Monday, May 19, 2008

BETHANY & RYAN'S ITALIAN WEDDING

Bon Journo! We arrived in Milan Wednesday, May 14, 2008 after an uneventful flight about 1 PM and found Nicole and Jeff waiting for us. They had already decided the train would take too long and had rented a car to drive us to Rapallo. With Jeff driving it took about two hours. We were anxious to be with Ryan and Beth who had arrived 3 days earlier, but the hair-raising curves overlooking the Ligurian Sea made me want to slow down! Jeff said my nerves rivaled his mother, Jane’s! In Rapallo, we found Ryan and Beth coming back from the beach with Sandy (MOG) and brother Steven. They were red and freckled from the sun and looking great and happy! We had now been awake for over 24 hours except for a couple hours of sleep on the plane, but we were determined to keep ourselves awake until 9:00 PM so we could adjust to the 7-hour time difference by tomorrow. Our hotel, Vesuvio, is directly across the street from the Ligurian Sea and could not be more scenic. It’s bustling along the restaurant-lined street. Charming alleyways wind behind our hotel with numerous boutiques, cafes and cheese shops whose aromas are enticing. Alan and I took a walk along the boardwalk, just to keep going and then found a light bit to eat next to the hotel while sunning ourselves in the late afternoon sun. That filled the void left from the croissant and yogurt we had had on the plane at 6 AM! Back in our room, we got settled in and unpacked. I had hand-carried Bethany’s wedding gown from Chicago in its long while bag. Everyone along the way was very helpful and from Chicago to Brussels it was in a closet. One the trip between Brussels and Milan, it was not a full plane, so the dress had its own seat! It looks like it has arrived in fine shape and we can’t wait to see it on the bride! Both the bride and groom seem very calm. They have been in Italy since last Friday and enjoyed a day in Rome before coming to Santa Margherita Ligure. They had final paperwork to complete in Genoa on Monday and it is official, all is in order for them to be married on Friday in Santa Margherita. We joined our group of those who arrived early and were looking forward to enjoying some hearty pasta or pizza: Gwen (MOB), Alan (FOB), Beth (Bride), Ryan (Groom), Nicole (Matron of Honor), Jeff (husband of Nicole), Steven (Best Man), Sandra (MOG), Wayne (FOG), Mike, Uncle Jeff. We walked a few doors down the promenade and found a great restaurant where we enjoyed the whole gamut of pasta, pesto, steak, pizza di funghi, pizza di cuattro formagio, grilled zucchini and salads.First and foremost, the house wine was delicious, which we shared in pitchers. By now it is after nine and we gained a bit of a second wind and headed out on the promenade again to search for gelato. That was easy! Three doors down from the restaurant we found it and enjoyed various flavors. Now, for sure Nicole, Jeff, Alan and I were ready to drop, but Nicole and Jeff said they would go for “just one more drink” with the rest of the "clubbers" who by now are acclimated to the time change. Alan and I headed to the room and I fell asleep in the bathtub! Lucky for me, I didn’t drown! Once in bed, neither the clanging of the plates in the restaurant below nor the motor scooters on the street inhibited me from sleeping! Day 2-Thursday, May 15 Breakfast at our hotel is served from 8 AM until 10 and we barely made it on time, thanks to Bethany who phoned us. We enjoyed a great (3 cups) expresso with some croissants, yogurt, berry pie and fruit. Feeling refreshed now and ready for anything, we got ready to take the bus with Ryan, Beth Sandy and Steve to Santa Margherita to one last errand on their paperwork. The passports of the Matron of Honor and Best Man apparently didn’t scan so well, so we had to take them to the Municipal offices to copy again. Through this whole on-line wedding planning process, the paperwork bureaucracy has probably been the most nerve-racking. But, yeah, it is done and we are ready for the marriage ceremony tomorrow in Villa Durrazzo Park in a 16th century castle! Mike and Uncle Jeff are spending the day hiking in Cinque Terre and they took the train on the half-hour ride there. Bethany, Ryan, Steve and Sandy headed back to Rapallo and made arrangements wih Wayne for our “rehearsal” dinner tonight. There is really nothing to rehearse, but we are celebrating anyway with all our guests! Alan and I walked around picturesque Santa Margherita for over an hour and we stumbled onto Villa Durrazzo Park where the wedding ceremony with the town Mayor will be held tomorrow. We climbed the many steps up to the castle and went in to explore. We pretty much figured out which room the ceremony would be in from the photos we had seen on-line, but confirmed this with a lady in the office below. We also determined that Bethany could change into her gown there in one of the side rooms. Right now, the plan is for the ladies to travel fifteen minutes by boat from Rapallo to Santa Margherita with Beth dressed in her gown! We shall see how that works out! Back in Rapallo, Alan and I explored the market along the board walk which has set up today. There are leather purses, shoes and all manner of clothing. After smelling those cheeses yesterday, we had decided to make a lunch today of Italian bread cheese and wine! In the nick of time, we discovered that the shops all close at 1 PM, so we quickly got what we needed and fit in time for a cappuccino before heading back to our room with lunch. Alan is trying to catch a cold so he settled in for a nap. At 7:00 PM our whole party assembled in the hotel lobby to walk the few blocks to the restaurant. By now we’ve been joined by some more guests: Aunt Susie (Mass) and cousin Jessica (Wrigleyville), Donna and Jeff (old friends of Sandy), Becky & T.J. from Lansing, MI; Becky and John from Waconda,IL; brothers Adam (Madison) and Will (Chicago), Bob Perkins from Peoria representing the Kinsler and Blakley families. The restaurant was small but we were all at a large table in the ample outside patio under umbrellas. It was a charming setting right across from the Sea and the water was a vibrant blue and the air a comfortable temperature. First, we were served a variety of appetizers including pizza with ham and artichokes on the thinnest and most delicious crust. Even though Wayne & Sandy had reserved a table for 22, the owner told them after the salad that he was overwhelmed with the number of people and couldn’t let us order individual meals. Instead he would serve us family style. There were plenty of pitchers of red wine and we adopted the attitude of “when in Italy…….” and all was fine. We were served seafood pasta and a spaghetti family style with lots of bread of different varieties. Coffee with dessert of apple cake and a type of brownie were satisfying to end a lovely evening. After dinner, we lingered on the patio as bottles of lemoncello and grappe had been purchased by some not to be named guests! I only sipped the grappe and found it to taste like “poison,” but the lemoncello was very smooth and delicious! When the owner told us we had to leave, we headed back toward the hotel with a stop off at the “Bar Sol” where we continued our merriment with beers and wine compliments of Wayne! By 11:30, Alan and I were more than ready to get some sleep so we meandered back to the hotel with our long-time friend, “Perky”.

