Author Archives: Gini Athey

Quilts Galore ~ Excerpt


Early morning sunshine washed over my breakfast nook and turned the pale yellow walls into the rich color of golden daffodils. The rays of light were strong and bright, so unlike the washed out, faded blue-jean color of last winter’s mornings.

I wasn’t strong like the sunlight, though, and my hands trembled as I pinned two fabric blocks together for my quilt-in-progress, just staying busy as I passed the time. Jack Pearson was due here any minute. An across-the-yard neighbor and friend, his official capacity as our—my— family lawyer made our appointment necessary. I didn’t want him to come, but a week had passed since I’d buried William, and Jack said he needed to go over some details of William’s estate. Routine paperwork, I assumed.

Jack knocked on the patio door and let himself in, leading with his briefcase. In his charcoal gray suit and characteristic crisp white shirt, he was already dressed for the office. Mine was the first business of his day, but I was dressed in my typical quilting-at-home clothes, comfy slacks and a beige cotton sweater. We didn’t need to be in the staid atmosphere of Jack’s law firm setting to accomplish whatever he’d put on the agenda.

I put the quilt pieces aside on the table and nodded towards the counter. “Coffee? It’s ready.”

He nodded, but didn’t look my way.

That he didn’t meet my eye, felt like a slight. I ignored it and filled two mugs and carried them to the dining room, setting them on the table. I swept my arm across the table, pushing piles of newspapers, junk mail, and fabric scraps to one side, clearing space for us to do our work.

Jack pulled out a chair, the same one he always sat in when he and his wife, Liz, came over for one of our regular foursome dinners, then opened his briefcase. He pulled out a sheaf of documents, placing them on the table. The official looking papers left me uneasy, not that I had any particular worries. Consulting with Jack, William and I had prepared our wills together and I knew the provisions. He still hadn’t looked me in the eye though, and something about Jack’s reserved manner triggered mild anxiety. Distancing himself was so unlike him.

Steady and calm, yes, but he was friendly and casual, too. Especially around me. After all, he and William were good friends. His wife, Liz, and I had been close for years. Even more important, she was my rock, my confidant, over the grueling months of William’s illness and during the last week, too. The first week I was without my husband. Going over William’s estate had to be painful for Jack, too.

He cleared his throat and took a quick swallow of coffee. “Okay, Marianna, I know this is tough, so let’s get through it. I’ll do a quick recap, confirming what you know.”

Until William’s diagnosis, I’d never expected—or wanted—to be sitting across the table from Jack, listening to him explaining this or that provision of a will I wished I’d never had to file or even look at. I wanted William alive and with me. The trembling returned, and I wrapped my arms at my waist, as if holding my body together. I wanted to run outside and declare this all a horrible mistake, or a bad dream. William was well and strong. He’d join me for a cup of coffee any minute now. But I knew that wasn’t true. Finally, I raised my hand. “Enough. I know which charities William chose for his bequests, and I’m aware he left everything else to me. That’s what’s important now. We don’t need to go over all those details. I’ll sign whatever forms you give me. Let’s just wrap this up.”

With his eyes still on the papers in front of him, Jack squirmed in the chair.

“What is it? You’re wiggling around like a little kid.”

He lifted his head, at last looking me in the eye. “William added a codicil,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“A codicil? You mean he added something to the will and didn’t tell me?”

He nodded. “It’s about Rachel.”

Rachel? My fists turned into little balls in my lap. I was aware that my nails dug into my palms, causing mild pain, but somehow I didn’t care. “I see.” A lie. I didn’t see at all. “He never told me about it. He hadn’t seen her in, what, fifteen years?”

Jack tapped the paper. “That’s true, but remember, Marianna, he knew he was going to die, and he’d had time to think about the past. Maybe examine a few regrets.” Jack cleared his throat. “Most of all, he wanted to make sure you were protected.”

“From what—or who?”

“From Lydia, first, but Rachel herself, too,” Jack said with a sigh. “William was certain Rachel’s mother would come knocking on your door, maybe making demands on Rachel’s behalf. But the codicil is in the form of a trust. You’re under no obligation to tell Lydia or Rachel that there’s some money for her down the road.”

I pointed to the papers in front of him. “Tell me more about it. I don’t understand.”

