"Emma's Star" Quilt

Finished! Finally!

I've just finished the batik king-sized quilt I began back in September. The pattern is called Emma's Star II.

On the design board 

Phew! Working with this mammoth spread was something!

Besides hoping to add some beauty to our drab bedroom, what kept me going was working with the lovely fabrics. Playing with color really lifts my spirits, particularly on gloomy winter Indiana days.

Though I love the look of a hand-quilted piece, this one would have taken me a year or more to complete, so I machine quilted it.  I used a walking foot for the first time (fabulous!) to make the wavy lines through the squares, and then I stepped into the world of FMQ or free motion quilting to outline the stars.

Oh my! Free motion quilting is some kind of fun! Basically, you use a special foot (darning foot) and then you lower the feed dogs and turn the stitch lengh to 0. No longer will your feed dogs move the fabric forward. No, no! Now the speed and direction of the sewing will be completed controlled by you, the sewist! It's exhilarating! And terrifying! Because one moment your stitches are moving slowly along, guided by your hands, and the next, your foot has pressed too hard on the pedal and you're zooming along, taking enormous stitches. Or you slow to a crawl and the stitches get so very small and close together. But the control is all yours, and the patterns you can make, with some practice, are amazing! This is a skill I'm going to keep working on because it has so much potential use, and is just pure fun. (Except when it's not.)

If you're intrigued by the idea of FMQ, check out Free Motion Quilting for Beginners by Molly Hanson. It teaches different designs by giving instructions for small projects like bags and boxes.

Machine quilting a KING worried me, though, but I found an awesome tutorial, complete with a couple of videos, showing how to do row-by-row quilt-as-you-go. And this worked great! I'm pretty sure I'll repeat this method in the future when quilting a very large piece.
Rows laid out before cutting batting and backing

And now my formerly boring bedroom isn't!!!

Building Capacity

Meet Ben, my 12 year old unicycle addict.

On almost any given day, you'll find him spending free moments riding up and down our gravel driveway or even taking to the trails through the woods and fields. Right now he especially likes riding on the ice on our frozen little pond.

But Ben didn't start off unicycling on icy or rugged terrain. He began by riding on our front porch, clutching the porch rail to stabilize himself until he figured out how to balance on his own.

This is how we learn so many things, isn't it? We start with baby steps, and then gradually challenge ourselves to move into more demanding situations.

Our son, Peter, is studying accounting at Indiana University. His freshman year he took an introductory class called "How Business Works." Taught by several of the business school's top professors, this was Peter's favorite class of that year. As the students struggled to complete their first major project, one professor said, "Yes! You're building capacity!"

He went on to explain that in a few years they would go through a grueling semester known as I-Core. This set of classes culminates in students working in groups to solve some sort of real-world business type problem. For a couple of weeks, the students live and breath their case study. The freshman professor told his students that by learning to work hard in their first year, they would set a pattern they could build on as they gained knowledge and experience.

And it was true. This past summer Peter took I-Core. Sure, it was hard, hard work. But Peter will tell you that by working through case after case in classes his freshman and sophomore years, when they hit the big one in I-Core, they were prepared.

Why am I bothering telling this story?

Because I love the concept of "building capacity." It's what we need to be doing with our children in so many areas. Gradually increase the loads they carry, whether it is in household chores or in schoolwork, memorizing scripture or serving others, and give them the tools to shoulder the load. Don't discourage them by dumping too many responsibilities or tasks on at one time, but do think how you can build capacity, year by year.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little.  - Isaiah 28:10

What's on My Reading List: Non-fiction Titles

A friend asked if I could share my "To Read" list. I told her I'd be glad to, but that my list, like pretty much everyone's, is idiosyncratic, reflecting my peculiar interests and tastes. So, looking at my lists, I'm sure you'll think there are some strange volumes on it, but that's OK. Perhaps you'll find some that sound interesting as well.

Note that I'm not planning to read all of these in 2016. I'll accomplish whatever life allows. Unlike the lady above, most of my reading takes place late at night before my eyes insist on closing. Happily, with new Kindle Fire, courtesy of my father, I can now read without keeping my husband awake.

Here are the non-fiction lists I'll be pulling from in 2016. (I'll post about fiction later.)

Morning Devotional Reading

Because my eyes don't focus well both early and late in the day, I do all my daily Bible reading on my (old) Kindle. I keep three translations of the Bible open (NKJV, NASB, and ESV) so I can read through the Old and New Testaments and Psalms simultaneously.
Along with reading the Bible, for several years I have also read Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, which I highly recommend.

