It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Sadly, I have no nandina berries this year.  Not a one. So I have to enjoy the pictures from last year.  This one was made late in January as the berries were beginning to fade.
Happy Thanksgiving!  I have much to be thankful for this year, I am blessed.  I find myself being thankful for many things and have realized this week that I don't think I truly realize some of the things in my life that I should appreciate and recognize as blessings.  There are just so many things to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

One of the things I give thanks for is the gift of writing and these blogs.  The writing has always been there, it just didn't really come to a realization until I had the idea that evening when I saw the tiny mum under the dead leaves that I needed to start writing a blog to capture my thoughts.  Indeed, writing these blogs has fulfilled a creative need in me.  Sometimes the words just seem to flow from my fingers, straight from my thoughts and into words.  Thank you for reading, dear readers, I am thankful for each of you.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I have no shame...

Really, I'm not ashamed that by myself I have eaten a dozen tamales today.   Yes, the whole dozen!  And, they were good!
Tamales are available in San Antonio year round, in restaurants, grocery stores, and tamale stores.  But at Christmas is when they become a hot commodity.  Everyone wants tamales! Eating tamales on Christmas Eve is a tradition for many families, and became a tradition that we followed for many years.  We've also had them on Christmas day.  I've had co-workers stand in line for an hour, early in the morning, to pick up fresh, hot tamales to bring back to the office for our breakfast (yes, we eat them for breakfast!).

Many Hispanic families will gather to make tamales, dozens and dozens, that they will eat during the Christmas season.  It is an art to hand make tamales.  The seasonings have to be just right, the masa has to be made just right and then rolled to the right consistency before filling and wrapping with the corn shuck. Many of the little tamale shops also make theirs by hand and the workers are very skilled and quickly assemble perfect tamales.

They come in different flavors.  Beef,  pork, chicken, turkey, beans, spicy with jalapenos, or sweet with raisins.  When I passed a lady in the grocery store giving samples of warm beef tamales today I was hungry.  As I put the dozen hot tamales in my basket I told her that hopefully I would make it to my car before I started eating them!

I ate the first dozen plain, snack style.  But they are good smothered in chili and topped with queso and salsa. Rice and beans are optional as the tamales are all you need.  I ate 6 for lunch and then opted to forgo the leftovers and eat the other 6 with a little shredded cheese and salsa for my supper.  I have no shame; they were good and I'll do it again soon!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday 11.19.2014

I saw this quilt just as I was preparing to leave the quilt festival.  After I read the caption I was captivated and now wish I had gone back to see how much the purchase price was!  (I made these pictures with the less-than-desirable cell phone because I was too lazy to pull out a real camera). I'm not part of the sandwich generation, but I can still relate to the frantic mode this quilt portrays. is just downright cray-zee!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday 11.12.2014

The re-located and restored train depot in Tomball, Texas.  All Aboard!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Making Do...Surviving the Great Depression

I've found that one of the best values at the International Quilt Festival are the lectures.  They only last an hour, cost $8 (you can pay at the door), and are led by well-known quilters and experts in their fields.  I usually learn just as much in that hour as I would in a half or whole day class. 

Saturday morning I attended a lecture titled Making Do...Surviving the Great Depression.  By the title you can probably figure out why I choose this lecture! It was taught by Kathy Kansier who is a teacher, quilt judge and a certified quilt appraiser with many accomplishments in each field. Her lecture offered an excellent glimpse into life during the depression as well as the years before and after.

The lecture started with a simple, easy to understand explanation of the economic and political factors that led to the nation slipping into what we now refer to as the Great Depression.  She discussed the three presidents who served in the 1920's, 30's and 40's (Coolidge, Hoover, and FDR)and their different attitudes toward government involvement in the economy.  She also explained that there was a unequal distribution of wealth during the 1920's that had led to lavish lifestyles for the rich (remember how Gatsby lived?); the poor had little opportunity to ever achieve that American Dream. Banks were lending money that they did not really have at an incredible pace. Investors were buying stocks on margin while consumers bought everything on credit.  It was a bubble that had to burst.

She showed many pictures that I had never seen.  A small bank, boarded up and abandoned reminded me of the story my great-aunt would entertain me with about the day the banks all closed and she and my great-uncle had $14 between them.  Fourteen dollars was a lot of money for that time, but to loose everything and that was all you had was a scary idea, still is today! 

There were pictures of soup lines where grimy looking men were standing to get a cup of soup and piece of bread. Hoovervilles where more grimy, grim looking people lived in cardboard shelters with sheets and anything they could find to make do.  The pictures told the story of their desperation to survive.  I remembered many of the family stories I've heard about how hard times were and how poor my grandparents were.  I also remembered with irritation a college instructor who many years ago had told my history class that his parents had told him that the depression wasn't really as bas as it was portrayed to be.  I seethed through that class and still hissed a little at him as I saw the pictures in the lecture!

More pictures showed the heartbreak of farmers when the Dust Bowl drought hit.  One that was particularly poignant was of a field that had been plowed and planted and the crop had sprouted, but had dried up quickly.  The farmer was squatting in the field with a hand on the ground, heartbreak on his face as he accepted the fact there would be no crop that year.

The next set of pictures answered the question, what did people do to entertain themselves during the depression?  They went to church, movies, and dances.  They played cards in their homes and they had quilting bees!  The popular music of the time reflected the daily hardships and struggles; the most popular song of 1932 was "Brother, can you spare a dime?".  And yes, she did discuss in simple format the role of the New Deal programs in getting people employed.

The next part of the lecture discussed the different fabrics and patterns of quilts during the years of the 1920's, 30's and 40's.  She showed pictures of the quilts that came out of the depression.  One of Sunbonnet Sue reminded me of the quilt that my great-grandmother made for my aunt; she made one of appliqued butterflies for my father that I treasure today.  Both were made in the late 1930's right in the midst of the depression.

I smiled when she showed clippings from the newspaper for quilt patterns.  I remember my mother and grandmother clipping those ads for patterns for dresses, crocheted items and quilt patterns.  I, too, clipped a few as a teenager and young woman.  Quilting had become intensely popular during the depression, partly out of necessity for bed covers, but also as an affordable hobby.  Patterns were shared among friends, bags of scraps and old clothes were put to use, and it gave women a reason to create. The Chicago World's Fair offered a quilt contest in 1933; 25,000 quilts were entered.

The lecture concluded with a section on the theme that was so common in the depression, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without!". Several slides showed little booklets that encouraged women to go through their closet and mend and re-do their existing clothes.  Simple, frugal advice to me. I remembered that one of the WPA programs here in San Antonio (and probably elsewhere) focused on showing people how to make furniture and other household items from discarded items.  There were also sewing rooms that put women to work making clothes that were distributed to qualified recipients.  Another program that I've seen pictures of locally put men to work repairing school desks and other furniture. 

Would we repair school desks or re-cycle old barrels today?  Could America survive a Great Depression?  Could we make do or do without?  I've thought about that a lot since I went to this lecture.  I wish kids and young adults today could hear this lecture and learn from it.  At the least, I wish they could have heard the stories that I grew up with and have those images in their minds.  My parents were very frugal.  We had a nice house and a nice car, but we did not have a lavish lifestyle either.  My mother made my clothes, she was a perfectionist with her sewing and they were beautiful.  My father mowed our lawn and changed the oil in our cars.  I often thought they were cheap and somewhat stingy and they were to a certain extent.  But they also grew up in the depression and they knew a lifestyle that involved "using it up and making do". Could we do that today?