Sunday, February 14, 2016

Quilt of Valor Presentation at the George W. Bush Library in Dallas

A year and a half ago, I received an e-mail from a lovely woman on behalf of the Quilt of Valor Foundation letting me know she wanted to honor both the Captain and the Ranger with QOV presentation quilts. To say I was touched doesn't even begin to cover it.

From the moment Marina reached out, I knew we were destined to become life-long friends. The list of reasons for this unexpected but cherished connection is far too long for this blog post; however, suffice it to say, at the very top of the list is the fact that Marina is a true and faithful Patriot who loves America's veterans and appreciates their sacrifices and the sacrifices made by their families every single day. Plainly put, she loves my son and father for their service and the men that they are as much as I do.
Since 2003, the mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation has been to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. To date, the Quilt of Valor Foundation has awarded 133,131 quilts.

The fact that Marina chose our son, our Ranger, to be the recipient of the very first QOV she has ever created means more to me than I can tell you. Receiving these two quilts from Marina was even more emotional than I expected. In fact, when the box arrived, I couldn't bring myself to open it because I thought if I did, I would never stop crying or get off the floor. You see, the quilts arrived just as Ranger was in the middle of his fifth deployment to Afghanistan. His safe return seemed a billion years away and although his decision to leave the Army had already been made, I simply couldn't allow myself to plan that far ahead. I could not plan to award these quilts or even share the news that I had received them with anyone. What was even worse, I could not give Marina an answer as to when these quilts would be presented. Imagine that for a second... You spend months working on a quilt for someone and you send it off to be presented, only to be told it could be a year before the box is even opened. Yes, I agree, Marina is a Saint. 

In my defense, I wanted the presentation to take place with my father and son together; and, I wanted it done in a way and in a place that not only honored them for their service but also in a way befitting of the QOV Foundation and also honored the hard work, love and emotion I knew Marina and her fellow QOV volunteers had poured into these quilts.

Although Ranger came home with his Ranger-brother for Christmas 2014, the timing just wasn't right to present the quilt; and besides, the Captain was missing.
And, although my parents would meet Ranger and his buddies in Vegas to celebrate his birthday a few months later, I was not in a position to drop everything and run off to Vegas to present their QOV quilts.
So we planned a spring get-away... Where we would drive from North Carolina and my parents would drive from California and we would all meet in the middle, in Dallas where Ranger is at University!
But unfortunately, the Captain began experiencing some health issues that prevented their travel, so that plan fell apart. Honestly, I was beginning to think this would never happen... Until suddenly, all of the planets aligned and we found ourselves on a wild road-trip to Dallas last October!

And, while I could have whipped out the, (still sealed) box the moment we all arrived at our hotel, I wanted to wait to do it somewhere special. Somewhere special like... The George W. Bush Presidential Library! We have all visited the Reagan and Nixon libraries together and we always said we would one day check the GW and GH Bush libraries off our list too. So when Ranger said he would cut his class day short and meet us at the GW Bush Library, I knew the time, location and opportunity would never be more perfect!
Now, I have been blogging here for nearly nine years and the only time I ever
received hateful comments was when I discussed politics in this 2012 post...
Therefore, be forewarned... Because I am not the same thin-skinned blogger I
was back then, who took those crappy comments personally. No. Today, I don't
give a damn about anyone else's opinion about George Bush; the war, oil, weapons
of mass destruction or anything else anyone has to say about him that is unkind. To
us, George W. Bush is the Commander in Chief our son chose to enlist in the US
Army under and personally, I believe he was the right man at the right time...
Ranger signing his 11X, Option 40, US Army Enlistment contract - December 5, 2008
You can either stop now or keep reading; I don't care either way. My blog, my
family and like my love for them, my opinions are not up for debate. That all
being said, if you are still with me, then I do hope you will enjoy these photos
and take away what I took away from our visit to his library... That George W.
Bush is a kind and decent man who loves his family and his country deeply...
And, that being an American is an awesome thing to be!
His is indeed a great American story of faith, service and gratitude...
I am convinced no President has ever felt more
concern for us as a Nation. Especially on that day...
You know the one...
That day that brought all of us together,
despite whatever differences we may have...
Before Ranger arrived, I slipped away to ask one of the docents at the
library to hide Marina's box and suggest a private spot where I could
unveil the quilts and make the presentation without an audience...
Although I was offered the room containing the replica of
the GW Bush Oval Office, I knew this was the perfect spot...
Oh, boy!
No words...
As I opened the box I found this...
With the most beautiful and meaningful quilt I have ever seen...
Ironically, my father was once stationed at Ft. Riley in Kansas. Therefore,
to have his QOV made there is a little extra- special. This is my father in
1969, during the year he served in Vietnam as a field artillery officer...
Then, there was this one...
This is our son (first on left, bottom) and his Ranger team in Afghanistan
Rangers Lead the Way
This is the Captain and our Ranger just before his first deployment, 2009
This is our Ranger Sargent and the Captain now - Both proud veterans of the Army!
Quilt of Valor Presentation, GW Bush Presidential Library
Dallas, Texas - October 18, 2015
The Captain and his bride of 53 years, my wonderful mother...
How fortunate are we...
To be an intact family after so much that has happened...
On behalf of our family, I wish to thank the volunteers of the QOV Foundation
for their invaluable service to our Nation's service members, veterans and their
families. To Marina, for her dedication, patience and support. And, to Beth and
Leslie for the beautiful quilts they also helped create. May you all know how
deeply your gifts are appreciated - We are in your debt... Forever and always!
To learn more about the Quilt of Valor Foundation or to become
involved as a volunteer, quilter or to request a QOV to be presented
to a service member or veteran you know, please visit their website here

