Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chinese Food and Story Time

Back Among The Living...almost.

I know that title sounds dire. It sort of felt dire. I wasn't quite at 100%  health before I came to Colorado Springs. I'd been having some ear nose and throat issues that I had thought I had kicked...I flew to Colorado...Luke picked me up at the Denver airport with a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory caramel chocolate apple in hand (the man knows how to woo.)
He brought me back to our apartment, which was cleaned VERY well, including an immaculate kitchen, fresh sheets and smelly candles.  He had put cheery Christmas lights in the window. (Warm ones folks, he put aside his love for the latest and greatest in Christmas lights cold looking LED, for my appreciation of warm hues.) We were in wedded bliss....
then, an airport full of germs and a huge change in climate and altitude later and the next morning  I was one sick puppy.
I pretty much didn't leave the apartment...or bed...until we left to be with Luke's family for Christmas.

Wait. I take it back. I made it to Target where I finally picked up one of these.
Solution goes in one nostril, fills the sinuses and flows out the other nostril taking with it all the disgusting mucus.
Gross I know.

I'd been hearing all the magical things it's been doing for other people though....could I get over my dislike for water up my nose (I plugged my nose with my fingers while on the swim team people) enough to get the mucous out of it?
When I made the comment that I'd like to use a pipe cleaner to get all the junk out I finally decided the water/solution would be a safer option.

I'm sooooo glad I decided to go this route. It was no miracle cure don't get me wrong but it(combined with meds, water and 12+ hours of sleep) gave my body a chance to start to get over the hump. Good thing Neola took pictures of our time in Grand Junction or the Christmas update to come soon would be sparse. But don't worry, updates are coming. Though they might be later than earlier as I'm still requiring 8 hours of sleep. I've decided just breathing in Colorado Springs is a full time job.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quilter's Prayer

Dear Jesus,
Please let my points meet up, once all the seams are in.

and please let the thread not run out until I finnish this row.

But if I need to work on my patience...I understand.
The stitch ripper can soon be in hand.

I found myself thinking little thought prayers like this today. I wondered if I was being trite. Then, I thought, I'm using this time as a sort of therapy, and these thoughts aren't going through my head in a bad way...it really wouldnt have made that time any more theraputic had my thread ran out. I think God knew my morale was low. He blessed me by way of thread. That and my points matched pretty welll...a significan gift from God because my thoughts were everywhere else.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2 Services and a Jewelry Show

Friday night I dreamed we were having another memorial service for my mom. It was a double service combined with that of a friend's brother's ex girlfriend. This ex girlfriend is very much alive. (Last I checked on facebook.)

The girlfriends service was first, and I was walking around handing out tissues and offering my condolences to everyone. Then it was moms service and I couldn't switch modes. Then at the end, instead of sharing memories of her or stories, we talked about her jewelry and how the pieces connected to her. The part that sticks out in my mind is someone saying "I remember her wearing those earrings at blah blah blah."

Its fuzzy. It's also weird. I'm classifying it as a nightmare because I don't want to dream it again. My not wanting to dream it again interfered with my falling asleep last night. My tolerance for not falling asleep is low.

Ps. I have a cold. I'm not sure if its a real one or if it's left overs from all the sniffling I did on Friday + lack of sleep. I'm hoping it goes away before work tomorrow. I'm being a genuine bum to get rest and healthy.

Things One Might Find in Their Garage: How Friendly

Friendly. Friendly plastic is what I think we used to call it. I believe we were living at the Huntington House (my parents were serving as house parents at a home for developmentally disabled men on Huntington Blvd.) at the time my mom was deep into this phase. I even vaguely remember her having parties when her friends would come over and make things out of this stuff. You cut out your shapes, use a special glue to keep the layers together and bake it. Mom wore these two pins all the time at Christmas. Even when she wasn't making things out of the stuff any more. Only the tree survived our sorting. The moonlit scene didn't fit into the jewelry box squares.

