Friday, July 22, 2016

scrappy log cabin

I am practicing for retirement, making a quilt without buying any fabric - the old fashioned way, with scraps! 

Pictured above are nine 8" log cabin blocks laid out, not sewn together yet, just posing. I am adding a random house block every so often to change it up. I may add sashing (strips of fabric between the blocks to separate them), but that is yet to be determined. It is fun to see bits of other projects in there, like the license plates and route 66 fabric from my camper quilt, and some Tennessee orange from a graduation quilt, even some Christmas fabric from a tree skirt.  

How to make a log cabin block? Decide what width you want your strips (logs) and what size you want your center square. I used a 2" center square and 1" logs. Cut strips of fabric the width of your logs (+ seam allowance), leave in long strips. 

Starting with a center square of red, the traditional color for the center of a log cabin block (red = hearth), just start adding strips (logs) round and round until you get the size block you want. 

I wish I could be random, just pick up a strip of fabric without looking and sew it on next, but it just ain't happening. So to be a little OCD I lay out the block with the colors I want first, then sew it. But I do not cut the length of the strips before sewing, which saves a lot of time. A very easy quilt pattern and great for using up scraps.

When life gives you scraps, make a quilt!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

summer of '64

It was the summer of '64 and there was nothing on TV but the Republican National Convention. Some old white-haired man with big black glasses wanted to be president. I just wanted to watch anything but that. We would get up and change the channel, click, click, it's either hiss and snow or this.

I was 10 years old and this was not the first political experience that I remember, that came 8 months earlier when JFK was shot and we (as a nation) mourned together as we watched the events of that week on our collective black and white sets. But the young fresh-faced president was gone, we will miss him. The office of president was an old man's game once again.

It was the summer of '64, normally we wouldn't care what was on TV, but there was nothing else to do as we were stuck in a small room in the Lake View Motel near Blue Ridge, Georgia. It was the first time we had ever been in a motel as a family (that I remember), usually if we traveled at all it was because we were moving, or to visit relatives. It was our first trip to the north Georgia area and the first mountain we saw out the windshield was Fort Mountain. Our big blue Chevy station wagon that took us to Panama City Beach so often was now climbing mountains. We went up and over the top of that mountain, it was like a roller coaster! My mom, the navigator, had chosen the route on a map, from the south up highway 411 to Chatsworth, then right on highway 52 to Ellijay, then north to Blue Ridge. But maps are deceptively flat as a rule.

This trip was not a vacation or even for pleasure, but really any trip is fun. We were in pursuit of LAND, that God-given right, the American Dream to own a piece of land, and a house would be nice, too.

It was the summer of '64 and my dad had decided that it was a good time to retire from his vocation in the US Army after 24 years and 2 wars, with a third one calling him, it was definitely time.

After moving over 20 times in as many years, the decision to settle down was a big one. The decision as to where was easy also, both parents being from Georgia with extended family still there, most down south of Atlanta. The other part was the mountains. The mountains were not a weekend destination like they are now but a place to live and work and raise a family, and a place that doctors had sent my mom to for years whenever she had a bad asthma attack.

It was the summer of '64 and we had driven all the way from south Alabama to north Georgia, looking for mountain land. We met up with the realtor, an hour late for our appointment because of the Fort Mountain adventure.

We saw several places that day, I remember long rides on dusty dirt roads, curves and hills and creeks, blackberry bushes hanging on the roadside banks, and lots of trees. My mother's dream (and instructions to the realtor) was to have 50 acres with a house in the middle so she could look out her window in any direction and not see another soul or house. And that is pretty much what we got. The 50 acres were beautiful - a creek running through it with bottomland, garden spot, pasture land, a couple of mountains to climb, wild huckleberries, blackberries, plum trees. An old building hung on one hillside that my dad promptly claimed as his workshop.

And there was a house. The folks living there were selling out, excited to be moving to town. The house was small. There was running water into the kitchen, running gravity from a spring up the hill. It was nice cold water and tasted good as only mountain spring water can. We would later learn that water had to be heated on the stove to pour into the clawfoot tub sitting next to the kitchen sink for bath night, and that going to the bathroom would be an adventure involving a hike up the hill.

It was the summer of '64 and the only thing on TV was the RNC and we were in search of land. Why would our parents want to live in a place where there was only one TV channel and on it was politics. We bought that land and house, and moved north from south Alabama that fall.

It was the summer of '64 when I got promoted from Army brat to mountain girl, the year I came home. It was a good year, 1964.

These distant memories that were plucked from my addled brain were triggered by the RNC on TV this week, where an old man wants to be president. The young fresh-faced president is on his way out, we will miss him. The office of president is an old man's game once again. Thankfully we get more than one channel here in the mountains now, where is the remote… click, click

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Southern storytellers

The joys of this Southern life, we polish like old silver. We are good at stories. We hoard them, like an old woman in a room full of boxes, but now and then we pull out our best, and spread them out like dinner on the ground. ~Rick Bragg in My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South.

Rick Bragg paints a down home picture with a voice as smooth and warm as butter dripping out of a biscuit. That is when reading his written words, but when listening to his audio version, wow it is like y'all are sitting side by side on the porch in a hot summer breeze sipping sweet iced tea.

I recently discovered Mr. Bragg and his stories and have been smiling ever since. He tells about small town Alabama and other parts of the South. He defines piddlin' and loaferin' in case you don't know, and he talks about Alabama football. A lot. Roll Tide.

I also stumbled upon another Southern storyteller in the last few weeks, Sean Dietrich, On his website/blog, Sean of the South, he tells stories that are short and sweet and powerful. You can sign up to get a story in your email box every morning, or buy one of his books overflowing with Southern goodness, just enough for a quick morning e-mail at work or a long setting spell on the porch. And they get you right here (hand over heart). Every time. And they make you smile. Every time.