Day 3-Friday, May 16 WEDDING DAY At breakfast in the lobby everyone was full of anticipation and excitement. Bethany and Ryan are so happy, yet a bit nervous. Our plan now is to get all dressed and carry our dresses on the boat to Santa Margherita with an 11:00 AM departure. Our whole “parade” walked across the street to the dock to find that the boat wasn’t running due to “maritime conditions.” There was a slight haze in the sky and it was threadtening with rain drips, but didn’t seem so bad. Okay, Plan B: we are walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus to Santa Margherita. After 20 minutes of waiting, I was starting to get nervous, but Bethany remained confident and sure enough, the bus came and we all fit on with the local crowd. On the bus we met a couple who had just gotten married in the States and were honeymooning in Italy. Everyone was smiling and trying to figure out which beauty was the bride! It’s only a ten-minute bus ride and then began our four block walk to the Durazzo Park where we climbed the 100 steps up to Castello Brown (Castle). (Yes, still carrying the wedding gown, Beth’s gorgeous bouquet Of “burnt orange” calla lilies and our long dresses!) The photographer and Laura, our assistant and translator was waiting for us and she showed us to the dressing room. Laura, herself, has gotten married the day before to her Italian husband and plans to live in Italy! Once in our quiet room, hidden from everone’s view, we could take a deep breath and cool off a bit. Nicole helped Bethany slip into her gown and she became a fairy-tale princess! She swept up her hair, and put a flower by her ear and was ready to march down the aisle with her father, Alan. Sandy and I looked pretty good ourselves and of course, Nicole was gorgeous in her bright pink bubble dress! We could hear the lovely violin music down below and our guests were all seated. Wayne, Sandy and I walked in to be seated and there was Ryan and Steve waiting on us, looking very handsome, along with the town mayor, a woman, draped in the banner of Italy. They were standing behind a table with four velvet chairs with the flag of Santa Margherita as a backdrop. Ryan was smiling ear to ear and looked calm. Next came Nicole to take her place at the table. Now, the violinist became animated and we heard the wedding march as Bethany strolled down the aisle with her father, fighting back the tears as she kept her eyes on Ryan. They joined hands and were asked to sit at the table. Here they remained, seated, throughout the short ceremony. video
The mayor was all smiles and seemed very sweet and happy for them. At one point, she stopped and let Bethany catch her breath. When she got hold of Ryan’s hand, Bethany said she was much better! We really appreciate Bob taking charge of videoing the entire ceremony on our Flip camera. Beth and Ryan were all smiles as they were introduced as Mr. and Mrs. Johnston by the Mayor and they cheered as they exited down the aisle. We followed them out the the patio where the photographer spent at least an hour photographing them in the many gorgeous and scenic areas of the castle and the park. He included all the guests in many of these photos, as well. The sky was overcast and we were battling a slight mist off and on, but the clouds began to lift and there was some visible sunlight. When we thought we could handle no more photos, we made our various ways to the Hotel Imperiale where the “aperitif” would begin at 4:30. Taking another set of steps down the front entrance of the castle was an adventure in high hells and long dresses, but hey, it’s a medieval castle and they didn’t know from “handicapped” back then! Laura was kind enough to drive the wedding party up the hill in her car as she was heading that way to go back home. We were all kind of in need of de-stressing, but the wait for 4:30 at times seemed long. We had a lovely sun-filled room in the hotel bar to wait and once we figured out we could order some light sandwiches at premium prices and we sent out some of the younger guys for focaccia at better prices, the wait didn’t seem so long. At some point, Mike put his magic fingers to the keyboard of the grand piano in the room and that was just