Friday, December 10, 2010

One In Every Color- Spooling

We've (Me and Val) found TONS of thread among mom's crafting supplies and projects. We narrowed it down to a smaller variety of colors to fit in this drawer to use for mending, and small projects. Cotton/Quilting thread is staying in the quilting tool box. I like to leave this drawer pulled out to look at the colors! I'm also glad I made sure to arrange them juuuust so.   :)

These are spools and threads that go back to my Grandmother Peggy's collection. (Maybe even further than that.) Yep! Those are all wooden spools! I can't bring myself to get rid of these treasures! Stacking toys/blocks for a little guy or girl? Ornaments? A fun display jar for my dream craft room? Fine motor skills practice threading them onto a shoelace? Teaching sizes? Small, Medium, Large....Big, Small, Smallest? Even EyeSpy? I spy with my little eye something that makes me thing of "How About Orange!"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Atomic Tangerine Bomb

I was perusing a quote site and found this:
Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. ~Robert Fulghum

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

She's a Queen

Today "Aunt" Nancy, (truly Jennifer O's Aunt but Val and I call her that too now) the quilt framing expert of the North Fresno Church/Bethany Quilters came over to our apartment after morning quilting (1/2 day of subbing for me) to give a lesson on how to set up out quilt on a frame so we can hand quilt it.
Meet Aunt Nancy:
She shows up with a bag like Mary Poppins. She pulls out a measuring tape, and a ruler so we can get it all just so.  She hates being photographed. I snuck that one in when she wasn't looking.
 How many brunettes does it take to put in a pin? Two. Aunt Maggie and Val. Barb and Aunt Nancy are probably sharing a good eye roll. They're a lot more efficient than us!
 Debbie took some notes and even drew pictures so all the learners wont forget.
Meet the monstrosity in our living room. So exciting! Val and I have already spent over an hour on it!

This evening I hear Val on the phone talking to her boyfriend Matt. She started singing  "I am the crafting queen...." to the tune of Dancing Queen.
We're on an adventure! Its exciting people!
To top it off, my lesson went really well this morning at school and tutoring at church tonight was pulled off more or less without a hitch! Yesssss.

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

The last update can be found <here.>

Marriage: Still long distance. Luke is in Colorado, Jess is in California. Not the most fun. Definitely kind of has its lows, buuuuut we've both been receiving affirmation (in various forms) that we're learning, and growing in a good way, and for now this seems to be "The Plan" for us. Until His plan changes, we're lucky we got so good at skype and scheduling phone dates when we were long distance dating. Now I guess we're long distance married.

Job: I have been kept very busy subbing at my home school! I love it! I love the kids, I love how much I'm learning about how to help them learn. It's been a great opportunity to be in so many classrooms learning class management techniques, concepts and gain ideas from such  highly skilled educators who also love the kids they work with. This is not to say there aren't days where you feel like you've been put through the wringer, but the sense of fulfillment I have after a day of work is not one to be ignored.

Family Home Front: I miss Mom. All the time. She would be the one I would call, or stop in to talk to every day after work. She would have been the one who would understand my excitement and enthusiasm. She would have been the one to throw out some other ideas and suggest more ways for me to grow.

There are lots of things going on that I don't post, with the consideration that some of my personal conflicts/struggles aren't all mine to share. So I don't.

Valerie and I have moved into an apartment on a 7 month lease. (That will take us through the end of the spring semester of school. Being here before the semester started has given me the opportunity to join my sister in tackling the daunting task of going though my dad's very full garage. We threw away a lot, gave away a lot, and kept...a lot. It's amazing how many things one can accumulate in a lifetime. Together we've been sorting, remembering, and condensing special family items. While the main task (emptying my dad's garage so he can park a car, and motorcycle in it) is completed our living room resembles a storage/craft room. There are many boxes still needing to be gone through and sorted. There are also many projects needing just a bit of completion. This afternoon "Aunt" Nancy will be coming over to teach us how to put one of my mom's quilt tops on a frame so we can hand quilt it.

