Thursday, December 31, 2009

A new quilting convert!

On Christmas Eve, I got water!

On Christmas Day, my husband and children came home!!

On Monday, my twin sister and her family came to stay with us!!!

As you can tell, life just keeps getting better. We've been having a good time playing with our four kids, running (OK, running isn't fun, but I feel virtuous for having done it), quilting (me) and knitting (my twin) while watching Season Seven of Gilmore Girls, and generally just hanging out. Today, I taught her how to make a flannel rag quilt. I am so impressed that she got it all done, save the seam snipping, which she is working on as I type.

She ironed,

she cut,

she sewed,

and voila!

A new convert!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cats and dogs...but still no water

Not to belabor the issue, but I am so sick of melting snow for water! We have a new water pump in the well now, and new wiring, but the pressure valve on the holding tank needed replacing, too, and the repairman didn't have the right size on his truck. First thing in the morning, he promised me. Keep your fingers crossed that I can shower tomorrow.

I spent my day alternately chipping ice off the driveway and sewing while periodically checking out the progress with the well project. I can cross a few more presents off my list, and none too soon - Santa will be cruising by in just over 24 hours, I believe.

For my 3 year old niece, a patchwork puppy.
I saw a photo online last spring and thought this would be fun and easy to make. Unfortunately, the link to the actual pattern was broken - it was a pattern from Hancock Fabrics, I believe. Perhaps it is easy for someone with more experience sewing set-in seams than me. I muddled through without a pattern, and I love it, but I did about as much un-sewing as sewing. I made it with 2" squares, so he is approximately 10.5" tall and 9" wide.

Then, inspired by the bags that Steph at A Ditchin' Time Quilts made, I made a bag for my 9-year-old niece along with a keyring cardholder.

I was sure to make the bag big enough to fit a standard youth paperback book - I'm going to pick one out tomorrow (hmmm. what did I like when I was nine?), and I'm putting a Barnes and Noble Gift Card in the card holder. Her favorite color is green, and I think (I hope) she likes cats. I hope she is as whimsical as I am, and not at that "I'm too cool" stage. Aren't these kitties adorable?

Again, no pattern. My brain is pretty taxed right now, as are my hands/arms/shoulders from those hours of shoveling and chipping. Off to bed with a book...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I finished the bindings on my placemats while watching Steel Magnolias. Just what I needed - a good cry, and a chance to put everything in perspective. My life may seem like it sucks right now, but things could always be worse.

Anyway, I made two of these,

and one each of these (I'm using scraps of fabric, so I didn't have enough to make matching sets). I altered the pattern a bit, but that shouldn't surprise you.

Aren't they fun? Here are the backs. I got the pattern here.

I'm tempted to make a couple more - I'm not used to finishing projects quickly; I could really get used to this. But, there are other pots on the stove that I need to attend to. And I mean that literally. I am melting yet more snow for water. The water guy thinks he can have us in water for Christmas. Of course, that meant someone had to stay home to facilitate that, and I lobbied that it be me. After all, it is my husband's mother that is in the hospital, and I think it is more important that he and and kids be there than me. So, it is just the dog, the cats, the fish and I here at home. It is a bit lonely, but quilting will keep me busy. A good thing about having quilting as a hobby is that there is no water required.

But, enough for today. I am in the midst of reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, and I have Jennifer Chiaverini's The Quilter's Holiday lined up to read next. I may just call it an early night and go to bed.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Some days are diamonds...

But not lately. This is the least relaxing vacation EVER. The plan was to go to my mother-in-law's house for a week. The plan is still to go there. However, we found out just before leaving that she is in the hospital. So yesterday morning as we were loading up the car, we were already in a more subdued mood than you would expect. We set off, the hubby, the dad-in-law, the two kids, the dog and I, towards the interstate the back way. I'm not sure why, except that it is shorter. However, the back way is usually not such a good idea when you've just gotten over 2 feet of snow the day before, especially in a state like Virginia where the Department of Transportation, despite their best efforts, is not prepared for snow in that magnitude. Not 8 miles from home, we got stuck, and stuck GOOD. Eventually, we got out, but not before blowing a tire. So now, we can drive, but we have to find a place in the road not covered in snow and ice to change the tire. The kids, the dog and I just started walking home. We needed to do something - the kids were very well-behaved, but I knew that just standing around outside the car wasn't going to be a good idea. We sang Christmas carols to keep our minds off the fact that our feet were freezing in our sneakers. About a mile or so later, the hubby and dad-in-law showed up with the spare on the vehicle, and we set off again, first stopping by a service station to make sure the spare had sufficient air.

