Thursday, February 28, 2013

Recycled T-Shirt Bears

When the cold winter days force me to stay inside, I try to get caught up on my sewing projects.

My Sunday School group, the Austin/Barger class, has a Relay for Life team to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.  All the money raised is used locally to help cancer patients.  Silent auctions have been successful for us in the past.

These are my current Works-In-Progress, with a little help from my SIL Charlotte, the bear queen.  All these bears are made from t-shirts; three from the Relay for Life event last year, an Auburn and UNA t-shirt.  The bears will get a ribbon around their neck and maybe some more embellishment later.

Last Friday night, there was a Woodmont Women gathering for fun and fellowship.  To get a head start on the Relay for Life event scheduled for May, we had several items for a silent auction.  My donation was an Alabama bear and Auburn bear.  We raised almost a thousand dollars on all the items, so we are off to a good start this year.

All of these bears will be auctioned off in May.  I would love to see my little buddies go to a good home.  Maybe yours?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quilting Class: Week Seven

After all my flowers (students) got here tonight, raring to go, we talked about the quilt above.  This is just half of the quilt.  There are twelve different blocks made from half-square triangles.  Arrangements of these triangles seem to be limitless, at least for me.   Learning this basic technique will enable one to make dozens of different quilts.

This string quilt is our next project.  They are my favorite quilts, and you may be tired of seeing them here by now.  This quilt is marked with a white pencil to show us where to put the stitches so there will be straight line.

Marking quilts is one of my least favorite things to do, but it is extremely helpful for beginners.  There are lots of different markers that can be purchased today.  One of my favorites is slivers of soap, and I usually bring hotel soaps home to use for that purpose.  They wash out easily, too.  I have bought antique quilts at auctions that were marked with a pencil, and the lines remained after several years and many washings.

We got a lot of quilting done last night.  Violet was on crutches from her knee surgery last week, but her knee was doing fine and she was able to stitch as usual.  We had a fun night of learning, laughing, and stitching.

This class is made possible by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  Thanks!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sad List

I write a lot about the nostalgic good ole days when women wore lovely dresses and sat on front porches, rocking the evening away; when men had honor and children had manners.  Unfortunately, there was a darker side.

People died of things we can't imagine:  blood poisoning from a small cut, pneumonia, infection from a bad tooth, and childbirth.  I would have probably died when I was twenty and had appendicitis, and my sister would have died in childbirth instead of having an emergency Cesarean.  Fatal accidents were too common for those making a living by farming or cutting timber.

When death came to these country folks, it was up to them to take care of their own.  The list above, taken from the Gravelly Springs General Mercantile ledger from March, 1880, tells the tale.  I don't know who these people were, but given enough time, all of our families' names would have probably shown up on a similar list. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Stillness

Nothing in all creation is so like God as Stillness.  
~Meister Eckhart

Be still, and know that I am God:
        I will be exalted among the nations,
                  I will be exalted in the earth.
~Psalm 46:10

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Silk Hankie

So, yesterday, I was at one of my favorite places in the world, the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library.  There is a history room upstairs that is full of hidden treasures if you can just be patient enough to find them.

I found the list above from the Natchez Trace Genealogical Society's magazine.  It is part of an expansive list from the Gravelly Springs General Mercantile in 1880.  Lists like these just get my imagination going ninety miles an hour. 

 I love this one from the Pink Bruce family (I know some Bruces, possibly descendants of Pink and his lady).  I'm thinking the 25 yards of calico were for Easter dresses for Mrs. Bruce and her daughters.  Of course, they would have used them as their "Sunday" dresses until they were outgrown or worn out.  2 pairs of Speckticles??? Maybe the equivalent of the reading glasses you can buy off the rack now. The hat for $1.50 may have been a fancy one, since it was more expensive than a lantern, a bucket, and a broom.  They were buying new dishes, perhaps for a new cabin?   My favorite is 1 Spelling Book for 15 cents. 

One item on the list jumped out at me.  M. B. Roberson (sic) was my hub's grandfather, Mills Berry Robertson.  He would have been 17 in 1880.  My SIL Jo Ann and I have debated and speculated at length about this.  Paying a dollar for a silk handkerchief was a real extravagance, when one dollar would buy several yards of domestic fabric or many pounds of flour and sugar.  We have narrowed it to two possibilities: he was in deep trouble at home, and bought it for his mother in exchange for mercy, or, and this is probably the accurate one, he was in love.

