Insane Little Blocks

Days 26, 27 and 28 of Kathryn Kerr’s 365 Challenge:  A block a day for every day in 2018.  For all of January, so far, the blocks will finish at 3 inches square – that is tiny. See the nickel in the center square in the picture as a frame of reference.  IMG_4839The blocks are fun to make; it would be tedious to make lots of these blocks, but just making one a day is an interesting challenge that can be accomplished is no time at all.  Participating in this challenge is an excellent example of what can be accomplished one small bite at a time.

So far the blocks are all to read “dark.”  The dark blocks will be separated from the eventual “light” blocks to form separate sections of the ultimate quilt – secondary patterns.  Since I could not tolerate the idea of this intricate piecing getting lost in fabrics that are too near each other in value, I’m using complimentary colors and moving around the color wheel to an adjacent color family (24 total color families in my system) every 6 or 7 blocks.  I hope the end result will be scrappy and yet hold together.  It is a bit hard to imagine with a quilt made of of 365 little blocks.  I am loving the way my little blocks play together so far.  Perhaps I’ll post a picture of all of them at the end of the month.

A Block-a-Day, Days 18 to 24

Days 18 to 24 of Kathryn Kerr’s 365 Block Challenge:IMG_4835Day 18 (upper left in the picture) is the last block in this group made out of rectangles/squares and it took 24 pieces of 3 different fabrics to make this little block that will finish at 3 inches square.  Day 19 we began playing with triangles, starting with a simple half square triangle block and getting more complicated as the days moved along.  Days 21, 22, and 23 are all made with 4 little half square triangles, arranged in different ways.  Then day 24 we started playing with even smaller triangles.  All the blocks are still to read “dark.”

Block 17 of 365 – 21 pieces in a little 3 inch block

This little baby will finish at 3 inches square and it is comprised of 4 different fabrics and 21 individual pieces!  This should certainly qualify as a miniature!


The block for January 17 has a lot more pieces than the first 16 blocks of Kathryn Kerr’s 365 Blocks in a Year Challenge.  I’m grateful that I got caught up a couple of days ago.  Yesterday and today I did the current block right after my yoga practice.  Though all of these blocks are to read “dark,” I really want the piecing to show.  I’m pleased with this little guy.

I noticed when I compared my completed block to Kathryn’s block picture, that I reversed the orientation of the lower left and upper right blocks, exactly as was shown in step 3 of her instructions.  I thought, as I was meticulously laid out the pieces according to her step 3 instructions, that it was not how I would have done it.  I should have listened to my intuition.  However, I am not redoing it!

I am Sewing – a Block a Day for 365 Days!

My long-arm quilting machine is still in pieces. We have decided on a location – the end of our master bedroom, which is way bigger than we need to sleep in. That has freed me up to use the 3rd floor in our new Memphis home as a sewing studio (without the long-arm). This level of our home is height challenged – it wouldn’t accommodate the long-arm without reconfiguring the light bar, a prospect that filled me with dread. Without the long-arm in this room, I could set up my 4 x 8 foot table, which is 100 percent cutting surface. Bliss.

It makes me sweetly happy to go to this floor to do yoga (no one, whether Hubby or AirBnB guests, can surprise me) and leave my yoga mat in the middle of the floor when I finish, or to sew. Yes, I am sewing!

For a few years I have enjoyed several “crochet-along” projects. I’ve completed several crocheted blankets in this fashion. Feeling a hankering to sew, but not motivated to go searching among my still packed away unfinished projects, I started searching to see if I could find any “quilt-along” projects. I found one that piqued my interest and it is daunting: one quilt block a day for 365 days. The blocks are small; they finish at 3 inches square. That appeals to me, too.  I’ve wanted to tackle a miniature quilt; I’m not sure whether 3-inch blocks qualify as miniature, but they satisfy me right now.  Kathryn Kerr created this project, and it is available here.

My first 15 blocks look like this.