It felt like such an accomplishment to make it onto the highway, but only until we actually got on the highway. It looked more like a parking lot for tractor trailer trucks. Four and a half hours after leaving home, we made it to the next town 30 miles away. We stopped to eat because the kids (and I) were starving. At that point, we made an executive decision to head back home and try again another day. Seven hours after leaving home, we made it back, having traveled a whopping 60 miles.

If that were the end of it, I wouldn't complain. However, when we got home, we had no water. Not much you can do on a Sunday night. This morning, I started calling around, and finally found someone who could come today. Of course, I thought he meant today during the day. He arrived at 8 PM. In the meantime, we all loaded into the car to go to the gym at the University where my husband and I work to take showers and brush our teeth. And I melted snow. Melted snow to wash dishes. Melted snow to flush toilets. Melted snow for the dog and the cats. Melted snow to brush our teeth. At this rate, there won't be much snow left out there.

So, the water pump guy is still here. No, not working on my water pump - he needs a new control box, which he didn't have on his truck. He'll have to come back in the morning for that. No, he's still here because he managed to drive his truck into a snowbank, and then over an embankment and into my neighbor's yard. It is 10:15 PM and we are waiting for the wrecker to come pull him out.

I am so tense that my shoulders ache. I keep wondering what else could go wrong. I'm probably looking at this the wrong way. There is so much I should be thankful for. We have heat and electricity and food, and a way to make the water we need. My kids are in great moods because I have let them watch all theTV they want today. And this unexpected time at home has given me some unexpected time in my quilt studio. I thought I'd whip up a quick placemat that I found online earlier this year.

Oh boy, so quick and easy, I made FOUR. I am currently sewing down the binding - photos when I am done. But first, I am dragging my tired and slightly defeated butt off to bed. Last night I told myself that tomorrow had to be better, but I seemed to have jinxed myself. Tomorrow will be what it will be.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm finally sitting!

With snow comes children who wake before dawn wanting to go out and play in it. Mine are no different. We were out there as the sky lightened this morning, romping in snow above my knees. I didn't know it could snow this much in Virginia. We got more last night than in all six winters I've been here combined. Fun, fun, fun!

After about an hour and a half, we came in for breakfast and showers, then the kids surfed the TV looking for Christmas movies while I began moving myself into my new quilting studio. It took me ALL DAY! I had no idea I had so much STUFF! But it was worth it. Now that everything is in there, it looks and feels pretty good, despite the fact that my paint job on the walls is the worst in all of history.
Here's the view from the door (ignore the air mattress - we are about to have company, and this is also officially the guest room).

During the day, there is so much natural light that I don't need to turn on the lights. And I have my sewing machine situated so that it faces the doors, so I can look up and see the kids playing outside. I put up a design wall and decided that wasn't enough, so I put up another smaller one. Some of the UFOs that I want to get cracking on are up there to get me motivated.

The exception is my flannel buzzsaw quilt, which is still stacked on my ironing board. See that cute little closet door? (Yup, it is under the stairs.) I utilized the inside of the door to hang patterns and motifs,

and the closet itself is brimming with fabric in bins and batting in bags (you can't see most of it as it is in the deeper recesses of the closet).

So right now it is neat and organized. We'll see how long it stays that way. Well, for a week at least. We hit the road in the morning (if the interstate is open yet) to head up to my mother-in-law's. Which, of course, meant that I had to do all my present wrapping tonight. I am so tired. Let me shuffle off to bed now...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dear Santa Letter for Fat Quarter Shop Giveaway

Dear Santa,

It has been a whirlwind year! While work has presented me with many trials, my family has presented me with many joys. I particularly cherish the time I spend with my sons in karate and cub scouts.

As you probably know, part of the scouting experience is camping out. We did our first campout as a den this fall. We put up the tent, no problem. We built a fire, no problem. We ate, sang songs, took a night walk - all no problem. The problem came at bedtime when there were three of us, and only 2 sleeping bags. My boys brought theirs, but I couldn't find mine. And wouldn't you know, it had to have been the coldest night of the year to date! I pulled out my car blanket, but it was woefully inadequate. I snuggled between my boys, hoping to absorb some of their warmth. I slept in all of my clothes PLUS my pajamas. It was all for naught. I spent most of the night awake, freezing and miserable, wishing I had a quilt to wrap around myself.

Which brings me to my letter to you. You see, while visiting the FAT QUARTER SHOP, I came across a quilt kit called CAMPING UNDER THE STARS.