Sometimes grandpa Buddy will do that, pull a story out of his fading memory and tell it to the kids and grandkids, they sit around and watch him in awe, wondering why they haven't heard that one before. Like the other day when he told the one about the ashcan and the hole in the living room carpet, and the one about building a boat, and the one about building a dune buggy. He even told Madison and her boyfriend the one about jumping out off the second story balcony because, well he was where he shouldn't a been, because of a girl (before my time). So many stories.

Southerners will never run out of stories, unlike the Yankees, because, well like Mr. Bragg says:
I wonder if, north of here, they might even run out of stories someday. It may seem silly, but it is cold up there, too cold to mosey, to piddle, to loafer, and summer only lasts a week and a half. The people spit the words out so fast when they talk, like they are trying to discard them somehow, banish them, rather than relish the sound and the story. We will not run out of them here. We talk like we are tasting something. ~Rick Bragg

Sunday, July 17, 2016

back home again

Drinking coffee on the screen porch in the coolness of the early morning, watching the sun rise over the mountain, the soundtrack of an earlier life playing in the background.

John singing Back Home Again and Take Me Home Country Roads, the words never get old. I still can't listen to his voice for very long at a time without getting misty.

Gone way too young, but he left his wonderful songs as a legacy. At least he died doing something he loved, flying, not like so many others of substance abuse who are memorialized for weeks on the television… sorry don't get me started.

shhh, there it is… Sunshine on my Shoulders once again…

and… cue the air conditioner compressor under the porch shattering the peace

Note to self - retirement planning: Either move the screen porch or the A/C for maximal peace and quiet J

Saturday, July 16, 2016

precious stones

Here in the mountains, stone is a part of life. Just try to plow a field or garden or even dig a hole for your mailbox, you will hit rock. Evidence of old garden patches and fields can be found when walking through the woods, identified by the stone walls or piles surrounding them, stones culled out by the horse-drawn plow and stacked up along the edges.

In southern Louisiana there is no natural stone. So how do you build anything? How do you make a driveway? How do you cover a truck stop parking lot before paving? Who do you call?

Buddy was elated this week when they were finally ready for the stone after months of fighting with the 'crappy' soil there, soil that had to be removed from site down to 3 feet deep and replaced with somewhat better soil which then had to be mixed with different minerals just to make it stop crawling and be more compactible to meet specifications.

Anyway, back to the stone…

Buddy: The stone is finally here, tractor trailer loads of it coming in, it looks great!

Me: Where do they have to haul it from?

Buddy: It comes from Baton Rouge.

Me: That's pretty far to haul gravel, over an hour.

Buddy: Oh that is just where they get it off barges from the Mississippi River, it is all shipped in, there are no quarries here.

Me: What? Gravel coming in on barges? From where? Isn't it too heavy?

Buddy: That was the cheapest option, the other one was to get stone that came from the Gulf up the Atchafalaya River, but it would have to come through the lock system and that made it cost more.

Me: So how much does it cost, say compared to around here?

Buddy: At home we can call and get a load of gravel for around $15 a ton, here we are paying $35/ton.

This is of course in contrast to the last job he built in Oklahoma, where they hit rock every day and even the Love's rep would come by with his trailer to get giant landscape stones.

Dirt and stone, things we take for granted here, hard packed red clay and rocks are the things to contend with when digging here in Georgia, making a good firm foundation.

Here if your dirt driveway needs gravel you just call and a dump truck of crushed stone comes from one of the local quarries. Years ago all the driveways around here were covered with a pretty white gravel from Whitestone, GA (which is getting into the local marble vein). Now most of the gravel is quarried up at Cherry Log, and is gray granite.

But it comes right out of the earth here locally, just bust up one of the mountains and it makes great gravel, our own natural resource, precious stones.

So the next time you are trying to dig, be thankful for the dirt and rocks, it could be worse, you could be in southern LA where the soil is only good for growing rice and crawfish.

Monday, July 11, 2016

choose life

"Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain. . . To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices—today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it."  ~Kevyn Aucoin

words of wisdom on my birthday - from Patti Digh's Your Daily Rock:

I heard someone once say "I've decided to be happy in advance," and I've lived by that approach ever since, knowing I have a choice to choose happy, or not 
What are the patterns of how I define life? As full of possibility, as full of joy and relationship and a light that I can know because I also know great darkness. What she chooses is always dark, blame, woe, hardship, and joylessness. 
We are choosing daily. Not by ignoring circumstances that are hateful or hard, but by embracing them as part of life, not as all of life. 
Morning: Choose joy and happiness today. See what happens. 
Evening: Know each morning that you are completely in charge, not of your circumstance always, but of how you are in that circumstance. 
Choose life. ~Patti Digh
July 11

Thursday, July 7, 2016

just a wave

Be careful who you wave to. 

These days you must be careful, but 45 years ago times were different.

A wave could change your life.

When you meet your future on the side of the road at age 17, a wave could change the course of history.

Where would we be now if not for that simple gesture. Would we have met at all? Was it fate? Were we meant to be together and if not that dark night, maybe another time?

And was my 'biggest flirt' high school claim to fame the reason for the wave :)

A wave can be a catalyst, the beginning of what is now generations of kids and grand kids.

When just starting out back in 1971, the goal was not to grow old together, but it seems whether or not it was the goal, we have indeed achieved just that.

For better for worse, for richer, for poorer, yes it seems we have fulfilled all of those vows, with the in sickness and health one to be probably tested more in the future, until death do us part.

Another anniversary rolls around, and as my morning e-mail said:  HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!!!!   45 years of being together and 43 married.............let's go it again!

Just a wave started it all. Be careful who you wave to, it could change your life!