable animals at the Coulee Region Humane Society. And how cute are these two? This is Bon-Bon, the little brown baby guinea pig, and her mommy, Paprika. They were left outside the CRHS in the COLD. Poor things!

We are not adding any new pets to our lives, but how irresistable are Paprika and Bon-Bon? I wonder what Gary would think if we got her a couple of young and peppy buddies. :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Once-a-Year Christians

Pastor mentioned this past Sunday the people we will welcome to St. Peter's on Christmas Eve, with whom we will worship - and then who will not darken the doors again till next Christmas Eve. He made an interesting point: They come to worship the Christ Child, the Babe in the manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, cute and precious. But when they die, will they meet the Babe? The King who awaits us is neither cute nor cuddly. He is the Righteous Judge. I fear for those who meet Him then without knowing any Jesus other than the Holy Child.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Look What Barry's Working On Today


First he glued down cement board to the plywood.

Next he worked on the layout of the tile and all those bitty little spacers.

Now he's chopping billions of little tiles in half for all the edges. He's about to run amok with that tile chopper thingie there.

He muttered something about how this countertop was not going to be worth all the work to anyone except me, that when we sell the house the first thing people will probably do is rip out those countertops and get something more modern. I keep telling him, I am NEVER selling this house.


Lil Miss A's Gingerbread House

Lil Miss A and I drove to Waukon so she could participate in this morning's annual gingerbread house decorating activity for schoolchildren in the area, sponsored by Kitchen Krafts. Here she is, back home, just before she started eating her gingerbread house.

While she was decorating her house, I got groceries, filled up the car ($1.559 a gallon!) and bought chicken feed and window washer fluid at the feed store.

Driving was a bit scary but we were fine, especially with 100 pounds of chicken feed in the trunk on the way home to keep us on the road!

Once back in New Albin, we stopped by the annual Karen Lee and Daughters Holiday Craft Sale. I bought a handcrafted graduation card for Miss B (Lil Miss A picked it out), a plate of cookies (also selected by Lil Miss A, naturally) and a video transfer DVD produced by Errin Wilker of some old movie film of New Albin in the 1930s, coupled with some video of Shooky Fink Days during the 1990s. I have not looked at it yet.

Finally, back home, I opened the mail and found this neat postcard of St. Peter's when it was known as the German Evangelical church. (Some of the old timers in town still just call St. Peter's "the German church." This is the same site as the brick building built in the 1950s. I wonder why the lot was fenced? The postcard is not in the greatest shape, as it was torn out of an album (there is black paper residue on the back), but what a nice shot of our church! I bought this on eBay. The seller stated he could see part of what he thought was a 1907 postmark. I am not seeing it. But it's old. It's a RPPC. Great to add to the collection.

Friday, December 05, 2008

On the FAFSA and paying for one's child's college

College financing has been on my mind pretty much 80% of the time these days. We're fast coming up on the time when we will fill out the FAFSA for the first time to determine what our family ostensibly can afford to pay toward Miss B's college bills. We have forced her to set aside half of her earnings, split between a College Savings Iowa account and a passbook savings account, so she has a little set aside (some of it went toward her 3 mission trips). We don't have a lot in savings; most of our money goes toward our retirement funds* and the house. And right at this very moment, our income is excellent, but we anticipate it being decimated in a few weeks here.

So my friend L and I were talking about this yesterday and she said she and her husband didn't even bother to fill it out. I think we will have to, no matter what, because of the job change situations we are facing, and I would probably do it even if we didn't think there was any chance of it helping us, but I was rather curious how many families just don't bother with it. We had an informational meeting at the high school a few weeks ago, at which most of us parents of seniors came and learned about filling it out, and the mom of one of her friends commented to me that the only people she knew who were eligible for need-based financial aid were out of work entirely - and in fact, she knew of one family where the parents refused to look for work because it would mess up their family's eligibility for financial aid.

Anyway, out of curiosity, I did a google search on "filling out the FAFSA - why bother?" And after reading a couple of things that I found, I am really disgusted. Perhaps by chance, the first 3 sites I clicked on were message boards where college-aged people were complaining about their parents refusing to pay what they were supposed to for college. Evidently these kids thought that if the EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) came back as, say, $50,000, their parents were "supposed to" write a check for $50,000. On one board, they were commiserating with one girl whose mother "refused" to help her with college, saying how sad it was that her mother was so uncaring and heartless. And this was after the mother had already paid $30,000 for the first semester at a private college! Another kid was complaining that his parents had earmarked "only" $60,000 for his college and refused to borrow any more. Borrow. For his college.

I almost registered for one site in order to blast these young'uns for this, and then thought better of it. Not helpful. But it does give me pause. I wonder if my own children have such a nebulous idea of our family finances that they honestly expect us to pay whatever the EFC turns out to be when they go to college? When did things change so much that it is optional for a child to have a part-time job during college? Huh?? Isn't that part of the college experience?

The EFC, by the way, is estimated FAMILY contribution. Not Parent contribution. So the kids are allowed to contribute to that. In fact, whether she understands it or not, Miss B's savings goes toward that.

That's another thing to add to the agenda of the Big Family Meeting Barry and I are planning to have with the children.

Barry heard a program on Wisconsin Public Radio a couple of weeks ago contrasting college-going today with college-going a generation or two ago. Now colleges sell themselves to prospective students based on the food, the housing, the activities. The fun. The color. Used to be, you went to college to learn, and all the rest was immaterial.

I feel more and more like an old fogey here.