Yep, I said so WE can hand quilt it. It's true. My sister, made famous in the quilting circle for her story of calling my mom and saying "I'm making a dress, where's the hot glue gun?" has recently started going to Wednesday morning quilting with me to learn the art of hand quilting. I'm pretty sure my mom's beaming down from heaven to know that some of her projects will have been worked on by all THREE of the Harper Girls.

I have also been trying to be purposeful about seeking out people to hear their stories, get their advice, and converse with them about life in general, and things that apply to my life these days. I have been blessed with so many wonderful mentors, friends, and role models. It's amazing how powerful a cup of coffee (steamed milk in my case), a lunch, knitting etc. and some good conversation can be.

Thanks to a practice session last year (read about it here) Valerie, Luke and I weren't TOO intimidated by the idea of helping Grandpa and Shan host Thanksgiving dinner. Valerie rocked the mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry relish, and keeping her chaotic sister organised (we're talking excel spreadsheet grocery list and butterball turkey iPhone ap people.) Luke tore up the turkey, literally, he was in charge of carving 1 mama bird and two babies (breasts only on the bone/white meat) as well as keeping me calm, and in good spirits (Twilight readers, he's sort of like Jasper in that mood altering sense.) It was a great time of family and visiting.

Val and I have enjoyed getting involved with a homework help group on Wednesdays as well as both being in town for multiple Sundays! When we're not in town, we're lucky enough to be able to catch sermons on podcast search North Fresno Church.

I have been challenged and supported by one of these podcasts in particular. It's titled, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and was from November 14, 2010. This sermon has stirred up so much. It managed to find things happening in my heart I didn't even realise were happening. It addresses the age old question "why."  It brings up a search for answers, and guidance. I still cant wrap my head all the way around the sermon but man it's got my wheels spinning in many directions and I think that's a good thing. Because, I'm looking and looking and looking, and I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

Luke and I will be in Colorado Springs (me as of the 17th.) Luke has work on Christmas Day which will make for a mellow time. We're both allergic to evergreens and not yet wanting to add a Christmas tree to our growing collection of STUFF we look forward to a mild day with cocoa in front of the fire basking in each others company. (Something we haven't shared in quite a while.) The only thing keeping me from starting a countdown is that I know in my head just how much I need to get done before I leave! Yikes! Better get a move on!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm A Genius

Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it. -Harper Lee

The verdict is in folks. I'm a genius!  (Or wise.) Harper Lee said it. I took your advice and went from this:
 To this:
I feel much better about this one. I confess, my new addition is not even as good as a thrift store shirt, it's shirt-like fabric I found on sale at Quilter's Paradise. I had to fussy cut it to get the lines going the right direction, but I like it. Added bonus? It's now long enough.

Monday, December 6, 2010


I have a friend...who looks fantastic in green...who has been not so subtly hinting that she would REALLY REALLY like a hat made for her, by me. I've ben hinting that with everything going on, her chances of getting one aren't that high. At the yarn shop in Manhattan Beach a green yarn spoke to me. I started a hat for her. The pattern, needles and yarn didn't get along. It came out tightly knit and way to small. Not like the slouchy warm goodness it should have been. Unfortunately for my friend, it's getting frogged.

to frog- a verb-frogging is the term used when you rip out a whole project and start over, either because you were knitting the wrong size, decided you didn't like the pattern, or for some other reason.
We'll see what happens with the yarn...and for the friend who wants a hat.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shirts? Quilts? Help!

Luke let me snag some (4) of his shirts that he didn't wear as much to start a quilt that's always been on my "Would like" To Do List. Its for a boy and I'm having some design challenges.

