Friday, May 28, 2010

I miss you, Dad!

Craig Curtis Williams
February 21, 1942 - May 28, 2005

(the young, handsome fella is my brother. He's 6'2" - I'm 5'0". How does that happen?)

And since this is a quilting blog, and I haven't done any quilting lately (STILL no machine!), here's the quilt I made with his t-shirts after he died. It has been making the rounds, hanging first on my Mom's wall, then one sister's, then my father's best friend's wall, then the other sister's, and it finally made its way back to me last month so I can enjoy it for a while.

Who are YOU remembering this Memorial Day?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

He GETS it!

A few years ago, I gave Jason a Spiderman quilt for Christmas. At the time, he didn't seem all that excited, and I was glad that I hadn't gone all out - it was just a panel to which I added some borders and then hand quilted. It lives on his bed (the top bunk) and he uses it every night.
Fast forward to last night, the sleepy conversation that my husband and I have nearly every night as we are falling asleep after those long days that parents have.
Me (as he is getting into bed): Did you check on the kids?
Him: Yup.
Me: Were they covered up?
Him: They weren't, but they are now.
Me: I don't understand why they don't use their covers... (I'm one of those people who likes three blankets, who likes to feel weight on me when I'm sleeping)
Him: Well, Jason told me why he doesn't like to use his sheet.
Me: Why?
Him: Because it blocks the love from the quilt you made him. He wants the quilt right up against his skin.
Me (softly, and loving that kid just a little bit more, even though I thought I loved him all I could already): Oh.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Fun, fish, feet, finds, farts and an almost finish

I don't want this weekend to end! Fun, fun, fun! It started on Saturday morning with the crossover ceremony for the cub scouts - my wolves are now bears!

The ceremony took place at a local lake that I've never been to, but I will certainly be going back. It amazes me how many games kids can think up with just sticks:

Once everyone else left, the boys and I got fishing poles out of the car and went looking for some hungry fish.

They love to fish; me, I'm not so enamored. However, it did give me a chance to sit in the sun and contemplate my feet (am I the only woman who doesn't paint her toenails?),
and quilt.

Next was an estate auction. Man, I miss having a pickup truck! I could have come home with lots of nice furniture for our basement. However, I restrained myself. It helps to be hand quilting during an auction - keeps your hands busy so you don't bid on absolutely everything! I brought home just two rocking chairs, a huge toy chest for the kids, a boy scouts mess kit for Jason, 4 drinking jars,

(I LOVE drinking jars! I made some sun tea today, and I swear I thought I was my mother, sipping tea from a sweating jar on the porch. Aaaahhhh!)

and a popcorn popper for our campfires!

(Can't wait to use this. Can you make out our little firepit just in front the kids' clubhouse?)

Then, once I got the kids home and bathed, we stayed up late to watch the Nutty Professor on DVD. Um, way more bad words in there than I remember - oops! But my kids are at the age where they think passing gas at the table is hilarious, despite all of our admonishments about how inappropriate it is. We finally decided, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em", and rented this movie for the hilarious (and inappropriate) family scenes.

I guess I wore the kids out because they didn't wake up til 8 and 9 AM today. Me, I woke up motivated to spend another day outside, this time doing yardwork. I'll be sore tomorrow, but the score is now "Erin - 1, Weeds - 0". The rest of the day, I did laundry (including my orphan top - I haven't sandwiched it yet because some of the orphan blocks that I inherited were stinky, and I didn't want the whole quilt to be stinky, so I washed it on delicate and prayed that all my seams would hold - they did!) and spent hours on the porch, alternately quilting and reading. The center of my Bright Future Quilt is done, and now I just need to tackle the borders.

Big thanks to Em for recommending The Art of Racing in the Rain. I am LOVING this book, although it is taking me for an emotional rollercoaster ride. If you pick it up to read, be sure to keep your dog at your side; you will find yourself compulsively petting and loving on him/her while you read, I guarantee.

