manhunt: deadly games

Every night around 6:00, Banjo Man asks me, “What are we watching tonight?”

As I have somehow been appointed as Covid Entertainment Director it’s up to me to find good shows to fill the hours before we stagger off to bed.

Hurray for Netflix!  We watched MANHUNT: DEADLY GAMES recently and we were captivated with this series.  It begins with the bombing at the Olympics, but as ATF bomb experts follow the forensic trail (and FBI agents ignore it), the story turns into the search for Eric Rudolph.  Absolutely fascinating.

If you think you know the whole story, I bet you don’t.

From CBS: “MANHUNT: DEADLY GAMES is a scripted true-crime anthology series that chronicles one of the most complex manhunts on U.S. soil following the deadly terrorist attack at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.”

We also watched MANHUNT: UNABOMBER, but it wasn’t as good.  Interesting, yes, but ultimately very sad.

And the Covid Entertainment Director doesn’t do sad.

Let me know what you are watching as we wait for the vaccine!




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the lasagna problem

I made two lasagnas when I was in  Texas last month.  One large one for the whole family and one small one for Will’s freezer.

They weren’t very good.

I could blame my failure on taking a shortcut and using jars of Paul Newman’s pasta sauce, but even with my own homemade sauce last summer’s lasagnas were not great.

About fifty years ago my father asked an Italian friend how to make lasagna.  He went to her house and they made it together.   A handful of this, a palmful of that, a spoonful, etc….and my father wrote it all down and came home with a masterpiece.  And my mother and I learned how to copy his success.

Enter “no bake” lasagna noodles.   A wonderful invention, but the brands I’ve used in the last couple of years have not been good.  And the amount of sauce needed ends up being a guessing game.  My lasagnas are too dry or too juicy.

Yesterday I made the Ina Garten (The Barefoot  Contessa) recipe.  The difference?  She used hot Italian sausage (I use half hot, half sweet) and a ricotta cheese mixed with goat cheese.  I chopped up fresh parsley, too.  Her sauce ended up being thick and just enough to cover the sausage.  She also required fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded cheese I always use.

The biggest change?  She uses lasagna noodles, but instead of boiling them to cook, she suggests putting them in a bowl of very hot tap water for 20 minutes.  What a great tip!!!

The verdict:  Very good.

I’m not giving this an A+ because I thought the sausage was too spicy and overwhelmed the other flavors.  I will definitely make this recipe again but I will use sweet sausage and see what that is like.  I will also eliminate the salt in the sauce.

You can also use turkey sausage.

And next time, if we are still in Covid Prison, I will halve the recipe instead of making a 9×13 pan.

Oh, how I wish someone was coming over for dinner!

Here’s the link if you want to check it out:


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under the needle

This was yesterday, spent stitching lots of lines in the pale green background, along with outlining the fans.  Once again, a quilt top that is at least 14 years old.  I made three of them in different colors back then.

Here’s what kept me busy on Sunday:

Basting, basting and more basting.

This was Monday’s project:

Yep, you guessed it.  Another blast from the past.  This was my “learning how to paper piece” project, featuring center blocks of fussy-cut toile cherubs.

What was I thinking???

But it was Finish #7.  Out of 10.  I’ll take it.

And if you’re wondering how I keep my energy up…

Not just a sewing machine, but also a candy dish.


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snow day

No, not here.  In Texas!  Due to icy conditions after yesterday’s storm, school has been cancelled today.

The Funny Grandson called twice yesterday to keep us informed on the weather conditions in his front and back yards.

There was snow.  Several inches of it.  And it snowed almost all day.

Those of us who grew up with snowstorms, snow days, sledding, building snowmen and forts, and having snowball fights can understand the excitement of waking up to the first snow of the winter.

We couldn’t get outside fast enough, remember?

But if you are a ten-year old in central Texas, snow seems more of a miracle than an expected act of nature.  Yesterday the FG made his first snowballs and had his first snowball fight.  Oh, the joy!

When the snow first started. Photo by Amber.

I predicted a Snow Day, which made the FG’s excitement reach another level of anticipation.  I was half-joking of course, but central Texas does shut down if there is ice on the roads.  They simply don’t have the equipment to deal with it so everyone just stays home and waits for it to melt.

Still snowing and now it’s time to make snowballs. Photo by Amber.

I don’t know how long the storm continued, but my Texans made the most of it.

After all, you have to enjoy miracles when they happen.  And you just haven’t lived until someone stuffs snow down the back of your neck.




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matching points and seams

I made this quilt top in 2004, shortly after buying my first computerized sewing machine, a Janome 6500.  That machine was cutting edge at the time and I was so proud and yet so intimidated by everything it could do.

I finished quilting this top yesterday.  Yeah, I know.  Fourteen years later.  There were a lot of unfinished quilt tops on the top shelf of my closet and this was near the bottom of the pile.

My daughter had given me this collection of fabric for Christmas in 2004, so I found a pattern and made it.  50″ square and the size of a baby quilt, but who wants a black and yellow baby quilt?