The Robertson family wasn't wealthy, so young Mills Berry probably worked all day or maybe two for a dollar to buy that hankie.  That is totally insignificant to someone who isn't thinking straight because he is so in love.  He married three years later, and we like to think that hankie sealed the deal for the young woman's heart. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Drawing Water

This was always a welcome sight when we were standing in parched cotton fields, looking for a sign.  This meant that the sun was drawing water, and it was going to rain.

Daddy entertained us with stories of deluges that he had witnessed, or heard about.  He recalled that once, it had rained so hard, that little fish that had fallen from the clouds were flopping all over the place. 

We would believe anything.

If a fish, or any other living thing, was sucked up by a tornado or waterspout, then fell thousands of feet to collide with the earth, would it really be flopping?  We lived more than 400 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and over 600 from the Atlantic.  Peeps, that is a long way for a little creature to travel and still be able to move when it was reunited with the earth.

It is true that sometimes frogs or fish are washed up from streams or sewers during flooding, but I don't think they fell from the sky and were still able to move about.  However, it was an entertaining story and kept our minds off cotton for a few minutes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This Day

Oh, God, give me grace for this day.
Not for a lifetime, nor for next week.
Nor for tomorrow, just for this day...
So that for this one day, just this one day,
I have the gift of grace
That comes from your presence.
~Marjorie Holmes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Quilting Class: Week 6

Our quilting class last night started by showing some easy, colorful quilts that can be made from scraps.  The quilt in the photo above is a string quilt with a focus fabric.

This quilt is made of half-square triangles done the easy way.  These are not the intricate Baltimore Albums or Double Wedding Ring quilts, but quilts that can be done in a weekend.  Both of these quilts could be made by a beginner with basic sewing skills.

Violet was not able to come last night; she is having minor knee surgery this morning.  She is hoping she will be healed enough to make it next week.

Tulip, Daisy, Rose, and I were able to finish the bird quilt enough for it to be taken off the frames.  We love looking at the back of the quilt for the first time when it is out of the frames.  The stitching makes a pattern of its own on the muslin we use for backing.

All of us are excited about starting a new quilt next week.  So many little time!

This class is made possible by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  Thanks!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Great Backyard Bird Count

February 14-18 has been designated the Great Backyard Bird Count.  People who love birds are encouraged to count birds they see, and they can document them through an online application.  Having us count will give scientists and bird enthusiasts an idea of where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic with wide distribution changes. There are way too many birds for just a few people to try to keep track of.

I love watching birds and I keep food out for them, but I'm really not too good at identifying them. There are several bird identification books in my house that I use to identify our little visitors.

Since her retirement, my friend, Steph, has become a bird expert.  Her yard, with all the feeders and bird baths, are a magnet to them.  She catches them in photos, sometimes, and shares them with us.

This weekend, she had a flock of cedar waxwings stop by her place.  They were probably migrating north and won't be around for long.  Here are two of her photos that she shared.

We're calling her backyard "Steph's Bird Paradise". Thanks, Stephanie Brown, for sharing these photos with us.

Most days, I see a flash of red against barren tree limbs and the gray beloved red birds can sure brighten up a winter's day.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Always new

Lamentations 3:22-23

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
                       for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
                           great is your faithfulness.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Time to Plant

A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.  ~ Gertrude Jekyll

Every year about this time, I get itchy to be outside, to dig in the dirt, to sow some seed. The products from all this work are wonderful, but the process is what I really love.

I think I have always loved gardening. Even as a small child, I would walk barefoot behind Daddy's plow in the freshly tilled earth, looking for earthworms that had been disturbed. We couldn't wait to get the garden planted, and sometimes because of our impatience, we had to plant it again when we had a late frost. We planted the tomato plants (we called them slips) that Mama had grown in an old tub with a piece of glass on top to keep them warm. Surely, my mind is foggy here and there wasn't as many as I seem to remember.

As a teacher, I totally support formal education, but there are many ways to learn without entering a school house. The top three for me are reading, traveling, and planting.

Some things you can teach a child by planting:
      There is hidden life in what appears to be a dead, useless seed.
      Some roots grow deep.
      Every living thing needs to be fed, cared for, and                          given some space of its own.
      There is no food better than what you grow yourself.
      There is unexplainable joy in holding warm soil.


One year in Vacation Bible school, our baby boy had a very wise teacher. Instead of the usual plastic baubles and Popsicle stick crosses, she planted a petunia for them in a Solo cup.  He loved that petunia, and babied it until it bloomed, and then enjoyed it as long as there was a green leaf on it.  He learned a lot from that plant, grown from a tiny seed and a cup of dirt and years of wisdom.

