Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snowlady Welcomes Winter

Pigeon's first lady of winter, the Woolly Snowlady, donned her wool hat and got out her pine tree to welcome winter to Michigan's Thumb. In spite of her crafty artificiality and her three ball construction (a woman? with balls?) she can be counted on to predict the first snow of the season fairly accurately.

Here is her prediction:

1. The first snow has already been here. (Duh.)
2. The second snow will be here before January 1st. (Double duh.)

Ah, how wonderful to have her in the company of the winter warriors. We love her sheepish grin and enjoy all of the yarns that she tells. With her beady eyes and her button front, she's one of those Midwesterners who stays north in cold weather and keeps the faith during the long, bright winter to come.

As Woolly Snowlady says to all she meets, "Only 22 more days until winter!"

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Handsome Guys

Max with Uncle Will -- November 2011
Max and Will posed for my camera while they were looking through the Robert Sabuda pop-up book about dinosours that Max got for his birthday. Max has on his new hand knit hat that I made for him. I used Jared Flood's pattern, Turn A Square hat, that is a free download on to knit the hat for Max.

Robert Sabuda's pop-up books are a form of artwork that is outstanding. Each page has a large central popup (you can see one in front of Max in the photo) and then there are side pocket/pages with more pop ups. Mr. Sabuda and his collaborator, Matthew Reinhart, have created children's books that delight and entertain adults as well as children. HERE is a link to Robert Sabuda's website where you can see more of his work.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, November 28, 2011

Max's Karate Birthday

Karate birthday at Ohana Karate near Howell, Michigan
Max enjoyed a karate birthday party with lots of his friends this weekend. Max and Finn both take karate classes at Ohana Karate. When Karate Sam told Liesl, their mom, that he was offering karate birthday parties, Liesl jumped at the chance.

Karate brothers -- Finn and Max

The children learned to stay on their spot (notice the white dots on the floor), to sit with crossed legs and straight backs, and some of the basic kicking motions. Mr. Sam gave a lesson about bullying for both the parents and the children. There was lots of movement mixed in with the discipline of sitting and listening carefully.

Jumping through hoops, balancing, running -- active skill time at Ohana Karate
The ice cream birthday cake was yummy and some very tired children headed home after a great karate themed birthday party.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent One

Light the Advent Candle One,
Now the waiting has begun.
We have started on our way,
Time to think of Christmas Day.

Candle, candle, burning bright,
Shining in the cold winter night.
Candle, candle, burning bright,
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

The simple, yet sage, words of the children's Advent song ring in my head today. It's the first of four Sundays that come before Christmas, so in Christian liturgical tradition, it is Advent One.

Today I think of my Dad who is counting the days until his 91st Christmas in Wisconsin. His memories of Decembers past and the Christmases within all of those Decembers must be a wonderful gift for him this year. 

I'm also thinking of my Houston friends, the Winter family, as they count the days toward Hanukkah. Two traditions, linked by the light of truth.

Life is good.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Walk In The Park

Three adults, one kid and three dogs enjoyed a walk to the park this morning. People, left to right: Peter, Wendy, Will with Hannah. Dogs, left to right: Mosby, Mickey (back to camera) and Gilbert (also back to camera).

Cellphone photo
Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, November 25, 2011

Max -- Beaming Brightly

Born on Thanksgiving Day, Max beams brightly across his birthday cake. The look on his happy face could light a thousand candles, but we settled for seven last night, since Max turns seven today.

We celebrated a day early by singing "Happy Birthday," sharing a cake and opening presents. Now, what you can't see in this photo is that the candle were the kind that re-ignite, so the blowing out lasted several minutes.

Max's mother made a red velvet cake with Cool Whip topping for frosting and filling. It was very yummy. Peter, Ed and I finished the birthday cake late last night after the boys were in bed. This morning Max said, "Grandma, somebody ate the rest of my cake last night!" "Yes, Max, we did," was the honest (and confessional) reply.

Notice the Christmas cactus in the lower right corner. We counted 62 buds on it one day this week. None of the blossoms are open yet, but we know it will be a spectactular sight soon.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Great Grandmother

After pizza supper on Thanksgiving Eve, Max and Finn pose for a moment with their Great Grandma Pauline.