“William funded a trust for Rachel with some investments he held long before you two were married. But he restricted her access to the trust until she’s twenty-five years old. You have control until then, and there are provisions that would allow you to release or hold back funds.”

“Lucky me.” My sarcasm didn’t escape either of us. I had no desire to deal with either Rachel, who I’d never met, or her mother, who was the reason William had virtually no relationship with his daughter. The money itself wasn’t an issue. William and I had always had plenty—more than enough for a comfortable life. The day after William died, Jack had quietly assured me I would never want for anything. But I’d already known that. William often joked we could live to be 100 and still pay the bills. More than half way to the century mark already, I was simply thankful that I’d be spared dreary money worries.

“I’m not sure I like this particular surprise. One day I’ll have to hand over money to Rachel for no other reason than she’s William’s daughter.” I swatted the air, wishing it would sweep away this new development. “He never had a relationship with her—you know all the complicated reasons for that. And it’s not like Rachel has done anything to earn the money.” For some reason, that didn’t sit well with me.

Jack nodded and took another gulp of coffee. “You’re right.” He paused. “Still, it isn’t her fault her mother is a miserable person, willing to hurt Rachel and ruin any chance she had to get to know her father.”

True enough, but it didn’t help this news settle in any easier. “Since it’s a trust, then you’re saying I don’t have to contact the girl until she’s twenty-five? Until then, I never have to be involved with her at all?”

“That’s correct, Marianna. I’ll continue to pay the child support until Rachel turns eighteen. Her birthday is in a few months, by the way. The trustees at the bank will send annual reports to state and federal tax agencies until she’s twenty-five. Right now, since Rachel is fifteen, none of this will require anything from you for ten years.”

“That’s a relief.”

Jack gathered the files and the copy of the will and returned them back to his briefcase. He quickly closed the clasps, as if trying to make the codicil to the will disappear along with the papers. “I have to run,” he said, getting to his feet. “I’ve got an early appointment to get to.”

He hurried to the door, but stopped and pivoted on his heel to face me. “As I said, Marianna, William never wanted the codicil to hurt you—or be a burden. That was the last thing he’d ever want. He didn’t talk to you about it, because he wanted his last months and weeks—even days—to be only about the two of you, not rehashing things that happened long before you were married.”

I nodded, showing that I understood. But I didn’t. If William wanted the girl to have some money, he should have left her a lump sum in his will. Somehow, I was left with the feeling this wasn’t going to be a matter of a simple ten-year wait.


Two years later

Restless and pacing between my kitchen counter and the stove, I held a mug of coffee in one hand, the phone in the other, and waited for Liz to pick up my call. Finally, after the fourth ring, I heard her breathless hello.

“Morning, Liz,” I said quickly. “I finished another quilt design last night. I’m heading to the fabric shop in Wolf Creek this morning. Want to come along?”

Liz laughed. “You’re talking so fast, like a woman on a mission.”

“I suppose I am,” I said. “It’s just that I’m eager to be on my way.” I didn’t expect her to understand my sense of urgency to get out and go somewhere. I wasn’t acting like the Marianna that Liz had seen recently—for the past two years, anyway.

“As much as I want to go with you…oops, hold on.”

I heard little Andrea fussing in the background and Liz’s low voice trying to soothe her. I hadn’t known she’d have her granddaughter with her for the day.

“Marianna? You still there? I’ve been up all night with Andrea and she still hasn’t settled down. She’s the cutest almost-two-year-old you ever saw, but she has her days—and nights. There’s no way I can take her on a trip today. Can we go another day?”

Her question carried a hint of longing. She liked nothing better than a spontaneous jaunt to a nearby town, a chance to poke around in shops and go out for lunch. She usually had to drag me along. But I wanted the fabric today. Besides, I was finally eager to do something different. A trip to Wolf Creek captured my attention. It was important to go today.

“We can go together another time, Liz. I’ll stop by later and show you the fabric when I get home.”

“Okay,” Liz responded, apparently resigned to the situation.

Eager as I was to be on my way, I still wanted to avoid abruptly ending the conversation. “Andrea isn’t sick, is she?”

“I don’t think so,” Liz said with a sigh. “Just cranky last night and today. She’ll be okay. You have fun.”

“Thanks. I will.”

