From The Reading Table: Beryl and Edwina Mysteries

I’m a huge fan of Barbara Rosenblat, who reads a variety of books for audio. One of her most well known series is the Amelia Peabody books. When I discovered that she was reading the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries for author Jessica Ellicott I couldn’t resist checking them out.

The series is set in England in the late 1920’s. It features Beryl Helliwell who is a boisterous American and Edwina Davenport, a very proper British woman. The two are life long friends who reconnect when Beryl decides to stay in England after America has implemented prohibition.

Currently at three books, the stories are centered around Edwina’s home village of Walmsley Parva. The village is full of interesting characters – many hearken back to similar cozy mysteries – and the setting is both comfortable and interesting.

Jessica Ellicott has an interesting website providing information on the series as well as the opportunity to sign up for a newsletter to keep up with the goings on.

I do recommend reading the books in order. There is some back story that feeds not only the main story of each of the book but the series and the character growth will make more sense as you read.

As I said, I love Rosenblat’s work and she does an admirable job with all the voices. I enjoy it so much, the series is one I return to time and again when I need a little something to curl up with.

Please add these to your To Be Read List for the next time you want to read (or listen to) something a bit cozy. 🙂

Taking A Breather

There’s magic in the air!

Or, I’m still sick…

Honestly, I finally (!) captured the October Whatever Is Going Around that I’d managed to avoid in the past couple of years. Not real sure it is the accomplishment that sounds like, but <shrug> here we are.

I’ve been careful with medication and allowing myself to not over do anything. Like I have a choice. 😉 What this means is I’m pretty much at the whim of my sleeping patterns. Yeah, lots of Up At 2 a.m. nights. Whoopee.

Enough. This, too, shall pass.

To those who have been following along – Thank You! It has been thrilling (and a bit satisfying) to see the traffic and the “Likes” that you’ve left.

I hope that our odd ball conversations have given you food for thought and, maybe, helped you a little bit.

I have been thinking about this blog about how I started out with the <cough> intention of going one way, but seemingly ended up going in another.

I wanted to provide a comfortable series of articles about all sorts of things – and I still do – but I am also wondering if you, my readers, find certain topics that I’ve talked about more interesting or if you have something you’d like me to talk more about. Please send me an email and let me know.

One thing I have noticed lately is an increased inclination to engage in something – anything – that has pretty much been back burnered for the past few years. I’m not really sure why that is, but I am wanting to play in my kitchen more, get back to quilting, indulge in some videos and music.

I know that I tend to operate in cycles, but do you have that going on in your life, too?

I am slowly (!) catching up on missed episodes of favorite programming and looking forward to diving into Disney+. I put a lot of my normal streaming services on hold because, honestly, I’d seen all I was interested in and wasn’t using them. Why spend the $?

To me, that is the Huge Plus about streaming. I do not have to be paying for things I don’t want just to have access to what I do want…hopefully.

I’m discovering new (to me) channels and content providers that are interesting. It remains to be seen how long I shall keep up with them.

You Do You

As we embark on the Holiday Season, I want to encourage you to Do You. For many of us, this is uncharted territory and not entirely comfortable. That is okay. No one is saying that you toss all the old traditions out the door.

I would like to encourage you to try something different this year. Maybe a different type of decoration or a new side dish.

Is there a project you are interested in? I’m thinking about the conversation that was started months ago regarding creating a personal cookbook. As we embark on 2020, maybe this is the opportunity to take that on one chapter a month?

Food for thought, right?

In any event, take some time to enjoy the moment. 2019 has not been the best of years for many people, but it is almost over and we have an opportunity for a Fresh Start.

Let me know your thoughts – I look forward to hearing from you!

Feeling Stuck?

We are the only ones who can give ourselves permission to learn, to experience the joy of discovering our own strengths.

I came across this quote while reading and thought it was worth exploring.

I don’t know of anyone who has never had a moment of indecision about anything. Who has never felt intimidated by the prospect of change.