the entertainment that we needed! Beth arranged to bump the beginning of the appertif forward one-half hour, so that worked out well. One-hundred percent of this wedding that we planned through “Italian Weddings.com” was based on a leap of faith with a “wing and a prayer” thrown in! It turned out to be all that we expected and more, like a fairy tale I would say! All we knew about the “appertif” was that it lasted an hour before the dinner reception would begin. It was much more than I expected with champagne flowing as well as “bellinis,” which are peach nectar mixed with champagne and very delicious! There was also a mixed berry drink that added to champagne along with mini-focaccias, olives and delicious potato chips with all the grease that we enjoyed as kids. We watch our carbs and rarely buy potato chips, so it’s a fine little treat for Alan and I. As the mother of the bride, I honestly claim no objectivity in describing her, but several more objective guests said she was the most beautiful bride they have ever seen. I am sure Ryan felt the same as he had a smile on his face all evening! Just before everyone climbed the stairs to the Belvedere room, Alan and I went up there to place our gifts for the guests on the table. We had brought engraved heart-shaped jewelry boxes for the ladies and money clips for the men. They were a surprise and appreciated by all! It was actually a little tough to find a spot for the gifts on the table among the many accoutrements we found there at each place setting: menu, multiple pieces of silverware, 3 wine glasses and name cards. Our 6 course meal came at a leisurely pace, and it is a good thing because the food was rich and abundant. Each course came individually with time to recover in-between. As the courses changed, so did the color of the wine! After we had eaten octopus sald and with green beans and vegetable as trofie pasta with scampi, the melted risotto with mushrooms arrived. After each course the waiter came around offering seconds, but the 15” oval bowl of more risotto was way much more than we could take even though it was delicious served on a thin-as-paper round of parmesano. As we moved on, the carving of the leg of vela was a ceremony and delicious along with the rosemary potatoes and vegetable panache. The cutting of the cake was an event in itself, as well. Bethany had requested flowers to match her bouquet, but who would have imagined strawberries and celery leaves cascading down from the flowers? Here my objectivity is certain; it was the most beautiful and elaborate wedding cake I have ever seen! Ryan and Beth were feeling spunky now and they cut the cake and smashed some into each other’s faces! The multiple layers were filled with strawberries and it was delicious! The spumante was poured as we ate our cake and Steven and Nicole gave beautiful speeches for their brother and sister. After a bit, I stood up and said a few words for Alan and I. He was very sick with a cold and cough right before the ceremony and didn’t think he could talk at this point. I officially welcomed Ryan into our family and expressed our endless appreciation to all our guests who had come so far to celebrate with us. Back at the table, Sandy was in tears: and after a long day of emotions, we had our motherly cry!! Next came the coffee and homemade pastries! We couldn’t believe there would be more, but it was a just tiny tray with bite-sized cookies to sweeten the expresso! Music had been piped in all evening, but Ryan finally figured out how to attach his Ipod, so they could do the “first-dance” at the last. They did it and looked beautiful and fresh still as they danced to their chosen song. We lingered for a while marveling at how perfect an evening we had just had, as weenjoyed the delightful night air and the views off the terrace. Finally, we knew it was time for us to leave, but the buses were no longer running, so we all headed back to our hotel in 4 taxis. Not wanting our fairy tale to end, yet exhausted, we decided against going down to the street to a bar but congregated in Will and Adam’s room. Alan was too wiped out to join in and I stayed for half an hour, now realizing that I had was getting the cold Alan had!