Biographies and Memoir

In My Father's House - Corrie ten Boom   (re-read)
The Autobiography of George Muller
The Wright Brothers - David McCullough
Spurgeon: A New Biography - Arnold Dallimore
The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother - James McBride (re-read)
Rescue the Captors - Russell Stendal
Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House - Elizabeth Keachley

Christian Living

Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret - Mr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor
The Pursuit of God - A. W. Tozer
Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria Butterfield
God is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China -        Liao Yiwu
The Great Divorce - C. S. Lewis  (re-read)
Death by Living - N. D. Wilson


Hinds Feet on High Places - Hannah Hurnard (re-read from long ago)
Power Through Prayer - E. M. Bounds
Miracles - C. S. Lewis


Born Survivors: Three Young Mothers and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage, Defiance, and Hope - Wendy Holden
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania - Erik Larson
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration - Isabel Wilkerson
The Good Lord Bird - James McBride
Mr. Briggs' Hat: A Sensational Account of Britain's First Railway Murder - Kate Colquhoun


You are NOT Special and Other Encouragements - David McCulough, Jr.
The Duties of Parents - J. C. Ryle (Working towards this as an annual re-read)

Science and Nature

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime - Val McDermid
The Soul of Science - Nancy Pearcey
Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC - Joseph McCormick
Microbe Hunters - Paul deKruif
Gulp: Adventures of the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek - Annie Dillard


The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English - Roy Peter Clark
The Elements of Style - E. B, White (re-read)
The Writing Life - Annie Dillard


Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans - Don Brown (Graphic Novel)
Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon - Ed Caesar (Sports)
The Blind Side - Michael Lewis  (Sports)
Outliers - Malcolm Gladwell

Reading Plans for 2016

It seems that 2016 is the year of Reading Challenges. Have you seen the one Tim Challies put on his blog? (Complete with printable category lists.) Redeemed Reader has a version for younger readers as well. I'm starting to see personal lists showing up on various blogs I read such as this one or this one or this one.

Up until now, I've been a fairly spontaneous reader. I tend make book choices based on various reviews and favorite authors, but now, for the first time, I've compiled a moderately thorough list of books across a number of genres and themes to read in the new year. Strange, considering that I've been making such literature lists for my kids for years!

I suppose I've shied away from making my own literature lists because I enjoy the freedom of picking whatever appeals to me at a given time. Reading is my primary relaxation. I read nearly every night for at least a few minutes, even on those nights I'm totally spent. And I haven't wanted to ruin that time by making it drudgery.

But this year is going to be different! Because this year I'm going to actually work from a list of titles I've put together. And the reason is because I want to expand the types of books I read and aim for some more helpful volumes than the ones I naturally turn to.

And yet, in order to not turn my favorite pastime into heavy labor, I've put together some guidelines. I want to keep reading fun, but challenge myself at the same time.

Anne's Notes to Self for 2016 Reading:

1. Aim to read widely over numerous genres and themes!

2. Read wisely.

2. Have three (sometimes more) books to choose from at any give time.  
One should be "stiff," one "moderately easy," and one a novel. Of these, one should be a book which will help me grow spiritually. Here's what "A." wrote back in 1892 in Charlotte Mason's Parent's Review magazine:
The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!” That is the secret; always have something “going” to grow by. If we mothers were all “growing” there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls.

3. It's OK to reject a book after giving it a fair try.

4. It's OK to go on a jag on one topic or author, but keep in check.
(Because so often reading one book leads to another on a similar topic as interest is piqued!)

5. Re-reading books is allowed.

6. Create a large list to draw from. 
I did this on Goodreads by making different bookshelves for the titles I'm interested in. For sure I won't read everyone of the 51 books on my "To Read" shelf, and I'll certainly read some that aren't there yet. But this gives me a good start on deciding that old question, "What should I read next?"

7. Do a better job keeping track of what I've read.
I'll attempt to do this both on Goodreads and also in my reading journal. Up to this point, I've been very spotty in using both of these tools.

What will I be reading in 2016?
I don't entirely know, which is exciting. But I can say that I'm eagerly anticipating a number of my options such as Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon; Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime; and E. M. Bound's classic, Power Through Prayer. Since we're all but at the New Year, I've gotten a head start this week with these books:

1. Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret  (Howard Taylor)
2. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
3. Mrs. Tim of the Regiment (D. E. Stevenson)

Here's to a 2016 with both wide and wise reading!