Sunday, December 20, 2015

My Domed Cake Stand Cutters in the hands of True cookie Artists!

When I designed and copyrighted my Domed Cake Stand
Cookie Cutters almost three years ago, I was pretty excited...
But as much as I loved creating cutters inspired by some of my favorite
domed cake stands and enjoyed using them to create my own cookies...
My true wish was for my fellow cookies who received them as
gifts or bought them would share their designs with me too!
Well, guess what?
That's exactly what has been happening! So allow me to introduce them to
you... First to share her DCS cookies with me was Leah, who used rubber
stamps and colorful edible markers to bring these adorable designs to life!
Then, there was Lorraine... Her design using my Tall DCS
cutter featured a cake that was already partially served - Yum!
And, look! My darling friend Sue used all four of my DCS
cutter designs to celebrate a very special first birthday party!
Since I no longer create cookies often as I once did... I've been relying on my
friend Nicole to fulfill the requests I still receive. She's created amazing cookies
for my CPA and recently for one of my former bosses at Hanes - Cookies that had
to travel all the way to Pakistan, no less! After sending Nicole both sets of my
Domed Cake Stand Cutters, she used them to create this set for one of her clients!
I loved these cookies so much, and all of Nicole's work in general, that I
have asked her to come up with even more designs to help market my
Domed Cake Stand Cutters... I know you'll want to stay tuned for that!

If you have my cutters and would like to share your designs... Please do!
By the way... All four of my cutters are created by an American
Craftsman right here in the United States and I endeavor
to always ship on the same day your order is received!

If you don't already have sets of your own, hop on over to
my etsy store because just for you, I'm offering promo code
HOLIDAY15 for 15% off your order plus, you'll receive a
digital copy of my recipes and decorating guide, FREE!

Wishing You the Sweetest Christmas!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Let's Take a Road Trip! Day 2, Arkansas and P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm!