Day 4-Saturday, May 17 We all met in the hotel breakfast room for one last gathering before everyone headed to their various destinations and to wish Bethany and Ryan "BON VOYAGE!" They were off to Lake Como on the train at 1:00 PM. Perky has a car and he decided to drive Nicole, Jeff and us to Cinque Terre.
Day 8, Wednesday, May 21 We had checked out our route to the train station on Monday and had returned there on Tuesday to buy our train tickets to Milan, but we were dreading the five-block walk dragging our luggage. The day dawned beautifully, the sun was shining and the temperature so pleasant, much like we had expected the whole week to be. The Italians have been talking about how unusual this continuous rain is for them. They have told us there is rain this time of year, but it only lasts a short time, usually! The walk to the station was really not bad at all; we were considerate and so were others on the narrow sidewalk and we got there with plenty of time to spare. We chose second-class tickets not knowing what to expect of these, but were real glad we did as we boarded the train and found the car absolutely wonderful, comfortable and clean. The 3-hour ride to Milan was a joy; we saw beautiful scenery and passed through long tunnels through mountains, scooted across vineyards, citrus and cornfields. The time went by quickly and Alan didn’t even sleep; I enjoyed crocheting in-between my views of the scenery. Promptly at 12:00, as expected, we pulled into the train station in Milan. Now, solving the mysteries of navigating Milan began! Little-by-little we figured out everything we needed to know to store our bags, visit Milan and then get to our airport hotel an hour away. At the tourist information booth, the man was quite helpful and provided us with a map. It was a relief to be without our bags; and we sat in the sun and enjoyed a ham and cheese sandwich we brought along from the hotel breakfast nook this morning. The snack was just the energy boost we needed to go two flights below the street to catch the subway directly to the Piazza Duomo where its Cathedral is breathtaking. I particularly loved our stroll through the Galleria Vitorio Emmanuele II, known as the “living room of Milan.” It is immediately clear that the juxtaposition of the ancient architecture with modern fashion icons like Prada, Louis Vitton, Versace, Yves Saint Laurent and the ubiquitous McDonalds all on this sun-filled walkway is what makes Milan the unique city that it is! We continued our walk, following the map, past La Scala Threatre and then on to Montenapoleone, “The Fifth Avenue of Milan.” This walk was definitely JUST window shopping! Once at the end, we circled around until we found a small shop where we had our last cappuccino of this trip. Afternoon “capu” is definitely a way of life I could get used to! Retracing our steps along the avenue, we were one stop closer to the train station, so we hopped on the subway to return there. By now we felt like experts in navigating the train station; retrieved our luggage and headed for the bus stop for our ride to the airport. We were supposed to call the hotel when we were at the airport for them to send a shuttle, but as we stepped off the bus we saw the shuttle zip by and stop up ahead, so we ran to catch it: -erfect timing! Recommended by Sandy, the First Hotel is wonderful; there is even internet in the room! We dined in the hotel and enjoy our last variety of tasty breads and pasta before arranging a 3:45 wake-up call for the morning shuttle to the airport ARREVEDERCI, ITALY!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