First 15

These blocks are all supposed to read “dark.” I decided to use some complimentary color, while trying to keep the value dark, so that the intricate piecing would not be lost. I’ve actually only sewn twice so far. The blocks are pretty tiny and each one completes quickly, so it works fine to do several in one sitting. I am again thankful for my 3rd floor sewing studio, where I can leave the project on the table and quickly pick up where I left off the last time.

I’m using my stash for this project. Yes, that is the stash that I seriously considered leaving in Oregon as we struggled to fit all our belongings into the moving truck. Years ago I organized my fabric into 24 color families; it will be easy to pull from my fabric bins to create this scrappy quilt (I hope).

Will my long-arm ever see the light of day?  Yes, for sure.  But it will wait until someone other than me can help Hubby carry the heavy pieces from the 3rd floor to the 2nd floor where it will live.  I look forward to quilting on that long-arm for myself, rather than for customers, for now.  Although, as 2017 proved, you never really know.

Whole Food Plant Based Way of Eating (WOE) – including early results!


Over the past several months, I’ve been considering the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based Way of Eating. I’ve watched several documentary-series of healing disease (from cancer to diabetes to heart disease to obesity) simply by changing what we put in our mouths throughout each and every day. Along with that, one cannot help but be faced with the horrors of factory farming, and hearing cow’s milk described as “cow puss” (along with noticing how mucous-y I feel after consuming dairy) is enough to put me off dairy forever, eventually.

Eventually because life is busy. Hubby’s job loss, the sale of our 30 year family home in Oregon, a cross-country move to Memphis, setting up 4 AirBnB listings, the holidays, clearly a major overhaul of our eating habits had to be put off. And, joy of joys, the new year is coming! Love, love the new start that January provides!

Knowing the “new start” planned for January, it is safe to say that we splurged more than our normal non-health conscious WOE through the last months of 2017. My new WOE proscribes, “Do not drink your calories. One bottle of wine a week can add 10 pounds to your body over the course of one year.” What about nearly a bottle every night? That math is not hard. I guess I’m lucky that when I did step on the scale on January 3, the first time in I don’t remember how long, and the first day of our new WOE, I was up ONLY 10 pounds from a year ago. Through the last 10-14 nights of 2017, I “enjoyed” a coffee drink Hubby concocted (coffee, alcohol, heavy whipping cream). Yep, I did. We even walked to Kroger one night when the kids had our car to restock on heavy whipping cream. I say “enjoyed” because as I drank this poisonous brew, I knew what I was doing to my body, and it was sickly sweet, but I drank it anyway.

Our new WOE began on January 3, to coincide with A Seven Day Rescue Diet sponsored by Rip Esselstyn (Seven-Day Rescue Diet). The timing was perfect because we COULD NOT stop eating/drinking on January 1 at 8 pm – college football games, you know! This way we could postpone that “fast” until 8 pm on January 2. We had blood work done on the morning of January 3 – lipid panel and fasting blood glucose. Interestingly, my body broke down during the night of January 2. I was woken at about 2 am with severe intestinal pain and bloating. It felt a lot like labor pains – radiating pain from my back to my entire front belly. This kept me awake all night and the spasms continued throughout the next day. For the previous several days, I had thought I was having back pain that occasionally led to spasms through my belly – and this is what that manifested. Clearly, not back pain. I self diagnosed “pancreatitis,” brought on by high fat and heavy alcohol consumption, go figure.

On the morning of January 3, Hubby and I both took our blood pressure as well. Hubby’s was 170+/90+ (on BP meds!) and mine was 125/80 (in the danger zone). Our understanding is that healthy BP is <120/<80. The next morning, we received the results of our blood work – more scary news. Our results were strikingly similar, more evidence that these results are lifestyle related (and therefore correctable with lifestyle changes, rather than with pharmaceuticals). Both of us have sky-high cholesterol (at or near 300), and both of us have above normal blood glucose levels (over 100). We ordered these tests online and can only imagine the meds we would have had thrown at us had we visited a doctor instead. Suddenly, the motivation for cleaning up our consumption act switched from, let’s lose some weight, to our health is literally on the line.