The great grandchildren always bring a sparkle to Pauline's eyes.

Cellphone photo

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Recipe For Kitchen Fun

Wanda Jean (grandmother) and Griffin Henry (grandson)
on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2011

Take one buttermilk roll recipe from old cookbook. (Margin notes say this recipe was used for Thanksgiving 1983.)

Add one small grandson.

Find a plastic knife and a step stool.

Enforce hand washing rules.

Punch dough. Knead dough. Pat dough. Roll out dough. Cut dough. Shape rolls. Bake rolls. Test rolls (the baker must be the tester!) Eat rolls. (Well, some of them. The rest should be frozen for Thanksgiving Day dinner.)

Cellphone photo by Aunt Wendy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Glasses

It's probably been three years since I've had a pair of new glasses. This time I went whole hog and had three pairs made up for me -- sunglasses, regular lenses and computer glasses. The computer glasses (shown above) are designed for closeup work that is slightly more distant than one would use for reading. And, yes, I know that I chose frames that are kind of nerdy. Such is life.

I'm finding them very comfortable for working on my laptop, for knitting, and for doing artwork. Rhonda Buehler at Scheurer Family Vision Center (her spouse is the optomistrist, by the way) recommended this third pair. She says she puts hers on for doing paperwork at the start of the day and finds that by the end of the day, she's still wearing them.

I did start using the new glasses just two days before my cellphone died. So, over one weekend I was getting used to new glasses and a new phone. Talk about retraining your brain, your eyes, and your fingers at the same time!

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Collage 2011, Inspired by Starbucks Coffee

Some things simply make it autumn.
 Like a crisp chill in the air.
Vibrant leaves blanketing front lawns.
 And friends and family gathering on Thanksgiving Day.
 Enjoy this coffee with the things that make fall the season to love the most.

I liked this sentiment from a package of Starbucks Thanksgiving blend coffee so much that I made a collage for Thanksgiving. I cut the words out of the package and collected various pieces of artwork that reminded me of Thanksgiving and good food. All of these elements (a scrapbooking term) add up to the ephemera (a museum term) that you see here in this photo -- leaves, acorns, a seal from a wine bottle, a face to represent family and friends, spoon and fork for good food, and, of course, a Starbucks logo from the package.

I painted the background with golden tones, glued everything in place and framed it. The little collage will be a reminder of this Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finn at Adams Field

Finny enjoys the big old nut tree that's next to Adams Field at MSU before the football game on Saturday. Just about every little kid who comes to watch the Spartan Marching Band before the game climbs on the low lying limbs of this welcoming tree.

Scores of huge trees, many over 100 years old, dot the north side of the campus near the Union. Like unspoken treasure, their branches rise in testament to the enduring goodness of nature and the enjoyment of small boys swinging on their limbs.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Drill and Clean

The last home performance of the season is on Saturday, but it is Friday night and the Spartan Marching Band Color Guard is practicing. Seen through a window of Dem Hall, the guard works on its drill for the half time show at the Indiana/MSU game. Drill and clean is the name of the game. Get the routine right and make it shine.

The distant figure in the center pane is my youngest child, Peter Eichler, co-director of the Color Guard, and a graduate of Michigan State and Laker High School. This photo was taken while Peter's dad and I waited outside the practice hall and chatted with jazz music students who were waiting for their turn at using the practice facility.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Board Is Spread

Thanksgiving is come. The board is spread.
Thanks be to God who gives us bread.
Praise God for bread.

Since Ed and I will be hosting Thanksgiving at Cedar Bluff this year, I dug out this photo of what the table looked like two years ago when we last hosted the big meal. When I look at this photo, my mind starts singing the old camp table grace song which starts out with "morning is come, the board is spread." 

About this time, a week ahead, I could get pretty frazzled over the details of any special meal, let alone Thanksgiving. Are the groceries bought? Who is doing the turkey? How many places to set? When should the appetizers be set out? Which tablecloth?

