Archive for December, 2007

Getting Around to It

December 28, 2007

Quilting bubbles up in my life once again!



I’m getting faster at this technique, and that’s a very good thing since my time with Betty (my Bernina 1230) is so scarce.


The Poetry of Friendship

December 28, 2007

No stress this year! Christmas was a whirlwind of good food, good friends and fun family times. And I enjoyed every second of it!


The povitica was my best yet, and the pecan rolls in their gooey glory. I’m sure that the reason my breads all turned out so great is that I let Mabel the Mixer help out. I also changed the dough a bit, having discovered what a nice addition buttermilk makes to my basic pastry bread recipe.

We hosted our 3rd annual Christmas Eve Poetry Slam, which gets better every year.

Piles o’ Poets

Along with the usual pile o’ literary people in our new house, we had a phone conference with another local family who was in New Jersey visiting relatives, but couldn’t bear to miss the event. Our house is now fully initiated and feels even more like home.

Mark Poetry Slam

That’s Monk reciting Poe’s “The Raven.” His voice is deeper this year, so it was like hearing it for the first time. We had to stay close to the phone to be heard in The Garden State, but it was well worth the extra volume in our recitations. Next year we’re thinking of a full-out video conference so that we can add to the fun.

Haaaaaaave You Met Mrs. Schmenkman?

December 19, 2007

Gather round, kids, and I’ll tell you the story of how I met The Other Mrs. Schmenkman.

It was late in 1994, the internet was still new to most people and social networking (like my oldest son) was in its infancy. Quilters were beginning to meet at the corner listserv for coffee and conversation. Of course, where there are quilters and coffee talk, there is also chocolate. One innocent mention of Gayles Chocolates in Royal Oak, Michigan, and a head popped up in cyberspace and said, “That’s in my neck of the woods. Where are you?”

Gayles Chocolate Video Mix

We chatted some more and agreed to meet for coffee and truffles. This was a scary proposition in 1994, and we didn’t dare tell our mothers we were doing such a thing! There were ax murderers on the internet posing as quilters and just waiting for the right moment to lure us into chocolate shops! But, alas, Mrs. Schmenkman was harmless.


Many good times have been spent over Gayles wonderful coffee, truffles, Michigan cherry pecan candy bars, nut clusters, and especially (at least for me) Video Mix.

I liked Mrs. Schmenkman from the start. Turns out we grew up just miles apart, both attended the same university and worked in the library while we were there. Two strong Hoosier women living in suburban Detroit!

And then I moved away. It was one of the most difficult things I ever did. Luckily, friendship transcends space and time and the internet has worked its magic in keeping us close. I miss our late-night Sundays spent quilting, eating Key Lime tarts and chocolate, though.

And B to the W, Mrs. Schmenkman. . . . have you tried this yet?

Gayles Chocolates

I couldn’t resist ordering it when I bought my staff a box of Video Mix pretzels (Yumlicious, Everyguys!!!) I’m thinking spinach salad and some roasted root vegetables.

Miss you! The Other Mrs. Schmenkman

p.s. The only legitimate(ly goofy) picture of us online .

Premonitory Kimono

December 18, 2007

A lifetime ago when I had a freshly-printed degree and was learning the ropes in the automotive industry, I had a wonderful opportunity. At an ordinary staff meeting, my boss asked for a volunteer to participate in analyzing some new designs–at Toyota, Isuzu and Suzuki. In Japan. No one spoke up and I looked around wondering what the heck was going on. Initially, I didn’t think I should say anything, since I had the least seniority of anyone in my department. But after dead silence around the table, I couldn’t resist. I spoke up and tried hard to keep it professional and not yell “Hell, YEAH! I’ll go to Japan!!”


And so I was selected to work with the group of engineers responsible for coordinating the cross-industry car lines. I was also immediately chastised by my senior engineers who told me that what I was supposed to do was keep my mouth shut and wait for management to select someone to go. Sour grapes. I figured it was their own fault for not speaking up. The scale might have been tipped my way due to the fact that I was actively studying Japanese at the time, but no one seemed to care about that too much.

Being in Japan with designers was a real treat. Many of my colleagues had already spent a great deal of time there and knew exactly how to optimize their free time. Most of them hated Japanese food, so we didn’t get to eat as much as I would have liked, but they knew where to shop!

Antique Child’s Kimono

One of my souvenirs was a gorgeous antique children’s kimono. I loved how colorful it was compared to most of the more subdued tones in the adult silks. The purple and green and fuschia and blue just screamed out to me.

Antique Child’s Kimono

It’s been kept tucked away for 17 years now, but has finally found a home on my living room wall. It’s amazing how the colors match my own paint selections. I hadn’t even looked at it for well over five years. There are a couple of other antique silks I bought in my travels which will also soon be on display.

Egress With the Old, Enter With the New

December 17, 2007

Ten inches of snow last night! It was wonderful to have nowhere to go all day so we could enjoy it. Even shoveling out wasn’t so bad–with the exception of the neighbor’s car (on the right) which was parked so close to our driveway that the plow pretty much skipped plowing in front of our house. We had to clear nearly as much street as we did driveway to get out. We threw the snow all around the car (they sort of shoveled it out), but that will probably bite us in the butt the next time the plow comes by and shoves the entre pile right in front of our driveway again. We lived in the boondocks for so long we’d nearly forgotten what it’s like to have neighbors. Such catty fun!

Snow Day!

And my contractor showed up to work on this snowy Sunday! Impressive? Maybe not so much since he and his crew didn’t show up on Friday like they were supposed to. Ah, well, stuff happens and I really like these guys.

