Amazing what you find in the basement

We have spent a couple of days rearranging the playroom in the basement, finding new homes for spiders, purging some old toys and moving furniture.  In the midst of cleaning up, I came across a quilt I started more than a year ago, worked on handquilting, then when I messed up I just gave up on it, apparently.

I looked at it to see what the mistake was, and it involved ripping out a couple of inches of stitches, then smoothing out the backing, then restitching. Seriously, like ten minutes of backtracking.  So, suddenly, I had an almost finished quilt.

 I brought it upstairs, and worked on it a little on Sunday night, and a lot today, and I think I can finish it tonight, and bind it sometime this week. New quilt for the guest room. woot.Image


antique or vintage?

When I went to my hometown for the weekend, my mom offered me a quilt made by her grandmother Neal.

She cautioned me, “Now, back in those days, they just made things from scraps, it isn’t all fabrics that are matchy-matchy.” She said she had 2, and my sister had looked at them and told her to give me first choice.

Pretty nice for just being made from scraps.

I don’t have very many stories about my great- grandmother Neal- she lived on a farm in  Kentucky and my mom would visit them for holidays and in the summer. She would always buy store-bought bread, so the children could eat sandwiches, but my grandmother was embarrassed by how many homemade biscuits my mom and uncles would eat. I imagine them at dinner,  reaching for another biscuit, and my grandmother giving them that look that says, “I can’t believe you are reaching for another biscuit.” But then they eat it anyway.

So, at home in the more recent past,  mom climbed up on the step stool, and pulled out a zippered blanket bag. Wrong one- that one was little- a crib quilt made for my oldest brother by my paternal grandmother- amazing patchwork, and tiny hand quilting. My mom told me that she had made that one, then one for my second oldest brother, then was declared legally blind. No more quilting.
The next bag that came out of the linen closet was the right one- it had two quilts made by my mom’s dad’s mom, Hattie Hill Hutchcraft Neal.

My mom speculates that she was named after her aunt, who was Harriet Hutchcraft, and married a man whose last name was Hill, so she was Harriet Hutchcraft Hill, and the baby who became my great-grandmother was Hattie Hill Hutchcraft. You hear people talking about how much they like old-fashioned baby names, but you don’t meet very many Hattie Hills these days. Wonder why
The firstquilt to come out of the bag was a flower garden, hexagons in pastels and medium colors on a white field, with a scalloped border. The scalloped border was what sold me, Kate liked the hexagons. We laid it out on the recliner, and I looked closely at the tiny hand quilting. I’ve done some quilting and oh, my gosh, this woman knew what she was doing. If I were at all competitive I would quit, because, you know, I would be competing with someone born shortly after the time of the civil war.
The other quilt, that I left for my sister, had stars on a white background, also very fine quilting, just as good, really. (I feel a little guilty- did I pick the better one? Is it fair?)

So, now, what do I do with this beautiful old textile? Zip it into a blanket bag in

I can scraches ur quiltz?

linen closet? Hang it up somewhere? Use it on a bed for the cat to tear up? I love that it is an antique (actually, what are the rules on linens? is it vintage? antique? where do you draw the line?) and I would like it to survive to become even antiquer (I know, not a word…) I have passed by two separate quilt racks at a thrift store- clutter-y and not really my style. But it is a shame not to have it where I can enjoy it. What are your thoughts?

The Lost Tape Measure

In my quest to become handy, I have made a list of projects, many that have been simmering for a while, and I have thought about first steps.For several, the first step would be: “measure the opening.”
Yeah. About that.
I do have a battery operated, automatically retractable measuring tape. Which I have misplaced. I think it is in the garage?
I have another 25′ one, my favorite, which I have accused the Boy of losing.
The Boy likes to measure stuff- when he was littler, we would read animal encyclopedias together, and it was worlds different from reading with the Girl. With her, we would snuggle with a story, and predict what might happen, and find the rhyming words, and talk about the characters. With the Boy, we would read a little fact box next to a picture of say, a Siberian tiger. Then he would hop off my lap, hand me one end of the measuring tape and walk backward until he got to however many feet. The Siberian tiger sticks in my memory, because it was too big for the living room. This isn’t a technique they taught me in teacher school, the kid just came up with it on his own.