Surely details deserve attention. Good food does come from good planning. But Thanksgiving is more than place settings and platters.

Thanksgiving is about gathering. It's a time of collecting the best and the worst of the year, and still being thankful for life's blessings. In a setting of family and friends, the turkey can be dry, the potatoes less than fluffy and the pies can disappear too soon. What will matter is that we will be together, the board will be spread, and we will give thanks. Again.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Football Buddies

Dave and Jill Harmon, Wanda and Ed Eichler

Dave and Jill Harmon were our football buddies for the Minnesota vs. Michigan State game on Saturday, November 5. Here we are, before the game, on Adams Field where the Spartan Marching Band forms before the game.

Ed and I had sideline passes for this game so Dave and Jill held down the fort in our section for the first half. I joined them for the second half while Ed stayed on the sidelines. It was a good game. Dave and I did lots of yelling during the third down conversions. Jill is a little (maybe) quieter but we all can really get into the game. 

We don't tailgate before the game, but when the Harmons come with us we can count on a good Mexican meal at La Senorita after the game.  John and Liesl and Max and Finn joined us along with Pete. We rehashed the game and the little boys got to play a mini field goal game (think paper footballs finger snapped through white pipe goalposts) that the wait staff sets up in a corner of the dining room.

One more home game this Saturday! Go State! Beat Indiana!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Foothill Haze

A morning haze lies across the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson this past Monday. Just one day earlier, record rainfall covered the area. By Monday morning, a layer of velvet haze hung over the valley and ringed the purple mountains east of Tucson.

The rain cleared the air and brought blue skies with high clouds. This photo was taken on my morning walk along Dove Mountain Road.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Happy Birthday To Will

Born on the opening day of firearms deer season in Michigan, here is my first born with his first born. This photo happens have been taken on Will's first Father's Day in June of 2010. Miss Hannah is loving the camera, as usual.

On the day of this photo, Ed and I met Will and Wendy and Hannah in Port Huron for Father's Day brunch at the Thomas Edison Inn along the St. Clair River. The photo was taken at a nearby playground where we enjoyed watching Hannah on the swings after brunch.

Will was born on a snowy Thursday in Bad Axe. We brought him home to our first house in Pigeon on West Pigeon Road. Ed was working as a lineman for Pigeon Telephone Company at the time and was often assigned to work in Twining across Saginaw Bay. My mother-in-law Pauline was a big help to me in those first mothering days. She answered lots of questions and guided our little family with great elan. Will was her second grandchild (Jason Richard being the first) and second grandson, with many more to come.

Happy Birthday, William Edwin!

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cloud Collision

Clouds collided with the Catalina Mountains on the northeast side of Tucson during this weekend's rainstorms. This peak appears to be the source of steam or smoke. The Catalinas rise as high as Mt. Lemmon at over 9000 feet and are a prominent feature in the Tucson landscape.

Photo taken from along North Oracle Road on Tucson's north side.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Autumn Salad with Red Grapes, Celery and Almonds

Autumn Salad with Red Grapes, Celery and Almonds

Luscious red grapes and crunchy green celery are featured in a chopped salad that is an eye catching side dish. Serve this salad with home made vegetable soup  and whole wheat toast for a hearty autumn supper. A chopped salad is easy to eat. Whether you are making meals for kids or grownups, consider the ease of using a spoon or salad fork for consuming this salad. Gee, even a spork would work!

Autumn Salad


Prepare salad ingredients:
  • 2 cups romaine with spines, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved and seeded (if necessary)
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup almonds, sliced
  • 1/4 cup hard Romano cheese, shredded
  • OPTIONAL 3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Combine the romaine, grapes and celery. Stir in the almonds and cheese. Toss with Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing (recipe below). If desired, sprinkle bacon pieces on top of salad.

Serves 4-6 as a side salad.

The chopped ingredients for Autumn Salad

Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing

Whisk together:
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash seasoning
  • several grinds of black pepper
Then whisk in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Refrigerate dressing if not using immediately. Set dressing out of refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using. Extend this dressing, if needed, by whisking in 2 or 3 tablespoons of room temperature water.