JANE'S AFGHAN

I started Jane's afghan, using 5 colors of Plymouth Encore yarn, on Dec. 5, 2007 and finished it on May 13, 2008. Read on for the whole story.....

November 12, 2007
'Long about November 10, my daughter, Nicole, asked me if I could make an afghan as a CHRISTMAS surprise for her mother in -law, Jane! My first reactions was, "Yot got to be kidding!" Then I said, "I would rather teach YOU how to make it." She poo-pooed this idea and has no interest in learning to crochet let alone a pressure cooker job like this before Christmas! So of course, being the loving mom that I am I told her I would make an attempt at getting a good start on the afghan, but there was no way I could get it finished by Christmas. Even if I had idle time for sipping tea and enjoying bon-bons, I would have carpal tunnel before I got it done for Christmas! So, I agreed and began the thought process as to what I would make and how would I get it done in any reasonable amount of time.

November 23, 2007

We were all together for Thanksgiving in Northville, MI at Nicole and Jeff's house. Jane got up early the day after before anyone was awake to go shopping and do her part for "Black Friday!" She was very excited when she came home three hours later after having lost her car in the parking lot only to find it almost surrounded by police who were investigating a robbery attempt at the car 2 slots down from hers! She had found the perfect bedspread and it was 50% off plus a 10% discount! Jane lives for bargains and this is the third bedspread she has bought so far, always keeping the receipt for the inevitable return.

Later that day at a civilized hour, Nicole, Jane and I went out to shop together. After Bed Bath and Beyond to look at some more bedspreads, among other things, we found the local yarn shop. Today the shop had 20% off if you spent $100.00. How could I take advantage of this sale and also start to buy some of the yarn I would need for a yet undetermined afghan for Jane?

Under the pretense of making an afghan for a a lady who wanted me to make it, I started picking yarn, Plymouth Encore. Not having a pattern in mind yet, I figured for an afghan I would need about 20 skeins, I chose Plymouth Encore. I started with taupe and told Jane the woman wanted taupe with green and some other color. So I got the green and an interesting variegated pink, called "roses" plus some yarn to make a bolero for other daughter, Bethany.

Jane asked if I would ever make an afghan for her and she offered to pay me. I just answered, "I will teach you how to make one." She replied, "Yeah, right!"

Okay, so I was a little nervous that she was suspicious AND that Nicole wouldn't want to spend nearly $100.00 on her m-i-l. Nicole started whispering Spanish to me so Jane couldn't understand. Now, is that suspicious or what?

Finally we got to the counter to check out. Just as I handed over my credit card (NIcole would reimburse me later) and the clerk started ringing me up, another clerk who had been helping, said, "Just be aware, today's purchase is FINAL, no returns. Some people buy an extra skein just to reach $100 for the discount and then return the extra skein." YIKES! Now what do I do with 6 skeins of the green which I planned to have Nicole exchange for pink. I paid the bill and as we were wlaking out there were books by the door.

As Nicole and Jane walked out, I hesitated and said to them, "Go ahead. I want to take a quick peek at these books." They fell for it and went to the car. I rushed back to the counter, pounding my head with my fist, and pleaded for an esxchange. My blood pressure was rising, but they were so kind and let me get the right color. I stuffed it deep in the bag, hoping Jane wouldn't notice and rushed to the car.