No one I’ve met so far.

So I am now calling it a wall hanging.

As I was stitching along–sewing the top, batting and backing together– I realized that the points and the matching seams were perfect.  99% perfect.  I couldn’t believe it.  This was one of my very first–if not the first–quilt top I made after I returned to quilting.  And it was perfect?  I must have agonized over each pinwheel block, making sure everything was absolutely in line.

I don’t do that any more.  So, I pondered as I stitched along, I have become sloppy.  Obviously.  I no longer sew with 99% precision.

Sloppy.  That wasn’t a pleasant revelation.

Pin basting the future wall hanging.  Many pinwheels, large and small, somehow all go together.

I kept stitching.  Nothing fancy, just outlining the blocks and triangles along all of those lovely straight lines.  And while I stitched I kept thinking of the many, many quilts I’d created since 2004.  There has been a progression of carefully followed patterns to projects where I’d done my own thing–either playing with a pattern or experimenting with color.

Here’s a quilt (Kaffe Fasset pattern) from 2018, finished last week:

I love this quilt.  Banjo Man does, too.  He’s afraid I’m going to give it away.  I’m not.

It’s not perfect, but that’s not the point.  It’s joyful, which is more important.  I had such a good time creating it, selecting fabrics from my giant stash, stitching blocks and columns together and then, last week, finally machine quilting it.

It’s not even close to perfection, but I don’t care.  No one else I know would either.  It’s not going into a show to be judged.  It won’t be displayed anywhere for others to criticize.

I’m sure I had a better time making it than I did the little black-and-gold quilt.

I will keep doing my best to match my seams and points, to carefully cut strips and squares and triangles (I love to cut fabric!), to starch and press, to carefully sew with the elusive scant 1/4″ seam.  Because after all, that’s quilting.  That’s the name of the game.

Seeing each quilt top come together is so much fun.

Which of course is the point.  Because creating art should be joyful.


And perfection just gets in the way.



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welcoming 2021

The New Year came to Texas and I was there to celebrate.  Yay!

Somehow we managed to stay awake past midnight.

Have you heard of the custom of eating grapes for good luck in the new year?

Eating twelve grapes guarantees good fortune for the next twelve months.

As you can see, we were prepared.

I found special 2021 wine glasses at the local grocery store (when Will and I made our one and only trip to the supermarket).  Amber filled them with sparkling apple juice.

The Funny Grandson really enjoyed the party.  Especially the noisemakers.

We made little pigs in the blanket for party food during football-watching.

Check them out:

A good time was had by all.  Other highlights of the trip?  Tacos from Torchy’s the night I arrived–Will ordered take out–and tacos in Round Rock for lunch.  Ben dropped me off at a quilt fabric store on his way to get them–win, win!

We went for a drive north of Round Rock and ended up with hot fudge sundaes.

We made French fries in the new air fryer.  We all loved playing CLUE, Uncle Will had little patience for Monopoly and I won a game of SEQUENCE.

So. Much. Fun.

I don’t know about you, but 2020 was a year of waiting for the next bad thing to happen–and it did.

Now, in 2021, I feel as if I’m waiting for the next good thing to happen.  Bring on the vaccines!  And let’s all get together.

At the Saxon Pub in 2018. No social distancing and lots of great music.



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starting 2021 the right way…in texas

December 26th I packed my suitcase and headed to Texas for some much-needed time with my boys, grandson and daughter-in-law.

Was I nervous about traveling during Covid?  Honestly, not at all.  

In case you think I’m a bit nuts and/or delusional, let me explain that I have had Covid and I am not afraid of it (for myself).

But I have had cancer and I’m terrified of it.   I just can’t be afraid of everything any more–it’s way too stressful–so I choose not to be.

When I arrived I hung my winter coat in the closet for the rest of the week and I put my traveling clothes in a plastic bag for the laundry.  I didn’t hug Will until I’d changed into a clean clothes, just in case any germs had clung to the fabric.

And then it was time to party.  And we had so much fun!  We played UNO and Clue and Monopoly and Sequence.  We watched Star Wars shows (I learned about Mandelorian) and Wonder Woman 1984 (pretty terrible movie) and lots of football.

We ate lasagna and cinnamon rolls (fresh from my suitcase) and hamburgers and pizza and carne asada.   We celebrated New Year’s Eve with sparkling cider and noisemakers.

It was such a fun week.  

Texas party animals!

Tomorrow I’ll add more pictures, but right now WordPress is being difficult so I have to end this post.

Stay well.

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heading out of here

I’m packed and ready to go to Texas.  I’ve had my tickets for a few weeks but knew that anything could happen–and probably would–to change my plans from traveling to going back to the sewing machine.

But I get to go see my Texas family for a week.

With the blessings of my oncologist and my GP.

The three boxes of Christmas presents are still missing and are hopefully heading west and will arrive while I’m there.  Otherwise I’ll be shopping online in a few weeks and hoping that the postal service has caught up from the gridlock of the holidays.