Some of us, for reasons that we may never fully understand, have been raised to be afraid of doing anything for fear of being different, standing out, trying new things.

Others are hesitant to ‘rock the boat’ for fear of repercussions they might have to face from family or friends.

The topics are wide ranging; education, traditions, religion, and a host more.

The sad part of this is that many people will allow themselves to be stuck in a very small box for their entire lives, never experiencing anything new, never finding out of they even like what they have discovered.

We all know the adage of the kids who refuse to eat something new because they don’t know what it tastes like. Well, I hate to remind you, but it isn’t just the kids who have that problem. 🙂

How do you know what you like, if you don’t know what you don’t like? You don’t.

Now, I’m not proposing an earth shattering change to every single part of your life. What I am proposing is that we all try something new because we are curious. We are not obligated to actually “like” it, but to just try it.

To me there is nothing sadder than the person who approaches food as if the food is going to turn around and eat him.

Allergies aside, if you think about it, the basic foodstuffs we think of eating are the same all over the globe. They are just prepared differently. Chicken is chicken no matter what country you are in. Ditto for beef, pork, and the host of vegetables and grains. The difference is how they are prepared and combined. You could discover something amazing, or not.

Music is music, in all its diversity, at its core it is the same thing.

Hey, someone had to invent that deep fried Oreo, right? And let’s not forget opera, rock and roll and jazz.

By giving ourselves permission to try new things we open the door to experiencing the world in many different ways. We might find that we actually like that particular shade on the walls or the process of creating a quilt. We might discover that the idea of learning a new language is more intimidating than we thought, but the ability to speak with new friends is exhilarating. And the things we learn by doing new things and meeting new people is not only exciting, but satisfying.

On the other hand, it can also be scary. Learning new things, meeting new people can often require us to look at long held beliefs and discover that they are, or are not, what we thought them to be.

One thing is certain, you won’t know if you never take the opportunity to even dip your toe in the water.

Food the Enemy? Part 2

As we move into the Holiday Season with all the various Get Togethers, Parties, Family Meals and such, I have a few thoughts about how to survive and, possibly, flourish.

As I’ve said before, “diet” is a word I hate to use. It implies, among other things, a temporary situation, a punishment, a deprivation, something to be either avoided or circumvented as much as possible.

Is it any wonder, then, that when you announce that you are embarking on a <cough> “diet” people around you automatically begin wondering (privately, one would hope) how quickly ‘that’ will end?

If we are being honest, it is not just other people who are wondering that, it is us.

Trying to lose weight, maintain a healthy lifestyle or tackle allergies or other medical issues is a huge undertaking on its own. Adding holiday eating to the mix only increases the stress.

Some folks never quite ‘get’ that allergies or other medical issues are real things. Others just don’t think it important during the holidays. It can be handled ‘later’.

As you contemplate maneuvering through the potential mine field of holiday eating, think about the following:

Do The Best You Can

Nothing is guaranteed to be perfect and there will always be something unexpected that could sideline you.

Don’t Expect Perfection and Plan Accordingly

If you are going to someone’s home for a meal, presumably you already have an idea of the way they cook. If you have food allergies, I urge you to have a conversation with the cook in advance so you both know what to expect. No one wants to have to contemplate an unexpected trip to the emergency room during a holiday.

If the issue relates more to a healthier eating style, you may be able to ask the cook what they are planning or offer to bring something along. Many cooks would appreciate help getting the meal on the table.

If you are doing the cooking, you have control over what goes into the meal. You can make adjustments that meet dietary needs as you see fit.

I’ve also found that if you want to make some calorie adjustments, unless you announce it in advance, hardly anyone will notice that Granny’s Special Dish just might be a little less caloric than normal. Shocking, but true. 🙂

Don’t Let A Lapse Become Permanent

The biggest, most important <cough> “rule” for holiday eating – or eating anytime – is simply this: If you fall off your eating plan or binge on something special once or twice, don’t beat yourself up over it and don’t make it a permanent change.

In other words; it’s okay to have that moment of extra something as long as you don’t use the moment as an excuse to make it a new life change.