I know that this Christmas Eve, it will be visions of this quilt, not visions of sugarplums, dancing in my head. It has lots of fabrics, which appeals to the scrap quilter in me. But there is a pattern! You see, I usually make things up as I go along, using scraps of fabric that I can find, and while I enjoy the process, it takes FOREVER! Having this quilt kit would allow me to get the quilt made in less time, allowing me to enjoy it sooner - like the first campout of the year!

I look forward to hearing your footsteps on the roof this year. If there's not enough to go around, please forget about me and take care of my kiddos - they have been super good and they deserve whatever they want for making me such a happy mom. Drive carefully!

AKA Vesuviusmama

Thursday, December 17, 2009


I won, I won, I won! Kathy at True Creations is sending me a Terry Atkinson book, Big Bags Little Bags.

Hmmm, can you foresee what my sisters and mother might be getting for their birthdays this year?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting it done

1. Bright Ideas quilt - I sewed on the borders, sandwiched it with this bright, fun, large-scale print as a backing (I have been wondering what to do with this fabric for years)

then got a significant start on the handquilting while watching the Bourne Identity on TV last night.

2. Quilting Studio - It took me FIVE hours, but I primed the entire room, including the ceiling. My shoulders and arms are so sore that I can barely lift the fork to my mouth as I type this while eating lunch at my desk. And for a color, I decided to approach the room the way I approach my fabric acquisition - I shopped in the "mis-tinted" paint section. Yup, it appears that I am not just a scrap quilter, but a scrap painter, too. There is surprisingly quite a bit of paint available for half price just because it isn't the color someone thought they were getting. I appreciated not only the price, but having a smaller selection to choose from - as a Libra, I'm as indecisive as they come. I chose a (hopefully) soft yellow - I was leaning towards yellow anyway. I want my quilting space to be bright and cheerful. Now, I just have to convince my aching body that it wants to go back down there and paint...

3. New Year's Eve UFO Challenge/Buzzsaw quilt - I cut out the last flannel pieces for the blocks for my flannel buzzsaw quilt and even sewed two blocks together. Of course, I sewed them together in the mirror image of what I actually need, so those two blocks are useless for this project, but there will undoubtably be an orphan flannel block quilt coming out of my studio at some point in the future, so it isn't a complete loss.

4. Christmas decorating - I promised my little guys that we would decorate this past weekend. Luckily, we went out to pick a tree BEFORE the freezing rain settled over the valley. The boys are old enough now that they truly do most of the tree trimming, and they take the job VERY seriously. Our tree is always very simple - white lights, red bows, red and white candy canes, strings of popcorn and cranberries, a couple ornaments that have been given to us, and whatever ornaments they have made and brought home over the years. It is so funny to listen to them, "Oh, I remember when I made this old thing." (OLD!?! You are SEVEN. I have underwear older than you!)

And while they did most of the work, I drank most of the eggnog and nearly polished off a whole container of chocolate covered peanut brittle (if you've never tried it, it is heavenly and decadent and completely addictive) while crooning along with Nat King Cole.

Tonight is the last Cub Scout outing of 2009 - we are going Christmas Caroling at a nursing home. I'm thrilled - I haven't been caroling in decades, literally. Gotta warm up the old pipes - fa la la la la!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Counting the days until vacation

My wonderful weekend seems like a distant memory. This week at work has been BRUTAL! How long until winter vacation?

I didn't bring work home last night for a change. I probably should have, but I just needed a break. Instead, I worked on my Bright Idea quilt a bit (that's a working title - does it fit, do you think?) I finished the last prairie point border, and then played around with ideas for the corners. I made the corner diamonds two different ways using strips like the rest of the quilt to see which I liked best,

and I couldn't decide, so I did two one way and two the other. It's my quilt - I can do what I want, right? That's the beauty of not working with a pattern!

Anyway, this working on the dining room table business is getting old. I need to get my butt in gear and paint my quilting studio and move down there. Perhaps I should add that to my New Years UFO Challenge - my new quilting studio is my biggest UFO yet!

Anyway, no time to chat. First karate, then cub scouts, then back to karate for my leadership class. Hey, did I tell you that I got a plaque last weekend at the karate banquet? Each of the three instructors selected a student to recognize, and I was recognized for my "Inspirational Example and Aspiration to Excellence".

