Almost home

Ricky on the flight lineIn less than thirty hot, dusty days our Air Force son will return to the states after his six-month deployment in the Middle East. Yep … his happy reunion with our daughter-in-law is finally in sight. His parents will have to wait until later this year to hug on him.

So far Ricky and Kate have missed spending together Turkey Day, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and next week, the anniversary of his birth. Which reminds me … I’ll never forget the size of his ginormous feet the day he was born. Seriously thought I’d birthed a Great Dane puppy … a very cute Great Dane puppy.

My husband and I FaceTime (Apple’s version of Skype) with Ricky every Sunday around the breakfast table before heading to church. It was during our lively chat about what Ricky will not miss … flies, sand and yucky-tasting chicken patties … that we changed the subject to his birthday. I’d already mailed his birthday package a few days before and learned I might be in trouble.

“Do you guys celebrate birthdays at the base?” I asked.

Of course, I totally knew there would be no Chuck E. Cheese or Ronald McDonald handing out slices of iced birthday cake. Those days are long gone … but not forgotten.

“Oh no … that is something you wanna keep secret. Around Christmas somebody found out one of the guys was having a birthday. You should see the picture of him tied to the basketball pole with Christmas lights,” Ricky laughed.

And the Christmas lights … they were turned on.

I didn’t tell him at the time … but maybe Ricky should be alone in his room when he opens his “birthday in a box” from his parents. Just saying.

Quilters R Us

On Friday, I attended a local quilt show in our area hosted by the Kingwood Area Quilt Guild. The members put on a great show every two years showcasing their skills in manipulating fabric, creativity with design and interesting color choices. And besides providing lots of great eye candy for a fabric junkie like me, there was plenty of quilting inspiration to go around.

Some of my quilting buddies: Noreen (we call her the Fabric Whisperer), Sid (the needle-turn applique guru), Sally (perfectionist extraordinaire), Tina (she can do anything) and Kim (the long-arm quilting queen) won a bunch of ribbons between them. I’m so proud of these ladies. I credit them, and several others skilled in the quilting arts, for improving my own skills over the years. They have inspired me to grow outside my comfortable cardboard rowboat to wander through scary swampy areas like needle-turn applique, intricate paper piecing and taking risks with color choices. I mean … how can you sink up to your neck in yuck when you have friends that are there to throw you a life jacket?

It’s probably why last year I actually finished five quilts (photos are featured above). Two found a home with extended family as Christmas presents, two quilts I kept, and one was auctioned for a local charity. Without the help of Kim, who has a long-arm quilting business, that would never have happened. She cuts my quilt-making time in half and makes my piecing look amazing.

While the quilt show is now just a memory … they left me with enough ideas to last till the next time the guild show comes to town.

Ice Cream and the Bluebonnet Trail

One of the amazing things about writing for a local newspaper is I’ve had the opportunity to visit some pretty cool places and write about them. Several years ago I went on a behind-the-scenes tour with a group of reporters to the Blue Bell Creamery. I mean … what could be literally “cooler” than touring an ice cream factory? And did I mention it’s located in Brenham, Texas which is this time of year located smack dab in the middle of bluebonnet country?

Bluebonnet Trail

After we walked along the production room floor donning our manditory hairnets … inhaling deeply the luscious aroma of Cookies & Cream Ice Cream and snapping photos … the reporters were given the option of entering the blast freezer. That is where all the ice cream hangs out when it leaves the production line in a semi-solid state. Of course I raised my hand and said, “Me first please.” Since the production floor and blast freezer are not on the public tour, you never know when you will have an opportunity like that ever again in your entire life. I lasted about 15 seconds … which was probably a world record, but I’d do it again.

The 45-minute public tour (there is a modest admission fee) is a must and runs Monday through Friday (8:30 a.m. through 3 p.m.). My personal favorite was the ice cream sandwich machine! The tour ends with a serving of ice cream. You pick the flavor. Visit for location and other information about tours. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the gift shop! We have a nice collection of Blue Bell ice cream bowls, t-shirts and even No. 2 Blue Bell pencils.

So what is your favorite Blue Bell Ice Cream flavor? Mine … Peaches & Homemade Vanilla.

The next book in the queue

“The universe is not made of atoms. It is made of tiny stories.”

I saw the quote on Pinterest and just had to pin it to one of my boards. My husband, the engineer, will playfully argue with me on that one. Rick loves to watch all those science shows about the universe. He also believes in black holes. I don’t.

Last night I finished a book that was a bit of a struggle. It was pretty good … basically stories about the Vietnam War … just not one of my all-time favorites. “The Things They Carry” by Tim O’Brien was recommended by another author.

Recommendations are sometimes how I pick the next title to read. Several years back my son recommended “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein. Ricky said it changed his life. That is a good recommendation if ever I heard one. Loved the book.

So it was that one afternoon I just happened to catch an author on television when I was channel surfing. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was speaking about the writing process. I had read one of her books and stopped to hear what she had to say.

She wrote “One Amazing Thing.” It is a story about a group of people trapped in a building after an earthquake. A motley crew from varying backgrounds, they were all having a most difficult time keeping themselves from falling apart. Someone decides each person should tell a story about the “one amazing thing” that shaped their lives. It was indeed an interesting collection of tiny stories. I found the book remarkable and decided the author could certainly be an authority on what to read next. In the course of her lecture she mentioned a couple of book titles. One was the book by Tim O’Brien. I’m sure I have the other book written down somewhere.

Last year I received another book recommendation and downloaded it onto my Nook. It is the one I am excited to be reading next. Rick and I were visiting the Napa area and seated for a wine tasting at a small vineyard. Across from us was a cute couple that had been dating for several years. The lovely young lady was a recent graduate from Berkeley. Between wine pours, she mentioned just finishing “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn the night before. She told me it had deeply affected her. Don’t know why, or how, but her eyes led me a place I decided to travel.

So what do you do when someone gives you a gift? You give one back. I recommended she read “One Amazing Thing.”

Do you have a book title you loved so much you would gift it to a stranger?