Each day is a new start. What you did yesterday should not impact what you do today or tomorrow. So if you went a bit overboard with the dips and chips yesterday, today you start fresh.

Expect To Be Off Plan – and Plan For It

If you do your meal planning in advance, and you know when you are going to have (or likely to have) holiday treats, include that into your plan.

Even if the holiday treats don’t happen, or you don’t eat as much as you thought you would, you are already on your game because you’ve made room in your plan for them.

Look at the rest of your meals and see if you might tweak them to accommodate potential treat issues. You never know when that cookie tray will arrive at work, right?

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Before you start in on a game of Kick Me, reflect a bit. Did you go out of your way to go off your plan or was it just a minor infraction? What can you do better this coming week? Is it worth making yourself miserable over?

As a general rule, I find the 80/20 guideline to be helpful. That means 80% of the time I follow my plan and the remaining 20% I get to go a bit wild.

I’m not feeling deprived and it gives me motivation to stick with my plan.

When you change your vocabulary, you can change the way you think. “Diet” is temporary. “Lifestyle” is a long term, permanent way of living.

During the holidays you will find many opportunities to go back to “dieting” but I think you will find that you prefer your “lifestyle” and will instinctively move toward it.

You might think I’m crazy, but you might be surprised.

In any event, I know you’ve got this.

Tackling UFOs

R U Stuck Creatively?

In the crafting world “UFO” means Unfinished Objects. Usually a quilt or large project that has been left to sit for various reasons.

In the rest of the world, I think UFO refers to those things on a seemingly unending To Do List that never seem to get done.

I’m guilty of this. Big (or maybe not so big) projects that I really need to do simply to answer a question or two, let alone resolve a cleaning issue. Cleaning out and inventorying my pantry, for example.

I can have a better handle on meal planning when I know what I have on hand and what I need to purchase.

Recharge your creative batteries!

I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest hurdles to moving forward with Change is tackling the left overs and clearing the decks.

There are always the general day-to-day things that we do simply to keep moving; food, dishes, laundry, trash, etc. But even within those tasks are tasks that keep being pushed to the “I’ll do it later” stack.

More than just clearing the decks, however, tackling UFOs opens up space to be creative. It gets rid of those things that are preventing you from trying new things.

Lots of us get stuck in the rut of “I can’t start anything new until I finish all my pending stuff.” or some such.

Could this be considered self-sabotage?

Can’t start the New Eating Plan until all the old food is eaten.

Can’t start the New Craft Project until all the old projects are done.

Can’t find a New Series to Watch until I’ve caught up with all the old ones.

A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks away from home recovering from surgery. As such, my regular TV schedule was put by the wayside and I lost momentum with several series. Turns out, I had the opportunity to catch up, but didn’t.

Recently, for various reasons, my TV viewing schedule has been put on the sidelines, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want to keep up.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know how dedicated I can be to those few shows I keep up with. This change has been unsettling and interesting.

I’ve spent time focusing on classes, checking out new videographers, exploring topics I had previously had only a passing interest in.

As a result of this, I’ve rekindled an interest in a craft I’d put aside and am now contemplating tackling again. I gathered new material to use when I’m ready. I’ve added information that I can use later.

By clearing out my “I have to do this” list, I made room for the “I might want to do this” list.

To put it another way, by cleaning out the closet, I’ve made room for new things.

If you are stuck, in whatever version of “creativity” you prefer, maybe you need to consider that not all projects left unfinished need to be “finished” and that you can give yourself permission to either hand them off or leave them be and go on to the next.

Keep It Simple

How to Keep Your Interest Without Becoming Overwhelmed

I love the excitement of finding some thing new that I want to try or read or watch or… Well, you get the idea. 🙂

The problem is, life has a way of interrupting the excitement and sometimes I lose track of that Wonderful Whatever to the point where I forget what made me excited about it in the first place.

I love history, films, music, TV, books, and loads of other things.