Door Installation

Except for some finishing trim work, my new door was installed today! She is loverly and the difference in both the interior and exterior look of my house is amazing.

New Door

The same Izmir purple color is going on a few interior elements of the house such as railings and the steel support pole in the basement. It’s nice to have the door out of my living room, where it has been for nearly a month while I painted it and all its framework. Now the decorating really begins!

Don’t Worry So Much About “Supposed To.”

December 8, 2007

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to display my Christmas tree upside down. Where I grew up, there was a florist shop which displayed all of their decorated Christmas trees this way and I loved it. The logistics of hanging a tree from the ceiling always prohibited me from following through with the idea. Install a hook sturdy enough to hang the tree . . . what if I don’t want to put the tree there next year? What about the two houses we’ve lived in with vaulted ceilings in the living areas? Too much trouble.

Upside Down Christmas Tree

Whoops! That really is upside down. Let’s try this:

Upside Down Christmas Tree

That’s better! You can now buy trees like this at Menards. Of course, I couldn’t resist.

Here’s a better angle–but please ignore the yucky unfinished wall (okay–take a good gawk at it–it’s going to get finished this coming week and there will be that much less brown in my house!)

Upside Down Christmas Tree

It never fails to make me smile when I look at it. It’s very Seussian! Maybe I’m not supposed to display my tree this way, but taking Armande Voizin’s advice I “don’t worry so much about ‘supposed to’!”

Good Enough!

December 8, 2007

Here at Chez Schmenkman, Ms. Henrietta and I use our weekends to try out new wines and new chocolates (Mrs. S., you know you’re always welcome if you want to make the drive!)

And in keeping with Mimi‘s advice, we had to sample Target’s Wine Cubes.

Target Wine Cube

We’re not exactly wine snobs, although we do have distinct preferences which lean toward pricier varietals. But, as we discovered this evening, there’s good wine–and then there’s good enough!

Juice Boxes

Did we mention the convenient delivery system? Just add your own straw–or two! “Hell,” says Henrietta. “It’s got its own spigot! Who needs a glass? And what’s more convenient that pressing a button?!”

The reviews agree with Joe’s assessment that “it’s not offensive. It’s drinkable, but unremarkable.” But we won’t soon forget the fun we’ve had for $8 (and that’s for the equivalent of 2 bottles!) It’s really not bad wine.

Oh–even though the kids confiscated Henrietta’s car keys, they forgot to warn us about how dangerous it can be to drink and blog! They must not have covered that in the high school assembly.

Wedding Quilt + 2 Years = Baby Quilt?

December 5, 2007

There’s a wedding coming up and you just know that the bride and groom would love to have a quilt. You’ve known the groom since he was born. Heck, you’ve already made quilts for the groom’s siblings when they got married. He and his bride know that they will be receiving one, as well. They even choose the colors. You select the fabrics, plan the design, and look forward to presenting it to the couple on their wedding day.

Sam And Jess

But there are some quilts which just don’t want to be completed no matter how inspired they are. And even though the design is coming along, the curved seams aren’t puckering and you just know it’s going to turn out beautifully, life intervenes and all work comes to a halt.The wedding comes and goes. The couple accept the IOUaQ graciously. But work on the quilt doesn’t start up again. And soon the blocks get buried in housework and homework and work-work. And then they get put into a box. And then stored away. And then moved to a new house. And then stored in a new location.

Sam and Jess 2

All the while you can hear their siren song. Harmony of the cool, watery colors calling you. Yet there’s always another cacophony of tunes screaming for your attention. It’s been more than two years since the wedding and the embarrassment of ignoring this quilt is getting to be too much to bear. How in the world are you going to get started on it again?

You discover that the couple is going to have a baby, that’s how. Sigh!

Samm and Jess  and Henry

Out come the blocks and the two boxes of supporting fabrics (64 quarts-worth in all). There are only eight blocks completed, and I had intended to make some miniature blocks to mix in, but the intensity required to continue was still blocking me. (My unpainted walls and the front door and sidelights which are hogging up my living room waiting to be installed right now screaming their song the loudest.)

Pragmatic change of design! I credit Liesl of Disdressed for reminding me of this from Joelle Hoverson’s Last Minute Patchwork & Quilted Gifts. I saw it and it gave me hope that I can get these blocks put together and reach an adequate size without spending too much more time, nor ruining the design.

It really needs to be completed soon so that it doesn’t become the baby quilt. I’ll start from scratch on that. I owe them.

Gag! And That’s No Gag!

December 3, 2007

Who is this “Mo,” and what in the world led him to believe that adding bacon and salt to chocolate was a good idea? Okay, while we’re inquiring, what led me to believe that it was a good idea to try it? Nevermind.

Vosges Mo’s Bacon Bar

I’m a pretty forgiving person when it comes to chocolate. It has to be awfully bad for me not to find something to like about it. Even if it’s crappy, it’s still chocolate, after all. Until this past weekend, I certainly never had a piece of chocolate set off my gag reflex.

Yes, I think it’s that bad–and I’m not lying about the gag reflex.

Friends encouraged me to give it a chance. Take a sip of the cabernet sauvignon and try again. I told them to go right ahead. I wasn’t going to risk bringing my dinner back up by having another bite. A few weeks back we really enjoyed Vosges’ Black Pearl Bar, which has sesame, wasabi and ginger. Try as they may, they finally conceded that Mo’s was really, really awful.

We didn’t try it with eggs, either. It’s just headed for the trash with the egg shells.

Bonus! Real quilt content! The trash, she is artfully resting on a quick one-patch I made from some wonderful Fresh Air by Chez Moi. It’s just a quick Christmas gift for some lucky relative or another.