Thursday, December 22, 2011

For my readers: Merry Christmas

Here's a short story with glimpses past and future of the Solomon's Puzzle characters.

A Christmas Story… “The Perfect Christmas”

May you be kindly understood this Christmas
Still holding the child’s chart, Joe MacBride walked with the woman and her daughter to the front desk. The little girl reached for him, “Up pwee, Doctor,” she said, her fingers Window looking at snow covered garage at Christmas.spread wide, her feverish eyes trying to smile. Joe scooped her up in his arms. “I have a bit of Christmas candy up here for you,” he whispered, “if your mommy says it’s okay.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


The tradition of hanging stockings has been important to me since I was little.  We had no fireplace, so we hung our stockings from the staircase railing.  We opened them before breakfast and found simple treats in them. My favorite treat was a bottle of Coca Cola which my parents bought only at Christmas.  I have some memories of us then getting dressed, going to church, before having breakfast and seeing the rest of the presents under the tree.  This may not have happened every year as I have film of us opening presents in our jammies and robes... who knows?  But for some reason, the stockings have a special, break-of-dawn thrill to me. So of course, the sewing of stockings had to be included at the end of Solomon's Puzzle.

These I made for my family.  I used a variety of patterns but want to note "A Critter's Christmas" by Brandwine Designs for the inspiration of the animals.  Now to stuff them!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Nativity Story

I had a wonderful day recently.  Jack was here and we used the marionettes and stage that I made with my husband Karl, daughters Andrea and Valerie.
I got the idea from an illustration by Tasha Tudor and for some reason thought our family needed this.
It was a summer-long project. But this year, it was ready and waiting in the living room when Jack and I got home.

First we scrounged around for all the stuffed animals we could find. These were to be the audience.  Then the play began.

We did rehearse, just remembering from years' past.
Jack played was versatile, taking different parts.

When the shepherds came, he told me that they had woken the baby up.
"Did he cry?" I asked?
"Yes...."Jack squinted at me. "NO! 'No crying he makes!'" He had learned "Away in a Manger" that morning at his wonderful pre-school.

So we sang it together and showed the rapt audience all the puppets close up.

I was one happy Grannie.

Andrea and other friends are using these puppets at New Hope Chapel today during our Community Christmas Gathering.  Come to see us!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Rehearsal Dinner

When you have sons, you get to host a rehearsal dinner before the wedding. This suits me just fine. The rehearsal for Karl and Rosa's wedding was held on Thursday before the Sunday wedding. This is a great idea for anyone who can possibly swing it. I would highly recommend it!  It helped make everything as simple and relaxed as Karl and Rosa wanted it to be.

Karl will work and serve people, but he hates to ask anyone to do anything for him. He's independent, yes, but also considerate.  He cares about people and doesn't like to hassle.  Rosa is a "big picture" person, and so she also wanted the rehearsal dinner to offer people a lovely dinner and a place to party without too much fuss.  So we had spaghetti and meatballs here at our house.

I had lots of help that day to get ready. Andrew helped clean up AND he fixed my faucet.  My family was such a blessing to come and help.
They really are helping! They are testing the food to see if it is any good.
I love having my family around. It's fulfilling to work together. It was noisy and messy and altogether great!
Aunt Val making Diana laugh

Andrea made the most delicious bread sticks. They were crisp and flavored with salt and herbs.
For some reason, I made pizzelles, which are a crisp, flavorful Italian cookie, for the other two rehearsal dinners, so I had to make them again.  This time, I made pumpkin pizzelles and chocolate!  Yummy.

Joey helped me set the tables! The picture is blurry because he's always in motion.

The flowers are the fun part for me so these pictures are all of the preparation, because once the dinner happened, I was too busy to find my camera!

Val tucked the checked napkin into 3 plastic cups and then we put the utensils int here.  Very fancy!

We set up small tables all around the downstairs, so it felt like a little Italian restaurant.  I've always wanted to do that and it turned out to be warm and conducive to talking and enjoying dinner.

