Sunday, August 29, 2010

21 kids, 23 hours

Jason's 8th birthday was this past Saturday, and our weekend-long celebration was lots of fun, but I sure am dragging now! After a double feature at the drive-in on Friday night, on Saturday we had a joint 8th birthday party for Jason and two of his friends who all have birthdays around the same time. We didn't get around to sending out invites to Saturday's party until Friday, so we felt certain that not too many kids would show up. Boy, were we wrong! 21 kids showed up for the party, held at a cabin on a creek in the George Washington National Forest, and only one kid's parent stuck around for the festivities (beyond the parents of the 3 birthday kiddos). I am amazed at how well all the kids got along, but I've gotta admit, it was hard to relax with that many kids under our watchful eyes. And of course, we planned activities that our kids like thinking there would just be a couple kids, activities that become much more stressful the more kids you have around. They:
  • caught toads and crawfish in the creek
  • went fishing
  • played water balloon games
  • did target practice with a bow and arrow (gulp!)
  • did target practice with a bb gun (double gulp!)
  • roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire (no, you can NOT throw crawfish into the fire!)
  • played on the swingset and ran around and played kid games like tag, kick the can, water gun tag, etc
To top it off, it was a campout party. The kids were invited to spend the night with us. In addition to our 5 kids, 5 other kids decided to go the distance with us. Of course, only 3 lasted the whole night (hey, kid, couldn't you have your nervous breakdown about camping out BEFORE 10 o'clock at night!?! Especially when we have to drive 5 miles out to get cell phone reception and your parents are 45 minutes away!?!). Needless to say, it was a late night. I was in our 8 person tent with 5 children and one other adult. One kid talked in his sleep all night and kept sitting straight up in his sleep. He was also a cover thief, and he woke me up as he pulled my blanket off me. Thank goodness for my drive-in movie quilt; it has gotten lots of use since it was finished. I had a deathgrip on the quilt and rolled to a corner of the tent to stake out my territory. I was cozy and warm, but I was terribly uncomfortable. Next time, I'm bringing an air mattress!

The last kid got picked up at noon, 22 hours after he had been dropped off, and the parent of another birthday kid and I just collapsed into lawn chairs for another hour while our children enjoyed some archery practice without a million other kids in line. I've learned my lesson - never assume that they won't all come, assume that they all WILL COME and limit the guest list! My sensitive, diplomatic son didn't want to leave anyone in his class off the invitation list, but even he admitted to me that there were kids there that he didn't really know.

All's well that ends well, though, and they all had lots of fun. Not a one left without pouting or crying because he/she didn't want to leave.

So, you can understand why I was feeling a bit bedraggled when I got home, and why no real sewing took place this weekend. I took a shower and a nap, and spent the late afternoon finishing another Beverly Connor book (a Lindsay Chamberlain Mystery - it's official, I am now a fan). My brain is too tired to try to come up with a solution to my "make it bigger without having enough fabric" dilemma with my GGG quilt, anyway. So for now, I'm starting another book and getting a full night's sleep before starting the week tomorrow. I wish I could say it was going to be an easy one, but we have an overnight retreat for work midweek. (*sigh*) There is just no rest for the weary.

Friday, August 27, 2010

For and about Minis

I'm still considering my options for my Great-Great-Grandmother's quilt (GGG). So, instead of working on that last night, I spent some time making some more bibs. They aren't done yet - I still need to do the top stitching and add velcro closures, but aren't they CUTE! When Christmas rolls around this year, I'm going to be ready with some gifties!

Most of this fabric came from Becky at As the Quilt Turns last November when she was looking to unload some scraps. Thanks again, Becky!

Oh, and I entered another quilt in the weekly themed contest at the Quilting Gallery. I had forgotten until I got an email from someone I've never met who voted for mine. How cool - thank you Joe Tulips! This week's theme is Minatures, and I entered this little shirts and ties quilt titled Haberdashery that won me an Honorable Mention ribbon in the County Fair a couple years ago.

I took at peek at the other entries and WOW! Yet again, I am in awe of what others have done. It is a good thing I can't see everyone else's submissions before I submit my own, because I would be too humbled to put my quilt out there. I saw that Em put her House that Love Built quilt in there - love it! I encourage you to get a fresh cup of coffee or tea, and spend 10 minutes checking out the little lovelies!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

7 year itch?