Obviously too big for the living room. Photo from

That year at Christmas, he asked for a 100′ measuring tape. I asked him what he would measure with it, and he answered, “mostly blue whales.”
Oh. I see.
We didn’t get him one, and I wish we had, because then maybe mine wouldn’t be in a snowbank, or in the bottom of a toybox, or who knows where. We looked in all the usual places.
So, the last time I was at the dollar store, I went ahead and bought a new measuring tape, so that I can measure stuff so that I can work on the projects on my list.
And then wouldn’t you know it, when I opened up the junk drawer in the kitchen, there was my favorite measuring tape. Put away. It’s not really where it goes, but it was put away…

This Lid

Battered enamel, a little rust, but a lot of life left.

DH’s grandma is selling her house, and letting go of things she has had for years. I am amazed by how graceful she is at this- in the past few years,  she has given up living on her own, so she selected things to take with her to her daughter’s (my wonderful MIL’s) house. She has let go of her car, and has now made the decision to sell her house. I think we were all surprised at how fast it sold- 24 hours after it went on the market, they had an offer, and they will close in the middle of September. We went over  last week to help clean and box things, and hear stories. In the grand scheme, there isn’t that much stuff.

“Clean Sweep” is  a guilty pleasure TV show- I watch it, and think, “Well, I’m not as bad as those people!” One of my favorite people on it is Peter, the Australian guy. People on the show will be reluctant to get rid of something and they’ll say, my mother gave me that, and he’ll say, “this is not your mutha” in his Australian accent. He’s adorable.

At GGM’s house, I was talking about my guilty pleasure, and  I  picked up an enameled metal lid and said, “This is not your mutha” hoping to make people laugh, and GGM took it from me. She  said,  “One time I was cooking dinner, and my mother was there, and I had just put a pie pan on top of the pan, to cover it, and she said, “don’t you have a lid?” and I said no, and the next time she came to visit, she brought this one.”

I thought it was a cute story, and figured it was when she was first married, and just getting her house set up.

Um, no.

Great-Grandma had been in her 70’s, which meant that Great-Great- Grandma had been in her 90’s.  Moms. We never give up.

Of course, I asked if I could have the lid- it is now  on the cast iron skillet that lives on my stove top. I will use it every day, and tell the story to whomever will listen. There is a lot of stuff in my house that is clutter, but this lid is meaningful, and deserves to have a place of honor on the stove.

Getting dressed from the clean clothes pile

A mom of  a friend of the Girl and I were talking the other day- I was getting cleaned up for a party,and she said that she honestly expected to have a messy house until her kids moved out- she joked about getting dressed off of the clean piles of clothes in the living room. I’ve done this, of course, and you probably have, too.  Maybe not.  Maybe you are better than me… just stop rubbing it in.

When I was planning our party, I figured that I would have to spend like an hour a day cleaning, and I wanted it to be really clean, not just have all the piles of stuff moved into the bedroom, which is what I usually do.  The problem with doing an hour a day, is that is so bleahhh- there’s no system.  Then I came across

I had read about it in the past- in lady’s magazines.  It is a cute little cult about changing your life by setting up routines about keeping your house clean. Cult is mean. It’s not really a cult. Don’t be mad at me, FLYlady!

The routines are simple things like “shine your sink before you go to bed” at first you’re like, what? why clean my sink? but I have been doing this, and it makes a huge difference- when I leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight, they make breakfast that much harder, then DH and the kids pile more dishes in, then we have to run the dishwasher, unload it, then reload it, the counters are awful, and it becomes harder to do anything in the kitchen. But, if I clean the sink and run the dishwasher before I go to bed, then unload it while I am waiting for coffee, everything is smoother, all day.

Another routine is “put out hotspots.” A hotspot is a place where junk accumulates- at our house, my dresser top is one (we have several, but only I am responsible for my dresser) If I don’t take 2 minutes to put my clothes away,then my dresser is piled with bras and unmatched socks, and shirts, and that isn’t any better than getting dressed in the living room. I deserve to live in a clean house.