These roses are for Rosa-- red is her favorite and she likes roses... so... Happy Rehearsal Dinner!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

All I Can Say Is... (Karl and Rosa's Wedding: Part WONDERFUL

I've been writing little posts with thoughts that sprang from the wedding and I have another to do after this. But you have got to see the pictures that Tara Sullivan Peddicord took of the wedding.
Tara is Karl and Rosa's dear friend and we consider her and her husband, Ben, part of our family. She's fun and loving and outgoing. She's got a beautiful vision of life, one that involves hope and beauty and service.  She has decided to pursue photography seriously and when you see these pictures, you'll understand why.
Look here and see what I mean!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Room With A View: part 2 of Karl and Rosa's wedding

Karl found Camp Wabanna when he was a senior in high school. Senior year was a difficult one. Faith had awakened in Karl and that changed everything for him... the way he spent his free time, the things he said, and the things he did. It also changed the plans he'd been making for his life.  Now a fresh and beautiful impulse arose inside bidding him look for how best to serve others.

I'm not sure how he found out about Camp Wabanna. I know friends in Marching Band had been there or worked there, but sometime in the middle of that difficult year, he applied to work at Camp Wabanna in the summer. I remember that Mrs. Wolfe lent Karl her office for a phone interview during his study hall with the then camp director -- a kind and generous gesture of support. That interview opened a new way for Karl.
Inside Camp Wabanna's lodge Karl and Rev David Shive plan the ceremony

That summer in Day  Camp he worked with a girl named Rosa.  I remember hearing her name from him and from Valerie (the summer she worked there, too).  Years went by as Karl and Rosa studied at their various colleges. Karl went on to work at a camp that helped at-risk students sort things out in a wilderness setting. He came back home, went to grad school and moved into the Lodge at Camp Wabanna where he worked again in the summers and on some weekends. Rosa had graduated from college, too, was working in a local school system and living with some friends in a condo on the Wabanna property.
Rosa rehearsing with her dad

Love blossomed or awakened or both!  And what better place to fall in love than Camp Wabanna, which I think is the prettiest place in the entire county!
At the rehearsal, Clare said, "Clare is so excited, and twirled on the platform.

 Surrounded on three sides by water, the white buildings and green grass lawns with their ancient stands of trees, seem like a sunny, peaceful sanctuary.  So when they decided to have their wedding there, I was thrilled.
Even the music must be rehearsed, as Clare discovered watching her aunt.

The whole family gathered to watch:

The feeling of friendly excitement meant that even a bit of "kid" noise fit in well.

Clare has been playing "wedding" ever since.

The wedding party came after work, hurrying and excited to begin celebrating.

This was Dave's 41st wedding.  The rehearsal went smoothly.  I'm standing in for Rosa's sister who was flying in the next day.

The room looked west and we were treated to the changing colors of sunset as we rehearsed. The view spoke to me.  What a beautiful view Karl and Rosa have to begin their lives- a view with a history of working together, family and friends around, a view to continued service as they look toward the Light.

As for me, I'm happy and thankful. I'm happy for Karl and Rosa. I loved being at Camp Wabanna with their wonderful friendly staff who helped with all the labors of love that a wedding requires. And I love Rosa--even her lovely name.  It is a joy to see my family growing again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The White Tablecloths

We bought this mountain of tablecloths many years ago when several of our children were getting married in one summer (some of them to each other). “We” were a group of friends, a sort of a village, a virtual small town of moms who had stood by each other while our children were growing. 

These kids were at school together, played sports together, studied together, marched in the band side by side and together scrounged costumes for the beloved, chaotic variety show.

