Category Archives: Holidays

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.


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,


5 Ways to Celebrate National Quilting Day

The third Saturday in March is National Quilting Day. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the tradition of quilting, its significance, and the ways it connects people. The Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society’s 1989 Quilter’s Day Out was the inspiration for this annual event, which the National Quilting Association approved as a national event in 1991.

You can participate by hanging a quilt outside your house and sharing a photo with the tag #nationalquiltingday.

Here are 5 more ways to celebrate:

  1. Download a free quilt pattern. Click here and scroll down the page.
  2. Contribute a quilt to a special cause such as Happy Birth Day, Baby!
  3. Share your skill by teaching a class or mentoring a new quilter.
  4. Start a new quilting project. The holidays are only nine months away.
  5. Patronize your local quilt shop.

Giving Thanks for Family Traditions

Webster defines traditions as events that are passed on from generation to generation. The tradition may be a story, a belief, a custom, or a talisman of some sort.

I find traditions comforting, especially those that have passed through more than one generation. Give me the history behind a special one-of-a-kind spoon that Grandma used to prepare a favorite family dish, or a cameo that great-grandmother Erla wore on her wedding dress. I can listen for hours to these stories.

Wisconsin in November brings out a tradition that dates back to early settlers in the region, that of the harvesting of meat to sustain the family through the long winter ahead. Nowadays it is common to see fluorescent orange clothing (or pink for the ladies) hanging on clotheslines or porches as the hunting season nears. Some claim the crisp weather removes human or household odors from the clothes enabling the hunter to be more concealed from the wildlife. I wonder if that is true or if this a tradition that has become part of the adventure.

This year with the raging pandemic there will be smaller family groups gathering as well as fewer spontaneous drop-in visitors. One fallout is that smaller turkeys are being bought for the traditional meal. What if there isn’t any turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce left over for sandwiches on Friday? I, for one, say we can’t let this tradition be lost. Buy a big bird, mom.

Let us also think of new traditions that can be started this year. Maybe we bring out the cloth napkins grandma used that have been kept in a box in the attic, or instead of rushing through the meal to watch the next football game all electronics are turned off during the meal and conversation becomes meaningful.

We can be grateful, happy, and hopeful in this month of Thanksgiving. Maybe that should become a tradition of its own.

Believing in Tomorrow,
Gini Athey

The Beauty of Change

Most people don’t like change, and with good reason. Change brings uncertainty, unfamiliarity, and a sense of loss. When change is forced upon people, there is also a loss of control and a degree of fear.

The one change many people seem to embrace is autumn. The beautiful period of transition from summer to winter when temperatures cool and festivities begin. There are so many pleasures to enjoy that this change of season is the high point of the year for some people.

One of the things I enjoy most is the colorful fall foliage. What do you enjoy most about autumn?

Believing in Tomorrow,


March ~ the Month of Transition

In Wisconsin, we talk mostly about the weather during March. The adage, “In like a lamb, out like a lion,” or vice versa, is mentioned often from day one. I’m afraid that if this is true, with the beautiful days we are having now, we will pay big time before the end of the month. So, when conversations lag, weather is an easy subject.

Nationally, we transition into Daylight Savings Time in March. How wonderful to have an extra few minutes of daylight in the evening and more time as the months pass. I love those warm evenings when it is light after supper.

Wisconsin – the beer capital of the U.S., maybe the world – transitions to “green” beer on St. Patrick’s Day. Even if you don’t claim Irish heritage, the meal that day is corned beef and cabbage served with a mug of green beer. One meal each year is enough for me, thank you.

My favorite transition in March is the changing of the closets. I am not a person who embraces winter, so when warmer temperatures arrive this month, I am happy to put away the heavy coats, hats, and mittens for another year. It’s like the weight of the cold weather is also being packed away.

This month I transitioned to include sewing and knitting along with quilting. Our local help organization needed baby items, so I opened totes of yarn, cabinets of flannel fabric, found patterns, and got busy. Boy, did I have fun. Look at my assortment of booties, beanies, bears, and blankets.

By the time you read this, all the items will have been given to local families in need. I’m so grateful to be able to help.

Before I sign off, I want to tell you Miss Opal, the recipient of the quilt from the January blog, arrived on schedule. She and Mom are doing fine. Dad is sporting a huge smile and offering a helping hand.

Keep well this month and enjoy a touch of the Irish.

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much, and reach for that Pot o’ Gold.

Believing in Tomorrow,


FEBRUARY – The month of love and romance and Valentine’s Day

Did you ever wonder how it all began?

Historians aren’t 100% in agreement as to the beginnings of this holiday. Many believe it started as a Pagan ritual known as Lupercalia when goats and dogs were sacrificed and their skins, soaked in the animal’s blood, were used to slap the women of the village. The women welcomed the treatment, believing it helped to make them more fertile in the coming year.

Around the 3rd century A.D., the Catholic Church banished the Pagan ritual and recognized three different saints named Valentine, but, here again, there is no consensus among the researchers.

It is known that Americans began exchanging handmade valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, a woman began selling the first mass-produced valentines she made with lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures. In 1913, Hallmark Cards offered premade valentines, and in 1916, began mass producing them. It is estimated that 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year.

We have friends who save their money all year so they can celebrate Valentine’s Day in grand style. They buy special gifts for each other, spend the evening with dinner and dancing, and playfully renew their wedding vows. Hubby and I are lower key in the celebrating—maybe a card, maybe a dinner out, or not. It all depends on the activities surrounding the day.

My quilt project for February was done as a challenge from the aforementioned husband. He said, “Do something that you haven’t done in a long time.” I immediately thought of a miniature project. And what better subject than a heart?

Each of the squares of red fabric in the heart finish as one inch squares. To keep the challenge going, I hand-sewed all of the red squares together, then added the background fabric using the machine. The fabric heart is in a 7 x 9 inch frame.

With the leftover fabric, I made two-sided hearts and put them on florist wire. I put the hearts into a red and white artificial flower arrangement I put out in February.

I hope you enjoy the month of love and romance and make every day a Valentine’s Day.