When we got home, Jane wanted to show off her bedspread. As Nicole predicted, it had taupe in it and we shot photos as she took apart all the packing and displayed it in Nicole's family room. Good deal; now I have a photo that I can use to buy just the right materials and colors: light "chanpagne," darker "champagne," 3 shades of pink and a splash of green. Once she packed it up and put it by the back door, I put a skein of pink in my purse and meandered by it to sneak a peek. Yep, I did a great job of picking the taupe and pink colors, now all I needed was more of both colors and a pattern for a great afghan.

Nov. 25, 2007
I started looking through a vintage afghan pattern book I have, "Annie's Crochet Quilt and Afghan Club." Leafing through the binder full of designs, there were several patterns that I was attracted to. The "Granny Square" section fell open and there it was: "Granny's Hearts & Roses." I know, I know, how could it be? Me excited about granny squares? This one is different, though. It has large squares, smaller squares and rectangles of single crochet with embroidery on this part It is not conventional and it got my creative juices flowing. The pink and taupe I have will work beautifully; I just need tons more yarn. I will look on line. This afghan is huge: 70" X 86". I will talk to Nicole and see how big hers is. Maybe I can modify this pattern and make it a bit smaller to save time.

Nov. 26, 2007
As it turns out, it is kind of serendipitous as the afghan goes, that we got an appointment at Mayo Clinic for my husband, Alan. He has a coordination problem with his speech and we wanted a second opinion.

The five-hour drive to Mayo will be a perfect way for me to jumpstart the work on the afghan, as he likes to drive. We will stay through Nov. 30 and in between appointments, you guessed it, I will be crocheting!

End of the drive and settled in our hotel room in Rochester, MN: 4 sc rectangles done! I cheated a little and also finished up a top that had been languishing since September for me!

Nov. 27, 2007
Our first day at Mayo wasn't to intense, only our initial appointment with the doctor, but I took my yarn with me everywhere. I got some crocheting done while waiting, but they are so efficient there that there isn't a great amount of waiting. We did a bit of exploring around town and had a great lunch, then settled into our hotel for a quiet eveining of crochet since alan had to start fasting at 7:00 PM. 7 taupe sc rectangles done, total.

Nov. 28, 2007
This was by far our busiest day with four appointments, starting at 6:40 am for the fasting blood. I keep aware that I must protect my wrists from too much crocheting, but this is just too good an opportunity to get a lot done on this afghan. So far, no problems. For variety, I started edging the rectangles in the second color: pink. 8 rectangles totally complete!

Nov. 29, 2007
We only had two appointments today with 4 hours in between, so we went out and did some shopping. We also had some fabulour soup and bread at Great Harvest Bread and I got an outfit for a wedding we are going to next weekend.

After a brief rest, we went to Kristen's Yarn Shop as she stays open this night. Looking for two more shades of pink needed for the granny squares, it was a pleasant experience to see her shop. She does a lot of crocheting and I bought the latest issue of Interweave Crochet. Kristen, unfortunately, did not carry the Plymouth encore yarn.

As far as the afghan is concerned, I have started the granny sqaure parts, but can only do the first two rounds in the taupe because I need the two other shades of pink to continue around. 8 centers of the large granny complete.

Dec. 5, 2007
I went to Gene Ann's yarn shop today to pick out the two shades of pink that I still need, the green for the embroidery on the rectangles and the rest of the taupe.

Unfortunately, they had no taupe! I did get the pink, though. They were so kind to call another store for me and check on the taupe. I just couldn't bear to drive to Crystal Lake, so I came home and called them and had them mail it. I have enough of all the colors now to really kick into gear.

Dec. 6, 2007
I worked on my lunch hours on the afghan; amazing what can be done in half and hour! Lucky for me, I had to take some of our clients on a "field trip" to the Senior Center. I took my crochet along and after we all put together "Lazy Lasagne" they watched a movie and I crocheted! Whoopee, this is ideal: getting paid and getting to crochet! Now that's multi-tasking!

We had a party this evening in China town for our friend's sixtieth birthday. Good thing Alan likes to drive. The 40 miles to the south side took us an hour and a half, just due to the traffic and the hour. Yeah, I was crocheting!