No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden...But though an old man, I am but a young gardener. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Perfect Love

Today's blog was written last year on Valentine's Day. Since that time, I have not found any greater example of love, so I'm repeating it. I have learned that it is easy to say, "I Love You" when it is convenient, but not so easy when it involves giving up your own wants and needs for someone else.

It was late September, 2001, and we were bombarded with fear and disbelief and images of burning buildings falling to the ground. He was sitting there, watching it again, when the phone rang.

The doctor, with a voice that indicated he had done this many times before, told him that the stomach ache he had been experiencing was actually fourth stage colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver. The doctor instructed my little brother to find an oncologist and set up a course of treatment. The doctor told him that there was little possibility for long-term survival.
He was living in Tennessee, alone, having been recently divorced. There were relatives that lived nearly, but no one able to care for him, no one to help with the chemotherapy schedule or the meds or to talk to when it all became overwhelming.

My sister, BG, is possibly the only living human who dreads cold weather worse than I do. She lived in North Alabama until she was financially able to move to Florida. In September 2001, she was living in Florida with a job that met her needs, enjoying her life and the Florida sunshine.

After my brother's prognosis, she gave up everything tangible in her life and moved to Tennessee to take care of him. She drove him to chemotherapy, cooked his meals, dealt with the insurance companies, and watched movies and laughed with him. She cared for him until he breathed his last breath, staying until his estate was settled before she returned to Florida.

It was the was greatest act of pure, selfless love that I have witnessed in my lifetime.

Someone said Valentine's Day is just a commercial construct; the busiest time of year for florists and jewelers. It is all about measuring love by who gets the biggest, temporary bauble.

Can a relationship be measured by a pound, two pounds, or five pounds of chocolate?
If he buys you a two caret diamond instead of one, does he love you twice as much?
Can a relationship be measured by a stack of goodies on a cold day in February?

All these things seem so trivial when compared to what BG did for our brother. It can never be measured on scales or credit cards. It was having the strength to get out of her comfort zone to do what needed to be done.

Perfect love.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Painting Roosters

Last night, I went to a painting party at Stephanie's house.  I have never attempted to paint before.

 Not bad for my first time....Wait.  That is one of the paintings the instructor brought to use as an example.

The background was easy enough.  I chose to do a simple rooster, something that I could handle.  Maybe.

When Hub and I were very young, we lived on a farm and had animals.  One year, I found some really cheap baby chickens for sale in the ads in the back of a magazine.  We ordered them  and raised them to put in the freezer as fryers.  Well, no matter how much we fed them, those chickens just wouldn't get fat.  It was their nature, apparently, to remain petite, and I would guess that is why we got them at such a good price.  The rooster I painted reminded me of those skinny chickens.

My daughter-in-law, Rachel, and her sister are artists.  I have several friends who paint well enough to sell their work.  They don't need to be worried about any competition from me.  While it was a fun party, I think I'll stick to painting with fabric.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Quilting Class: Week 5

Our class continued this week, with all the students present and feeling fine.  We are quilting 'in the ditch' on this quilt, and some of my students are getting so good, they can't even see their stitches.

 We finished sewing down the last of the binding on our first quilt.  It is done except for the label.

On Sunday, before the church service started, I was talking to my friend, Barbara, when another lady walked up.  Barbara introduced me as "Wanda, the quilter."  The other lady was surprised.  She said, "I didn't know anyone did that anymore.  It is way too slow for most of us."  Well, it is slow, but that is not necessarily a negative thing.  I think the whole world would be a better place if we all slowed down and took time to work with our hands.  I told the lady that some of us were working to insure that quilting will never die.

This class is made possible by a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.  Thanks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Sunday Scripture: Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. 

                   I do not give to you as the world gives. 

 Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 

~John 14:27

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Cape Cod

In 1993, I spent the summer on Cape Cod doing some research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

It was the coldest summer of my life.

I wish them well, but I'm certainly glad that I'm not there today.

Friday, February 8, 2013


It is cold and raining.

It is a long time until spring break.

I have a sinus infection and a bad knee and I'm out of bacon.

Peeps, this would be a good day to run away from home.  Maybe we could take a train.

We no longer have a passenger train here; we have to go to Birmingham or Memphis to get aboard.  Sometimes, it is worth the drive.

 Taking the train means you don't have to find directions or parking places. You don't have to argue about who is going to drive. You just relax while the train rocks you to sleep.