I appreciated what Liz said. She knew better than anyone that for me, fun had been elusive. For two years, Liz coaxed me to try new things, or even agree to simple things such as going out for breakfast at a café in town. But more often than not, I’d said no. I wasn’t usually so compelled to leave my house, but I wanted to begin my new quilt without delay, and I needed the fabric.

Ready to be on my way, I went to the door going into the garage, but stopped before opening it. I’d almost forgotten my brooch. It was right where I’d left it on my kitchen counter, protected in its velvet box. I opened the box and picked up the brooch, my mind slipping back to the day I’d buried William. I rubbed my fingers over the delicate primrose design, the petals of hammered silver, the center a pearl, and three “buds” of smaller pearls on the end of wire curves. I’d wanted to wear the brooch today, but when I went to pin it on my coat the clasp broke in my hand. It upset me more than that kind of mishap usually would, but it was the last piece of jewelry William gave me before his cancer diagnosis.

These last two years, I tried to keep him close by having the brooch sit on my dresser top so I could look at it—picking it up to run my thumb over the surface—every day. Feeling ready to wear it again, I wanted it repaired. Another reason Wolf Creek beckoned me. I wouldn’t wait any longer.

Surprised by my own restlessness, I tried to examine what drove me to start the quilt, but I didn’t want to slow down long enough to figure it out. I tucked my quilt design and the box into my purse and hurried to the car. This day, I wanted to leave the familiar behind. I’d spent two years surrounded by, even cloaked in, all the touchstones of the life William and I had built. All this time, the memories had been enough, but not anymore.

Available at your favorite retailer. Click Here to get your copy!

Out with the Old – In with the New

I like the month of December. Not because of the winter outdoor activities in Wisconsin. I’m an indoor girl. Put me in front of a fire with a good book or my knitting and I’m a happy camper, as the saying goes.

I’m also a planner. I always have lots of projects going that I want to either work on or finish. People laugh – especially Hubby – when I bring out the household calendar and my project calendar to see how the two mesh. Motivational speakers and business analysts could use my system as an example. This method has served me well for many years now. I am always working on exciting projects and have finished a few works-in-progress that have gathered dust these last few years.

But now, with the New Year quickly approaching, I’m re-evaluating what I want to accomplish in the coming year. Do I want to learn a new skill or craft? Do I want to spend more time with family and friends? Do I want to play more? Maybe visit parts of the US that I haven’t seen. The world’s a buffet for those who partake.                          

In the entrepreneurial world, the new buzz word is PIVOT. Back to Webster – pivot is a point on which something turns. So this is me now. I am turning away from things that bring stress to my life. I have kept track for the last year of these events or projects so when I feel my body react negatively I’m going to willingly say “no, thank you” and move on without regret or guilt.

I have goals I want to accomplish before its too late. Some are very personal that I keep private. Others, well, let’s say sometimes I feel like I’m standing on a street corner telling everyone that passes by what I’ll be doing – or want to do. I have big goals that will take focused attention to accomplish. And there are smaller goals that give me a burst of energy when I cross them off the list. Yes, we humans needs positive reinforcements.

So now to the PIVOT point about this blog. I’m changing the format and content for the coming year. I have enjoyed sharing the parts of my life that are dear to me, family, friends, the garden and the small histories of monthly holidays. Instead of focusing on me the pivot will be to broaden the scope of the blog. Right now as a I write this, all formats, topics and frequency are under consideration. It will be fun in the coming months to get a more concrete goal planned and put on the calendar.

“Out with the Old, In with the New” brings the year to an end and gives us another year to anticipate the accomplishments and fun that awaits.

Believing in Tomorrow



It’s Turkey Time!!!!

I’m always asking friends, and their friends, about their family history, traditions, and their thoughts on current events (politics excluded.) So in preparation for this blog I asked them about November. I got the usual laughs and eye-rolls.

While not scientific by any means, about half were happy that Thanksgiving kicked off the excitement of the Christmas season. Some were sorry to see summer gone and autumn ending. All laughed about the trendy orange clothing that has taken over Wisconsin with the hunting season.

After the past couple of years of isolation, I wasn’t surprised when most talked about gathering the family around the table and serving Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the traditional side dishes. Cranberry sauce/jelly was a dish that garnered either “absolutely necessary” or “not-on-my-table” when I asked about a dish that I always serve.