The FAFSA informational booklet we were given had a little note to students contemplating college to remind them that going to school means financial sacrifice, that it is a choice and means giving up other things that one might like to have. Kind of a "duh" thing, but really, I bet it sounds ridiculous to lots of people. Yes, the college years are supposed to be fun. Yes, they are probably a young person's first taste of independence**. Yes, they will bring lots of new opportunities and experiences. But no, they are not meant to be a newer, more opulent lifestyle, and no, parents are not supposed to go horribly into debt to afford them. The student is the one who benefits from college, not the parents, and therefore, I think the student should be the one to pay for it. As he or she goes. Not with an enormous debt that dogs his or her steps for years after graduation, keeping him or her from marrying or starting a family or buying a home. It's not worth it.

* Most of those were in the stock market. Note I use the past tense here.

** If parents are paying for it, how independent is this independence, really? Come ON now.

What's for Supper: Yet Another Way to Eat Leftover Turkey

This was actually last night's supper. I just ate the last of the leftovers for lunch and it's still good, so I thought I'd post.

The original recipe came from

Turkey Florentine


* 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
* 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
* 2 cups cooked egg noodles
* 1 1/2 cups diced, cooked turkey
* 1 cup turkey or chicken gravy
* 1 (8 ounce) package sour cream and onion dip
* 1/2 teaspoon onion salt
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


1. Cook spinach according to package directions; drain. Stir in butter. Place noodles in a greased 11-in. x 7-in. x 2-in. baking dish; top with spinach. Combine turkey, gravy, onion dip and onion salt; spoon over spinach. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

I had 1) lots of lovely fresh spinach that was starting to wilt, 2) no turkey gravy as I had already used it up to thicken turkey noodle soup, and 3) no onion dip, but plenty of sour cream and cottage cheese. So here is how I made the recipe:


* 1 (5 ounce) package fresh baby spinach leaves
* 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
* 3 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about half a pound uncooked)
* 1 cup sour cream
* 1 cup small curd cottage cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* a dash or so of salt
* 2 cups cooked turkey meat, diced
* about 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. Steam spinach in a little water. Drain, then chop. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the butter.
2. Meanwhile, cook macaroni in water. Drain and rinse. Toss with remaining tablespoon of butter.
3. Combine cottage cheese, sour cream, and seasonings. Add turkey meat and stir to coat.
4. Place macaroni in the bottom of a greased 2-quart casserole dish. Arrange spinach over macaroni. Spoon turkey mixture over spinach. Spread grated Parmesan evenly over top.
5. Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for about 25 minutes.

This served supper for our family of 5, plus lunch for me today. Everybody who wanted second helpings last night got some, so it was pretty generous. We'll make this again.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Praise report.

I don't like that phrase, but I have to report this, and it's a praise. So, praise report it is.

Barry called from work with more bad news about his job. Nothing definite but just more bad stuff in the offing. My supervisor had left it to me to call her about switching to full time, and he said I'd better do it. So I called her. And that wonderful woman is going to do all she can to make sure I can get full-time work. This is a terrible time to be asking; in the MT business, December and the first half of January are usually very hard months when the work load slows way down and it's hard to keep the staff busy. And you can't lay people off because come about January 18th all h*ll breaks loose again and you need them all. So this was not a convenient thing for me to ask. But she will try to help see that I get enough work, and she gave me strategies for dealing with it if I do not.

Benefits won't start for 3 months, but maybe Barry's job will last that long. If nothing else, maybe we can pay for COBRA coverage between the end of his job and the beginning of insurance under my job.

Now I just have to get to work.

Oh, and the Council did not seem sad to see me go at all. Ha!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

In a bad attitude. (Yes, again.)

Church Council meeting tonight. I am not prepared. Plus my work at home is not done. And I am trying to transition to full time, 40 hours a week. I'm not making it.

I don't want to be the treasurer anymore, that's what it comes down to. I am going to tell them tonight that they need to start looking for someone to take over. I have done nearly 5 years of this and the books are in much better shape than they were when I started. It's not an easy job, and it takes a lot of time. I will need all the time I can find to be making lines when Barry's job ends.


P.S. My stomach hurts.

"On the same page"

My dad asked me if I knew any phrases that meant the same as "on the same page," but weren't, as he is thoroughly sick of that one. I came up with the obvious, "on the same wavelength," but how about these?
  • Walking to the beat of the same drummer.
  • Hearing the same tree fall in the forest. 
  • Agreeing to agree. 
  • Riding the same elevator - but not all the way to the top.
I like that last one. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

HE SAID IT!!! (squeeeee)

Jayne Cobb: "She's starting to damage my calm."
John Casey: "You're starting to damage my calm."
Maria: *faints*

Edited:  Um, actually, I think maybe he said, "HE'S starting to damage my calm." Now I must watch the episode again. Ah, what drudgery.

Monday, December 01, 2008

First Winter Storm

And it happened while Barry was driving our two remaining guests -- college students -- back to college in the Twin Cities.

It's a long drive in the best of road conditions, 3-1/2 hours each way. It was quite a bit longer than that because of black ice, blowing snow and slippery roads. And also because Barry had his EMT gear in the car and could not help stopping to assist a couple of times. Once he was first on scene. He said it was a new and wonderful experience for him to see the relief in people's eyes when he walked up with his EMT bag with its luminescent strips and offered to help. Nobody was hurt bad, but he was able to sort out what was what, secure the scene and then hand off to the firemen who eventually answered the 911 call he encouraged one of the women involved to make.

Miss B was with him, for which I was thankful. It's always good not to be alone on a scary drive. And one of the two college students, at least (not the one who is actually related to us but the other one) was very appreciative of the ride home and the risks Barry and Miss B took to return him to school.

Barry's job is extremely tenuous right now, but he is not as worried as one might think, as he is hoping to use it as an opportunity to go back to school and become a nurse. He'd really rather become a paramedic, but their wage tops out quite a bit lower than that of a nurse. Maybe someday he can be both.