We rode this train in Skagway, Alaska, going over the mountain into Canada.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

Because I have promises to keep and many things to do before I sleep, I just can't run away today.  But soon, Peeps, soon.

Not my photos; shared from Google images.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Tennessee, here I come!

Y'all know it doesn't take much to get me excited.  Just look what came in the mail yesterday!!

I love travel guides.  When we took our first trip out west, long before we had computers or iPhones, we had a box full of travel guides that I had sent for in the mail months before our vacation.  They were well worn by the time we started on our trip.  We kept all the guides in a metal file box.  On the trip, our baby boy, who was probably 8 or 9 then, sat in the front seat and proclaimed himself the 'Great Navigator".  We didn't even dream that one day we would travel with a GPS or with a phone small enough to hold in our hands that could access any information we needed.  Even so, I still love my travel guides.  I spend hours poring over them; I certainly do not want to miss anything.

And what's not to love about Tennessee?  There is music from Memphis to Nashville to the mountains in the east.  There is the Mississippi delta and the Cumberland Plateau and my beloved Smoky Mountains.  I must not forget roots:  I was born in Hardin County, Tennessee, and always think of myself as a Tennessean.

There are lots of special celebrations this year because it is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears.  Because we live on Tennessee's doorstep, a lot of things can be done in day trips or weekend trips.  Get ready, lil' sis, I'm making a list.

Sometimes, people ask me how I knew about a festival, or how was I able to find such interesting stuff to do.  Here's your answer.  You can get one of your own at

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, Daddy and Ronald Reagan

This is a rerun from last year.  I had already posted my blog for today before I remembered that it was Daddy's Birthday. 

Former President Ronald Reagan was born this day in 1911.  I can remember the 'Reagan Years' well.  We were so proud of him.  Some say he was the most loved American president, but no one loved him more than my daddy did.   They had a special bond--my daddy was born on this day in 1915.

The term 'yellow-dog democrat' refers to those voters that believe the Democratic Party is so superior, that it would be better to vote for a yellow dog than any Republican. I don't know what the Republican equivalent to that is, but I know my daddy would have had splinters pushed under his fingernails or faced a firing-squad before he would have voted for a Democrat. If someone really thought the Democratic candidate would be the better choice, well, you just learned to keep it a secret around Daddy.

After he retired, Daddy loved helping Mama with her flowers.  In the photo above, he is pulling weeds out of the flower beds by their roots.  

Like most of the children in his day, Daddy left school after the third grade; at that point, they were old enough to help on the farm.  In spite of the lack of formal education, he was the wisest man I knew when it came to nature.  He could point to any tree or bush in the woods and tell you its name, what it produced, and what the wood could be used for.

He also had a love for reading, preferring the western paperbacks that were so popular then.  He was a storyteller, to the point of boring us sometimes, because if he couldn't think of a new story, he just told us the old ones over and over.    Oh, for one more summer night of storytelling on the porch with a video camera!

I'm so thankful for:
~the talents I inherited from him . . .
~the physical traits from Stricklin DNA . . .
~the way he made whistles out of hickory saplings every spring. . .
~his love of nature that he passed on to me. . .
~him singing the old hymns with us. . .
~the way he watched the weather from the porch. . .
~his Aqua Velva. . .
~his thick, silver hair in the later years; he never lost any of it. . .
~him taking my oldest son fishing (my son still remembers every minute of it). . .
~him pointing out ginseng to my new hubby...Hub still looks for it when we are in the woods. . .
~his laid-back approach to life. . . .
~his seersucker pants he wore on Sunday; Mama could iron a pleat in them that stayed all day!
~the way he hung his left arm out the window when he was driving--summer and winter. . .
~the wild meat he put on the table when times were lean. . .
~the way he cried when my oldest brother left for the army. . .
~him visiting his mother almost every day in her old age. . .
~the way neighbors came to him when they had a sick animal. . . .
~his ability to smoke ham and bacon to perfection. . .
~the little bags of candy he brought home from work. . .
~how he stressed the importance of family.  He stayed close to his siblings although they were scattered over several states. . .
~his strength when my brother was killed while the rest of us fell apart. . .
~the way he loved his friends.  He visited Mr. Austin, a life-long friend, on a beautiful morning in November; that night, Daddy died with a heart attack.  Mr. Austin grieved for Daddy the rest of his life. 
~Seventy years of walking on this Earth.
~his love for his hound dogs.
~White-headed cabbage.

Daddy and Mama on their fortieth wedding anniversary.