We used our tablecloths one more time this month when our youngest son, Karl, married his sweetheart, Rosa.
Karl and Rosa pose for fun in front of a curtain made from one of the tablecloths

A local party supply store was having a sale. We met there early one morning and bought the things we needed for the upcoming weddings. We don’t know how many tablecloths we bought, but the tub of them is too heavy for one strong man to lift... so... LOTS.   (I also bought 35 white chairs; they were a bit shabby, but buying them was cheaper than renting. I’ve used them at four weddings, showers, concerts and they’ve been borrowed more times by this group of friends than I can count.

Around this time Wendy found some pink, checked, fabric that was gossamer in weave. She made six or seven big tablecloths.  They looked so wonderful at outdoor events spread on round tables over the white tablecloths we’d bought and fluttering slightly in the wind.  We had such a great time every time we used them that we began to call the Magic Tablecloths.  If pink didn't go with the colors of the event, we made squares that did... recalling the original pink Magic Tablecloths.
so great to see former students at Karl and  Rosa's wedding!

We used them for rehearsal dinners, for retirement parties, for receptions after recitals, wedding and baby showers. Once, another friend and I wore them as scarves when we bought lottery tickets trying to win money to give to our school we hoped so dearly to bless. Our white tablecloths were also magic, but they didn't make appropriate scarves. 

The tablecloths were purchased for Dave and Kristen's wedding and used ever since!

Last week, preparing for Karl and Rosa’s wedding, we tried to count how many times we’d used the white tablecloths.  Together we’d spread these white cloths over round and rectangular tables for so many weddings, concert receptions, rehearsal dinners, showers, retirement parties and other happy events. Together, which ever of us had come to help at that particular event, we joined together to create beautiful inviting tables, tables to invite guests to celebrate and enjoy.

our turn to pose in front of the tablecloth 

There’s something we friends enjoy about creating a beautiful party.  One year for a concert reception, we all brought flowers from our gardens.  I remember the gorgeous, full blue blooms of the hydrangeas arranged with bright orange day lilies.  After that, whenever we could, we brought our hydrangeas to summer events. We had to have them.  Once, when the bushes had scant blooms Wendy tucked fake hydrangeas into the branches.  When my mother died, my friends brought their hydrangeas to my kitchen. They used a paper, apple green cloth on my table and arranged a full, blue and purple bouquet on a table full of food for my grieving family and guests.  In life and in death, my friends have gathered close, bringing beauty and comfort with them. Hydrangeas were both beauty and memory of beauty to us. To us they seemed an emblem of our camaraderie.

And if there were no hydrangeas to be had, in the fall or the winter, we joyfully settled for the elegance of roses instead, as we did for Karl and Rosa’s wedding.  

When life happens, these friends gather around to help.  They cook and clean, they decorate and serve.  It is hard to explain how fun it is to work together to make a celebration beautiful and delicious.  It is not a burden; it is a joy.  One of us, Anne, said once, “It’s because beauty makes people feel at home.” Creating beauty and warmth, working side by side in life’s milestones has made our friendships that much more precious to me. It is our way of honoring life and our God who gave life to us. 
any kitchen feels like home, any occasion richer when you have friends standing beside you

Monday, November 28, 2011

One Year Later

I'm thankful. I'm thankful because a year ago, I could barely sleep at night wondering ifSolomon's Puzzle book with Christmas tree background and cute gingerbread man ornament and recipeany copies of Solomon's Puzzlewould sell.  There were more than a thousand books in my house, piled in my sewing room, in the guest room along the hallway wall. That's a lot of books. (Read more...)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Slug Slime and Other Joys

