Monday, October 31, 2016

Kon Marie Method

Every Monday, Carrie comes to help me clean my house. And for a brief moment in time -- everything is in order...and all is right with the world.

Now, that doesn't mean I do NOTHING. Quite the opposite. Everybody who has a cleaning lady knows that you must CLEAN BEFORE THEY COME. For crying out loud, if Carrie saw how this house looked on a typical Sunday night -- she would never come within ten miles of the place!!

Before she walks in my door, I've already picked up the kids toys, stripped the beds and washed all the dishes. None of that is a good use of my precious Carrie Time...

Last week, I had to kill a gigantic spider who was building a village in my bathroom window. Carrie has quite a spider phobia, and if she saw the size of that thing, she'd never come back...!!

Every Monday, Carrie runs through my house like Grant took Richmond...She scrubs the bathroom and kitchen floors, puts away a ton of dishes, hangs clothes up, vacuums, makes the beds and dusts every room. She knows where everything goes...and she puts the hair brushes under the vanity in the sink, and stacks the jigsaw puzzle boxes in a chair near the puzzle table.

But it's the EXTRA jobs Carrie does that make my life worth living. If I have a trip, Carrie helps me to pack or unpack, as needed.  And all the seasonal jobs that are SO MUCH WORK -- it would be overwhelming. I don't know what I'd do without her help.

Next week, she'll pack my summer clothes in tubs and bring my winter clothes up from the basement. She will fold and color code my winter tops. In the spring, she power washes the porch and brings up the cushions for the porch furniture. One day soon -- she'll reverse that process, wrap those colorful cushions in cotton sheets and pack them away in storage as we button up the porch for winter. When it's needed, Carrie cleans the refrigerator or the oven. Every now and then, she even helps me clean out the trunk of my car...or deliver bags of outgrown clothes and toys along with overflowing books BACK to the Goodwill store.

Most of the time, I'm here on Monday when Carrie comes. We have a system...whereby I get out of her way. I go to the basement and sort through the week's worth of laundry. I'll fold a basket full of towels, and John's many golf shirts. I don't bother folding the underwear or pairing the socks (the secret is to ALWAYS BUY THE SAME BRAND of socks)...I stay in the basement, listening to a book on tape, folding clothes while Carrie puts my house in order. I might do a little sewing or mending, but when I hear the vacuum running, I know she's almost done...and she'll be coming down the steps to help me bring up the last basket of clothes.

And I am grateful.   Everybody needs a little help now and then, I'm just sayin'...

Speaking of folding clothes -- have you seen this?  Apparently, it's ALL THE RAGE...and I might add this to my Monday routine...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Power of Words

I have a new philosophy I'd like to share.

When something in my life has gone sour -- I bitch it out three times. That's it. Just three times.

Then I move on.


We all have rotten things happen to us. Shit happens. That's the way of the world. And most of the time, YOU can't control what happens...but you can control how you let it affect you.

It is tempting to hang on to the bad happenings. If you are disrespected or hurt or shunned in some way -- you want to tell that story again and again...and every time, you feel the hurt all over again. The people (friends) you're talking to say comforting things like, "you were right, and they were wrong..." Or, "they owe you an apology!!" Or, even (this is my favorite)  -- "you don't need those toxic people in your life".

Hey -- I GET IT!! It is tempting to tell those gain that sympathy and understanding.

But, do yourself a favor. Stop. Bitch it out three times. Choose your friends wisely...tell the story, change what you can, accept what you can't...then move on.


These are your people. They may never change. They are not perfect. There may never be an apology. Get over yourself. You're not perfect either. Make three times is the limit...then, you simply let it go...

Friday, October 28, 2016


WEIGHT has been a lifelong battle for me. Hey -- remember?? I WROTE THE BOOK, Life Is Not a Dress Size!!
I still have this cover outfit -- somewhere!! Awesome, eh??
OF COURSE I know life is about more than how much I weigh. And I have people in my life who love me no matter what that number is. And I happen to know that skinny people have just as many problems in life as us fat girls.

By 2009, my weight had gone over 300 pounds. YIKES. I was snoring at night, and could barely walk up a flight of stairs. I needed an extension belt to get on an airplane, and the weight was limiting my life. I knew I had to do I started some new good habits. I walked on my treadmill every day. I also changed some bad habits -- and I didn't eat after 8:00 at night. Over the course of two or three years, I lost nearly 100 pounds.

BUT -- life is full of twists and turns...and what is it they say?


I've gone back to my old bad habits -- and my weight has been creeping back up. I'm actually afraid to get on the scale. ugh. My treadmill is covered with a layer of dust and I ate a whole package of caramel apple wraps while watching The Biggest Loser...


You will never guess what I'm about to do....!!

P.S. No -- I'm not getting my jaws wired shut, and it does not involve surgery!! What I'm planning is actually going to be FUN...I'm very excited about it...and I'll be writing it up next week...

Thursday, October 27, 2016


I LOVE MY LIFE.  I always have. It's jam-packed with the usual things -- a little work, a lot of hobbies. Family and friends I love who love me back. I take joy from everyday things like doing laundry, cooking an ordinary meal, hemming pants for a neighbor or sewing a Halloween costume.