Day 1 of our new WOE was January 3. In a nutshell, no meat, no dairy, no processed foods, no refined grains (or refined anything else), no oil, no coconut products. Oh, and no added salt (except in some condiments) and no alcohol, duh. For the seven-day cleanse, it is also really low fat – only a few walnuts (no other nuts) and ¼ avocado per day. What’s left? Every whole unprocessed plant you can imagine (fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains (intact and whole), potatoes of all varieties) and greens are proscribed for every meal. Try a bowl of broccoli or steamed spinach/kale/collards before your oatmeal – it’s not half bad – we just think of it as medicine!

Hubby’s high blood pressure has been an enigma. He is typically (though not so much in the last few months) very physically active, and he maintains a healthy body weight. We have accepted his high BP as hereditary. He has NEVER tried to address it with reduced salt and elimination of alcohol. So this new WOE is to be an interesting experiment.

Day 4 morning, Hubby is complaining of not being hungry, for anything. By evening of that day, I feel absolutely the same. This food that we are eating is good, but we certainly are not prone to overeat it. The truth of the matter – what I’m missing most is salt!  And through evening of day 4, my intestinal pain persists. I can sleep through the night with the help of ibuprofen, but it wakes me up each morning, and continues through the days. I begin hoping that I haven’t done any permanent damage.

Day 5, I wake up with NO intestinal pain. None. Thank the Lord! It took 4 full days of clean consumption to fix the damage I had perpetrated on myself.

Day 6, yesterday: We are cleaning two of our AirBnB listings to get them ready to go for new guests and Hubby complains of feeling light headed. I suggest that he take his blood pressure (we have an at home BP monitor). He takes it and has a stunned expression on his face as he quietly says, “It says 117/73.” He takes it again with similar results. On meds, he has never had a reading under 140 (usually 160ish) for the top, or under 80-90 for the bottom. This result is astounding. It is one thing to hear about amazing results that other people experience, it is quite another to experience it yourself. Hubby is worried. He calls his Oregon Cardiologist and I am impressed by her reaction. First, she is not surprised by these results – what? Then, why… Never mind. Second, she says the light-headedness will resolve in a week or two as his blood-brain barrier accepts the change as permanent. Third, she reduced his BP meds.

Bolstered by Hubby’s amazing results, I checked my BP and it came in at 113/72, a sweetly healthy result. Then I thought to ask him, “Have you checked your weight?” He dropped 8 pounds in the first 4 days – men! I’m not checking my weight until the end of January. Well, maybe at the end of the 7 days, and then not again until the end of January. I have quite a bit of weight to lose, while Hubby is probably already near a healthy weight.

Today is day 7. Our saga continues.

Fall (and Thanksgiving) in Memphis

On our cross-country trek in mid-October we traversed the seasons! The first morning on the road, we left Pendleton and found snow in the Blue Mountains. The next day we woke in Ogden, Utah, and headed to Wyoming and felt, not that winter is coming, rather that winter had arrived. It was freezing cold and windy and barren. Then, nearing Denver from the north, we found fall in all its glorious color. Reaching Memphis only 5 days after beginning (though it seemed like a much longer journey), we had returned to summer.

We have been in our new home for nearly 6 weeks. Some trees have lost their leaves completely, and some are still green. This one is in our front yard and is a vibrant red. IMG_4761Hubby is ready for all the leaves to be down – he blows leaves around our pool and pool house, and a gust of wind invariably blows them right back at him.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Happily, one daughter and son are still here visiting from Columbus, Ohio, and Corvallis, Oregon. It is such joy to have them here. My brother and sister-in-law from Florida were here for Thanksgiving, as well and Mom and step-dad. We had 8 around our table – a perfect fit. We make Thanksgiving dinner an event – it is served in courses, and each course is accompanied by a conversation topic that all around the table speaks to. There was laughter and some tears – but happy ones. We held those we love who were not at our table dear in our hearts. The whole thing took about 4 hours, which is typical, and we did not get to the dessert course, also typical. Much to my joy, the college miracle has happened again with our youngest. It just takes a few months away, and suddenly mom and dad are held in higher esteem than in days gone by. Truly miraculous – and brings wonder to a mom’s heart.