The more I thought about the food being served by many for the holiday, the more I wanted to know the history of the turkey we eat and those little red berries. Thanks to the abundant sites on the internet, I found the answers to my questions.


Many Europeans exploring and settling New England in the 16th and 17th centuries were not surprised to see wild cranberries. They were familiar with the different varieties that grew in southern England. The English had many names for the fruit, but “cranberries” was the most common because many thought the flower of the bush resembled the head of a Sandhill crane, thus “crane-berries.”

Commercial cultivation in the U.S. began in 1816 by Captain Henry Hall, a Revolutionary War veteran. By 1885, Plymouth County had over 1300 acres under cultivation, and in the early 1900s the number of acres had tripled. By 1871, the first association of cranberry growers had formed and now, U.S. farmers harvest approximately 40,000 acres of cranberries each year.

Wisconsin has been the number one producer in the nation for 27 consecutive years, growing more than half the entire world’s supply.

So whether you have cranberries on your table next to the turkey or string them with popcorn for the Christmas tree, the little berry is part of our end-of-year bounty.


Here’s a piece of trivia. Did you know that the costume for Big Bird of Sesame Street fame is made of nearly 4,000 white turkey feathers that have been dyed bright yellow. Smile here, that’s just in case you wondered.

Wild turkeys (those with colorful plumage) were probably first domesticated by native Mexicans. Spaniards brought the Mexican turkeys to Europe in 1519, and they reached England by 1524. They were brought back to the Western Hemisphere by the Pilgrims in 1620.

Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol is credited for popularizing the serving of turkey for Christmas dinner.

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a national day of Thanksgiving. But in 1939, Franklin Roosevelt changed it to one week earlier to make the Christmas shopping season longer. There was such an uproar that Congress declared the last Thursday of November as the legal holiday for Thanksgiving.

Today, the turkeys we eat are not at all similar to the wild birds. They are white in color and have been bred to have large breasts because Americans like the white meat of the bird. Hundreds of thousands of birds are raised each year to meet the demand for the Thanksgiving and Christmas table.


I’ve seen many scarecrows this year, both in gardens and around homes as decorations. Curiosity led me back to the internet. Boy, was I surprised at the history of this hay-man.

As documented in recorded history, the Egyptians were the first to use scarecrows to protect their vast wheat fields along the Nile River from flocks of quail. In 2500 B.C., Greek farmers carved wooden scarecrows to scare the birds away from their vineyards. About that same time, the Japanese farmers were using the scarecrows to protect their rice fields. In Germany, farmers created scarecrows to resemble witches, made out of sacks stuffed with straw and heads made from painted gourds.

Whenever you see a scarecrow, it makes you think of the fun the person had making it. Some are scary, some funny, man or woman, it doesn’t matter. They are a cute decoration for the fall season.

Wishing you all the bounty and gratitude of the Thanksgiving season!

Believing in Tomorrow,

It’s Pumpkin (Pie) Time !

 After a disappointing harvest from our garden in 2020 when only six pumpkins matured into orange balls, we were excited to see more than thirty pumpkins of various shapes, sizes, and colors in the garden this season. Hubby and I are delighted. And, to think we considered not planting them at all this year.

Sadly, now, this year we didn’t plant the pie pumpkin variety. While I’ve never made a pie using from-garden-to-pie puree, it would have been fun to try. My mother-in-law cooked mostly from-scratch meals. She was well known for her fabulous tasting pumpkin chiffon pies. If she didn’t have any pie pumpkin to use, she substituted cooked and mashed butternut squash. With the spices she used, no one was the wiser to her substitution. When she put the finished pie on the table, it never lasted long enough for complaints. That was music to her ears.

So, what are we going to do with that many pumpkins? I have a couple of ideas. I saw posted on Facebook a picture of a wavy arrangement of pumpkins, from large to small. They were decorated like a caterpillar. Big eyes and antennae on the first pumpkin and legs on the rest to the smallest at the end. How cute is that?

I’m sure we will make an assortment of jack-o-lanterns by the front door. They will have many different faces: tooth or toothless, smiles, frowns, big eyes or small. Add a small light and they will glow in the night darkness. I’ll also put some in the flower beds that are cleared of plants now. Something to add color to the barren spots.