 As Jack himself says, he loves "living creatures." He has sparkle eyes and a heart full of love, as I like to tell him and when I do, he reminds me that his dog, Calypso also has sparkle eyes.  I think we must be recognizing the love light.
Jack likes to pick what he is going to eat and when I suggest something wonderful like grilled cheese, he says "No!" Pancakes? "No, thank you!" So I tried reverse psycology which works with his cousin. Recently I asked Clare if she wanted a grilled cheese sandwhich (thinking who woudn't?) she said, "No thank you, please!" As I opened my mouth to speak, she admonished the room, "Mommy and Grannie say, you hafta eat someping!"  So I started asking her, "Would you like a slug sandwich?" "No!" A snake salad?" "No!" Suddenly grilled cheese was looking pretty good.
So I decided to try this with Jack, thinking I was very clever: If you don't want grilled cheese or pancakes, do you want a slug sandwich?"
"Yes!!" he cried, eyes sparkling even brighter.
We settled on cheese and crackers and hurried through that because it was a bright autumn day and for the first time Diana was present and awake to join our bug hunt club.  She must have provided some sort of extra spark because while we were following the trails of slug slime in search of the slugs Jack loves, look what we found! The biggest worm I've ever seen.

Yes, I couldn't believe it! Jack grabbed it and you can see how pleased he was.

He made a home for it in the bucket with plenty of dirt and flowers and leaves.  


Once the work was snug in his little habitat, Jack decided to draw a treasure map on my slate walk way. He took a big round rock and "drew" mountains and seas and volcanos and a trail for the treasure-seekers to follow. Diana and I watched. I don't have a picture of Diana watching because it was all I could do to hold her and take a picture of Jack.  

It's a pretty great map, isn't it?  I love his innovation and creativity.  

Later Diana got to pull Jack's hair.  I guess that's almost as good as picking up slugs and huge worms.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Show and Tell at Cottonseed Glory

So far this fall we've had many customers stop in at Cottonseed Glory to show us their beautiful work!

You can imagine what fun this is for us.

We have pictures of a few of the quilts that people have shown.  

Ramona drew the spider web for her quilting design and quilted it on her Handi Quilter.

Notice the little spider she embroidered!

Morgan Wilson made a quilt for a friend at church.  A prize-winning quilter, Morgan applied her talents to this T-shirt quilt with fabulous results:

Melissa Sopko used her die-cut machine to cut all the pieces for her wonderful quilt.  The pattern and colors seem perfect for each other.

We love to see our customer's creativity. Don't you love the beautiful blocks  as shown at the beginning of this blog article. They are all made from one fabric.  

We also have something really unique-- a sampler quilt pattern based on a novel that is set a store patterned after Cottonseed Glory!  We're planning some great winter activities based on this exciting quilt!

Stop by and see us soon! 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Conversations with a Two Year Old

I've been spending a lot of time with little Clare and she has a lot to say.  She knows all the words to the songs in the Sound of Music and when she can't do something, she says, "You frustrated."
She's obsessed with a little, beautiful video that my sister put together of our childhood movies.  She loves to watch them and see the funny things that "Grannie did when she a girl." I guess I'm just not very exciting now, but when I was "a girl," Clare says that "I ride a horsie all by myself. And Grannie throwed dirt!" She imitates the action and says, "That bad." Of course I agree. Love it that the sins of my youth were captured on film to be viewed by subsequent generations. Sigh.

She started calling her stuffed animals after my sisters, Stefy and Gloria. Gloria (a brown bear) stands on her head. Stefy plays "Ring Rosie" with Clare, because according to the movie, we got very dressed up and did that a lot.  I'm glad Clare likes it; I can't watch it without getting choked up and now even more so.

Pop and I were staying with Clare while her new sister had to go quickly to the doctor for a check up, I was getting dinner together. Clare came into the kitchen "to help."  I saw  her sit down on the floor and I heard her humming to herself. I glanced at her a few times. I figured all was well.
just so you know, this picture is from another time... I didn't stop to take a picture during the crisis

Not so much.
A few minutes later, Clare made a funny noise, like a squeak.
"Are you okay?"
I noticed her nose running, so I got a tissue. She's good at blowing her nose so I held the tissue up and she squeaked again, then said, "NO!"
I was startled. She looked upset and... guilty.
What's wrong, Clare?"
Now, remember her toddler use of pronouns when I tell you her reply...
"You put a bean up you nose."
"What?" I cried.  I looked but could see nothing.  Her nose is so little! "Let's try to blow it again," I said, as calmly as I could wondering if both sisters would end up that evening at the ER.
Don't you know, she blew her nose as hard as she could and out popped a coffee bean! Yep!
All turned out well, though and Violet came home, safe and sound, too. The next day, when her sister woke up and was looking around, Clare said, "Look, Violet is awake in the manger!" We all agree that version of the song actually makes more sense.
Talk about cute!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charlotte's Tea Room

If you live in northern New Jersey or the Warwick Valley in nearyby NY, I think you might like to take an afternoon off soon and visit Charlotte’s Tea Room. 