Autumn Salad in my favorite stainless steel bowl from IKEA
I keep two bowls this size for making salad. The first bowl is for whisking the dressing.
The second bowl is for assembling and serving the salad.
Both go into the dishwasher easily after the meal.

More about this recipe

We've enjoyed red grapes for almost two months now. This salad combines the sweetness of the grapes with the crunch of the celery and romaine. Almonds bring snap to the salad. And the bacon, well, we can always add bacon to our salads, but omitting it makes this a vegetarian side. Use rice vinegar for a lighter flavor in the dressing. Another vinegar that would be good is Heinz Tarragon vinegar. The Heinz vinegar is harder to find at grocery stores. It is in a bottle that is the same shape as their wine vinegar bottle.

Make this into a main meal salad by tearing the romaine instead of chopping it. Divide the torn leaves from a head of romaine onto four plates. Toss the grapes and celery with the dressing. Spoon the dressed grape/celery mixture in the center of each plate. Sprinkle with Romano and almonds and, optionally, bacon.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Ball Meets Cactus

No, those white globes in this cactus are not eggs. They are golf balls that are firmly embedded into the saguaro cactus. These cactuses have a pithy inner structure that holds on to the balls.

Ball meets cactus. Cactus keeps ball.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, November 11, 2011

Antenna Farm

There's a cluster of five high antennas on the west side of Tucson that is visible from many parts of the valley and mountains that surround the city. Here you can see the red lights at the base and at the top of each antenna. Since these lights flash intermittently, a photo like this is difficult to take.

I purchased a Sony Cybershot compact digital camera almost a year ago and am still learning about the settings. In order to get this photo with all five red lights I used the hand-held twilight setting that takes six images (very fast) and combines them into one. Designed for low light, non-tripod use, the twilight setting records stars and sunset glow and even the red lights from the antenna farm that can be seen in this photo.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shawn's Quilt

The old proverb, "Many hands make light work," applies to this quilt project. Great Grandma Pauline, Great Aunt Wanda, and Grandmother Beth all have had a hand in cutting fabrics, sewing Thangles, and piecing blocks. Beth finished the top and sent it to me last week.

I'm heading for my quilting studio in Pigeon with its long arm Gammill quilting machine right after Thanksgiving. This quilt top, made for Shawn Michael Pelton, is scheduled for quilting that week as are two other tops that have been patiently waiting for my attention.

Shawn's quilt is a cousin quilt to the Hannah quilt. Both Mr. Shawn and Miss Hannah are great grands of a mighty fine quilter, my mom-in-law Pauline.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bluff Boys

Our two grandsons joined us at Cedar Bluff for a few days in November of 2009. Finn was two and Max was almost five. We hiked the shoreline and the boys climbed the bluff. Here they are, big brother Max leading the way up the bluff.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gingkos Along Grand River Avenue

I counted 13 gingko trees on the south side of Grand River Avenue in East Lansing on the north side of the Michigan State University campus last weekend. Here is a view of the avenue, looking west, with eight of these magnificent trees numbered so that you can identify their autumn look.

The tree that is number 3 has lost all of its leaves. Gingkos are like that; one day they are splendidly yellow gold and the next, all their leaves have been shed.

My fascination with gingko trees reaches from Michigan to Japan where we saw stately gingko trees on the site of the atomic blast in Hiroshima. Lots of cities plant gingkos for their resistance to smog and pollution. The tree has a strong center "pole" and develops stubby secondary branches. Their distinctive fan shaped leaves make them an easy tree to identify.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fat Squirrel

I guess that if you are a squirrel you have to take Thanksgiving when you can get it. This guy was doing exactly that when we spotted him in a grove of oak trees this week. The ground was peppered with acorns -- broken nuts, whole nuts, nibbled nuts. The squirrels -- I saw five --were fat, fat, fat!

I set both the focus and the metering on my Sony Cybershot to spot the exact center of the photo. That setting overexposed the branch background and highlighted this guy's bushy tail. I like the result.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Silver Sound

I heard it. I heard the silver sound of the trumpet section in the Spartan Marching Band yesterday afternoon from the sidelines at Spartan Stadium. J. T. Madden, director of the SMB, arranged sideline passes for Ed and me so that we would get to experience the band's performance at a football game up close and personal.