So, a couple of weeks into these routines, and our house is still relatively clean after cleaning it up for the party.

FLY, by the way, stands for finally loving yourself, and at first I thought, ick, mushy self-love, but I am realizing that I do deserve to live in a clean house, and I have been taking some time to make that happen, rather than yelling at everybody about it.

Yes, I’ve gotten rid of Carl

Goodbye, annoying baseball bear, goodbye, ghost that used to say Boo! goodbye angel bear...


Out of the blue, the Boy started sleeping with his head at the foot of his bed. He liked looking out the window, he said. It really bugged me.

So, I asked if he would like to re-arrange his room so he could sleep with his head at the foot of his bed and still see out the window?  Then the plan snowballed, into choosing paint colors and a new rug, and getting rid of baby toys.

Yesterday, stage one of the plan commenced: sorting out the baby toys.  We had to clear off the desk in order to move it to the opposite side of the room. The pile of was equal parts Legos and mini animal figures, and rather than just sweeping the whole pile into a tub, we took the time to sort them into two tubs. These are the toys he plays with the most- on his desk, he builds very elaborate lego contraptions and creates animal scenes, which he narrates, documentary style.

We got the desk in place, scooted the bed and cleaned up behind it. Umm, yuck, is all I’ll say.

The Boy’s attention span for clean-up was finished. Honestly, my attention was pretty shot, too, but I couldn’t face putting him to bed in a room that was all taken apart.

The last thing I made him sort through was the stuffed animals. 

Maybe 5 years ago, I was taking some toys to Goodwill, not anyone’s favorite toys, no toy with a name- I’ve seen “Toy Story”, I’ve read the “Velveteen Rabbit,” I’m not a monster! Anyway, the Girl saw a rainbow bear in the bag- she threw a fit, “no, not the rainbow bear!!!!”

I replied, “oh really? what’s his name?” I challenged. 

She only paused an instant, and said, “Carl!”  Carl was a colleague of DH, who was always super nice to Kate, a real sweetheart. I relented. Rainbow Bear Carl now had a name…he came out of the Goodwill box. But he still never got played with very much.

Five years on, I’ve gotten wilier. Rather than gathering a box of toys on my own, I had the Boy choose.  “Go through your stuffed animals, and pick 10 that you like best.” The Boy knows me, and negotiated to 12.  When he sorted, I saw him hesitating over a really cool jellyfish, so I threw that in as a bonus, because I like it. Carl didn’t make the cut. Goodbye, Carl.

Organizing the Piano

In order to put out Christmas decorations, we have to clean. The girl wants to be in charge of the Christmas village, which consists of two newspaper offices and a spooky castle. As we start clearing off the piano, I am realizing that one of the reasons it hasn’t been cleaned before is because of some unfinished business. There is a big basket of sheet music that dates back to when the girl took piano lessons. I mean, it dates back to when the girl quit piano lessons.
So much clutter is psychological- I had wanted piano lessons as a kid, but never got them. The girl started out liking lessons, then hated practicing, hated lessons, hated me. There was a lot of yelling. We hosted her final recital, she did a beautiful job, then she quit, and I had (still have) a lot of mixed emotions. The basket of sheet music contains her Suzuki book 1, the Suzuki book 2 that I bought, hoping she would change her mind, notebooks that I took notes in about what she needed to practice, flash cards, envelopes with prizes she could win if she practiced 2 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours…
I am tempted to put the whole pile in a box to be dealt with at some later date. No. Must deal with now. Wish me luck.

OK. It is later, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. I went through the basket while the girl dusted the piano. I got rid of some bad memories, and was able to pull some Christmas music to the front of the basket. We pulled out a vintage linen tablecloth to represent snow, and she set up the buildings, plus the spooky castle on the hill. Then she actually added to it, making some houses, and an ice skating pond. In a perfect world, she would then sit down, pull out some Christmas music, and start playing piano. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. I guess I can dream.

No, there was no tornado...this is just how the living room looked before. It is much better now. At least the top of the piano is organized now...