So, when my sister called and said, "Do you want to go see the Rockin Road to Dublin tomorrow night?" I did not hesitate at all.

YES, OF COURSE was my immediate answer...Even though I had no idea who these people were...

IT WAS A WONDERFUL SHOW!!  Irish dancing and singing -- all with a ROCK BAND that reminded my of the TSO concerts I loved so much. 
They didn't sell a lot of tickets during their one night stop at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa...
Although THAT WAS THE GOOD NEWS for us -- because Deena got a screaming hot deal on SIX TICKETS...
Me, niece Nicole (she is Deena's Kenny Rogers buddy), Deena and her daughter Kelcy, friends Sarah and Val on the right side.
After the show, we spoke to the band in the lobby. THEY WERE TERRIFIC..!!
Such beautiful singing voices -- and the dancing was wonderful.
No doubt you have a venue near you that works hard to bring in acts...GET ON THEIR MAILING LIST. And even if it's a show you've never heard of -- GO. Watch for the specials. Be spontaneous. Invite your friends!!

Go to the Rockin Road to Dublin website to see if they might be coming to  a town near you!!  I think they are touring the western United States right now...

Thanks again, Deena -- for a WONDERFUL NIGHT!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday
(...skip this part if you're not new here...)

The Splendid Sampler™ is an internet sew-a-long created by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. It is an EPIC sew along...
  • 83 fabric designers have created specific blocks that feature different quilting techniques. (paper piecing, fused applique, etc.).
  • The blocks will be released each week, and are FREE to participants until March 2017. (at that time, they'll use the designs to publish a book).
  • You can use whatever fabric you like.
  • There will be pictures on their Facebook page, etc.
The new block designs come out twice a week....on Sunday morning and Thursday morning. I'm doing this with my TMBC...and, therefore, it is my pleasure to BLOG ABOUT IT every Wednesday. *******************

A funny thing has happened since the TMBC started participating in The Splendid Sampler™....we ARE BECOMING QULTERS..!!

Last week was kind of unusual -- because we had many field trips....

On Tuesday, we went to Fulton, Illinois to check out Susan's Calico Creations GOING OUT OF BUSINESS SALE.  Shopping there was a happy/sad affair. Happy to see all that beautiful fabric for 40% off...but sad the business is closing it's doors after 20 years.

We started off with breakfast at our favorite place, Krumpets -- and, of course, THERE WAS A SEW AND TELL...

LP did two versions of the bonus blocks...
Two versions of "Bows"...SO different with various fabric choices.
This block is called First Stitch...
After all that exhausting breakfast/fabric shopping...we moved on to a fabulous lunch, and a walkabout town.  This sign on the side of a building cracked us up.
LIKE THAT WASN'T ENOUGH sewing excitement -- Sandy and  LP went on a TWO DAY SHOP HOP BUS TRIP...where they visited eight different quilt shops in three different states.
AND, as the freakish thing called RITALUCK would have it -- I visited this wonderful quilt shop in Fennimore, Wisconsin on WEDNESDAY -- THE QUILT PEDDLER.  and LP and Sandy were in THIS SAME SHOP three days later!! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Smelly towels

WOW!!  I received many emails about the problem of WASHING MACHINES.  Yikes.  Many of you are also suffering from the ""my towels smell like ass" syndrome...

I can't remember exactly where I found this -- maybe on the Speed Queen website....but this this is some good information:


You’ve just taken a refreshing shower that leaves you feeling invigorated. You reach for your towel, and your spirits deflate. The towel feels coarse against your skin. Worse yet, as soon as dampness settles in, your towel takes on a smelly funk. Sound familiar?

When your towels smell and lack absorbency—especially shortly after being laundered—it’s a sign that detergent and fabric softener have built up in the fabric. While it sounds counterintuitive, using too much detergent is bad for towels. When soap residue builds up, the towels don’t dry as effectively, decreasing their softness and increasing the possibility of being a breeding ground for bacteria (thus, the musty smell).

The good news is that there are steps you can take to reverse these effects.

How to refresh towels

Washing towels with vinegar and baking soda can bring them back to life in just three steps:
  1. Wash towels in hot water and one cup vinegar. Don’t add any detergent.
  2. Wash the towels a second time (without drying them) in hot water and one cup baking soda.
  3. Dry your towels but avoid fabric softener, which builds up on towels and reduces softness. Learn more about fabric softeners in our Liquid Fabric Softener vs. Dryer Sheets

How to keep towels soft

Now that you’ve refreshed your towels, how do you ensure they will stay that way? Here are a few hints:
  • Make sure you are using the correct amount of detergent. These tips will help you stay within recommended guidelines:
    • Fit the detergent to your machine. If you own a high-efficiency machine, use detergent to match.
    • Measure detergent according to the manufacturer’s package. You’re likely to use more—rather than less—than recommended if you eyeball the measurement.
    • Know how to tell if you have used too much detergent. Suds left over after rinsing is a sure sign. Also, if your wet clothes feel stiff, they are likely filled with soap residue.
  • Hang your towels to dry. Never throw a wet towel in the hamper. Bacteria will grow faster on towels that aren’t allowed to dry completely.
  • Clean your washing machine frequently by running a cycle with one-quarter cup bleach.
  • Launder your towels frequently. A good rule is to use the towel no more than three times between washings.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Buying a new Washing Machine!!