The sound of 300 brass, wind and percussion players, all in concert together, filling an outdoor stadium on a 50 degree sunny day in fall is incredible. It envelopes you with its purity and brassiness -- with the rising thunder of the percussion, with the brilliance of the trumpets and mellophones, with the sheer throatiness of the saxes, and the earthy, rooted bass of the baritones and the tuba line.

Mr. Madden's dream of having each section playing the same instrument comes clear when one hears the trumpet line with their new silver instruments. It's as if all the players are blowing into the same organ pipe. There is a unity, a clarity in the sound that we absorbed as we listened on the sideline yesterday.

"This is a special thing that we get to do together on Saturdays," Mr. Madden told the band as they gathered on Dem Field after the game. "There are people who would give anything to be doing what you get to do as a part of this band." 

Then instruments are lowered and placed aside. Arms around each other's shoulders, in one voice, acapella, they sing the MSU Alma Mater. Now the sound of choral oneness drifts across the field and runs along the pathways where golden maples and rusty oaks cast their shadows on an autumn afternoon.

It, too, is a silver sound. It is the sound of students who choose to be a part of a greater good, to be in the band, to make music together, to perform. In harmony, the day ends with, "MSU, we love thy shadows," almost a hymn to the belonging that has made the Spartan Marching Band, with its silver sound, a defining experience for countless students through the years.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall Walnuts

The black walnut tree on the west side of the driveway at Graywood Farm is loaded with nuts this fall. Great Grandma Clara Eichler raised this tree in her garden at her house on Michigan Avenue in Pigeon. There were at least four walnut trees around her house and she would nurture the little trees in the garden.

Ed and his father John Eichler moved the tree using a John Deere bucket tractor, maybe in 1980. We had moved to the farm in 1979 and Grandma wanted the tree out of her garden. The tree was probably 15 years old when it was moved. All of that math makes the tree 45 years old.

John was concerned that the tree wouldn't grow after transplanting it since the tap root had to be cut off. The tree took a few years rest but has come to really like its anchor location near the farmhouse. When the leaves are out on the black walnut, usually by Mother's Day in May, we know that spring has come to the farm.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mary and Me in Houston

Not to confuse my Dad who reads this blog every day, but here is a photo of my sister MB and me in Houston during Quilt Festival last year. I'm in Michigan this year and MB is in Houston for Quilt Market and Festival which is held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.

I'm missing being at the epicenter of quilting this year. Lots of things have happened that kept me in Michigan and that's okay. But last year was a great year and this photo of MB and me shows two happy campers at the big quilt shindig.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Canadian Trio

Uncle Patrick calls these guys the "Canadian Air Force." I caught this trio of Canada geese in synchronized flight as they flew over Cedar Bluff one day last week.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quilt of the Decade

I spent most of yesterday piecing on this quilt that has been in progress for all of ten years. Or is it nine? I'm not sure. I will have to look back at the photo archives to find out.

Anyway, the blocks are from a Dresden Plate class that I taught for the Thumb Area Quilt Guild way back when. Zita Sturm convinved the students to "give back" their blocks and she pieced a 20 block top for me out of those blocks. But then, I received more blocks from the class, given to me heartfeltly, and those blocks begged to be in the quilt.

So, I reverse sewed (quiltspeak for ripping seams) and reimagined the quilt larger to include all of the blocks. The little nine patch blocks in red and cream found their way into the sashing. They really add zing to the composition.

My goal? To sleep under this quilt on Christmas Eve. Now that the top is almost done, that means that I will have to fire up my long arm machine, the trusty Gammill, and get busy. All things are possible in the weeks before Christmas, right?

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Late Autumn Morning

A frosty morning, late in fall, and Lake Huron's calm belies the ice and snow that lie ahead. For now, the smooth waters reflect cloud shadows and greet the morn.

Copyright 2011
Wanda Hayes Eichler