Handmade Christmas: The Elves' Projects 2015 (and a few others)

We had a lovely Christmas with all the children and grandchildren here for several days of celebrations. Once again, homemade gifts were the highlight of our Christmas gift-exchange. 

Before I show you the kids' (a.k.a. The Elves) gifts for one another, here are a couple of non-draw homemade items.

When I walked in the kitchen on Christmas morning, I actually screamed when I saw these gorgeous leaded glass doors Andrew had made for my kitchen cabinets!

Tim built this lamp table to match one we have in our living room built maybe half a century earlier by my grandfather. I love the simple, clean lines and beautiful walnut wood.

Annie and Laurel painted these clipboard for their daddy to use as he grades biology exams and papers. They should certainly bring some smiles to the arduous task of grading!

OK, now on to The Elves' Projects!

A year in the making!
Our kids have been making gifts for one sibling for at least fifteen years. Each year it is a joy to see them put their creative abilities to use in designing and producing something unique for their recipient. Every single year it is a struggle to finish projects. And yes, usually a few things don't quite make it to 100% completion on Christmas. But eventually, they get there! (Except for an infamous pair of socks from the earliest days of The Draw.) This year one sister handed another sister a painting from last year which was finally deemed "done." You can't hurry an artist!

From youngest giver to oldest:

Ben made this "shaving horse" for Paul to use in woodworking. None of the girls could really understand what it is used for, so I won't try to explain it. But all of the guys, and particularly Paul, an avid woodworker, think it is pretty cool.

Kristen is holding a spice rack which Paul created for her. Unfortunately, she has her hands over the beautiful wood design on the side, but it is really lovely. It is made to hold containers of spices such as I use in my test-tube spice rack.

For Amanda, Faith made this cutting board. She first laminated the different woods together, and then she got help from an expert woodworker friend to inlay the curved design.

Amanda used her graphic design skills to create a t-shirt for brother-in-law, Collin. Unfortunately, it hasn't arrived yet from the printers. I'll try to add a picture later.

For the bird lover Ben, Peter made a hummingbird feeder from an old bottle.

Kristen snarfed up a bunch of Peter's old running t-shirts and made them into this wonderful memory quilt.

Here Kara is demonstrating how the device in her lap, known as a Lazy Kate, will be used to help her as she spins fibers. I still don't get it. The contraption made by Andrew sure is pretty, though, isn't it, with it's dovetailed joins and all? The pieces on the top unscrew for storage inside the box when not in use.

For Andrew, Kara sewed a picnic blanket from the beautiful batik fabrics. A couple of belts hold it all together for travel.

And finally, Collin put together this beautiful fairy garden for Faith. The "tree" is a hot pepper plant with miniature red, exceedingly hot, fruit.

The peppers had a bit more kick than Faith was expecting!

Merry Christmas!

Elves' Projects 2014

Elves' Projects 2013

Elves' Projects 2012

Elves' Projects 2011

Stocking Iterations Over 34 Years

Eliza's stocking -in process

While working on baby Eliza's stocking recently, I realized that our stockings have gone through a sort of evolution which reflects both the various crafts popular during their era and my amount of free time.

At this point in our family life we have a real mishmash of stocking types. I suppose ideally, I'd start over and make a whole new set of matching stockings for everyone in our family. And, to fit the times, I guess they should either be burlap (or maybe that's passe' by now?) or perhaps all white. But I'm not about to start all over. So here's the hodge-podge we have.

Way back in the early 1980s, I made these beauties for Tim and I for our first Christmas:

ca. 1981

Their chief asset is size. (They dwarf the little ones I've made for everyone else. Mwahahaha!) Plus they were speedy things to whip up with the prequilted fabric, important since that December I was more focused on studying for chemistry finals than making Christmas crafts.

But then our first children started arriving, and I had more spare time. At least at first. And cross stitch was all the rage, so of course that's what I used.

CHILDREN'S STOCKING #1 - mid '80s-early '90s

But all that cross-stitching was tedious! Plus the demands on my time were ever growing. Not to mention the fact that PRAIRIE POINTS were all the rage!

So we moved on to:

CHILDREN'S STOCKINGS #2 - mid '90s -early 2000s

These stockings went together more quickly than the cross-stitched one. But the truth is, mostly I switched because I just like doing hand quilting better than I like cross-stitching.