I was so surprised, and quite choked up. The instructor spoke of how I find balance between a demanding career, a family and a commitment to karate. Balance, huh? I feel sometimes like I am teetering on the edge of a precipice, or feebly attempting to keep too many balls in the air at the same time, so being recognized made me feel hopeful that I'm doing better at it than I thought I was.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out of the blue

This weekend was wonderful! My mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece (in-law?) came for the weekend, and we just hung out. We ate, we played dominoes and cards, I gave them a quilt show, we watched movies, we listened to my husband's basketball team win a game - it was a perfect homebody weekend. Jason and I were supposed to march in the Christmas Parade on Saturday night, but it snowed all day on Saturday so the parade was cancelled. This is one person who was not upset.

Then, today, as they were preparing to leave, the phone rang. Called ID said "Wyoming Caller". We get wrong numbers all the time, so I figured that this was a wrong number, too, since I have only even known one person from Wyoming, and I haven't spoken to her in over 15 years, but I answered anyway. Guess who it was? My friend from Wyoming from 15 years ago!! I've moved about 12 times since then, so I have no idea how she tracked me down, but somehow she did. What a wonderful surprise to top off a perfect weekend! If you are reading this, Janna, thanks for taking the time to track me down and call!

This afternoon, I've been working on some prairie point borders for the latest quilt I've been working on. I thought they'd compliment the diamond blocks well. I've never done them before - they are pretty easy and fun, although I'm not convinced I am doing them 100% correctly. And I ran out of the sashing fabric in the blocks, so each of my borders is made using a different white-on-white; it doesn't bother me - it is a scrap quilt after all! None of these white scraps has enough to extend into the corners, though. I'm going to have to think up something to put in those. Perhaps another diamond string block like those in the quilt? Perhaps white squares with some colorful applique? Perhaps some embroidery since I've learned how to do that now? Any suggestions?

And, as usual, I managed to cut down some more scraps as I went along. Here's a close-up of my 1.5" pile from today - they are so cute!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being irresponsible

I'm supposed to be reading applications for admission to our university. Instead, I've been checking out all the blogs on the SEWMAMASEW giveaway list. I go to see what they are giving away, but get sucked into all their creativity and scroll through post after post after post (which is the point, right?). Where has the time gone? Why can't I focus on what I'm supposed to be doing? Why does this darned job have to get in the way of what I'd much rather be doing - quilting and reading about quilting and talking about quilting. Grrrr.

Anyway, if you have more time than I do, and you haven't yet gotten on board with Giveaway Day at SewMamaSew, be sure to get there by Saturday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never again!

I've been quilting during lunch this week, and I am happy to announce that I have finished quilting my flannel juvenile quilt, #2 of the 3 projects I committed to do with the New Year's Eve UFO Challenge. Once I get the binding on, hopefully this week, I can cross this one off the list.

Here's what else I'm going to cross off the list - hand quilting with super high loft batting. NEVER AGAIN! While I like the LOOK, the process was miserable! What was I thinking? The batting is taller than my needle. Now I know. And I think this will be a great quilt to put on the floor for a baby to roll around on - it certainly provides the necessary softness and insulation from the cold floor. I'll post a photo once the binding is on.

I leave you with this - a letter to Santa that my 7-year-old wrote this year that I found while cleaning the kitchen. At least now I have something to work with. (I've corrected his misspellings to make it easier to read - any misspellings you find are mine, not his.)

Dear Santa,

How have you been? I've been fine. Will you give my mom and dad earplugs please so they don't have to hear us (him and his brother) argue? Can you give my grandpa a coffee maker cause he likes coffee? Can my brother have a Tony Hawk Skateboard cause he likes to play? Willl you give my dog bones? Can my brother have a pocket rocket? (what the heck is that!?!) Can the factories have lids so the air is not polluted anymore? Can you stop people from driving animals off cliffs and not eating them, or killing the endangered ones and killing them for no reason? Can you get people to stop smoking? Will you get people to recycle and stop landfills? Can you get people to stop murdering each other and make love and peace through all civilizations and not war? And make little stuff appreciated? (uh, I think he actually knows what appreciate means... AND he spelled it correctly!) Let people who are poor have food and shelter and water for life, and clothes?

(finally he gets to what HE wants - and what a list it is! Two full pages of stuff! I won't wear my fingers out typing it all, but he closes with...)

Books about history, science, social studies and nature. Quilting book cause my mom likes quilting. (That's right, kiddo, you've got your priorities straight!) Can I have an Amherst College Basketball cause my dad lost his?

Santa, I'd like everybody to get what they'd like for Christmas. I love second grade even when it is easy. (OK, quite the nonsequitor)

Love, Jason