Dec. 8, 2007
I couldn't stay for the entire chapter meeting today which is unfortunately, our annual Holiday Party. I did go and drop off a book donation for our pattern exchange and sat a while and crocheted during the business meeting.

Our neighbor girl Ashley's wedding is at 4 PM and it is downtown. Sure, I crocheted on the way. Foruteen rectangles are done and trimmed; also 1 large granny sqaure and two small ones.

Dec. 11, 2007
The taupe yarn I ordered arrived today as promised. Okay, I have everything I need now to finish this beauty. Two large squares and a couple more small ones are done now. I will blend the two dye lots of taupe into the rectangles by crocheting two rows of one lot and then two rows of the other.

Dec. 12, 2007

Today I completed one entire block, including 4 rectangles, one large granny and 4 small grannys. This is what Nicole will present to Jane on Christmas Eve. I like the way this is coming together a lot, except for the small amount of green used to embroider the leaves. Nicole can check the green in Jane's bedspread and if I have to change that I can. I am enjoying making this for Jane and will be pleased with the joy in her heart she will have for Nicole for thinking of the idea and being my cheerleader to get it done!

Dec. 17, 2007
Well, due to a big snowstorm, Nicole and Jeff never made it to Ft. Wayne where we were going to do the "hand-off" of the afghan block so that she would have it to give her on Christmas Eve. So, today I packed it up and mailed it to Nicole in MI from the USPS. I got a delivery confirmation, so hopefully, if it is lost, I can track it.

Dec. 22, 2007
Nicole reports that the package with the afghan block arrived safely in time for her to give it to Jane on Dec. 24. It's wrapped and ready to go with "from....." on the gift tag so she doesn't get suspicious!

Update: 6 of 16 small squares, 7 of 9 large squares and 18 of 24 rectangles DONE, less the embroidery: DONE!! This IS hope that I will get this done before Spring.

Dec. 23, 2007
I hear tell that Nicole was seen crocheting on the couch at Jane's house all evening Jeff says she needs a second lesson because her chain reached 30 feet! Nicole says she has a great control of her pointer finger!

Dec. 23, 2007; 9:30 PM
When the Phone rang at 9;30 PM, we were watching the traditional Christmas shows at our leisure and I had just done the embroidery on two rectangles. The voice on the other end was amzed, awed, overwhelmed, surprised and in a state of shock. These are the words that Jane used (one the phone) to describe he feelings when she opened Nicole's gift of one-ninth of the afghan! She thanked me 15 times at the very least and Nicole has been installed in the "Best Daughter-In-Law in the World" Hall of Fame for thinking of the idea.

Just a little background....Jane's mother made many, many afghans and Jane only has two which are becoming ragged from loving use. When her mother tragically died in a car accident due to a drunk driver, Jane's brother was put in charge of the household goods. He sold all the afghans for a pittance of their value at a flea market and Jane got not a one! She has pined for these afghanss for years and all she has to hold on to are the ever-weakening threads of the two afghans she uses on a daily basis in her family room.

So, she loves the colors is in awe of the design and really likes the green color for the leaves that I was doubtful about. She says not to hurry or stress at all about getting this done. If it takes 5 to 10 years, she doesn't care. Just knowing that I made this for her will sustain her with contentment until I do finally finish it.

So, I will definitely crank down, work on the afghan at my leisure. Jane has no clue how fast I crochet, but I fear that if I get it done too soon, she will totally freak out and think that I made some kind of sumpreme sacrifice which will throw her into a state of major indebitedness to me. This we do not want!

Dec. 26, 2007
Nicole and Jeff have now arrived to be with us for Christmas and while waiting on her to work out and shower, at my leisure I crocheted 3 more small squares.
Total:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 10 of 16
Rectangles:18 of 24

Jan. 3, 2008
I started back to work today after 10 days off during the Holidays. I always crochet during my lunch break and the only downside is that crocheting and the resultant relaxing meditation makes the time go SOOOO fast. I timed myself today while making a small square and figured out that one takes one-half hour. So, when I do the next two types of squares, I will time them too. I can then figure out how many total hours the afghan will take me to complete.Although I believe that "every stitch is such a pleasure that I never keep track of the time it takes," I think it will be a fitting bit of information for this blog.
HO, HO, HO and Hanks of Fun Crocheting!