Short week this week - 3 days, and then hubby and I are off to San Francisco and Palo Alto to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (and 17 years together) while I work a conference. I'm thinking I'd like to prepare a little embroidery to take with me, something small. Hmmmm.....

Once in a lifetime opportunity!

I will write more about my weekend later, but for now, I just wanted to tell the world that this morning, my husband played basketball with President Obama! I can't wait until he gets home so I can hear all about it!

Friday, May 14, 2010


Enough sulking around and being in a grumpy mood! I am determined to have a great day. I woke up with a plan:

1. Don't hit the snooze button. I'm a morning person, so I don't usually hit the snooze button, but lately, I've been unwilling to face the day so I've been making frequent use of the 9 extra minutes. Unfortunately, I think the discombobulation that comes with waking up every 9 minutes has affected my daily outlook, so this morning, I hopped up at the first hint of the alarm. (Of course, I had to stand still for a couple minutes while the world stopped spinning from my catapult out of bed...)

2. Pamper myself. I admit it, I try to do too many things, and often neglect taking care of me. This morning, I started by cutting my fingernails and my toenails, then took a long shower, taking the time to shave my legs and pits. (Sorry if that is too much info for some of you, but it needed doing.) I slipped on a pretty new dress, and bam! I left the house feeling much better than I have all week.

3. Indulge myself. In a dual effort to lose 5 more pounds and to save money, I've been denying myself things that I really enjoy, namely specialty coffees and ice cream. I had a half-off coupon in my wallet for a specialty coffee so I said, "What the heck!" and stopped by the coffeeshop on my way into work and picked up a tall Irish Nut (with Irish Cream and Hazelnut, yum!) to sip on my walk up the hill from the parking lot to the office.

4. Set goals. In many ways, I am a deadline driven, goal oriented person. During the busy times of year at work, I feel uber productive because I thrive on checking things off my long lists of pressing items. This time of year, there is stuff to do, but nothing seems urgent, so I find myself wondering, "What's next on my Netflix queue?" and "I wonder what (insert blog writer's name here) is doing these days?" rather than making a list and making my way through it. This morning, I am making a list.

5. Cleaning up. I'm a libra. Let's face it, we are known for liking things to look nice. Harmony is important to us. Right now, neither my house, nor my office radiates harmony. I'm going to start with this pile of "eh, I'll get to it later" stuff on my desk - I vow that my desk will be cleared by the end of the day. How wonderful it will be to walk in on Monday to a cleared desk! And then, this weekend, I vow to do at least one cleaning chore a day beyond my usual dishes, laundry and sweeping the floor. I need to get past the surface and clean some bathrooms, mop some floors, dust. I'm certainly not going to knock myself out cleaning this weekend - after all, the weekend is ours to enjoy, right? - but, since I know that a cleaner house will make me happier, I should be pro-active and do something about it.

6. And last, but not least - QUILTING! Again, I'm going to set some goals. This orphan top

will be sandwiched and tied before the weekend is over (of course, the binding will have to wait until I have a functional sewing machine).

And I will finish quilting the center of this quilt (I'm pretty close already)
and start quilting the border. Hold me to it guys - if I haven't posted photos by Sunday, harrass me until I do.

So, today is mine to make great if I so choose. If it is not, I have only myself to blame.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. - Winston Churchill

Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don't plan on harvesting Golden Delicious. - Bill Meyer

Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway. - Emory Austin

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition. - William Arthur Ward

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. - Albert Camus

When you feel dog tired at night, it may be because you have growled all day. - Author unknown

I wish I was a gloworm
A gloworm's never glum
'Cos how can you be grumpy
When the sun shines out your bum!
-Author unknown

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I have no right to despair

There was a package waiting when I arrived home yesterday. I knew what it was, but I put off opening it, savoring the anticipation as I preparing dinner for my family, ate, cleaned the kitchen, swept all the floors (my dog is shedding so badly right now, I could fashion a new puppy daily from the hair he leaves behind), and got the kids ready for bed before sending them downstairs to watch their latest Netflix request: WALL-E.