After almost eighteen hours on the road and our many
sightseeing adventures in Tennessee during the first day
and a half of our week-long road trip I shared with you in this 
post yesterday, we finally made it to Arkansas... Before dark too!
Although we made it to our hotel in Little Rock much later than we
planned, I still had the chance to see my (2nd) cousin, Rikki! This is
me and Rikki (red sweater) in 1968 when we were both two years old!
Today, Rikki lives just twenty minutes outside of Little Rock; and,
although we haven't seen each other since we were thirteen when my
father brought us back from Germany in 1979 after his retirement
from the Army, Rikki said she would come to wherever we ended up
whenever we decided to stop for the night! And true to her word,
Rikki met us in the lobby of our hotel where she and I caught up on
thirty-six years of life. We laughed and nearly cried until almost 2AM!
After what literally felt like two minutes of sleep, we were back
on the road and headed to P. Allen Smith's Garden Home at...
We have been following this incredible man since his early days at
KSBW, the NBC affiliate for the Monterey Peninsula, where he once
hosted a few-minute long gardening segment during the evening news
and immediately became to my husband's passion for gardening what
Martha Stewart was to me in my kitchen. As the years passed and Allen's
career evolved into a show and great brand of his own, we always said
we would find a way to someday visit his Garden Home in Arkansas!
When Allen popped up in Winston-Salem at a luncheon and book
signing ahead of filming a segment at Old Salem for his show, our
wish of meeting him came true. You can read all about that day in
my post here. But just imagine our excitement when we realized that
our road-trip to Dallas would actually take us right through Arkansas
on the very day Allen would be holding his Fall Open House tour!!
I could hardly believe it. And, I could hardly believe there were two
tickets left either! This wasn't like Graceland the day before, which
was puny and plain compared to how it is portrayed on TV. No! P.
Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm and Garden Home is every bit
as grand and welcoming as it appears in every episode of his show!
I could hardly believe I was standing here; on top of a ridge, overlooking
the Arkansas River Valley, staring at his home and... This tree! This
spectacular oak. One of seven, Allen affectionately calls The Seven Sisters!
We've toured a lot of homes... Castles of Kings. Mansions of Presidents, magnates
and movie stars; but never have we felt so warmly welcomed or so perfectly at home
or better cared for as we did on this day, at P. Allen Smith's Moss Mountain Farm!
Of course, we were anxious to tour the house... But there was a schedule to
follow and first on our four+ hour agenda was a stroll through the gardens!
The exact gardens we have had the pleasure of watching grow over the
past seven years on Allen's show, P. Allen Smith's Garden Home
Where he likes to say he, Blurs the line between Inside and Out!
And, clearly he does!
Everywhere you stand and no matter where you look, it is all so perfect!
We especially enjoyed these garden rooms, which reminded
us so much of the ones at Jefferson's beloved Monticello!
See what I mean?
Such a sweet garden folly here at Moss Mountain... Overlooking the
beautiful Arkansas river that is visible just through that door!
This folly was made just a little
sweeter by this photo-bombing cutie-pie!
We've admired Allen's espaliered fruit trees at Biltmore in Asheville;
and now, here we are looking at his own in his beautiful gardens in Arkansas!
Over there is Allen's studio where he likes to paint. And with a view like that,
I might learn to paint too. Or maybe color. Or maybe just stare out the windows!
We were inspired to add even more goldfish after watching Allen
stock this very pond with them during an episode of his show!
Just look at this house... And, those porches!
I could hardly wait to get inside!
This little house sits directly opposite the art studio on the other
side of the fountain and is where Allen's cooking segments
are filmed for his show! Can you say dream job?
Of course, it was fall... So you know I was on the hunt for the pumpkin
house featured on Allen's show and here, on one of his postcards too!
Lucky for us, it didn't take very long at all to find it!
It was as perfectly pumpkin, just as I imagined it would be in real life!
I challenge you to name one autumnal decoration for your
garden home that is more unique than this pumpkin house!
I know... I couldn't do it either!
Seriously, if we could have shipped this home... We would have!
Mini pumpkins, burlap, cornstalks... Love, love, love!
Loved it all, and...
Every second of this beautiful day we spent at Moss Mountain Farm!
This house and these gardens were meant for this exact spot!
As much as we were enjoying our time in the gardens, we didn't want to be
late for our house-tour, which we were told would begin at 1 o'clock sharp...
With or without us! So we rushed up
to the door. Then, slowly opened it and...
Took it all in!
We were invited into the living room by Guy, a member of the
amazing team Allen has assembled to guide these tours and to tell us
about Allen's personal history and everything in the house. See that
chair on the right? That's where I sat. Next to this candle that made...
The room smell like heaven!
After Guy's introduction of Allen, we were invited to explore
the house. I couldn't wait to get over to the dining table to
check out these beautiful candelabras and this stunning plateau!
Allen's light fixtures in the living room and dining room have me