I do love Thanksgiving and am filled with gratitude for the family that travelled to spend it with us in our new home. After having lived in one house in Oregon for nearly 30 years, this first Thanksgiving has proven it true that “home” is not the structure, it is the people we love gathered together. I’ve never doubted the truth of that in theory; now I have experienced it in realty.

Our AirBnB listings are all up and running. Joel and I are busy making beds, cleaning toilets, and doing laundry! We are meeting delightful people and are enjoying our new business. Here is a link to our profile – from there you can visit each of our 4 listings. Profile

Come see us in Memphis!

It’s Feeling Like Grand Central Station Around Here!

We’ve been in Memphis for 3 ½ weeks. We have been non-stop busy getting settled and getting our AirBnB listings up and running. We currently have all 4 listings up and running, but I want to unveil them one at a time. Here is our first:


We refer to it as our Meda house. It is the little house that we purchased sight unseen in June. We did some remodeling – a new bathroom, added crown molding, a new floor in the kitchen, hall, bath. This is the house that I had a panic attack over way back in May. The first time I saw it, after we offered to buy it, I was not impressed. My 2 oldest daughters convinced me that it would be adorable when we were finished with it. As we were finishing it up about a week ago, for listing on AirBnB, I was struck by how adorable it had become. I texted my eldest daughter, “It is so stinking cute!” As I was literally finishing it up, taking the last pictures to put up on AirBnB, I received a message that it was booked for 3 days, with a check-in of 3:00 that day! This message came in at 2:30! I texted the guest, a Fed Ex Pilot (Curt), that it would be ready!

We were blessed that Curt was our first guest. The next morning he called me to let us know that there was no hot water in the house. Hubby and I went over and determined that the gas hot water heater pilot light was out from when the gas range had been installed 2 days before. It took Hubby about an hour to get the thing re-lit but eventually, success! Then the next day, due to our security company’s failure (don’t get me started on this one), Curt’s key code to the front door was cancelled and he was locked out of the house. It felt a bit like a comedy of errors.

Curt checked out after his 3 days, and gave us a great review. As it turns out he is here with us again tonight, the first guest in one of the bedrooms in our main house – a listing to be unveiled in a subsequent post.

Take a look at this listing, and give it a save (heart icon) for us. And if you are ever in Memphis, come see us!


Living in an Historical District

IMG_4651We now live in a house in Memphis that was built in 1912. It has an “Historical District” plaque near the front door – we loved that when we looked at the house, not really understanding what implications it might have for us after we owned it.IMG_4664

Local Memphians refer to “Midtown charm” when describing houses like ours: doors don’t close, due either to layer upon layer of paint, or settling; floors slope, in our case almost always towards the center of the house where this foursquare style house’s stairway anchors the structure; and windows don’t open, due again to paint layers or to caulk sealing. Who does that?

I must have fresh air; it is an absolute. I accept that during the summer in Memphis, there may be weeks when we will not want to open windows due to relentless heat and humidity, but now in late October, the weather is glorious. No humidity, tons of blue sky, and cool temperatures. We just had a few nights of temperatures near freezing!

We’ve received a quote on replacing the windows in this old house. The contractor provided two alternatives: vinyl or a more expensive (as in double) fiberglass framed product, both double hung to replicate the style in the house now. The historical society, to which we belong, has an opinion: “Vinyl windows are completely inappropriate and SHALL NOT be used.” Our first thought: who are you to tell us what to do, and what happens if we ignore you? Turns out, the city of Memphis has adopted the historical society’s guidelines as zoning policy.

So what to do? We have pried open several windows in the master bedroom and bath, so I do have fresh air at night. For now that will have to suffice while we consider another remodeling project that is higher priority – an open kitchen/family room concept. Thank goodness our historical society is unconcerned with what we choose to do to the inside of the house.

We Share the Same Sphere

The evening before Hubby came home from work, for the last time, I chatted with my neighbor about how I was looking forward to retirement some unforeseen day out in the future, thinking we would likely stay put in our house. My only worry was how Hubby would occupy himself without a J-O-B. Little did I know, but the very next day, January 20, we would come face-to-face with that reality.

