December 2007

The Ami Simms Newsletter
December 2007
Copyright by Ami Simms

Madison was helping me get ready for Houston, mostly by taking things out of my suitcase and bringing them to me, or dropping one of his tennis balls in with my clothes which is the international symbol for "I'd like to come too, please." With all the packing "help" he was dog tired and couldn't lift a paw when it came time to write the newsletter. What a slouch.

When I told him that a ton of people wrote to inquire about his health when I didn't include his monthly column, he insisted that I put his part of the newsletter first. He can be a real Prima Doggus.

Houston was fantastic! Thanks to Karey Bresenhan and John Flynn we had a super booth and raised $37,000 for Alzheimer's research. The web page isn't updated yet as we're waiting for last minute confirmation from Houston.

If you'd like to celebrate with a T-shirt (or some other fun stuff) and help support the AAQI at the same time, head over to Café Press.

Now, back to Madison…

Hello, human friends. My tail wags furiously knowing that you missed me. I am Madison T. Dog and I here with my regular column!

As you know, it is fall. I love the Fall. Leaves fall in the Fall, which is probably why they named it that. My genetic rolling quota is increased in the Fall because leaves are so much fun to roll around in, which is what I was doing right before I came in the house last week Tuesday night. About 11 pm. It was my "Last Call," which is what Mom announces when it's my final time to make presents in the yard before bed time. We walk over to the sliding door, Mom tells me to sit and stay. (I do.) And then she opens the sliding door and claps her hands to warn the critters that I am about to be released into the great outdoors. We only have small critters, on account of the fence. Mostly Mom is worried about the skunk. (You may want to read about that adventure if you didn't get this newsletter back then:

So after she sounds the alert, she releases me and I run full tilt through the maze of lawn furniture Mom stores on the deck in a strategic pattern to slow me down, giving the squirrels an extra head start which I don't think is entirely fair. I race to the lawn and freedom.

Mom sometimes watches from the sliding door to make sure I don't roll in dirty stuff like wet wood chips and mud. I always check to see she's not looking before I roll in those. If I so much as cock my head and lower my right ear in preparation for a good roll, she slides back the door and chastises me for my genetic predispositions in front of everyone, including other dogs who might be listening, "NO ROLLING, Mattie!" (Oh, all right.)

Well, Tuesday Mom was tired and I had a few rolls struggling to come out. So, since she wasn't looking, I took full advantage and squirmed in my favorite pile of leaves, the ones really far away from the house that she can't see in the dark anyway.

I love leaves! I love the way the crinkle, and crunch, and imbed themselves in my fur. I like the crispy parts on top of leaf piles, and the damp, moist parts underneath. I stick my ear as far down as I can get my head and then I propel the rest of me with my hind legs in an ever downward spiral.

I love everything about fallen leaves, including the small varmints who live and die in them. I found a particularly spicy area and perfumed myself with brown slime. I spread it from just under my right ear all down the front of my neck. I was delightfully pungent from either a decomposing small mammal or presents left from a large mammal, possibly a mountain lion. Except we don't have those in our yard normally. It didn't matter. I just plastered the sludge to my fur and I smelled fantastic! If I had run into another dog, we would have High-Foured each other. (Dogs only have four major toes, so we can't High Five.)

As it was, I ran into Mom, who was far less thrilled than I thought she would be. In fact, instead of going upstairs to bed, we went immediately to the bathroom and she made me get in the tub for a head, neck, and chest wash. She took off my slimed collar and held it up in the air to inspect with only two fingers, as if it was so horrific the thought of touching it with anything more than her fingertips was more than any human could stand. And then she said very sadly that I was a Less Than Absolutely Perfect Dog. I felt terrible.

She turned on the shower and pushed down on the pump of the 3-year-old Doggie Shampoo bottle that we have refilled numerous times, and the plastic spout fell off. I thought I was home free until she reached for the dreaded Bath & Bodyworks Cucumber Melon Shower Gel and squirted it all over my unfortunate perfumed area. How humiliating! Why don't they make MANLY flavors, like "Steak & Onion," or "Roast Deer?" I felt like such a sissy.

To make matters worse, Mom got some special towels at the Houston International Quilt Festival that are super absorbent. The man that demonstrated them said they were great for drying dogs because they suck the water right off of us. And they worked great. Mom wrapped me up, blotted me, then wrung out the towel. After several place/blott/wring episodes with the towel I was almost completely dry, but mortified. They're PINK! If you would like to punish your manly dog with a pink towel, you can get more information about Quilters Choice, made from the "world's most absorbent material" by calling CJ Products in Oceanside, California at 760 757-5347.

….and after:

Look for me as a last minute addition to Quilting in the Desert in Phoenix, Arizona for the first three days of the event: January 20-23, 2008. I'll be teaching Twisted Sisters, String Quilting, and How To Improve Your Quilting Stitch. Best of all, I get to give a lecture at the "Lunch 'n Lecture" on Wednesday. Plenty of food, fun, quilts and ME.

If you were waiting to take workshops from the likes of Nancy Eha, Harriet Hargrave, Ruth McDowell, Sue Nickels, Sharon Schamber, Gabrielle Swain, and Laura Wasilowski (and ME!) now's your chance. Hurry! Space is limited. Check out Quilt Camp. Hope to see you there. I'll be the pasty white one with the sun screen-around-the-collar stains.

I came out of cooking retirement to create our Thanksgiving meal this year. It was fairly stress-free because Steve and Jen have very low expectations. If the bird isn't charred on the outside or bleeding on the inside when I serve it, everyone is happy. We don't even consider taste. It's just a health issue.

It was a successful meal, aside from the following:

-The wrapper surrounding my turkey proclaimed "contains 8% solution" and they never said OF WHAT -My turkey didn't have the sack of giblets inside and I hunted around in there for a good 12 minutes (ick) before giving up (we never found them).

-I used the breadmaker for the first time in six years. It made many noises, but after a whole hour, nothing happened. I popped open the lid and hit the STOP/START button (amidst screams from both Jennie and Steve NOT to do it) which caused the breadmaker to do absolutely nothing for ANOTHER hour whereupon I repeated the lid-lifting and the button-pushing because I just couldn't help myself. Then Steve asked if I had inserted the paddle into the bottom of the pan before dumping in the ingredients. WHAT paddle?! I turned off the machine for a THIRD time and fished around the un-churned dough with my fingers. Nope, no paddle. We found the paddle behind the toaster oven. Once I retro-fitted the breadmaker, we got some action! The bread was finally finished in time to make sandwiches with the turkey leftovers, which wasn't the timing I had originally hoped for, but it worked out OK anyway.

I just got Susan Cleveland's new book, Piping Hot Curves and I read it cover to cover. FANTASTIC. If you like her Piping Hot Binding Tool, you'll love all the cool curves you can make with it. I can't wait to try it. You can get a copy here.

The day before the breadmaking adventure, I baked cookies. That was quite successful also. Somebody, had used my good cookie sheet for something other than its intended purpose and left it in the garage where I have been stepping over it for months but could not remember exactly where it was when I needed it, so I used an ancient cookie sheet that came with our last house. (It was there when we moved in during the summer of 1977 and since possession is 9/10ths of the law, well, who would want it now anyway?) Bad move. I put it on the bottom rack. The bottoms burned and the tops were raw. Not my fault. I blame both the cookie sheet AND the oven. (Yes, I did remember to take the batting out before pre-heating, so it wasn't that!)

The cookies on the good sheet near the top of the oven turned out particularly tasty, and my daughter told me Grandma's Kichel (cookies) were the first recollection she ever had of making food when she was a toddler. Mine too. I mean that's when I first started cooking, when Jennie was a toddler and refused to eat the mush in the baby food jars.

Grandma's cookies (Kichel) are fabulous, probably because they have no redeeming nutritional value. In fact every single ingredient, except perhaps the vanilla and maybe some of the flour, does not even belong in a "healthy lifestyle." Thirty percent of each cookie is fat which, trans-fat or not, does not make these puppies low-cal in the least. I present the recipe in case you want to try them anyway:

Using a fork, mush 3/4 cup Crisco ("normal" not butter flavored) with ¾ cup sugar. Try not to touch the mixture or get it on the handle of the fork, or everything you try to hold onto will squirt out of your hands, including the fork.

Add two eggs, out of the shell. If you can remember, break the eggs into a bowl first so it's easier to pick out the shells. You can mix them in the bowl, or whack them around in the Crisco/sugar mixture until they blend in.

Dump in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, that's the liquid in the brown little bottles, not the ice cream. Stir it in. Sprinkle in a heaping teaspoon of baking POWDER and stir that up. How heaping is up for interpretation, but whatever you do, don't add baking soda by mistake. Been there, done that, threw out the cookies.

Add 2 cups of flour. I remember Grandma sifting the flour, but if you can't find your sifter toss handfuls of flour up in the air and try to catch it with the measuring cup. Sweep floor; wipe down counters; take shower.

You should have turned on your oven way before this. Crank it up to 375 degrees. Move the racks around to where you like them.

Mix the flour in a little at a time. If you dump both cups in right away it's a mess. After it has all been absorbed, Grandma said to sprinkle flour on the counter and roll the dough into snakes. Yeah, right. I didn't feel like clearing off my counters before I started, so I left the dough in the bowl. Besides, we have those stupid "textured" counter tops that I picked out when we remodeled. Way too hard to clean up. I could get the same thrill by upending a can of Spackle and waiting for it to harden.

Pinch off a lump of dough about the size of a cherry tomato, smaller than a golf ball, bigger than a grape. Roll it between the palms of your hands so it turns into a little, greasy ball, a round ball. Set it down somewhere clean and grease the cookie sheet which I forgot to tell you to do.

While you're at it, put about 1/4 cup of sugar into a little bowl. Find the little greasy dough ball you left some place two instructions ago and, using two fingers (and this is important) push the dough ball into the sugar. It will still be sticking to your fingers so you can lift it right out of the sugar, which I think is a really neat trick. Flip it over so the sugar is on top and the part with the indentations of your fingers is on the greased part of the cookie sheet.

Having Grandma's (or your) fingerprints in the bottom of each cookie is the best part because your tongue will find the fingerprints when you eat the cookies and you'll think of Great Grandma Rosa, or of me, or someone else whose fingerprints makes you think of them.

Repeat a bunch of times until you have all the slightly flattened cookies on the cookie sheet. They shouldn't be touching because they grow when you cook them. Spread them out. You may NOT add chocolate chips or Reese's Pieces and it is forbidden to frost them in any way. Colored sugar is acceptable if you can't help yourself.

Bake them (in the oven) for 15 minutes until the edges and bottom are golden brown. Or a little brown. Not white. Keep an eye on them because they can turn on you in a hot minute. Eat them while they are hot, cold, or (my favorite) left out uncovered overnight. Yum! These are crispy cookies which are the only cookies worth eating. If you like soggy cookies, use somebody else's recipe and don't tell me about it because I only like crispy cookies.

Here are some instructions for making a fabric shopping bag. Better than paper or plastic because you can use it again and again.

There are three new entries.

Judy Teffer made a Twisted Sisters quilt.

Delores Wagg shares her Yikes Stripes quilt.

When I was in Houston a bunch of people told me that my segment on the Picture Play Quilts was re-runned. Re-ran? Whatever. If you missed it, you can get the book that has the pattern for the quilt that I showed. The episode was called "In The Eye Of The Beholder," or something like that. It was about using "difficult" fabrics, unless I'm confusing that with another episode. Anyway, grab a copy of the book here.

Sharyn Craig collecting fat quarters (new or out of your stash) for quilters who have lost their homes in the San Diego county fires. Send them to: Sharyn Craig / 2530 Indigo Drive / El Cajon, CA 92019.

Madison would like me to remind you that our friend Lee Kirchner, who did all the photography for Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece, has a new web site with clothing featuring DOGS. You can submit a photograph of your pooch and win a prize, too. Visit It's A Dog Thang

If you need a few copies of Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece , they make wonderful holiday gifts….

When I was a kid I was lucky enough to live in Italy. We spent three full years there (with 7 years in between each year) and then lots of summers. I spent 9th grade at the Overseas School of Rome and one of my best friends was Lisa Marini. She came from Chicago and we sat next to each other in Italian class. We also had biology together, and probably some other classes too. We've kept in touch over the years. I grew up to be a quilter and Lisa grew up to become a Master Gardener. Well, a few years ago she and her family moved to Rome. Now she makes her living taking people to the secret gardens in the area around Rome. Some of the places she's gotten into are fabulous. Anyway, check out her web page and her blog. Who knows, some day you might want to visit Italy. Check out Secret Gardens Italy.

I mentioned my uncle's book, The Reluctant Sailor, in last month's newsletter. He just sent me a video of a news story about the book that was shown on television in 2003. (Yes, I'm in it!) Take a look.

Take a class with Bonnie McCaffery without leaving your home. Bonnie McCaffery’s “Painted Face for Beginners” workshop is on DVD. This 80 minute DVD walks you through each step of painting a face on fabric. The trick to the whole technique is that a photograph is traced to provide a guideline drawing. The guideline drawing is positioned beneath the fabric and it becomes very obvious where to paint each of the features. Don’t worry, Bonnie demonstrates how to paint each feature with close-up detail. The color face photograph and grayscale face photograph are provided in the 8 page booklet that comes with the DVD. This way you can paint right along with Bonnie while she paints the same face. A step-by-step reminder sheet, hair pattern, and finishing instructions are also included in the booklet. Various painting techniques are demonstrated for each of the features. Bonnie has traveled around the world to teach this workshop hundreds of times and students are always amazed that they really can learn to paint a face even if they don’t believe that they are an artist. This is Bonnie’s second DVD and fourth book. Check out Bonnie’s web site.

Please do. Forward the ENTIRE thing to all your friends and even some of your enemies. Everybody enjoys a laugh or two. Please do NOT forward just part of it. Somehow my name gets dropped off when these things float through cyberspace and since I’m writing them for free, I should at least get credit for writing them. If you write a guild newsletter (real paper or online) and would like to “reprint” a particular part of the newsletter you must ask first. Here’s how.

Tell your friends and family how much you love them,
Ami Simms
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