(Read more...)

A Case for Smiles

One of the most wonderful things about working at Cottonseed Glory is the people I meet.  Last week, someone came in. Karen looked familiar because she works at my grandsons’ preschool.  She asked about the boys, remembering their names and all about them. Karen had two huge shopping bags with her. In them were nearly 200 pillowcasesKaren Decoste with the hundred plus pillow cases she made for ConKerr Cancer  that she’d made during the summer. The pillowcases are to be given to children who are being treated for cancer. Anita Stroud distributes them through the ConKerr Cancer

Monday, August 29, 2011

Be Safe

Have you ever heard a parent or teacher saying negative things about a kid? Something like “you can’t do anything right,” or even worse, “how stupid can you be?”  People hear what is said to them and it seems as if words are like seeds, they fall on the imaginative and fertile soils of our souls and take root.  At least for some of us.leaves strewn on sidewalk after Hurricane Irene
Years ago, someone I knew presented a personal theory that some children succeeded based on being “in favor.” We’ve all seen kids like this. Teachers think the best of them, always give them the benefit of the doubt, dream up special awards and scholarships for them just to proclaim how wonderful the child is.  There are also kids who can’t seem to get any attention. And even worse, they are suspected of immoral behavior unjustly, scolded, slapped with detentions and therefore put in the position of continually struggling to have one good day.
I’ve heard many people praise certain teachers or coaches as being the person who changed the course of their studies, and even the path of their lives saying, “she believed in me,” or “he helped me realize I had potential.” These are people who were rescued from a pattern of failure.arbor and bench with fallen tree behind Books like Children are Wet Cementdiscuss how people can be encouraged and even strengthened by the words spoken to them and about them in their hearing. The Bible describes the importance of blessings being spoken. Words are important to me, and because of all this, I believe in the concept of “blessing.” And this weekend, the idea came again to mind.roots of uprooted tree
In preparing for Hurricane Irene, I went in search of D batteries for our flashlights. Giant didn’t have any, but when I bought the food we needed, the young man who ran the cash register said, “be safe this weekend” as I wheeled my cart away.
Target had not a single D battery, but I took a weird LED flashlight with wavery blue light to the cash register.  It was the only one I could find in the entire store.  I asked the check-out person about it and she said that she’d found some good, bright flashlights at Office Depot. They came with batteries and were very inexpensive. “Be safe,” she said as I headed toward Office depot.
The flashlights were where the Target employee had described. This saved me time.  I took it to the register and when my purchase was complete, again I heard, “Be safe this weekend.”tree on top of garage after Hurricane Irene
People I didn’t know wished me well. Neighbors I’d never met spoke a blessing. I’m grateful.
Sometime in the middle of the night as Irene’s winds roared over our house, my neighbors’ tree was uprooted. We heard it crash, felt the thunder of it’s fall and rushed to the windows to see.  From upstairs I could see that the silhouette of the trees, so dear and familiar, had changed. “It was the big tulip poplar next door,” I said as we rushed to open our garage door and see.”
Leaves and branches were everywhere and the first thing I noticed was the fresh scent of the trees. Pine and apple and the scent of green, vigorous life met us when the door opened.  The tree’s trunk and branches reached all the way down our driveway, stopping just before the junky old car that saw our kids through high school and college.trees crashed from Hurricane Irene
That enormous tulip poplar could have  hit the family room where we’d been sitting shortly before. It could have crashed into on my neighbors’ bedroom, but it didn’t.  The tree, 80 feet tall, fell right beside my arbor, missed the beautiful carved, teak bench my husband gave me when I graduated from college.  Though our slate patio was a bit tumbled, the clay firepot, which we’d forgotten to take in, was completely unharmed.
The tree did hit the far corner of our garage. So far, we know that it knocked off the down spout and dented the siding and the flashing. But this turns out to be a blessing, too. Evidently if the falling tree hits your house at all, then household insurance pays to have the tree cut up and hauled away. This is great, but not as great as the fact that no one was hurt by its crash.tree crashed into downspout, which is dripping
The tree also demolished two of my apple trees. Anyone who knows me knows how attached I am to my apple trees for whatever unexplainable reason and I confess that tears welled up in my eyes when I realized they were broken. But then I had a cheerful thought—I’ve read, but never experienced, that apple wood makes the most wonderful, fragrant fires in fall and winter! I must confess that I have always wanted to try this, but didn’t have the heart to chop down a living tree just for sensual pleasure.  Now I can have a neat stack of apple wood and enjoy the warmth it provides!
My neighbor lost a pine tree, too.  It was their very first Christmas tree and it has been growing there ever since, but it has been leaning and we’ve been worrying about it.  The pine tree was split in half when the other tree fell on it. The only good thing about this is that we had been talking about landscaping this area between our two yards. Now we can work together to make a beautiful garden. I’m looking forward to working together onfire pot near upheaved patio this.
As well, my neighbor is stuck with cleaning up the enormous root system, which was wide, but not at all deep.  The roots were horizontal, shallow! No wonder the tree was uprooted!  They are talking about putting a pond in the hole that the tree has left; this sounds like a beautiful plan to me.
Maybe you experienced the same out-pouring of well-wishes and kindness that I did due to Irene’s coming here.  It’s what I love about Annapolis is one of the things that makes this precarious earth feel like home.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Conversations with Joey and Jack