Last year my TMBC friend, LP, bought a new washing machine. She knew she didn't want a front loader -- and after doing a lot of research, she purchased a Speed Queen, which she is very pleased with.

THAT triggered a little a trip down memory lane for me. Growing up, my parents owned several laundromats -- and they ALWAYS had Speed Queens.
My mother would never have considered any other brand at her house. And -- guess what -- THEY ARE STILL MADE IN AMERICA. Right here in Ripon, Wisconsin.

So, now I'm doing some research...and it was shocking how many people have replaced their $1000 front loaders after just five or six years.

But it ain't easy to buy a Speed Queen, cuz the big box stores don't carry 'em.  Then I remembered I have the internet.  HOLY COW.  YOU CAN BUY THEM FROM AMAZON..!!

Instead of me telling you my semi-worthless opinion -- I'm sharing this lively Amazon review from a real life consumer!!
The Speed Queen AWN412S is a dinosaur, in the sense that; it will not whistle Dixie when a cycle completes, agitation is louder than a front loader, and a whole truck load of ugly hit it on the way out of the factory. No electronics means no delayed start, no Wi-Fi, or latte dispenser. Add to that, your irritating neighbor who seems to have all the toys will look down her/ his nose at you for owning something that does not light up and sing 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', even though they only know the piece as "the theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey."

With that stated, this machine does what it is supposed to do. It cleans clothes, gently, effectively, and quickly. Use your egg timer if you need an end of cycle alert, 28 minutes for the Regular/Normal cycle by the way. The baby will fall asleep instantly listening to the rhythmic agitation phase. The spin cycle is butter smooth and very quiet. If you have a separate laundry room, the ugly problem is solved. If not, then put a plant on top of it and stop whining. As to the pesky neighbor, laugh out loud and point when they have to replace their 'fashion statement' machine for the fourth time, while your trusted old friend sits there and CLEANS YOUR CLOTHES.

Oh, and take the money you saved from replacing the machine over the years and go to Maui.
Get it while you can as apparently after 2017 machines like this will no longer be made, due to Federal regulation. It does use more water and electricity than a front loading machine. However, what is better for the environment? Having a machine that will be in use for decades? Or having a huge polluting manufacturing plant pouring out junk that has to be shipped off to the recycling/ landfill every 6 years? The water will be recycled and the AWN412S uses $43 per year in energy (with a electric water heater) as opposed to $23 per year for my old front loader.

Being "green" is an end to end process. You can not be "green" by purchasing manufactured products that have to be replaced at short intervals. There is a massive cost to the environment in building these things.
So, if you're in the market for a new washing machine -- YOU ARE IN LUCK.  At least, for one more year...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Shoofly Pie

Since I'm on a's time for a lesson in Shoofly pie recipe. Lilly and I made two of them last week -- they were PERFECT. They are one of those things that just taste like home...

Growing up in Iowa, I never heard of Shoofly Pie. But it is one of my "MUST EAT" items whenever we visit John's family in Pennsylvania.

Here's what the internet has to say about Shoofly Pie:

Visit the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania and indulge in a Pennsylvania Dutch original, the Shoofly Pie. Also know as Shoo-Fly Pie, and Shoo Fly Pie.

First time visitors to the area always comment on this pie and its strange name. Most of the area restaurants and bakeries sell this favorite pie. The pie is more like a coffee cake, with a gooey molasses bottom.Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is indigenous to those areas of southeastern Pennsylvania that were settled by the Mennonites and Amish. William Penn (1644-1718), founder of Pennsylvania, was seeking colonists for the Pennsylvania area. The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn's "holy experiment" of religious tolerance. The first sizeable group arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

These settlers were addicted to pies of all types and they ate them at any time of day. The most famous of their pies is the shoofly pie. As the very earliest settlers came to North America by boat, they brought with them the staples of their diet - long-lasting nonperishable that would survive a long boat trip. These staples were flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt, and spices. Arriving in the new land during late fall, they had to live pretty much on what they had brought with them until the next growing season. The women, being master of the art of "making do," concocted a pie from the limited selection that could be found in the larder. This resourcefulness led to the creation of shoofly pie.

The origin of the name has been debated for years and will probably never ultimately be solved. The most logical explanation is related to the fact that during the early years of our country, all baking was done in big outdoor ovens. The fact that pools of sweet, sticky molasses sometimes formed on the surface of the pie while it was cooling, invariably attracting flies, show how such a pie could come to be called shoofly pie.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Unbaked Pastry for 10-inch one crust pie

3 tablespoon butter
1  cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup hot water
1 cup dark molasses
1 egg
Mix:  1/4 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, then stir into wet mixture


Dry:  In a large bowl, using a pastry blender, cut shortening or butter into flour, brown sugar, and salt until mixture is the size of small peas; set aside. (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)

Wet: In a large bowl, mix molasses and egg and 3/4 cup hot water. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 c. water with baking soda. Combine all wet ingredients and whisk until soda quits foaming.