1.) The fabrics (below) are pink, blue, yellow and purple. On their own they can be pulled off as masculine. I'm worried together they look a little ?feminine? Should I stick with only Luke's shirts or should I stop off by the salvation army and pick out a nice gray/brown one? I need to add one more color to give me length but I could also go get a solid the gray blue color in the yellow striped shirt and use that for my border AND some squares.
 2.) I've been trying to make this a "contemporary" patchwork and not so "traditional." My first attempt was too chaotic for my taste.
 2.) This would work. Too stripey?
 3.) My favorite...but a bit....traditional?
It's not at all like I don't have other things to do with my life right now. It's true I've been keeping very busy in the Fres, but Val let me have a cutting table in the craft room. So I need to utilize it before we start our next big project.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Funny Friday- Keegan

I must say, I've saved the best for last on this one.
As you can see in the picture above Jenny and I are laughing out loud at that one! Keegan is a crack up!
Theres Keegan (left) with Luke and his brother Ethan!
Their Dad Jason is Luke's cousin and Abbey is their sister!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Toasty Chips

Amidst all that business of thanks, I managed to squeeze one more thing to be thankful for in.

My favorite Mexican food restaurant in Fresno, Sal's sends a bag of their warm chips with a to-go order of salsa. Their chips are fantastic warm but get dense and not so wonderfully fried feeling/tasting the next morning.

I realized the low heat coming out of the burners while I made chocolate chip cookies was just right for warming up the bag of chips! (Or do the major grease spots on the bag give it away!) Cheers to leftovers!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Poorly Documented Thanksgiving

I got to see Luke over Thanksgiving Break! I was Thankful! (We have no pictures to record this.)
Valerie and I were the primary preparers of Thanksgiving Dinner for 20 at Grandpa and Shan's house.
Here you can see the roasted turkey breasts in the back ground. The Mama Bird was still in the oven. If nothing else the turkeys were a beautiful golden color and that made me happy. (Forget about taste I just want it to look good! Important if you actually remember to take pictures.)

Below is a button bench we spotted on our (Me, Luke, Dad, Val, Uncle Alan, Aunt Kim) way back from the beach and the fantastic crepe restaurant we went to for lunch on Black Friday. There was a kindred spirit little girl, with her grown up, picking out her favorite buttons. That one, and that one, and that one... I told you she was a kindred spirit.
 Matt (Val's boyfriend) came to hang out with us too. I don't have any pictures of him either. I DO have a picture of their view of the yarn shop they waited at for a good 40 minutes while I scoped it out.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Now more than ever, Val and I are realising the sentimental factors to certain recipes and foods. Especially with "The Holiday Season" in full swing.

Mom looooooved cranberry sauce so much we made two different kinds every year. I have to say it's grown on me. I cant decide if its because of the nostalgia, the fact that by eating it I justify making it, or that my "tastes are maturing."

It was a holiday dish that we could help my mom with as kids. Separating good cranberries from bad, shoving them down into the grinder, and stir stir stirring!

The most traditional is the Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce, which is cooked on stove top. This recipe can still be found on the back of the Ocean Spray Bag.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained


Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time. Makes 2 1/4 cups.

The second is a Cranberry Relish that we make with the KitchenAid grinder attachment. Why? Because that's how we've always done it and also....because we can. (One might be able to use a food processor as well. This recipe also used to be on the back of the bag, but is no longer.

Ingredients: 2 cups washed raw cranberries, 2 cored and chunked apples, 1 large whole (peel on) seedless orange, cut into sections, 1-2 cups granulated sugar.

Directions: Grind, mash, process. Mix in sugar. Keep at room temperature until sugar dissolves. Store in fridge. Hard huh?

Val shows off the finished product! We made a big batch.

Take a close look.

I love these colors. The perfect hand dyed yarn color combo. Someday I will make yarn in these colors (maybe a little less orange) and I will call whatever I make from it "Cranberry Relish."

Monday, November 29, 2010

What one might find in their garage...to be thankful for.