We didn’t plant any seeds for the miniature pumpkins either, so I’ll buy a few at the fall markets for inside the house. I’ll put them on the table in a large wooden bowl I use in the fall season the year. Maybe, if available, I’ll add a few ears of multi-colored corn or the dark red popcorn ears. We have country style furnishings in our home, so I like to have natural seasonal decorations.

This Pumpkin Chiffon pie recipe has lots of steps and makes more than the usual dirty dishes for a pie, but it is well worth the time and effort.

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

1 envelope unflavored gelatin

½ cup white sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

¾ cup whole milk

2 slightly beaten egg yolks (room temperature)

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

2 egg whites (room temperature)

¼ cup sugar

½ cup whipping cream

1 – 9 inch baked piecrust or graham crust


Combine first 7 ingredients in saucepan. Stir in milk, egg yolks and pumpkin. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat until mixture boils and gelatin dissolves. Remove from heat and chill in refrigerator until partially set (about ½ hour, or so).

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

Beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.

Fold (do not beat) egg whites and whipped cream into pumpkin mixture.

Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate several hours so the pie sets.


A Bounty of Food, of Flowers, of Friends


If you have read about my ongoing challenge this summer with the weeds in my garden I’m going to concede that the weeds have won. Don’t get me wrong, I was willing to spend the time to pull the weeds, but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. We have had unseasonable rains this year, heavy downpours of three to four inches that have turned the garden into a muck hole. With the hot temperatures the weeds have excelled with growth. Some days I think it would be easier to go barefoot to pick the vegetables, but with the abundant thistles, no thank you. I’ll wear boots or wait for another day. I’ve learned that gardens also require patience. The tomatoes have grown to full size and are turning the softest shades of yellow, but not the bright red I’m waiting for. The local weekly Farmers’ Market will fill in for what isn’t ready in my garden.

But I have to tell you that I couldn’t wait any longer to see if potatoes were growing under the still-green vines. I must confess the potatoes are a new adventure for me so I took some store bought potatoes (not seed potatoes) that were beginning to sprout and planted them. Guess what? They grew into plants with blossoms. I was careful with the shovel not to cut the potatoes when I dug under the plants. From two plants (hills) I got one medium-sized potato and about a dozen the size of golf balls. They tasted better than the store bought ones, but I think that’s because they were from my garden. We’ll see the bounty in a month when it’s time to dig the rest of the row.


I love the colorful rows of zinnias in the garden. For years I planted a couple of packages of seeds by the house to give a boost of color to the entryway. And each fall I gathered the blossom heads when the seeds formed. Friends laughed when I told them that I’ve been hoarding the seeds for a special time. This was the year. I raked the soil, planted the seeds and waited. And waited. When the small leaves emerged from the ground I was delighted. When the second set of leaves formed I jumped for joy. My garden has become a bounty of color along with the vegetables. I treat myself and cut a fresh bouquet every three days. And the rain? They love it.


Last night (I’m writing this the middle of August) a “small” tornado touched down no more than a mile from our house. I wasn’t aware that any tornado activity could be labeled as “minor” or “small.” The sky to ground lightening erupted close by and was followed with loud cracks of thunder, shaking the house like we’ve never felt it before. The storm quickly moved to the east leaving us with a light breeze and heavy rain.

Then the phone rang. One friend after another called to see if we were okay or if we needed help. Did we have electricity? Were any trees down? Did we need food, water, a place to stay? Friends called from thirty miles away after seeing the local weather reports. Some worried when they received a busy signal on the phone and kept calling until we answered. We figured we were talking to other friends at the time they were calling. Our bounty of friends and their concern for us is humbling. We are ever so grateful they are in our lives.

Special friends were married the end of August and I have kept their gift – a quilt, of course – a surprise. They are a young, vibrant couple so I chose a rainbow of bright colors to use in the quilt to match their personalities. Have a look.

    Enjoy the day and its bounty; food, flowers, friends, and even the storms.

    Believing in tomorrow,


Too Comfortable In My Comfort Zone

Comfort is, from Webster’s Dictionary, a state of ease and quiet enjoyment. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place to be? Finding a place surrounded by nature with limited interruptions would be heavenly. What would you do with unlimited time and no responsibilities? And, for how long would you be content?