My crafting is pretty simple – I’ve been known to put a project down for years (really) only to pick it up and finally finish it. That is one reason my crafting has to be simple. Complicated projects could be sidelined for so long as to be unfinishable.

I love to crochet, but I do it so infrequently I have to relearn every single time. Really.

I’m also the person who jumps in a few yards ahead of where I probably should start.

I started my first quilting projects not by sewing simple squares together, but sewing hand cut half hexagons and triangles.

I dare add that my foray into sewing was a (thankfully) brief project for Home Economics class in High School that didn’t exactly work out. <cough>

Back to the quilting, while jumping into the middle, if not the deep end, of the pool might not be the best idea ever, I did learn a lot. And I gained quite a few tools. And fabric.

My card making is, deliberately, not high end. I have loads of paper, tools, embellishments, etc., and I enjoy the process, but I am still learning.

I love to cook and bake, but as I’m only feeding me, my major creativity tends to be … tampered a bit. I like being able to wear a smaller size than I used to. 🙂

What I love about watching DIY and How To videos is not just the fascination with the various projects but the rekindling of excitement for a process.

If you are hesitant about starting a new project, or if yourself stuck might I suggest a thought?

Start small.

You may want to dive in and create the most amazing 15 layer wedding cake that you can see in your imagination, but if you have little to no actual baking experience…maybe that might be a project best done in future.

I find scratch baking easy and enjoyable, but that’s me. I also know my limitations. While 15 layers could be a showstopper, I might actually start out with 2 just to see how the recipe works and if I need to do a bit of tweaking.

Those triangles and half hexagons I mentioned will soon be re-cut into new, smaller, shapes that I can use for other blocks in other projects.

Odd note about one of those fabric lines; by the time I finished cutting all those half hexagons I was mortally sick of the fabric. Sad, but true. When I pulled it out of the drawer recently, however, I found I loved it once again. The colors are beautiful, the patterns lovely and I was excited to think about how I would use it.

These days I’m less inclined (let alone interested) in making a full sized quilt and more interested in table runners, mug rugs and the like.

If you need to regain your excitement for anything, start slow, revisit what caught your attention and take smaller steps. Build on what you learn so when you face those 15 layers of cake with buttercream frosting it won’t be such a huge undertaking.

Life really is more about the journey rather than the destination. Take the time to enjoy the trip.

Quilter’s Corner

Reigniting The Flame

I enjoy quilting, I really do. There is something satisfying about putting pieces together to make beautiful blocks to make beautiful quilts. I just don’t enjoy cutting fabric. Which is why I own an Accuquilt Go!. 🙂

I have been a Novice Quilter for years. Like many of the things I like to do, I don’t do them often enough to move beyond “novice”. Like most of them; fabric painting and I have had a life long love affair and even when I’ve been away from it for long periods (aka: Years) I’m beyond ‘novice’.

I’ve been away from the quilting table for a while now. Recently, however, I found myself mesmerized by Stuart Hillard on YouTube. I first found him when he was working with Accuquilt and Create and Craft in the U.K. His easy and interesting tutorials on a variety of machines and blocks were, well, comfortable.

I’m no beginner when it comes to using the machine and the dies, but the ability to sit through a refresher course gave me a touch of inspiration and – dare I say it? – inclination to pull out some fabric and dive in.

Even without the machine and the dies, watching the Missouri Star Quilt Company videos each week provides a lot of inspiration and not a few “Ah Ha!” moments. Miss Jenny always has something interesting to share!

The Midnight Quilt Show posts on YouTube as well as Bluprint. I try not to miss an episode, even if I’m not inclined toward the pattern. I always learn something new. I like how she shows how to do quilting on a home sewing machine.

While I’m thinking of it, Donna Jordan from Jordan Fabrics has become a Must See when I come across one of their YouTube videos. Donna always has interesting ideas, great patterns and some seriously luscious fabrics. 🙂

Much to Miss Bella’s consternation, I just reorganized part of the library/craft room so I have access to my fabric stash. She now has to determine how to get back onto her spot. Me? I now have access to loads of fabrics to play with.

Yippee!