At last, I was ready. Armed with scissors, I carefully cut open the box sent from my friend down in Atlanta. Upon hearing of my sewing machine woes, she volunteered to send me hers. I had no idea what kind it was, I was just thrilled to be able to piece again!

(Now, C, if you are reading this - thank you, you are a gem. Please do not think that I am ungrateful.)

Here's what was in the box.

A Singer Tiny Tailor. If any of you are familiar with this machine, it is a mending machine, not a sewing machine. Okaaaay, I thought, I can make this work until I can get something else. But no, I can't. There was no power cord in the box.

My high spirits plummetted. I despaired of ever piecing again! (It smacks of histrionics, I know, but I've been having a crappy week, and this latest setback was sending me over the brink.) So, here I am, the kids ensconced in front of a 90 minute video, the house as clean as I'm going to try to get it on a Wednesday evening after a long day of work, and me, slouched on the couch feeling sorry for myself.

Well, time to get my therapy another way - I pulled out my Bright Future quilt and started hand quilting. Then I remembered another special delivery I had received - a recording of an Alabama PBS special, "The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend", has been making the rounds in my quilt guild, and someone had dropped it off to me on Tuesday. So, I popped it in and watched a video of my own while I sewed.

I already knew about their quilts. I've seen the books, I bought and used the stamps. But I didn't know the story. Oh, my goodness! Here I was despairing over not having a sewing machine for a few weeks, and these quilters had lived with as close to nothing as is possible for years! I was inspired, and I was ashamed. I have no right to despair. The truth is, I have so many quilt tops to quilt or tie, it is actually a blessing for me to not have access to a machine so I can focus on what needs doing rather than getting distracted by piecing another idea in my head.

One attitude adjustment, coming right up!

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Hutchinsons in DC

I was supposed to work this weekend, but got a last minute reprieve. As tired as I have been lately, one part of me wanted to lay around the house all weekend reading and quilting and eating. But Adam was taking the kids to Washington, DC to visit the wonderful (and FREE) museums of the Smithsonian and visit some of the monuments and memorials. There was no way I was going to miss spending that time with them, especially on Mother's Day. Luckily Adam did much of the driving so I got some quilting done in the car.

For those of you who have never been to DC, it is definitely worth the trip, but you must prioritize because there is too much to see in just a few days. Our primary targets were the Lincoln Memorial, the Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of American History.

At Natural History, the dinosaurs were our first stop, and we couldn't resist goofing off, trying to escape the jaws of the mighty T-Rex.

After hours and hours in the museum, we needed some natual light, so we headed outside, past the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial - a very moving tribute to Lincoln. Along the way, my tree hugging kids tried to put their arms around the big trees lining the Reflecting Pool.

They also couldn't resist this neat tree formation at the base of the Washington Monument (the obelisk in the background).

My favorite was the Museum of American History on Day Two of our trip - as an anthropology major in college, the artifacts of our collective past really intrigue me. I could have spent all day there, but the family had other ideas. We wandered past the White House (or Barack Obama's house, as Donald calls it), and I was a bit depressed that today's climate necessitates keeping the public so far at bay. When I was in grade school, you could walk right up and take tours, but not so anymore.

The fun didn't stop when the weekend did. Donald lost his first tooth first thing this morning, so lots of celebration in the house this morning!

Finally, V at BumbleBeans organized a scrap swap for some of us, so this gallon bag of scraps is on its way to Janet in Canada this afternoon. Can't wait to play with the scraps you send me, Janet!

I hope all you mothers out there had a wonderful Mother's Day - I sure did!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A little bit of pride isn't a bad thing, is it?

My children make me proud every day; my husband, nearly as often. But it isn't often that I sit back and think proud thoughts about myself.