Over a year ago when the stay-home policy was put in place, Hubby and I looked at each other and he said, “That won’t be hard on us.” I agreed. In general, we live a routine life when we are alone, but we had lots of company before the pandemic changed that. Our friends would stop in for an afternoon of conversation or we would have overnight guests. Fortunately for us, we found our daily routine served us well when everyone had to stay home. The phone became our means of connecting with people.

My trips to town for essentials, like food, post office (I started sending ‘thinking of you’ cards), and sundries dropped from weekly to biweekly. I had planned fourteen days of menus which made grocery shopping easier and I spent less time in the store. Even with masks required, I didn’t want to linger. Our local small town grocery store didn’t offer online ordering or curbside pickup. I’m still doing the fourteen days’ worth of menus because I’m comfortable using the same grocery list and eating quality meals over and over.

With lockdown at the local library, my short breaks wandering between the shelves to find an intriguing book were no longer part of my routine. But I couldn’t think of not having books to read. People more technically advanced ordered their books online for curb-side pickup. Not knowing how to use this system, I relied on the library staff to find books for me. They did a wonderful job which added to my comfort zone.

Now that it’s summer and we’ve been unable to enter Canada, we have entered into the current interest of gardening. I am finding it relaxing to spend time checking the plants and weeding in the morning. There are always more weeds than vegetable or flower plants. (See July’s Blog for more on my game with weeds.) Our area of Wisconsin has seen an extended time of hot, humid days followed by heavy, hard rains. Both plants and weeds are having prime growing conditions. I’m finding joy in the quiet and solitude of the garden.

For a good laugh, read on. Remember those routines I talked about earlier? I/we (Hubby’s in this, too) have daily tasks because there are times when we can’t remember which day of the week it is. Most days our “tasks” are done in the morning, leaving afternoon and evenings for hobbies or phone visits. Here is how our week unfolds:

Sunday – wash bed linens, pay bills

Monday – wash towels, take dumpster out for garbage pickup

Tuesday – wash rugs, bring in dumpster

Wednesday – wash dog blankets, wind antique clocks

Thursday – wash shirts and tops, iron as needed

Friday – wash undies, clean toilets

Saturday – let washing machine rest (smile here), water indoor plants

Our lives have become simple routines that we are comfortable living within.

With many of the restrictions lifted, I feel it is time to break out of that comfort zone. I need to call a friend so we can meet for coffee, or walk the aisles in the grocery store to see if they’ve added new items, or take an afternoon to browse the library shelves.

But, sadly, I find myself changing my mind and staying home in my comfort zone. I know it’s time to connect with the world, find a new book, try a challenging hobby, and make coffee with a friend a priority.

The adage of knowing and doing are two very different things applies to me. I really need a new comfort zone.

Believing in tomorrow.


Weeds vs. Seeds

The fight is on, and the gauntlet has been tossed into the arena, or I should say, the garden. It will be a fight to the first frost to see whether the weeds or the seeds win.

This story began more than a year ago when Hubby and I couldn’t cross the border into Canada because of the pandemic. We go there every summer to spend time at our seasonal camp. We, and thousands of other tourists, were considered non-essential and weren’t allowed into the country. Since we couldn’t proceed with our usual plans for summer, we had to come up with something else to keep us busy.

We haven’t had a garden for many years so by the time we decided to put one in, seeds and starter plants were gone. The greenhouse owner told us there had been a run on plants soon after the stay-home policy was implemented. Last year, the weeds had full run of the garden area.

I’ve come to understand that the plants I call weeds have a role in the eco-system of the land. Two weeds predominate in our garden area. The tall plant with prickly leaves and white or purple flowers is known as THISTLE. We have the purple variety that grows to be about three feet high, creeping in very close together and leaving no area bare. In late summer, the blossoms mature into seed pods that attract flocks of the North American Goldfinch. This plant also provides the thistle seed that bird enthusiasts use to fill their bird feeders. It’s amazing to watch a flock of birds arrive and perch on the plant stem supporting the blossom. They pick at the seeds for a few minutes and then move onto another stem.

Intermixed with the thistle plants are MILKWEED plants. Equal in height to the thistles, this plant produces large seed pods on the end of a central woody stem. The sap of this plant is white in color—therefore the name—and sticky. When the pods mature and burst open, thousands of seeds are released and travel on wind currents with the help of downy fibers attached to the individual seeds. Once all the seeds have dispersed, the empty pods can be used in floral arrangements. Creative designers often spray paint the pods various colors and use them in their projects.