We had the privilege of taking Joey and Jack to Dutch Wonderland, so it was a bit of a drive.
On the way up there was plenty of time to talk. Here's how it went.

Pop explained about the Pennsylvania Dutch area and the Amish, the buggies, the farms without electricity, buttons or wireless Internet.

Joey explained the names and powers of every Bakugan  ... more than once... wait,  more than ten times.

I tried to include Jack, who was quietly playing with Cobra Commander.
Me: "Are you happy playing, Jack?"
Jack: "Yes, I'm gnashing my teeth." He grinned to show me.

Joey: "What's the opposite of fire?"
Me: "Ice."
We played that game for many miles while Jack's eyes got droopy.

Me: "Are you tired, Jack? Why not close your eyes. You'll have plenty of energy for the park."

Jack (speaking with his hands in dramatic gestures -- he is part Italian--): "I close my eyes and sleep. Dreams come into my eyes with colors. Right into my eyes!"
Me: "Right. Me, too. What did you dream?"
Jack: "I dreamed that all the frogs camed to the river."

Joey: "My daddy is a toilet paper snob."
Pop: "Do you know what 'snob' means?"
Joey: "You have a strong opinion about it."

Me: "What kind of a snob are you, Joey?"
Joey: "I'm a Bakugan snob."
Me: "What kind of snob are you, Jack?"
Joey: "Jack is a french fry snob."
Pop: "Let Jack answer. Jack, what kind of a snob are you?"
Jack : "I'm a french fry snob."
Joey: "What kind of a snob are you, Grannie?"
Me: "I'm a tea snob.

Pop: "Joey, do you remember the name of the community we're visiting today?"
Joey: "Hmm, let's see... Smurfs?"
We had a wonderful time. The rides were clean and age appropriate. The staff was friendly and helpful to the children.  I can't imagine why people go to Disney with such a place as Dutch Wonderland so close. If you've never been, I would recommend a trip! You'll become a Wonderland snob.