This week is different. On Monday, I sat down with my boss and negotiated reduced hours for myself for the coming year (starting in July). Along with those reduced hours, I also insisted upon a reduced salary. "WHAT!?!", you say (or at least my husband did). But here's my reasoning. I want/need reduced hours because of my children. Both will be in public school next year, where there is no after-school care. We live in a pretty remote location that makes it difficult to find a babysitter. My husband and I currently pick Jason (2nd grade) up from school every day and bring him back to work with us where he does his homework while we finish the work day. However, Donald will be starting kindergarten next year which is over at 2:45 PM, not daycare which is open until 5:30 PM, so we will have 2 kids with no place to go at the end of the day. This year's solution with Jason won't work next year; there is no way that Donald (AKA the Tazmanian Devil) can come spend the end of the day with me at my workplace without me getting fired.

I've been experiencing guilt ever since my children were born for having my children spend so much time with people other than me. Therefore, I see this dilemma as an opportunity - an opportunity to step in and spend more time with my kids. By cutting one and a half hours off the end of my work day, and reducing my lunch break to 30 minutes, I can be the one to put my kids on the bus in the morning, but also be there to greet them when they get off the bus in the afternoon. In my mind, I see us having snack and doing homework and then actually having a little bit of unhurried time prior to the dinner/bath/bed routine, something we don't currently enjoy.

Anyway, back to the reduced salary. That is something that I insisted upon because I know myself. If all we did was restructure my hours, I would feel compelled to squeeze in some work at home to make sure that I was still doing all the work of a full-time employee, even if all those hours weren't at the office, to justify still getting paid as one. But I don't just want to be with my children, I want to be present. I don't want to have to say, "I'm working; pretend Mommy isn't here right now." Instead, I want to say, with an indulgent sigh, "Sure, I'll play UNO with you one last time." or "Grab the frisbee and meet me outside!" (Yeah, I know I'm being idealistic, but I could say those things.) Taking a pay cut empowers me to draw boundaries, and say "no" when I am asked to or feel compelled to work beyond the hours for which I am being paid.

So anyway, I'm proud of myself. In my mind, and with close friends and family, I've been declaring for years how important my family is to me, how I want to be there more for my kids. Now, I feel like I have publicly taken a stance - my family is more important than my paycheck. And it feels GOOD! (And yes, I know that I am fortunate to be in a position to make this change and still have enough to afford a roof over our heads and food on the table - I know this isn't an option for every family, and even that not every family would want to make this choice.)

You know what? I'm proud of something else I did, too. At some point in the past few months, I accidentally left my nunchuks at the karate dojo. We haven't been using them lately, so I didn't realize it, but on Monday, they were given back to me. I've never left anything there before, and with good reason. If you leave any of your gear, you have to do 50 push-ups! So, on Monday, after a 45-minute karate class, I had about 5 minutes before I had to leave to pick up Donald from daycare, and I did 50 push-ups. I've never done that many before. In fact, I'm not sure I've done more than 10 or 15 at a time before. Jason cheered me on and did them along with me. The instructor stood by me and helped me count. And I DID it!! (Of course, everyone I passed for the next two days thought I was a snob because they'd wave and and all I could do was nod my head in return because my arms were too sore to raise them more than a few inches. I had to bend over in the shower to wash my hair because I couldn't reach my head otherwise.)

Luckily, you don't need to raise your arms to quilt. I've been working pretty steadily on hand quilting my Bright Future quilt. Thank goodness I have lots of hand quilting projects in the wings because I am still without a machine, and not being able to piece whenever the whim hits me is torture. Perhaps I could use the time I'm not spending piecing doing some housework.

Or not.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Quilt Weekend

My weekend began on Thursday afternoon when I placed an out-of-office auto reply on my email and changed my voicemail greeting to let people know I wouldn't be available until Monday. Aaahhh, freedom! But I was so tired, that I didn't really enjoy Thursday night, just got the kids into bed and hit the sack myself.

But Friday morning was another story altogether...