This summer, with the U.S.-Canada border still banning non-essential travel, we decided early on to plant a garden – a small garden. Until…

The June/July 2021 issue of Mary Jane’s Farm magazine arrived. Whenever it comes in the mail, I start at the first page and read every article to the last page. One of the feature articles in that issue showcased various cut flower growers favor from across the U.S. I love flowers and while I’m too frugal to buy them for myself, I frequently send them to friends for special occasions. But the pictures with the article were so bright and colorful that I thought I should try a row or two of easy-to-grow flowers. Helpful suggestions as to varieties for beginners were included. For people like me—a beginner.

Hubby tilled the garden in the spring before the weeds appeared. We planted lots of green and wax beans, tomatoes, and zucchini plants. Friends brought us two kohlrabi plants. This vegetable is new to us, but we thought, “Why not be adventurous and give it a try?”

I rubbed my hands together and smiled. The rest of the garden area was left for flowers…or so I thought. Hubby, bless him, wanted an area for pumpkins. I’m really grateful he did. Within days, baby thistle plants and milkweed shoots began to immerge, even before the vegetable and flower seeds sprouted.

The game of weeds vs. seeds had begun.

Mostly thistle mixed with the pumpkin plants.

Both varieties of weeds grow through an extensive root system. Small sections of root will rapidly establish a plant, and neither variety pulls easily from the dirt. I’ve taken on the daily job of removing as much of the weeds as time allows. The vegetables are done first, then the flowers.

The flowers in this small bed will be supported with a horizontal mesh when the plants are about 12 inches high.

So far, the weeds have the advantage of warm temperatures and lots of sunshine… oh, yes, and Hubby giving them plenty of water. But I’m determined. There are a lot of summer days ahead, and I want to have flowers in the house when they bloom.

Do you garden? What is your favorite thing to grow? How about your best tip for winning the battle between the weeds and the seeds? You comment with your suggestions and comments.

Believing in tomorrow (and the power of my green thumb),


I Do, I Do, I Do and Scrappy Quilts

This June, Hubby and I will be attending three weddings that were cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Fortunately, each wedding is a different weekend in the month and in a different city, so we won’t be rushing between ceremonies and receptions. We will be able to enjoy each event to the fullest, seeing family and friends that have isolated themselves for safety.

I love making gifts for special occasions, and, to continue my reputation in the family as a quiltmaker, I decided to gift each couple with a “couch” quilt, bigger than a lap robe but smaller than a twin-bed size.

I started in January. New Year’s resolutions and those never done goals aside, it was a combination of the stay-home pandemic order and winter in Wisconsin that had me opening my many totes of fabric to spark an idea for the designs for the quilts. To my dismay, none of the fabric was large enough to complete a single design.

I was telling Hubby my dilemma, and he said, “Use what you have and put smaller pieces together.” Oh, the man is so smart.

Quilts made with numerous small fabric pieces are called “scrappy.” The term brings to mind a pioneer woman cutting up worn clothing to create bedcovers for her family. But scrap quilting didn’t become commonplace until the Great Depression when hard-pressed quiltmakers were forced to use every bit of fabric they had on hand. Along with feed sacks, quilters used bits of old clothing, worn-out bed linens, and even men’s old denim work clothes.

So, I drew a design for each quilt to determine the number of scrappy squares I’d need for each. I multiply that number by three so the quilts would be similar but not identical. I calculated twice, not believing that I’d need almost 400 fabric squares for one quilt, 1,200 for the three.

I almost dropped over at the number. But time was passing, and I needed to get busy. Using my experience with making quilts, I knew there was not going to be much wiggle room to get the quilts done in time for the weddings.

Cutting the squares was going to be time and labor intensive so I gave myself the entire month of January to get the job done. I limited myself to no more than four squares from each section of fabric. When February started, I began to sew the pieces together on the sewing machine. By the end of the month, each quilt top, including sashing and borders, was done. March came into Wisconsin like a lamb, and I wanted to give the lady doing the quilting plenty of time. She is a professional and was done by the end of the month. The final step in making any quilt is to finish the outer edge with the binding. I attached the binding using the sewing machine and hand-sewed it to the backside. I put the last stitch in on April 30th.

Three quilts done in four months. I was ready to party with the happy couples. We wish all of them joy and happiness in the years ahead.

Believing in Tomorrow,


Chocolate Delights

Do you like chocolate? If yes, then you know that sometimes nothing can satisfy a chocolate craving but chocolate. It could be a chocolate candy bar, a piece from a gift box, or as simple as a glass of chocolate milk. It would be hard to list all the varieties of chocolate or all the products that include chocolate (cocoa) or cacao in their ingredient list. As the saying goes, America runs on chocolate.

Chocolate is made from the fruit of cacao trees which are native to Central and South America. The fruits are called pods and each pod contains around 40 cacao beans. The beans are dried and roasted to create cocoa beans.

Many historians agree that the ancient Olmecs of Sothern Mexico used cacao to create a ceremonial drink. This civilization passed their knowledge onto the Central American Mayans. Their written history includes the drink was used in celebrations as well as with every meal in many households. The Aztecs believed cacao was given to them by their gods. They also used cacao beans as currency to buy food and supplies. This culture considered the beans more valuable than gold.

Historians agree that when chocolate first arrived in Europe, it was brought by Spanish explorers returning from Mexico. By the late 1500s, it was often served in the Spanish court. Chocolate houses for the wealthy rapidly spread throughout European cities.

Ship ledgers confirm that chocolate arrived in Florida on a Spanish vessel in 1641. By 1773, cocoas beans became a staple import for the American colonies. During the Revolutionary War, as well as WWI and WWII, chocolate was provided as part of the soldier’s ration packs.

During the 19th and 20th centuries, chocolatiers created bars and confectionaries, and major chocolate companies began to mass market a variety of chocolate treats. Do you know that M&M’s are the number one chocolate item sold in the USA?

Today, cocoa from the cacao bean is used in new varieties of food products from beverages to spaghetti sauce.

If you are having a craving for chocolate, I have two recipes that I find quick and easy to make and are satisfying to eat.

Chocolate  – Applesauce Brownie

2 TBS Brownie Mix (any brand)

2 TBS Applesauce (any brand)

Mix together in small microwave dish. Cook on high for about a minute. Check for doneness using a toothpick. Serve warm. Add a dollop of ice cream for a truly decadent treat.

Chocolate Brownie Muffins

1 box devil’s food cake mix

1 15 oz. can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with foil liners.

In large bowl, combine cake mix and pumpkin until smooth and uniform.

Fill muffin cups.

Bake about 20 minutes, until toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Just to be sure I can satisfy my chocolate craving when it happens I keep a box of the brownie mix in my pantry next a jar of applesauce.


Believing in tomorrow (and chocolate),



Do you have a treasure box? Or maybe more than one?

When I ask my friends this question, boy, do I get a myriad of answers. Some don’t know what I talking about so I go on to explain that it is not a box of gold coins lost by a pirate on the high seas. It is a box of cherished mementos – treasures – that are important enough to you that the box has traveled with you wherever you live.

I have a friend who is extremely creative. She made a cloth-covered box with lace and jewels to keep her treasures in. She laughed when I called it her pirate box. She lives a full, rich life so maybe by now she has more than one box.

I keep my treasures in a plan banker’s box that is almost full. I’ve been adding to my box since high school, and every now and then I go through my box when a memory crosses my mind. I have drawings from grade school (thank you, Mom, for saving them), graduation certificates, a silk kimono from my brother when he was in Viet Nam, and pressed flowers from proms and family funerals. The most coveted treasure is a book of poems and reflections I’ve written over the years – the highs and the lows of my life.

I also have a smaller box of treasures. This one is filled with newspaper clippings, ideas written on the back of used envelopes, pictures from magazines, and photographs. All are ideas for books I planned to write. Let me tell you, I will never live long enough to write all the books that go with each idea in the box. The funny part about this box is that for some of the ideas, I can no longer remember the story that I thought would be of interest to readers or fun for me to write. But I don’t throw them away. Maybe, just maybe, they will trigger a block-buster story, and I will become the next Nora Roberts. Smile here. I can dream big.

So take some time to go through your treasure box and remember those troughs and peaks in your life. Then go live the kind of life that will add more treasures to your box.

If you haven’t started a box, maybe this is the time to find a unique looking one for those moments you want to keep of piece of.

Believing in Tomorrow,