In the midst of high stress and emotions, Val and I have been constantly trying to remember that when it all comes down to it, we're thankful that we have the chance to go through all of my mom's things even if it is a lot of work and we're not keeping it all.
 These corn husk dolls seemed to be a symbol of the season for me. First, because it's fall and harvest time. Second, because they were my mom's when she was a young girl. I found them in the garage in a box with some fantastic doll items (spinning wheels, cast iron cookware, fantastic wooden furniture.) I recognized them to be from Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Mom loved to go there on vacations to see her family, and was able to share it with us on one of our trips out that way. We learned crafting projects of our own while there.
While I'm not sure that either of these were made by my mom, they help us to recall memories and things we have to be thankful for be it corn or "stuff."


to curling up under flannel sheets tonight.
Only two things could make it better. The first, if Luke was here, or the sheets and I were there. The second, if I didn't have to wake up for work in the morning.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Postcard Posers...or not.

On the 13th and 14th of November we (Me, Valerie, Laura, Mark, Cindy, Cheri, Dad) went to San Francisco to watch Beach Blanket Babylon in honor of Valeries birthday.
Right before the show, we had some time to kill so Val, Laura and I hiked up to Coit tower. Believe me when I say that its a hike people. Right up the side of a mountain.
Me and Laura In front of the Golden Gate Bridge. (Its there. You can just barely see it between that shadow of a mountain and the tall city buildings.
Val sent the picture below to "the grown ups" to prove that we really did go on an adventure. They thought we took a picture of a post card. Go figure.
We (Val, Laura, Me) were walking back from Coit Tower 3 people across the sidewalk. I was on the street side and I just walked right under the sign. We thought it was funny that I was short enough to do so.
 The next day we were shopping while "the grown ups" went to the opera. I saw all of these old Singers in the window and of course we had to go in.
 It was a clothing store but check out this wall covered in giant industrial empty spools.
 Here are the sewing machines from the inside at the front end of the store.
Other fun sightings: Knit Grafitti (picture on my dad's camera)
Fun Food: The Stinking Rose (garlic, Garlic, GARLIC!!!) and Ghirardelli Hot Fudge Sundays!
Too fun! What a good weekend in San Francisco!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What one might find in their garage.... (2nd edition)

3 inch high (maybe 4 at the time of purchase) platform Flip Flops
Modeled by Valerie
Purchased by both of us in Jr High (maybe early High School) years.
We thought they were the best. Both pairs have since been discarded.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It's What's For Dinner

My sister asked me to show her our mom's way of making Beef Stroganoff the other day. We made it today and it was our first meal in the apartment. She showed me how to make artichokes. (Boil 'em to death. We like em done done.)

It was fun cooking this together. Our mom never used a recipe for this one. It's one of my favorites and so I specifically asked her to show me how to make it. Now I'm glad I did. In my young adulthood I would cook it for my mom if SHE wanted comfort food and she would cook it for me if I was wanting some home cooking. It always tasted better to us if the other made it. Mom preferred to serve it over white rice, but I always requested it over noodles. She typically used egg noodles but we had some others leftover so we used those.

These are the general steps as processed by Val and me while we were eating:

-Put a little olive oil in a pan at Med High heat.
-Add 2/3 a chopped onion and 2 cloves chopped garlic.
-Add and brown one package (more meat for Luke, less meat for sisters) of stew beef cut into bite size pieces. Salt and Pepper. (Add mushrooms at this point if you want them.)
-Continue to cook until the water is evaporated. (If there's water moisture you'll get dumplings when you add the flour/thickener)
-Once you're down to browning "fat" in the pan add about 2 tbsp. of flour to the mixture. Stir until the flour is no longer white.
-Turn down heat
-Add 2/3 container sour cream. When well blended add milk so sauce is 1/2 frying pan full. Stir well.
-Add a juice glass full of water.
-Turn to low to simmer for a while.
-Add Worcestershire Sauce, beef base, and salt to taste.
-Lengthy cooking and the sour cream should help to tenderize the tougher stew meat. Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Funny Friday-Scott Z and Tyler P

Both went to high school with Luke in Oregon. Neither were actually at the wedding. Somehow they ended up making comics for us. Tyler P's is particualrly funny becaue he makes use of my past with World of Warcraft. My suspcions? Jacob, Craig and Kyle. :)