We were shaken with the abrupt change to our lives and we spent a lot of time palling around together. I continued my quilting business, and Hubby accompanied me to meetings with customers, chauffeured me around, and we accomplished errands together. In those first days, he spent hours readying the yard for spring (we fired our landscapers on day 1), and hours working out at the club where we kept our membership, but ratcheted it down to just a membership for one instead of for the whole family. Hubby also took on house cleaning responsibilities (we fired our house cleaners on day 1), and when the first time cleaning day rolled around he spent the entire day on about a third of the house. That part of the house was “deep” cleaned in a way it had NEVER seen before.

More recently, and months later, our 3rd daughter was home for a few months in the summer. Her arrival coincided with a particularly stressful time during the house saga, and she commented how she noticed and appreciated that her dad and I were partnering so closely through the challenges of this transition. This daughter noticed something that had occurred to me just a few days into our new life. Hubby and I had lived in two different worlds – he had his, and I had mine. Our two worlds did have an overlapping section that we shared, but most of our time was spent in our separate worlds. Now, we occupy the SAME sphere, nearly entirely. It might help that we have turned our lives upside down, but so far it is good, really good.

House Saga – Buying (It’s easier to buy than to sell, and that applies to EVERYTHING!)

Right about January 20, when Hubby’s job ended abruptly, we started looking on-line at real estate In Memphis. Originally, our sights were set on small houses that we could rent on AirBnB. Later we thought we would look for a slightly larger house that we could live in and also rent the extra rooms.

With the help of our Son-in-law, we narrowed down our search into specific “good” areas in Memphis. Also on about January 20, we connected with a realtor in Memphis named Stacy. I loved her immediately, and I love her still. I’ve asked her to be my first friend in Memphis, but I’m not sure she is into that. Perhaps I should stick to quilting friends.

At first, every time I found a “good” house, I would email my SIL – he would say things like, “Too close to the railroad tracks,” or “That is in the ghetto.” Once in a while he would say, “Awesome location!” I would email Stacy, and she would say, “That one is already under contract.” Eventually, SIL sent us a map of Memphis with the “good” areas highlighted. That made things slightly easier. Every morning, Hubby and I would peruse the listings in Memphis and imagine owning some of those houses.

Sometime in April, a little 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an historical area close to downtown came on the market. It was darling – it had red kitchen cabinets and an adorable front porch. I emailed Stacy that we wanted to make an offer. She let us know that the buyer was accepting all offers by 5pm in 2 days time. That is how houses under $200,000 in good areas in Memphis are selling. This thing had just gone on the market! We asked Daughter and Son-in-law to go look at it for us. They did and we decided to go forward. Full Price offer – cash. We learned the next day that buyer took another offer. Oh well, we were excited because we were, “In the game!”

Soon after that, another 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an even better area came on the market. Showings and offers would start in a week’s time. There was only one picture on-line. Daughter and Son-in-law took a look and we made another offer – again full price, cash. This time we got it! Yay! Or, OMG… What have we done?? Closing on this house was scheduled for June 15. I planned a trip to Memphis near the end of April.

We continued to peruse listings, and a few days before my trip to Memphis a house came on the market that was perfect for us – perfect for us to live in and to do AirBnB in as well. It was more expensive that the other houses we had looked at, but it was beautiful and it was PERFECT!

I travelled to Memphis. Stacy took me to see many houses – the one that was in the ghetto, several I had selected from current listings, the house we were actually under contract to buy, and the PERFECT house. This all happened on a Friday. That night I went to sleep fine, but woke at 5 am in a panic. I didn’t like the house we were under contract to buy, not at all. What in the world were we doing, anyway?

The household was up a bit later, and Daughter needed something at the store. I offered to go. I came out of the store, into the Memphis 9 a.m. heat in late April and nearly burst into tears. I could not breathe. This is not my place. I do not belong here. I went home to Daughter’s house and did burst into tears. My two oldest daughters were in the house that morning. They immediately took me under their wings and made me feel much better – first by validating my panic and second by convincing me how “cute” the house we were under contract to buy could be.