These stockings have serviced our family pretty well. But a few years ago the grands started arriving and we needed more.

And by this time, the old prairie points look dated. So - on to a new style!


These are really fun to sew! And reasonably quick, since the only hand sewing is on the binding. I more or less use this tutorial.   Some day I hope to get around to embroidering names on each one, but I don't think that's going to happen this year. ;)

And just for fun, here's the stocking MY mom made for me, 55 years ago:

ca. 1960 - sadly in need of some restoration
It's made of wool felt and was originally outlined with blanket stitching. Even though it has deteriorated significantly over the years, it's amazing how much I can still see my sweet mother's personality in her stitching. I do miss her.

Field Trip: CANDLES Holocaust Museum

Our November Book Club selection was Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place, and rather than having one of our usual discussion/activity/food meetings, we instead took a field trip. I've been on a lot of field trips in the 25+ years I've been homeschooling, but I think this will remain among the most memorable.

But first - a bit about our book.

The Hiding Place tells how the ten Boom family's involvement with the Dutch Underground during WW II as they worked to preserve the life of their Jewish neighbors.  Sisters Corrie and Betsie, both middle-aged women, eventually end up at Scheveningen, Vught, and finally Ravensbruck concentration camps. Through unimaginable horrors, Betsie and Corrie's faith shines. Here are a couple of quotes from the book:

“Perhaps only when human effort had done it's best and failed, would God's power alone be free to work.” 

“There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.” 

Corrie is a wonderful (and honest) storyteller, and readers' faith will be stretched as watch Betsie and Corrie trust God in the midst of evil.

So where did we go? We traveled just over an hour west to the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Terre Haute, IN.

Just what is CANDLES? It stands for Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors.

CANDLES was started by Mrs. Eva Mozes Kor, who along with her twin sister, Miriam, was subjected to horrific medical experimentation performed by Dr. Joseph Mengele at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Dr. Mengele especially liked to study twins who provided a perfect control. Often if one twin died from some treatment, he would kill the other as well so he could do comparative autopsies.

Ben with Mrs. Kor

And we planned our trip on a day when we would be able to meet with Mrs. Kor and hear her story personally.

Oh my!!! What an amazing woman! Mrs. Kor, an 82 year old, 4'10" dynamo, talked to us for two hours, telling her life history and the lessons she has learned. What a privilege.

It is easy to see how young Eva gave the Nazi's (and later the Communists) such a hard time. Captured at the age of 10, she determined that she and her twin would survive. And they both did, despite enduring "medical" experimentation which nearly killed Eva and caused her sister Miriam's kidneys never to grow beyond the size of a 10 year olds, eventually leading to her death decades later.

She showed us her Auschwitz tattoo and told us what life was like for her family before and during the war, how she and Miriam survived, and much more.

After immigrating to Israel and finishing school there, Eva one day met an American tourist from Indiana. Mickey also was a concentration camp survivor. He'd been liberated by the Americans, and one soldier in particular had offered to do whatever he could to help him. Hailing from Terre Haute, IN, this soldier eventually helped Mickey Kor immigrate to his home town, where the two men remained friends for years.

Today Mrs. Kor speaks to groups of all kinds and travels frequently to tell her story and also how she has come to forgive those who perpetrated these horrors. This year alone she has been to Auschwitz four times. Oh - and she does Podcasts and tweets. Yes, she is one spunky lady!

Before too long, there will no longer be WW II heroes and survivors around to talk with. If you have a chance, make plans to visit the CANDLES Museum. (And call ahead to make sure you can be there on a day when Mrs. Kor will be speaking!)

Because this museum focuses on victims who were children, the exhibits are created with young visitors in mind. Yes, it is terribly sad and hard to take (I wept throughout the presentation), but still appropriate for older children. Ben's comment was, "Well, I can't exactly say I enjoyed that." But he then went on to talk about how meeting Mrs. Kor helped him understand the reality of the evils of the holocaust in ways that just reading a book couldn't do. When reading even an excellent book like The Hiding Place, there is a distance that recedes when you meet someone in person who has lived through those experiences.

Finally, here's one more book recommendation along the WW II/forgiveness theme. My family has read plenty of the Christian Heroes, Then and Now series, but this is one of our all-time favorites. Jacob Deshazer, one of the Doolittle Raiders, was shot down over Japanese controlled China and the imprisoned. This book tells how he came to faith while in prison, learned to love and forgive his captors, and eventually returned to Japan as a missionary.