Jan. 9, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 10 of 16
Rectangles:19 of 24

Jan. 11, 2008
I was able to time myself today as I made one of the rectangles. It takes 45 minutes to make one rectangle.

Feb. 11, 2008
We went to visit dd and ds-in-l this past weekend and with a five and a half hour trip that turned out to be six due to dropping the dog at the other dd's house, I had plenty of time to work on the afghan. I finished up a lot of little things on squares that I had started at work and got a good start on embroidering the rectangles, as well. I was kind of putting that off to the end, but it is good to have a start on the embroidery now. I will need to decide if the afghan will be long enough for Jane's husband and if so, I can add some more length to it. We had a wonderful visit with some great restaurants and some nice relaxation and good movies. Good thing because we went through some very bad snow on the way home, so I had to keep my eyes on the road while Alan drove for a good deal of the time, but in-between, the crochet kept me relaxed!
UPDATE:

Feb. 27, 2008
Today I went to Gene Ann's yarn shop to get some more yarn for the afghan. I think I have all I need to finish the embroidery now. What I didn't notice is that the afghan has a border around it once it is all put together, so do I have enough yarn? Well, time will tell. It is easy enogh to go to Gene Ann's and always pleasant to meander through a yarn store.

I have all the granny squares and rectangles done now and a good start on the embroidery. The end is in sight! I will be going on a medical mission trip on March 29 to the Dominican Republic and that's a long plane ride. My plan is to concentrate on the afghan on that trip.

March 10, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 23 of 24
Embroidery:

April 13, 2008
Well, I am making good progress! Yeah! We have just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic where we were involved in a medical mission. That's a whole other story-see my blog posts. I took along quite a few of the rectangles that were ready for embroidery and got a lot done on the long plane rides. There were a couple of steps backward, however...my hairspray exploded in the suitcase and got on two of the rectangles! Now they are stiff as a board. I have sent them through the washer once and that didn't help much, so I have my thinking cap on to see what I try next before just starting over!

Here's how we stand right now:
UPDATE:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 14 of 24

April 14, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 17 of 24
Completed Blocks: 1 of 9

April 20, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 7 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 17 of 24
Completed Blocks: 2 of 9

April 22, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 8 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 17 of 24
Completed Blocks: 3 of 9

April 27, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 5 of 9

May 4, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 7 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 3
Border:

May 5, 2008
Oh dear;I have kept Jane in a state of worry over the two rectangles that got hairspray all over them. They are fine and already added to the afghan. I washed them once in the washer and that didn't do much good. They were still stiff. So, I waiting awhile until I got to it and then soaked and scrubbed them in Woolite. That did the trick. They are fine; no problem. There was also an incident of my crochet group at work packing up my yarn when I wasn't watching and putting my coffee mug in the basket too! I saw the coffee on the yarn quick enough and ran hot water over it to get the coffee out. So much for carry-along crochet and coffee. I learned my lesson!

May 7, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 9 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 6
Border:

May 10, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 9 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 9 of 9
Border: Color 1 of 5 DONE

May 11, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 9 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 9 of 9

May 12, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 9 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 9 of 9
Border: Colors 4 of 5 done
Border: Colors 3 of 5 done

May 13, 2008
UPDATE:
Large squares: 9 of 9
Small square: 16 of 16
Rectangles: 24 of 24
Embroidered rectangles: 24 of 24
Completed Blocks: 9 of 9
Blocks sewn together: 9 of 9
Border: Colors 5 of 5 done
Hallelujah, Jane's beloved afghan id done!!

August 6, 2008-Jane's Birthday!
By the time I saw Nicole to give her the afghan and then she had the opportunity to see Jane to pass it on, it was August. So, the afghan is now celebrated as Jane's birthday gift instead of a Christmas gift!! Here it is: