Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Greetings from the Andean Cowgirl!

I had a free day here in Quito, Ecuador, so I planned a little adventure for myself - a trail ride around the crater of Pululahua volcano, apparently the only volcanic crater in the world that is inhabited. It is a vast fertile plain, inhabited by about 45 families, one of them my wonderful guide, Astrid Mueller. Here she is brandishing her machete, which she used to clear some of our paths.

Here I am on my mount, Morgana. See my hurt foot, still in a brace and silly open shoe since my foot doesn't fit in my other shoes yet?

It was beautiful, and a bit surreal. I mean, this is an "active" volcano that erupts every 4000 years or so. It is due to erupt again in about 500 years. But every so often, there are mild eruptions. One such eruption 70 years ago wiped out 3 farms. I can't see myself setting up house there. In fact, I'm surprised I went in there. We came in over the crater walls, and I forgot to take a photo, it was so breathtaking. We were above the clouds, and then drove 15 km down the side of the crater to the crater floor to reach the ranch. Once we saddled up, the 4 hour ride included riding through some farms and through some ancient pre-Incan footpaths, and I swear my horse was part mountain goat. There are some places we went that I wouldn't want to go on my own two feet. And it was so exhilarating to gallop around out there. I was the only client, so everything was at my pace. It has been 10 years since I have been on a horse, and even then it was just a sedate trail ride outside Las Vegas. It has been 20 years or more since I've ridden like this. AWESOME!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

OK, here's what happened

As Nancy Rose mentioned, the crutches and splint aren't a sexy look...but they DO garner attention. I have never had an easier day of travel! I alerted the airline (COPA, based out of Panama City, Panama) of my predicament the day before my trip was to begin. From the time I arrived at the airport (Washington Dulles), through Panama City and all the way here to San Jose, Costa Rica, I didn't have to walk, or carry by bags or even WAIT IN A LINE. If it weren't wrong, I'd bring these crutches and splint on EVERY trip. :)

I wish I had a fun story to go along with my injury, but I don't. It was after lunch on Friday, and I was walking back to the conference center with my co-worker. We were talking and I wasn't paying attention, and I missed a step. You know those random steps you find places where you wouldn't expect one. I caught myself before I fell, but I twisted my foot and ankle. It hurt like the dickens, but I told myself to just walk it off, so I grimaced and kept going. And wouldn't you know, it started to not hurt so bad. I sat through a conference session rubbing my foot and ankle, and when I stood up, all the blood rushed to it or something and it started to hurt. Walk it off, I told myself. So, I walked down to the college fair where I was to stand behind a table for 2 1/2 hours. That didn't seem like such a good idea, but there was nothing for it, so I found someone to get me a back of ice, and did my job. By the end, my foot was numb from the ice, so I walked with my co-worker to a reception at which we were expected. I'm glad I went, because they had some AWESOME crab cake appetizers going around (I had three). After that, we met some others for dinner. The restaurant was farther than we expected, and I was having problems walking, but I had my bag of ice, and as soon as we got there, I put my foot up and iced it all through dinner. When I stood up to go home, however, I buckled. I couldn't put any weight on it whatsoever, and tears sprung to my eyes. I took a taxi to my hotel, and the kind people there got me up to my room, and brought me ice and Advil. I told myself that I'd be better in the morning, but if not, I'd go to the Emergency Room. I didn't make it to morning - at midnight I figured if I wasn't going to sleep, I might as well not sleep at the hospital where I'd have something to distract me from my pain. By the time I arrived, I was shivering and sweating simultaneously, shivering from the pain and sweating from the exertion of trying to get around without using my foot. A couple x-rays and a painful examination revealed that nothing was broken, but that it was sprained in two places.

Now, two days later, it is still pretty swollen, but I can touch my foot now, and even put a little bit of weight on it. I plan on taking it easy as much as possible, which unfortunately means not exploring my surroundings as I'd like to, but I am determined to be well again by the time I get home next weekend.

For now, I'm hanging out in my hotel room. It's nice. Even though I look for the best deals when I travel, I always feel a bit guilty because the places I stay are so nice. My suite is twice as big as my first apartment after college and light years better appointed. Honestly, I don't need all this space - it is just me. There are whole families around the world living in smaller spaces, not to mention the homeless who have nowhere to sleep tonight. Somehow, it just doesn't seem right.

Anyway, gotta find someone to deliver food to my room. I'm certainly not going to venture out alone at night on crutches. Catch you later!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Not quite according to plan

My trip is off to a rather inauspicious start.

More later.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I'm going to be a zombie in the morning. It is 2 AM and I am still awake, and curiously alert. I know it is because I leave for a 10-day trip in the morning and I don't really want to go. I guess if I put off going to bed, I put off leaving, right?

Of course, everyone else is in bed, so I've been sewing. First, I sewed together some border blocks for my scrappy star quilt, just because they are faster than the star blocks and I wanted immediate gratification.

Yup, I'm gratified. I'm going to love this quilt! Although, after seeing this photo, I may see if I prefer to have the rows with the light stars on a dark background next to the border.

Then I started playing with the un-usable scraps that I've trimmed off my GGG quilt, the ones I can't square up to 2" square. I just can't throw them away, so I thought I'd see what I could come up with by crumb piecing. My first idea was a house block with the GGG crumb pieces in the window and door.
I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it was fun and easy to make. Perhaps I'll come up with some other ideas while traveling this next week. I did not end up kitting something to take with me, because everything was just too big. These additional fees to check a bag are very frustrating. I feel like I am not a good steward of my employer's money if I waste money on a checked bag fee. So, I'm packing super light. I hope I don't forget anything. Like my PASSPORT....OK, I'm back. It would have been a disaster if I had forgotten my passport.

Anyway, I should stop putzing around and go to bed. I'll do my best to post from the road. Get in some extra quilting for me, would ya?

I hope I win...

I brought my soup (leftovers from two nights ago) up to my desk for lunch today. I just had to catch up on some blogs - I feel really out of the loop. You guys do some pretty amazing things and you keep me not only informed but inspired. The happy of quilts of Judi at Green Fairy Quilts always make me smile, so I am thrilled that she is having a giveaway! I hope I win, I hope I win, I hope I win...

I hit the road tomorrow. Tonight, I am thinking of making up some tiny Dresden Plates to take with me. Not that I need to start anything new, but my current projects aren't hand projects, so what is a girl to do? I'm also taking my laptop. At least I should be able to catch up and keep up with all of your blogs while I am gone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One hour of therapy

You ever just have a day when you are down for no apparent reason? Nothing has gone wrong, per se, but you just can't seem to break out a smile? That was me yesterday. I should have been happy - I got a lot done at work, we sparred in karate (what a great way to get out aggression!), my husband cooked a fantastic dinner and had it waiting when I got home, after dinner I made a pot of tea and curled up in the recliner to finish my book - all in all, it was a good day. But still, I was bummed.

You know what always works, don't you? I pulled out some pieces from my GGG quilt that needed trimming down to 2" size. I gave myself an hour to just press and cut. Normally, cutting is my least favorite part of quilting; actually, no, basting is, but cutting is a close second. But as I cut, I tried to imagine what each fabric was used for back in my Great Great Grandmother's day. Was this pretty print a child's dress or an apron? Were pillowcases made from this soft cotton? I was tranported. An hour later, I had two respectable stacks of squares and HSTs:

The majority of the fabrics are florals - here's a random sampling:

Then there are a couple stripes, and then some rather bizarre prints. Check out the cat with a can or cup of something, the children riding all sorts of animals - elephants, ostriches, and camels - and the men loading (or unloading) trunks on a carriage.

By the time I cleaned up after myself, I could speak civilly again, and I took myself to bed early. Today, I vow to be pleasant all day. Life is too short to spend it moping around!

By the way, for those of you who were wondering, I am the one in the black in the photo from a few posts ago. Cheers!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ready, set, RELAX!

It is the season of 1-day weekends. I work every Saturday until November 14. After work this Saturday morning, I went to an afternoon of Cub Scout Den Leader training. I became a den leader so I could be more involved in my son's activity, understand what is going on, and influence the quality of the programming. I had no idea how much time I would be committing that didn't involve him. In addition to the training on Saturday, I went to a 3 hour pack planning meeting on Thursday. Ugh! On Saturday night, I had volunteered to work at the drive-in, so I had a chance to come home, change clothes, eat a sandwich and collect the kids, and then I was off again. While there, one of the Board members (our drive-in is the nation's only non-profit community owned drive-in) mentioned that the Board was interested in asking me to serve. I'm trying to think of how many different ways I can say "No." While flattered, I am just so over-extended right now. I am still recuperating from 3 years on my son's daycare Board.

So, I vowed that nothing would get me out of the house yesterday. I was going to RELAX. It started by sleeping in until 9 AM. I didn't know I COULD sleep in until 9 - guess I was tired. After fixing a big "guilty working mother Sunday breakfast" and cleaning up, I settled myself on the porch with some coffee and a book. Aaaahhh! I love porch sitting! Each of my cats took a turn curling up on my lap, and I was "peaceful" personified. I was reading Jane Peart's The Pattern, the first of her 3 book American Quilt Series books.

It certainly isn't classic fiction; the characters are not very well developed and the whole thing reads as if it is designed for 13-year-old girls, but that's OK. That means there's no killing or swearing or gratuitous sex - how refreshing! There is not as much quilting in it as I had hoped, but perhaps books 2 and 3 will have more. After getting my fill of reading, I filled the crockpot for dinner, and settled in to sew. Here's what I got done on my scrappy star quilt that I am actually not working on, since I don't need to start anything new right now. ;)

While sewing, I listened to a Dick Francis book on tape. In addition to these blocks, I finished two more GGG blocks - I think I now have 10 or 11. I also managed to sew some patches onto my Cub Scout Leader uniform. (Not my favorite kind of sewing, mind you, but I felt guilty neglecting something that was supposed to be done while doing something that I wanted to be doing. Luckily for me, that guilty feeling didn't spill over enough for me to tackle my dirty floors or bathrooms.)

My only concession to motherly/housewifely duties yesterday (besides meals) was helping the kids clean and vacuum their room. Honestly, though, that isn't really work. They are old enough that all they need is some direction and they can get the room clean lickety-split. Then, I vacuum while they shriek and tumble and attack the vacuum with swords. It's actually quite fun! Then, after bathtime and bedtime stories, I wrapped up my sewing, tidied up my sewing space (I can't WAIT until my sewing studio is finished!), and slid into bed with a sigh. What a wonderful day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I fell in love, again!

No, not with a person (my husband is lodged so deeply in my heart that no one will ever usurp his position there) but with a quilt. I made several calls to Costa Rica yesterday to finalize my trip. Each time, I was on hold FOREVER while they tried to find the person to whom I needed to speak. I kid you not, one time I was transfered 8 times! That's OK, it is a perfect opportunity to catch up on blogs, right? Well, I was cruising along Vera's blog, and came across this quilt. It was love at first sight.

Now, of course, I have no business starting anything else. So I just made one of each block so I'll remember to make this quilt. At least that's what I told myself starting out. After all, since I have so many scraps pre-cut into various sizes, there was no cutting involved. In fact, I already had a bunch of four-patches for the star centers, so I didn't have to construct those. It is just TOO EASY to start something new!

I am just itching to work on this some more. Unfortunately, I have to go to work this morning (yes, it is Saturday, and yes, I worked all week. I am working every Saturday until November 14 - ugh!). Then this evening I am volunteering at the drive-in again. Maybe I can get some sewing done this afternoon? We'll see.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where does the time go?

I swear I just posted on here, but in fact, it has been nearly a week. I need to post more often because so much happens between posts. Last Friday, my office went out for a team building kayaking excursion before we all started travel season. It was a perfect day for being outside on the water - you can read more about it and see photos here on my office's blog.

Then, after work, I put the final border on my Kitchen Sink quilt (aka Pick and Choose). I was so happy to have something to share at Show and Tell at the quilt guild meeting on Saturday morning. And it turns out nearly everyone in the guild had something to show - it was one of the biggest Show and Tell's we've ever had. I get so much inspiration from these wonderful, creative, talented women! And that's not all I get - one of the ladies brought in a bag of scraps, my version of winning the lottery. I was not greedy, and only took a few pieces, some just small snips or strips of fabric. Here's my take:

I couldn't stay for the workshop, making little baskets something like these that I made back in February,

because I had to go to the airport to fly down to Atlanta for a few days of work. My twin sister was down there at the same time visiting her college roommate - a fact that I was aware of but she wasn't. She was SO SURPRISED when I showed up out of the blue to join them for dinner and a comedy show. Here we are enjoying a frozen margarita - can you tell which one is me and which one is my twin?

I'm back in town for about a week before heading off to a national conference and then my trip to Costa Rica and Ecuador. For those of you who followed my last blog, remember that last year I found time to go to the equator. This year, I am hoping to find the time to take a trail ride on horseback up a volcano. After all, all work and no play makes Erin grumpy!

Before I leave, I hope to make some more progress with both the flannel juvenile quilt that I am hand quilting and my GGG quilt. Stay tuned for photos!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

So close to being done

I'm 24 HST away from being done piecing my Pick and Choose quilt. The HST are pieced, they just need to be joined to each other and then sewn on as the 4th and final border. I'm thinking of calling this quilt "The Kitchen Sink" because it is thrown in there, along with a little bit of everything else.

You're probably sick of seeing this quilt, but I can't seem to get enough of it. I love, love, love it! Thanks again, Nancy, for first bringing it to my attention back in May. The last border will definitely make it on tomorrow night, as there is a quilt guild meeting on Saturday morning, and I am so motivated by deadlines. It is not often that I have something for Show and Tell, so I'm not going to miss this opportunity to share.

My Leader/Ender project lately has been my GGG quilt. I have 9 completed blocks, and a number of partially completed blocks. Tonight, I laid the first 9 out on some dark blue carpet to start visualizing what I can do as far as layout. I feel fairly certain that I want blue to be the color of the new fabric that I incorporate into this quilt in order to stabilize all these old, threadbare fabrics. Perhaps an on-point setting,

or simple sashing in between blocks,

or maybe something else less traditional. Any ideas, anyone?

Finally, thank you to all of you who encouraged me to look at the bus incident in a different light. I'm feeling much better. I have, however, shared my concerns with the principal and have set up a meeting to talk with her in person next week about this issue and some other concerns I have (namely, the fact that my child was not given the option to watch the President's motivational and apolitical speech to schoolchildren nationwide earlier this week. What message are we sending to our children about respecting authority if we disregard his message to us just because we don't agree with his political stances? I was a self-absorbed college student in 1991, so I don't know the whole story, but I do know that George H. W. Bush gave a similar -albeit less eloquent - speech to schoolchildren nationwide, and that Republicans defended the President's right to address students. What has changed now so that it is NOT OK for Obama to do the same? How are we to encourage an informed citizenry that engages with its political leaders - which is how democracy works, by the way - if we shield them from those same leaders? How was this not a teachable moment, regardless of your political leanings? Isn't the best and most meaningful education one that is opportunistic and interactive, not just rote memorization? And how can anyone object to the President's message in that address, in brief that each and every student is in part responsible for his/her own education, that they should work hard, and that they should stay in school? And who really thought that this would be a ploy to brainwash and indoctrinate our children? Are we truly that cynical? I know there are many that disagree with me.)

Anyway, I didn't get on here to get on a soapbox. I should go to bed, as my office is going on a kayaking trip down the James River tomorrow as a team building experience prior to the start of our recruitment travel season. I want to be alert and rested so I can be safe and make the most of what is sure to be a fun day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bad Mommy!

We went to the circus this past weekend, and as always, I was enthralled by the juggling - how do they keep that many balls/batons/hats/burning sticks in the air at one time? But then, isn't that what we attempt to do in our daily lives? Yesterday, I dropped not just a ball, but one of the burning sticks. It could have been disaster, but it wasn't. Thank God.

Jason rides the bus to school in the mornings, but goes to daycare after school until I get off work and can come pick him up. It makes for a very long day for him, but it is the best I can do right now. I've made peace with that. Yesterday was the first day of an afterschool program that Jason loves. My intention was for him to go to daycare after his afterschool program, but somehow, there was a miscommunication with the school, and he was put on the school bus and sent home. When I arrived at daycare to pick him up, they told me he never came to daycare. I held it together as I drove home, called for him in and outside the house, then drove to three neighbors's houses looking for him. I found him at the third house. When he answered the door and gave me an exuberant, "Hi, Mom!", I burst into tears.

After a good night's sleep, I have stopped flagellating myself. We have, however, hidden a key outside for him. He knew our cell phone numbers when he started kindergarten, but he's never had call to use them, so he doesn't know them anymore. We'll have to work on that. Plus, I'll be having a talk with the school and the bus driver about how it is NOT OK to leave my 7-year-old on the side of the road when there is no one there to meet him. At the very least, I should have received a phone call - I know that they have my cell phone number. The bus stop is 7 tenths of a mile from my house. Poor Jason had to walk uphill 7/10th of a mile to an empty, locked house, then another half mile up to a neighbor's house (who wasn't home) then back down another 1/2 mile to another neighbor who was home. I'm going to look at the bright side and be glad he got lots of exercise yesterday. But I keep wondering about all the What Ifs - what if the other neighbor hadn't been home, what if it had been cold or raining, what if he had encountered one of the bears that lives in the National Forest behind our house, what if my neighbors weren't the good, trustworthy people that they are? I could go on and on.

Needless to say, I was a bit too wound up to get much sewing done last night. I couldn't focus on anything. I finally did get the last two pieced sashing borders sewn on my Pick and Choose and did a little squaring up of the HST border pieces. Maybe tonight the final borders will go on. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The week in review

I planned to finish piecing together my Pick and Choose top this weekend, and made quite a bit of progress, but alas, it is still not done. All that remains to do is the half-square triangle border. Guess what I will be doing after work today? Last night, I spread out the quilt top on my guest bed, just to see what it looked like, and I couldn't help but smile and flop down on top of it. I LOVE IT!!! It is possibly my new favorite quilt.

So, no quilt photos to share, and those of you who know me know that I don't really like posting without photos. A big thank you to Molly for providing me with a photo op - check out the "not-so-squishy" mail I received from her this weekend - a crocheted rock!
Also to be known as a pattern holder-downer in my new soon-to-be finished quilt studio. (actually, who am I kidding. As with any construction project, I have NO IDEA when it will be finished, but I am hoping that it is soon!)

And then, there are always family photos. First, from last weekend's birthday party/campout for Jason. We roasted marshmallows for s'mores,
we took a night walk into the George Washington National Forest behind my house,

(check out the kid on the left looking nervously out into the darkness - he was regaling us all with stories of mountain lions and bears, much to the chagrin of some of the boys, so this makes me giggle to see that he was a little nervous, too! Of course, with the 8 of us stomping around and a dog to boot, I'm sure there was no wildlife within a mile of us.)

and we all (me and 7 boys) slept in the Taj Majal of tents with the dog keeping watch outside.

I've also rediscovered my porch. I cleaned it off, and all of a sudden, I love spending time out there again. Imagine. I wish I could truly capture the beauty of the sunset over the Allegheny Mountains from my porch, but this was the best I could get.

One of Jason's birthday gifts this year was the Karate Kid movie. He loves it, can you tell?

And then, last week, I mentioned our work retreat. It was just as wonderful as I had hoped. I didn't remember to take many photos, though. This photo gives you an idea of setting - here we are on one of the decks after our meetings were done on the first day waiting for dinner to be ready.

Then, after dinner, it was board game time in front of the fireplace at the outdoor pavilion - have you ever played Apples to Apples? Very fun!

Breakfast wasn't until 9 AM on Thursday. For someone who is up at 6 AM every day, that gave me lots of time to play in the morning. First, I went for a 2-mile run, and then I went kayaking on the Cowpasture River with another lunatic co-worker. Lunatic because it was COLD and the water was very low, so we were able to go downstream, but coming back upstream was another matter altogether. Live and learn - we weren't late to breakfast, but I didn't have time to warm up in the hot tub as I had hoped.

This weekend included karate, a birthday party, a potluck picnic for my husband's job, going to the circus, and sewing during every spare moment in between. Needless to say, being back at work today is a bit of a letdown...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Angela knows me WELL!

I only have a moment to write during a break at our office retreat, but I HAD TO SHARE yesterday's squishy mail. Any of you from the old blog remember Pay It Forward? Well, I received my Pay It Forward gift from Angela yesterday, just out of the blue. What a treat! Not only did she send this scrappy little mini-quilt (I think I'm going to use it as a placemat for my tea parties for one!), she also sent these romantic floral 5" charm squares. Thank you so much, Angela!

Speaking of scrappy, I have finished the blocks and the sashing for my Pick and Choose quilt. Here it is on the design wall, not yet sewn together.

I could look at this quilt all day - there are easily over a hundred different fabrics in there, from batiks and novelty to 1930s repro and Civil War repro and everything in between. Here's a close-up of some blocks chosen at random.

All I have left is to finish piecing the half-square triangle border blocks and sew it all together. Perhaps I can get it done during this long weekend. It is definitely one of my favorite quilts.

Anyway, we are on a two-day office retreat. Long meetings and lots of information, but my co-workers are some of the best possible, and we have lots of fun, too. We are spending tonight at the Fort Lewis Lodge. Check it out and see the hardships I have to suffer! I've got my suit for the hot tub and the kayak, and I am prepared to kick some butt tonight at ping pong and pool and whatever other fun we can rustle up after dinner.