Gently stir wet into the dry. Pour mixture into unbaked pie crust, sprinkle reserved crumbs on top.

Bake 10 minutes and then reduce oven to 350 degrees F. Bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Padora's Italian Bread

One of the highlights of our Pennsylvania vacation ALWAYS -- is eating bread from the Italian baker in Tamaqua.

John likes to get there at 11:30, just as the bread is coming out of the large coal-fired brick oven...(which is over 100 years old) and he usually buys two or three loaves. We freeze some to bring back to Iowa -- but the biggest treat is to sit down and eat a fresh loaf of crusty bread, while it's still warm enough to melt butter.

Yes, I am a lucky, lucky girl!!

OMG..OMG...OMG...due to the miracle that is the Internet -- I found this article about Padora's Italian Bakery.  This is actually more than I ever knew about this bread and it's history.  Thank you, Al Gore...!!

Baked to perfection
Friday, February 26, 2010


Lawrence "Mickey" Padora, 83, is a master baker who specializes in only one product - Italian bread.
Born Lorenzo Guiseppe Padora, Mickey has spent over 50 years making fresh, hard-crusted Italian bread in Tamaqua's Italian Bakery. The small, white wood-frame structure clings to the hillside unannounced at 122 Railroad Street. Locals call the area Pleasant Row.

Consumers say Padora's bread is without equal.

Demand for the tasty treat has allowed Padora and wife, Carolyn, to stay in business and raise six children - Donna, Anna, Michael, Johnny, Carol and Larry, all of whom did chores and pitched in to help at the bakery throughout the years.

The shop's yield is high. Orders vary each day. But it's not unusual for the one-room outfit to produce 500 loaves a day six days a week when orders mount.

While most of the product ends up in local stores and better restaurants, the golden brown loaves also get shipped to far away places. Padora's bread has been all across the country, plus to Ireland, Wales and Canada. One family was known to pack it in suitcases for their regular trips to Hawaii.

Much of the product, however, stays in homes and eateries in Schuylkill, Luzerne and Carbon counties. Some is used to make hoagies at Padora's Six Pack House, 209 Railroad St., a side business owned by the family.

The old Tamaqua Italian Bakery has been Padora's bread and butter for most of his life.
 "We only closed one year, it was during the Korean conflict in 1958," he says.

Everything about Padora's approach to breadmaking is special, from the Old World Italian recipe to his historic, century-old, open-hearth firebrick. It's fueled by buckwheat-sized anthracite coal.
"A state inspector once said he believes the bakery to be the only one of its kind in the state," says 36-year-old Larry, Padora's son and a bread baker in his own right.

Some believe the firebrick bake oven fueled by anthracite coal may be the only one in the country. In Tamaqua, the bakery is an institution and locals walk to the place to pick up their daily bread.
On June 11, 1998, Tamaqua's Italian Bakery was forced stop operations briefly when an essential piece of equipment went bad.

The bin on the dough mixer had worn through from years of use. The vintage apparatus, a motor-driven, 1913 Hobart Peerless Bread Machine from Sidney, Ohio, could no longer be used. Replacement parts were impossible to find.

"The company was still in business so we called and they were surprised to learn about the old machine still in use," says Larry.

Peerless had no solution to the problem and a new, computerized $65,000 doughmaker just wouldn't cut it.

A family friend, John "Sonny" Trudich Jr., came to the rescue. Trudich helped to remove the worn bin and directed the Padoras to a Tamaqua fabricator, Nestor's Iron Works. There, a thick steel band six feet long was manufactured and shaped to form a new bin. The bakery reopened on Saturday, just two days later.

The famous brick oven also was repaired once. Larry crawled inside the confined space to tend to the firebricks.

"You could never do it if you were claustrophobic," says Larry.

According to Mickey, the unusual dome-topped hearth measures about 21 X 20 feet. It gets its heat from a vortex of hot, fan-forced air shot from the coal fire. The fire is positioned beside the oven, not underneath. In full operation, temperatures can reach 1,200 degrees although the bread is normally baked at about 650.

Once fired, the bricks become hot and the oven retains its heat. The Padoras use about two tons of coal a month.

The unusual oven was built around the turn of the century by George (D'Allesio) Dallas, who commissioned experts from Italy to do the job.

Dallas operated the oven for several years before 1911 then leased it to Odoriso Sozio and sons who ran the business until the 1920s.

Afterward, it was taken over by one of Sozio's helpers, Emedio Zaraca, originally from Italy, who baked bread until his death in 1955.

Zaraca's wife Anna and son Robert continued for another year before turning it over to Mickey Padora.

Mickey learned the bread making technique while assisting Zaraca, he said.

Larry picked up the trade from his father but never let on that he knew how to do it until Mickey became hospitalized. While an inpatient, Mickey couldn't understand why hospital visitors mentioned that they were still enjoying the bread. Turns out, Larry had taken over the reins but never said a word.

"I think he was surprised," Larry says.

A reserved and modest man, Mickey is proud to point out that his bread is a wholesome, homemade product that contains no chemicals, additives or preservatives.

"We use an expensive, high-quality flour."

And there's no need for an oven timer because Padora instinctively knows when the loaves are ready, browned to a turn. At just the right moment, he reaches deep into the hot cavern using oversized, wooden spatula-type tools - with handles close to forty feet long - and retrieves the fully baked delight.

The healthful benefits of Padora's sugar and additive-free leavened bread have not gone unnoticed by local physicians and heart doctors. Some have recommended the bread to their patients.

Dale W. Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society, says he, too, is a loyal customer.
"It's the finest, unique Italian bread I've had anywhere. It's outstanding, and I know what I'm talking about. My brother is an Italian bread connoisseur and he's tried breads from all over the country. He says nothing else even comes close."

For the Padora family, the bakery represents an honest, hard-working job producing a product known as the bread of life, common to everyman.

After all, people are individuals and everybody is unique. But bread, perhaps, is the one single common denominator, as basic as air and water.

"I've met some of the nicest people in here," says Mickey.

Larry agrees, noting that the business has provided an avenue to interact with people from all walks of life.

"Everybody has eaten this bread," says Larry, "from poor people to millionaires."


Another miracle from the internet -- somebody posted a video of Mickey Padora.  My husband John spent 20 years talking to this guy, every fall, trying to pick his brain about how to make the perfect loaf of Italian are his secrets!!  (Pat Leslie, you are going to LOVE this video)...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lifelong Friends

You were afraid it was going to be another post about 1927, right? I may not be done with that topic yet. And, I am for SURE not done with my rant about washing machines. I'm doing a little research about which washing machine WE CAN AND SHOULD BUY...

But today -- I'm looking back on our Pennsylvania vacation. One of the highlights is always THE FOOD. On our way into town, we stopped at Palermo's in Minersville to pick up a pizza and a calzone...
This HUGE calzone was $9 -- filled with delicious cheese (and ham) -- and we ate it for a week!!
But, of course, the real value to our Pennsylvania trip every year is visiting with friends and family.

Kathy Keefer is my lifelong friend. Gheesh...I've known her since BEFORE I HAD CHILDREN.  We were neighbors for only three years, but during that time, we talked in person or on the phone every single day.  Each of us knew what the other was thinking, doing, or cooking on that day.  We gained and lost weight together -- TOPS was our weekly night out!  Kathy gave a surprise baby shower for me when I was pregnant with Ross...

But we moved to Iowa when Ross was just a year old, and in those days, talking on the phone meant huge LONG DISTANCE charges.  Remember?  

Fortunately,  every year, we'd go back to Pennsylvania for our family vacation and Kathy and I would always pick up right where we left off.
 I promised Kathy I would NOT PUT HER PICTURE in my blog this year...but I made no such promise to her dog, Daisy...

Fast forward 25 years. Ross was moving to Pennsylvania to take a job with the CBS affiliate. He arrived with a jam-packed Ford Escape and a U-Haul, no place to live and not much of a plan. Kathy and Denny took him in "for a couple of days". When Ross went to work, Denny unpacked the U-Haul, and those days turned into weeks.

Living with the Keefers turned out to be a real blessing for Ross. He became part of their family. Kathy and her boys will always be his lifelong friends.  Ross still talks about Kathy's cooking.  She is one of those people who can make TOAST taste delicious, y'know??

When you go to Kathy's house -- she can whip out a spread like this in five minutes. You don't even realize she's doing it...
Another non-Kathy picture...son Ryan and his family. Ryan has his mother's love of all-things-canning!! They put up hundreds of jars of garden goodness every year...tomatoes, salsa, soup, applesauce, jams, juice, name and they have a pantry full of it!!

In your life, people come and go. Nobody's perfect, and things happen. You lose touch...they move, you lost all the numbers in your cellphone. Stuff gets in the way, then too much time passes...

But the older I get, the more I realize WHAT A GIFT IT IS to have a true friend. So if you are looking back, and wondering whatever happened to your wonderful friend...CALL THEM. You might be surprised how easy it is to pick up where you left off...

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Splendid Sampler™

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday
(...skip this part if you're not new here...)

The Splendid Sampler™ is an internet sew-a-long created by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. It is an EPIC sew along...
  • 83 fabric designers have created specific blocks that feature different quilting techniques. (paper piecing, fused applique, etc.).
  • The blocks will be released each week, and are FREE to participants until March 2017. (at that time, they'll use the designs to publish a book).
  • You can use whatever fabric you like.
  • There will be pictures on their Facebook page, etc.
The new block designs come out twice a week....on Sunday morning and Thursday morning. I'm doing this with my TMBC...and, therefore, it is my pleasure to BLOG ABOUT IT every Wednesday. *******************

Our two Splendid Sampler block ALL-STARS. 
Each week, Sandy does every block -- and LP does TWO of each block. Really. Every week!!
So, we can always count on seeing three versions of each block.
And LK is LOVING her new Featherweight, AND her new Loralie fabric!!
There were six new blocks this week. They loved the circle design, too.  (yes, that was sarcasm)
My sister Deb sent this painting home from Tennessee. It was painted, 40 years ago, by Linda's sister Evie and I was delighted to deliver it back to her family.
I didn't get much sewing done this week -- because I was busy doing a lot of this...

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More Things I did NOT know...

Before I read this book, the only thing I (thought I) knew about the 1920's was that Prohibition happened...and Charles Lindberg flew over the Atlantic Ocean.

Of course, he dealt with those two things - but there was SO MUCH MORE going on...
For example -- 1927 was the first "talking" movie. This was a technology that changed everything. And because Hollywood was the home of the movie industry, the movies glorified the American Dream -- the whole world became enamored of all-things-American. It was an overnight sea change in the way the world absorbed information. TALKING PICTURES...

But, alas, by 1927, the dreams of many immigrants had already turned sour here in America.

Hey -- WE THINK WE'RE HAVING PROBLEMS TODAY?? Try being an Italian immigrant, living in a crowded tenement in New York City -- no work, very little food, no indoor plumbing, and no potable water.  Conditions were deplorable -- and the Italians suffered more than most.

Because of the enormously popular "Eugenics" movement (later shown to be based NOT on science, but fictitious studies created by one man to advance his own agenda)...the general population of America believed the darker a person's complexion, the less desirable they were to society. In the south -- Italian immigrants were not even allowed to eat in the white people section.  They were routinely paid less money, denied decent housing, and discriminated against in every way possible. 

My husband's family immigrated from Italy -- and by the time I took up residence with them, the oft told family myth was that they came through Ellis Island and assimilated.   Italians learned to speak English, went to school, got jobs and became part of American society....

NOT SO FAST, PEOPLE...there was an entire Italian Anarchist movement. They were so unhappy with their life in America, and the horrible way they were treated -- they started setting off bombs. After a series of mail bombings, in 1919, they managed to detonate eight large bombs nearly simultaneously in eight U.S. cities.

In 1920, a huge bomb went off on Wall Street -- killing 38 people.
The summer of 1927, Sacco and Vanzetti died in the electric chair.  They were two Italian Anarchists who convicted of murder...and well -- you need to read the book.

The best thing about Bill Bryson is that he always makes me think. In today's toxic political climate, with all the hateful rhetoric about immigrants, it's good to stand back for a minute and consider WHERE WE ALL CAME FROM.

And maybe the truth is -- it's never been easy to be an immigrant in America...

Monday, October 17, 2016

1927 things I did not know...

In his book, One Summer -- Bill Bryson makes the point that Prohibition was the biggest gift any government ever gave to their people.

Prohibition began in 1920. Despite the new law, unsurprisingly, people kept drinking. As a matter of fact -- speakeasies and underground liquor sales boomed!! There never was a shortage of liquor...and the "criminals" were charging ten times as much for each "illegal" drink...making truckloads of money, and paying absolutely no tax on any of it. Hundreds, then thousands of legitimate restaurants in every city and town in America were forced out of business.

In fact, one of the most profound and LASTING effects of Prohibition was on government tax revenues. Before Prohibition, many states relied heavily on excise taxes in liquor sales to fund their budgets. In New York, almost 75% of the state's revenue was derived from liquor taxes. With Prohibition in effect, that revenue was immediately lost. Prohibition cost the federal government a total of $11 billion in lost tax revenue. The most lasting consequence was that both the federal and state governments came to rely on income tax revenue to fund their budgets.

Thanks to prohibition, organized crime grew from local street gangs to huge, multi-million dollar corporate enterprises, able to buy entire police departments, judges and politicians.
I learned most of what I knew about prohibition from Boardwalk Empire...turns out, all of that violence and corruption was true.

One more thing I did not order to discourage the general population from drinking rubbing alcohol, the government approved a plan whereby the new formula for industrial grade alcohol would be poisonous.  TIME reported in the Jan. 10, 1927, issue “Three ordinary drinks of this may cause blindness or death.”

Although there is really no way of knowing the true number of American citizens who were killed by their government during this time, and families would have been too ashamed to admit their loved one died from drinking alcohol -- it is very likely that at least 11,000 citizens died from drinking the new lethal industrial alcohol.

Think about that for just a minute.  The punishment for taking a drink should be death??  How in the world did they get to that point?  For doing something that, until ten minutes earlier, was perfectly legal in this country -- and ALWAYS was legal in every other country in the world....??

Seymour M. Lowman, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in charge of Prohibition, knew people were “dying off fast from poison ‘hooch'” but said  "if the result was a sober America, a good job will have been done.”

Saturday, October 15, 2016

One Summer: America, 1927

Today, I'm taking a break from the national nightmare that is washing-machine/gate.

You know how obnoxious I get when I fall in love with a thing...(Featherweights, Popovers, washing machines, Grandchildren, libraries, books). Well -- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the book, "One Summer: America 1927" by Bill Bryson.

As a matter of fact, I am officially declaring it my FAVORITE BOOK OF 2016.

In the interest of full disclosure -- I love Bill Bryson.  But this book was outstanding.  Mostly because of how he organized and researched all the things that were going on in America at a single moment in time...the summer of 1927.  Charles Lindbergh, immigrants, economics, movies, Al Capone, sports, Babe Ruth, politics, Herbert Hoover, book publishing, radio, television, eugenics, prohibition, travel, airplanes, trains, automobiles, Henry Ford, epidemics, science.