The PERFECT house was on Peabody Avenue. I will from now on call it Peabody. There was an open house at Peabody on Sunday. We visited it again. It is still perfect. I flew home on Tuesday. Hubby and I talked about it. He agreed that it was perfect (though he hadn’t seen it) and we decided to try a contingent offer. We needed to sell our house in order to buy it, and our house wasn’t even yet on the market and wouldn’t be for about 3 weeks. We made a full-price offer. The seller was also the agent and we went back and forth for about a week. We weren’t being entirely reasonable, though we didn’t understand that at the time. Finally on our last counter, Hubby said, “And throw in all the outside furniture!” That pissed them off. And that was the end of that. All this happened during the first week of May.

From early May until middle August, we watched Peabody on-line. I constantly checked to see that it was still on the market. I was pretty sure that the seller would give us a chance to “play” if they got another offer. While we felt that Peabody was perfect for us, it has its downsides. It has a formal living area and formal dining, but no real bonus room or family room. It is largely bedrooms and bathrooms – perfect for our plans. Peabody remains on the market (with occasional price drops) all through us getting our house on the market, going under contract, going back on the market when our first contract failed. During the time we were newly back on the market with our house after the first contract failed, Peabody’s seller reached out and said they would be very flexible on price if we could close in 30 days. We had to sell our house first.

Then, on the 3rd weekend of our second time on the market with our house, as we were vacating our house for an open house, we got a text from Stacy. Seller of Peabody had reached out to let us know they had an offer they were considering. We were morose. We had visited Memphis again at the end of July, and Hubby had seen several properties, as well as Peabody. It is clear and uncontested: Peabody is perfect. We asked if seller would consider an offer from us. Their response was, “Only if there are no contingencies.” What to do?

We decided to find out if we could get a mortgage. Over the course of a few hours we learn that we “might” be able to qualify for a mortgage and that we can borrow from Hubby’s IRA account, tax and penalty free (he is not yet 59 ½) if we return the money in 60 days. Who knew? We get a letter from our broker that we have the funds to make the purchase. We decide to proceed, to use the IRA funds if we need to, and to get a mortgage. We make an offer that is under the current asking price, and significantly less that we had offered in May – cash, 30 day closing. Seller says they will let us know the next day. We are feeling they had probably only used us to get the other offer to go higher. At least we had tried.

Next day around noon, we heard. We got it. Peabody is ours. We are ecstatic.

To be clear, we understand that none of this was very smart. Turns out, we cannot get a mortgage. We have no income. My quilting business is clearly ending in Oregon, so that doesn’t count. Hubby is not 59 ½ for 18 months, so they won’t consider monetizing his IRA. My IRA is accessible penalty free on September 15, but mortgage people won’t consider that amortized over just the period until Hubby reaches 59 ½, it has to be amortized over 30 years and that amounts to just about nothing. Asset based mortgages don’t want to do what would clearly be a short-term mortgage to cover just the time until we sell our Oregon house. The bottom line: no mortgage. All the sudden, Peabody has become more expensive when you consider penalties and taxes. OMG, what have we done? We have contracted to buy the PERFECT house, that’s what!

We took the money out of the IRA on September 21. As long as we have it back by about November 20, all will be well. We feel a bit like we’ve borrowed money from someone who will break our knees if we don’t pay it back. If our Oregon house closes in the next few days all will be well.

Perhaps it is now clear why the house selling saga has been so stressful. We brought it upon ourselves. All for the PERFECT house!

Hopefully, this is a story that will end well. We are currently on our cross-country journey with all our “stuff” from Oregon to Peabody. We are 1,500 miles out, with 775 miles to go. And we are going to Peabody – the PERFECT house.2781fc42f6efa5321e4b83500777b3f3l-m0xd-w1020_h770_q80

Update 24 hours later: the Oregon house did close today! All is well. We are now 209 miles away from Peabody. We will sleep there tomorrow night.