One last thing:

Daughter Nancy received one of my quilts for Christmas.  I finished it just in time.

Your Christmas cards will be late!  Banjo Man has volunteered to get them to you.

Happy New Year!!!

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a little joy

This was in my friend Pat’s email today.  I loved it and wanted to share.

I have been busy.  I accidentally tripled this recipe (don’t ask) and have enough cinnamon rolls for my entire town.  I finally gave up baking them and froze the rest of the dough.

It could be another 33 years before I do this again, so those of you who received them better make ’em last.

It was another stressful only-in-2020 week as we discovered Sunday that our propane supplier no longer understood the concept of “automatic delivery” and had missed filling our tanks in November and December.

They no longer believed in answering phone calls, replying to desperate emails, updating websites or even the sometimes helpful “chat” option.  I spent many hours on hold only to receive sympathy, apologies, promises and then…nothing.  Finally last night a driver called and said she’d come but if she didn’t like the condition of our driveway she wasn’t driving down to the house.

Apparently they had forgotten they’ve been delivering to us, via our driveway, for the past eighteen years.

(There had been that one incident on a very, very icy winter when the propane truck slipped and went into our pit and a huge crane had to be called and everyone was very intense and thought it was going to explode but that was very long ago and only happened one time.)

Banjo Man rushed out to meet her when the truck arrived around 8 PM last night.  He of course wanted to convince her that our driveway–which had been nicely plowed after last week’s storm–was fine.  Whatever he said and whatever she saw met with her approval and we now have full tanks.

Since we heat the house, heat the water and cook using gas,  you can imagine my stress level.  I envisioned draining all the water pipes and moving to the Hampton Inn–worst case scenario–if we lost heat, but learned they were booked with local college students until March.

So much for that escape plan.

But we are fine today and have happily turned our stoves back on and put our portable electric heaters in the closet.  There was plenty of gas with which to cook four or five hundred cinnamon rolls and tonight we will enjoy long hot showers.

Christmas Eve is certainly different this year.  But we’re pleased that daughter Nancy could join us for steaks tonight.  I’m going to experiment with onion rings in the air fryer.

Good times, even during 2020.

Merry Christmas, my friends!  I hope you are with someone you love tonight and all is well.




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time to spare

Yesterday my friend Barb and I were on the phone commiserating over these long, quiet, pre-Christmas days of 2020.

“I am so bored,” this previously perpetually active woman said, “that I have set up my train set.”

There had never been enough time or space when her house was filled with excited children and grandchildren, she explained.  But in 2020 she and her husband don’t have that going on.  Her children and grandchildren will stay in Pennsylvania and Barb and Rod are stuck in Rhode Island.

We commiserated about our decades of Christmas busyness and how exhausted and yet happy we had been making the holiday special for our families.  And how strange that it had all come to a screeching halt.

I told her that I was going to make seven pans of cinnamon rolls.

“My God,” she said.  “That will take you all day!”

“I HOPE SO!”  was my reply.  “I need something to do besides feel sorry for myself and sew.”

I told her the rolls were going to be her Christmas present.

She was very happy about that.

I warned her that I haven’t made cinnamon rolls in 33 years.  She didn’t care.  She wants some.  She assured me that baking cinnamon rolls was a life skill that never went away.  And because she is an excellent baker, I believe her.

The Funny Grandson Face-timed yesterday afternoon.  I hadn’t talked to him for a couple of weeks and he had plenty to say.  He was swigging a rare and exciting treat– Cherry Dr. Pepper– and wearing his prized Dallas Cowboys hat.

I caught up on many, many details of his life and how he feels about all sorts of things.  He showed me every single one of his new football cards and his favorite funny tv commercial, via Youtube.

I told him about my plans to make cinnamon rolls (one of his favorite treats when he is at the lake with us) and he wished I could mail him some, which led to discussing the problems with the mail and how his Christmas presents from RI were going to be very, very late.

He had questions about the Covid vaccine.  I gave him hints about his gifts.  He gave me hints about his mom’s gift.  I got an update on flag football (it starts in January and his team is the 49’ers).  After almost an hour (this kid is wonderfully chatty) I suggested that he might want to hang up and see if his dinner was ready.

He was shocked that I would suggest ending the call.

“Grandma,” he declared, “I have all the time in the world!”

Oh, my heart.

And–of course–I had all the time in the world, too.  So I curled up on the couch and chatted for another half an hour or so.

It was the best thing that’s happened for weeks and broke through my gloom and doom.  I miss him terribly.

So today I’ll fill the hours with baking.  Banjo Man has requested sugar cookies, the thin crispy kind.   And I’m excited about the cinnamon rolls.  They bring back memories of raising my little ones in Idaho, when baking every day was part of life, and cinnamon rolls shaped like Christmas trees were distributed to the neighbors on Christmas Eve.

This year, for better or for worse, I have all the time in the world.

And I plan to play with Barb’s train set tomorrow.  The Funny Grandson will like hearing all about it.










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