I didn't have the time or inclination to pull together fabrics and cut for the project that was featured at this year's quilt retreat, so I just grabbed some works in progress to work on - my Bright Futures Quilt that I am hand quilting, along with a snowball "I Spy" quilt and my Bonnie Hunter "Virginia Bound" quilt. Judi came through and lent me her machine to use - an Elna. Now, my machine is a $99 Singer from Wal-Mart. It is the only machine I have ever used. Once I figured out how to thread her machine and set the needle for a 1/4 inch seam, (over half an hour later), I started sewing. Oh, my! The difference was like the difference between my first car, an (at the time) 15-year-old two-tone tan Chevy Chevette, and my brand-new F150 Lariat SuperCrew pickup truck with heated leather seats, a tonneau cover, a moonroof, power everything and all the other bells and whistles. All of a sudden, I'm not so focused on fixing my own machine, and I am dreaming of getting a new one. It sewed like a dream! I didn't know what I was missing!

Anyway, day 1 of the retreat was fabulous. Our instructor was Barbara Cline, who specializes in Y-seams. I need to learn how to do Y-Seams, but this just isn't the time. Here's the class sample:

and here are some of the quilts the class was making:

She had samples and patterns for some of her other quilts there as well:

I loved this demin and flannel quilt, and hope to make something similar sometime this year.

In the meantime, here's what I was working on:

It was so nice to have all day to just quilt and hang out with friends. When I got home, after the delicious potluck dinner, always one of the highlights of the retreat, I felt so energized that I told the kids to round up some firewood - we were going to have a campfire! We stayed out late, roasting hot dogs and then marshmallows and trying to pick constellations out of the sky. My kids are so much fun - they are always up for anything.

Saturday was Day 2 of the retreat. We began with our monthly business meeting, which I missed because I brought the boys with me and we were running late. Another quilter has a daughter who is a few years older than Jason, and they all play very well together, so while they were with me all day, they didn't cut into my sewing time at all. I did get there in time for the slideshow and trunk show by Barbara Cline, though. I love that she didn't just show us her quilts, she also showed us her family. She's a neat lady. She has 6 sisters and one sister-in-law, and they all get together for 9 (yes, N-I-N-E!!) consecutive days each year for a sewing retreat. It gives me grand thoughts for my 2-day retreat with my sister every year... It was also cool to see the quilts that will be featured in her book that is coming out later this year, Star Strcuk Quilts. In short, they are AMAZING!

The woman who opened a quilt shop in the next town over last year set up a booth at the retreat.

I bought some Warm & Natural Batting for my Orphan Quilt, and I hope to put that together this week, maybe even in time for the drive-in next weekend. I also inherited some more juvenile scraps from a generous guild member, so I spent quite a bit of time on Saturday cutting, rather than sewing. The 6-inch blocks will go into my snowball "I Spy" quilt, and the other squares will go into their respective tins for use in a future project.

It is great to have a reputation as a scrap quilter - I am always getting surprise bags of fabric scraps.

The retreat wrapped up around 3 PM on Saturday. It was held at the Virginia Horse Center where they were also hosting a Spring Premiere Equestrian event. From our retreat room, we could look down on a Jumper competition in the coliseum, and I had been wanting to see more all weekend.

So, instead of going straight home, the kids and I loaded all my sewing stuff into the car, and walked around. It was fun, but I can tell that I'll be fending off frequent and fervent requests from the boys for a horse or pony for some time to come.

Last night, the boys and I went to the drive-in to see "How To Train Your Dragon" and "Sherlock Holmes." My brother came with his girlfriend and her two kids, and we had a great time, although my brother and I were the only two to stay awake through both movies.

Today, I slept in, and have spent most of the afternoon on the porch with Arlene Sachitano's "Quilt As You Go", a Harriet Truman mystery. It isn't my favorite series, but it will do. Oh, and how can I forget, while driving around this past week and weekend, I listened to all of Jennifer Chiaverini's "The Aloha Quilt." It was a good one, one with a current plot rather than one with lots of flashbacks to previous novels like some of her most recent books. I have already read those books; I don't want a new book to just relive what I've already read! If you like her Elm Creek Quilts books, then I recommend this one. And it has got me itching to try a quilt in the Hawaiin style, although that will have to wait until I get some others off my plate.

Between the retreat, the book, and the book on CD, I have immersed myself in quilting this weekend, and I must say, I feel better than I have, both physically and emotionally, than I have in months. Quilt therapy, there is nothing better!