seriously rethinking the choice I just made for our dining room!
And, this plateau... I'll be scouring
estate sales for one just like it very soon!
Of course, after seeing the books on the table, ours is now in serious
jeopardy of being covered in books very soon by you-know-who!
The gourd in the photo above the one with the plateau and
this pumpkin that both hang in the dining are Allen's own artwork!
On our way up the stairs I fell in love with this wall color
and these incredible busts on the wall. And, because of the
placement of these long pieces of art, we instantly knew this
this wall in our own home was the answer to the dilemma about
where to hang a long watercolor we recently acquired through
an estate sale a few months ago. Yes, it is all about being inspired!
See what I mean?
Clearly our stairwell isn't quite up to the same pitch... But give me time to
paint the walls and change the light fixture and we might just get there!
When you stop staring at the decorations back on the stairwell behind you long
enough to turn your head forward, the view at the top will knock you out!
I mean... Come on!
It's all just so incredibly perfect!
It appears that Mr. Smith is the most
well-rounded collector we have ever met!
He's a true patriot who loves this country and appreciates the sacrifices,
integrity and brilliance of its founders... He is a student of history,
architecture, botany and all other things good and fine and a lover of
animals great and small. And, by the looks of what's just past this bear...
He appreciates the luxuries of life too. Such as
outdoor copper tubs and naps in the breeze too!
Seriously, there aren't enough pleasant words to describe this sleeping porch!
You'll just have to come visit and feel it for yourself!
When, you ask? Well, tickets for the Holiday Open House that
began yesterday and run through the 19th are on sale now!
Seriously! What are you waiting for?
We were just there... But as soon as we got in the car to leave I
was already missing Joyce, Allen's wonderful sister-in-law who
managed our tour booking and the gift shop. Oh, how desperately I
do wish we could go back to see her, the house and farm at Christmas!
All throughout this house Allen is speaking my language through his
use of subway tile, carrara marble, white appliances and so much more!
We chose this same toilet for our first floor powder
room; but here, you understand why people take reading
material into the bathroom and want to stay a while!
The only thing that could bring me off the second
floor was the promise of visiting the kitchen!
And, although it took me a while to make my way around that corner...
It was worth the wait! Again, with those chandeliers... Sigh.
Just like the rest of the house...
Not a detail was missed in the kitchen!
And, believe me...
I took it all in! In fact I am embarrassed to say I lingered
a whole lot longer here than anyone else in our tour group!
Oh, I lingered... Pressing my feet into these wide plank pine floors that
mimic the sunrise and caressing the carrara as if through my coaxing
touch it might somehow be transported back into my own kitchen!
Yup! From the creamy beadboard behind the mixer and toaster,
down to the baseboards, this is the kitchen my dreams are made of!
Then, there is this second living porch off the kitchen...
Which, almost moved us both to tears!
And made us never want to never leave it...
Until I caught a glimpse of the China pantry back inside
the sitting room off the kitchen and had to check it out!
All eight, ceiling to floor shelves of it!
You know, I wasn't regretting my decision to declutter and
scale down my own collection of serving pieces until right now!
Indeed, Mr. Smith! You have set the standard of perfection...
Throughout your Garden Home Retreat at Moss Mountain Farm. And,
how very grateful and fortunate we feel to have been able to visit!
As sad as I was to peel myself from the house,
our day at Moss Mountain was far from over!
Because there was also lunch with a decadent dessert of buttermilk pecan pie,
a recipe featured in Allen's book, Seasonal Recipes from the Garden
A book Allen just happened to have signed
for me during that luncheon we attended last year!
It was also the door prize for our tour! Anyway, following our lunch we
were treated to a presentation on making goat cheese and a tasting too!
Oh, guess who won the door prize! And, because I
already have my own copy, it was my pleasure to gift it to a
new friend that promised to love it as much as I already do!
After lunch, I received a call from mom asking me when we would
be arriving in Dallas because they were less than a few hours away.
Yes! My mom and dad were driving from Monterey, California to
Dallas to meet us for our visit with our Ranger! So... As sad as we
were not to be able to join our tour for a trip to see the chickens, we
had to get back on the road. But before we could leave, I just had to
take in one more look at the gardens and view from behind the house!
And, just as I did, I bumped into the crew setting up to film a
cooking segment in the little kitchen studio we had seen earlier!
Of course, the last stop had to be the incredible gift shop and to
give Joyce a hug for all she did to ensure we had the best tour and
experience anyone could have at Moss Mountain Farm. Be sure to ask
for her when you visit! I promise you will never see a sweeter smile...
Or be greeted more warmly as you will be by Joyce
and the rest of the tour team at Moss Mountain Farm!
With the experience of our visit replaying over and over
in my mind, the next 319 miles to Dallas seemed to fly!
Stay tuned for day three of our week-long road trip to Dallas...
Where this between grandma and grandson really happened!