He covers the wide range and scope of things that happened in the summer of 1927 that, one way or another, changed the world we live in TODAY...
Although I have read Bill Bryson books -- listening to HIM read them takes it to another level of pleasure. He is hilarious...and I enjoy and admire the way he finds the irony and/or humor in almost every situation.

This book is a stunning achievement. Written with the usual brilliant Bryson humor, he makes history come alive. And with the benefit of 90 years worth of hindsight, you begin to understand where things went wrong...or right...(depending on whether or not your great-grandpa was a bootlegger).

Friday, October 14, 2016

Maytag, Mexico and Nafta

I decided to put the word NAFTA into the subject you would be forewarned about this blog post.

It is bordering on "political". A land I try to NEVER EVER visit...

But, in the last week or so, as I was writing a few posts about washing machines, I got a little misty about the way things "used to be". I mean, honestly -- when my mother died, her perfectly good washing machine was 30 years old. Remember those good old days??

Here in Iowa, we take our washing machines very seriously. Maybe because Maytag was an Iowa corporation. Remember those commercials about the lonely Maytag repair man? THAT WAS REAL, PEOPLE. For over a hundred years, Maytag proudly built a quality washing machine that housewives all over America expected to last for decades.  Newton, Iowa, was Maytag headquarters since 1893.

But -- that was then. This is now. Whirlpool bought Maytag, and largely thanks to Nafta, they moved their manufacturing to Mexico. As many as 16,000 American jobs -- many in Newton, Iowa and Galesburg, Illinois -- were lost forever.

Maytag was easy prey for Whirlpool is because -- guess what? They jumped into the FRONT LOADING washing machine business...and it was a bad idea right out of the gate.

In 1997 or so -- Maytag developed the Maytag Neptune line of front-load washers. A matching dryer was introduced to accompany the expensive new washer. The company claimed that the new Neptune model saved energy costs over traditional washer/dryer sets. The company was slow to react to customer complaints regarding its Neptune washer and dryer line (labeled the Stinkomatic by dissatisfied customers because they would become moldy in a way that could not be easily cleaned), resulting in damage to the company's reputation and a $33.5 million payout to settle several class-action lawsuits arising from the Neptune problems. By 2005, Maytag's market share had declined to all-time lows, sales were flat, and customer satisfaction surveys ranked Maytag near the bottom of the appliance field. The problems with the Neptune line continued; in 2007, 250,000 Neptune washing machines became part of a nationwide safety recall.

On April 1, 2006, Whirlpool completed its acquisition of the Maytag Corporation. In May 2006, Whirlpool announced plans to close the former Maytag headquarters office in Newton. Most Maytag employees were terminated, but the board of directors of Maytag all received five years' severance pay. Maytag chairman and CEO, Ralph F. Hake, presided over the sale of Maytag, and cut a pretty good deal for himself -- retiring to Las Vegas via his golden parachute of $10 million.

This post is like one of those boring books Lilly complains about "there aren't any pictures, Grandma...

I'm simplifying things....and there's much I don't understand. But it is very interesting to me when I consider how something that seemed strictly political, and therefore -- NOT MY PROBLEM (Nafta) -- ended up impacting my peaceful laundry life...

If you want to see how Galesburg and Mexico have fared since the Maytag exodus -- check out this article by a Professor and some think-tank types.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Recently, a friend posted this on Facebook, "I :am in the market for a new washing machine. Front loader or top loader?"  She was shocked by the number of comments she got...and the conversation went on for a week.

It was VERY CLEAR that women hate, hate, hate their front loading washing machines!!  WOW...

It is no secret that I LOVE MY WASHING's a 20 year old Maytag...
This is a topic close to my heart, because I LOVE doing laundry. Helping Mom hang the laundry outside every Monday is one of my best childhood memories. And you know I am adamant about hanging my bed linens out on the line. Making a fresh bed every Monday is one of the HIGHLIGHTS OF MY WEEK... those fresh beds are a gift I give my family.

So, if you're in the market for a new washing machine any time soon -- here are a few things you should know.  First of all -- just ten years ago -- for less than $300, you could buy a great top loading washing machine that did a terrific job of cleaning your clothes. Even Consumer Reports, at that time, said, "with the proper soap and amount of water, any of the washing machines we reviewed would get your clothes clean."

THEN, the government started to issue regulations about "energy efficient" appliances.  Which, in the case of washing machines, meant use less water...

Here's an article in the 2011 Wall Street Journal that explains how, overnight,  a simple, efficient, top loading, agitator washing machine became an endangered species...(sorry the link didn't work -- if you read on, I've inserted the article in another blog post...)

In the blink of an eye, all washing machines in the big box stores were FRONT LOADERS. Which USE LESS WATER.  Because of their complicated gasket, they also cost about twice as much to purchase...and never mind that the "energy savings" is actually $23 a year versus $43.   

DO YOU WONDER WHY all your clothes smell musty?? THEY DO NOT USE ENOUGH WATER...

Several years ago, a friend of mine wanted to buy a new top loading washing machine, but nothing on the market would fit into her laundry room space. She eventually found one - for OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS -- that was made in Germany. Ugh.

However, several months later, her husband said, "honey, I don't want to hurt your feelings, but all our towels smell like ass..."

The good news is that THERE WAS SUCH AN UPROAR from frustrated housewives all over the country -- the top loading washing machine is making a come back. But the bad news is that -- THEY STILL DON'T USE ENOUGH WATER...

There is more to this story than you might think....

Wall Street Journal Article

March 17, 2011
How Washington Ruined Your Washing Machine
The top-loading washer continues to disappear
By Sam Kazman for the Wall Street Journal

It might not have been the most stylish, but for decades the top-loading laundry machine was the most affordable and dependable. Now it's ruined—and Americans have politics to thank.

In 1996, top-loaders were pretty much the only type of washer around, and they were uniformly high quality. When Consumer Reports tested 18 models, 13 were "excellent" and five were "very good." By 2007, though, not one was excellent and seven out of 21 were "fair" or "poor." This month came the death knell: Consumer Reports simply dismissed all conventional top-loaders as "often mediocre or worse."

How's that for progress?

The culprit is the federal government's obsession with energy efficiency. Efficiency standards for washing machines aren't as well-known as those for light bulbs, which will effectively prohibit 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year. Nor are they the butt of jokes as low-flow toilets are. But in their quiet destruction of a highly affordable, perfectly satisfactory appliance, washer standards demonstrate the harmfulness of the ever-growing body of efficiency mandates.

The federal government first issued energy standards for washers in the early 1990s. When the Department of Energy ratcheted them up a decade later, it was the beginning of the end for top-loaders. Their costlier and harder-to-use rivals—front-loading washing machines—were poised to dominate.

Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don't fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don't let you toss in a wayward sock after they've started.

When the Department of Energy began raising the standard, it promised that "consumers will have the same range of clothes washers as they have today," and cleaning ability wouldn't be changed.
That's not how it turned out.

In 2007, after the more stringent rules had kicked in, Consumer Reports noted that some top-loaders were leaving its test swatches "nearly as dirty as they were before washing." "For the first time in years," CR said, "we can't call any washer a Best Buy." Contrast that with the magazine's 1996 report that, "given warm enough water and a good detergent, any washing machine will get clothes clean." Those were the good old days.

In 2007, only one conventional top-loader was rated "very good." Front-loaders did better, as did a new type of high-efficiency top-loader that lacks a central agitator. But even though these newer types of washers cost about twice as much as conventional top-loaders, overall they didn't clean as well as the 1996 models.

The situation got so bad that the Competitive Enterprise Institute started a YouTube protest campaign, "Send Your Underwear to the Undersecretary." With the click of a mouse, you could email your choice of virtual bloomers, boxers or Underoos to the Department of Energy. Several hundred Americans did so, but it wasn't enough to stop Congress from mandating even stronger standards a few months later.

Now Congress is at it once again. On March 10, the Senate Energy Committee held hearings on a bill to make efficiency standards even more stringent. The bill claims to implement "national consensus appliance agreements," but those in this consensus are the usual suspects: politicians pushing feel-good generalities, bureaucrats seeking expanded powers, environmentalists with little regard for American pocketbooks, and industries that stand to profit from a de facto ban on low-priced appliances. And there are green tax goodies for manufacturing high-efficiency models—the kind that already give so many tax credits to Whirlpool, for example, that the company will avoid paying taxes on its $619 million profit in 2010.

Amazingly, the consensus also includes so-called consumer groups such as the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union. At last week's hearing, the federation touted a survey supposedly showing overwhelming public support for higher efficiency standards. But not a single question in that survey suggested that these standards might compromise performance. Consumers Union, meanwhile, which publishes Consumer Reports, claims that new washers can't be compared to old ones—but that's belied by the very language in its articles.

We know that politics can be dirty. Who'd have guessed how literal a truth this is?

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday

The Splendid Sampler™ Wednesday
(...skip this part if you're not new here...)

The Splendid Sampler™ is an internet sew-a-long created by Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson. It is an EPIC sew along...
  • 83 fabric designers have created specific blocks that feature different quilting techniques. (paper piecing, fused applique, etc.).
  • The blocks will be released each week, and are FREE to participants until March 2017. (at that time, they'll use the designs to publish a book).
  • You can use whatever fabric you like.
  • There will be pictures on their Facebook page, etc.
The new block designs come out twice a week....on Sunday morning and Thursday morning. I'm doing this with my TMBC...and, therefore, it is my pleasure to BLOG ABOUT IT every Wednesday. *******************
My favorite picture of my new Franken-sewed LP's house during our recent Featherweight Pillowcase workshop
I'm happy to report that Sharalan is BIDDING ON EBAY -- looking for her own Featherweight...GOOD LUCK!
Sandy and LP did both brought blocks  to show this week...
Keeping up their perfect SS record.
see the difference?  LP reversed the black prints.
Sandy's version -- so different when made with different fabrics.
The two LP blocks, as well as Sandy's version.
The SS doing the SS.  SUPER STARS doing the Splendid Sampler!!
But the shock of the day was that LK brought her own Sew N Tell...!!
Using her new Featherweight (and LOVING IT) -- she made SS Block #1...
And a table square, using Loralie Harris fabrics.
You really can't wipe the smile off her face.  SHE WAS SO DELIGHTED...and so were the rest of us!
GREAT job, LK!!!
This is what I did last week...