This morning, I was greeted with an email greeting card from the Human Resources Department here at work. "Happy W & L Anniversary!" Apparently, this is the 7th anniversary of my first day of work here. Seven years!?!

For some of you, that's small potatos. But let me give you a little background about myself. By the time I turned 18, I had moved 25 times. No, my family wasn't military, but different circumstances - illness in extended family, unemployment, poverty, racism (my father was Black, my mother is White), perceived greener pastures elsewhere - conspired to make my family very nomadic in nature. While I was born in Camden, New Jersey, I lived in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, Oregon and mostly, Maine. I tell people I'm from Maine, when asked. Not only were many of our moves within that state, but my mom's family is also from there. That's where I lived all through middle school and high school, and it is where I went home to when I was in college.

Fast forward to the night before my twin sister, Ericka
(here she is now with my beautiful niece), graduated from college. On that night, I laid eyes upon the most handsome and intriguing man I had ever seen. He was a classmate of my sister's and would be graduating with her the next morning. He approached my sister and asked, since they were friends, if she minded if he "talked" to me. Her response, "Sure, it's not like you'll ever see her again!" So that night, I spent some time getting to know this young man. I remember telling him about all the moving I had done growing up, and how, now that I was an adult and responsible for my own whereabouts, I was going to put down some roots, enough with all this wandering about.

Both my sister and I had to eat our words that night. I've been with that man for 17 years now, married for 10 of them. And he and I have moved 14 times; some roots, huh?

Until we got here, to beautiful, idyllic Lexington, Virginia. As my email this morning reminded me, I've been working at the same place for 7 years now, and living in the same house for 6 and a half of those years. Sounds like the beginnings of some roots, doesn't it?

Speaking of longevity (OK, bad segue), I worked on my Great-Great-Grandmother's quilt more last night (I confirmed with Mom last night that it was made by her Great-Grandmother). I have completed the blocks for the center section. It isn't as big as I would like it to be, but since this was obviously a scrap quilt when it was made, I wanted to continue with that "spirit" and only use fabrics that I had on hand to re-create it. As a scrap quilter, I don't have a lot of anything, so that limited what I could use for the new fabric in my alternate blocks here. It actually isn't muslin, but rather, a delicate pale beige floral print on an off-white background. It reads as solid unless you are up close. Anyway, I've used all of it. I love the way it looks so far, but how to make this quilt bigger?

I have 4 alternate blocks (the X shape) remaining. I have a fair amount of original fabric squares and HST remaining. My thought right now is to put one of those X blocks in each corner, and then fill in sides with original fabric squares and HSTs. That would make the resulting quilt about 48" square. Not as big as I'd like, but it may just have to do. Another thought is to frame the inside of the quilt with a 2" border of a darker, solid-reading fabric from my stash before adding that outside border with the X blocks and the original fabric. That gets me up to 52" square. It might also be a good idea to frame the whole thing with a fabric from my stash to add stability to the edges - I am worried about attaching a binding to these fragile fabrics. If I were to add a 6" border all around the aforementioned 2 borders, I'd have 64" square, big enough to cuddle under on the couch. But I don't know. These are just the ideas that came to me when I got to this stopping point last night. Any ideas, anyone? I don't want to overwhelm the original fabrics with too much new stock, and I don't want to buy anything, just use what is in my stash. Any ideas are more than welcome!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First day with my new feet!

Do you remember the little 2.5" 4-patches that I found at the Habitat Resale Store a month ago for a quarter?
I put them together, and used the resulting mini-quilt as my first machine quilting project with my new walking foot. What fun! I finished the binding and buried all the threads last night while watching America's Got Talent. I've only seen the show two or three times, and while America has more talent than I do, I was mightily UN-impressed with many of the acts. Anyway, VOILA!
It measures 13.75" by 21.5".

I marked the lines with my blue marking pen, and again, marvelled at the fact that the lines come right out with water. I was a non-believer for so long, so I find it so fascinating to watch the marks disappear right in front of my eyes!
The stitches are all different lengths, and I don't know yet the correct way to start and stop, but I'll figure it out.
I was so happy when I finished burying all the threads on the front until I turned it over and realized I had to do it on the back, too. Ugh!

Next up, free motion quilting with the Quilt-Along by Christina over at A Few Scraps!

In other news, this week is the first week of school. Here are the boys waiting for the bus on Monday, making faces, as usual (and with toothpaste on Donald's shirt, as usual). They were both so excited, and on Day 3, the level of excitement remains high. It is such a blessing to have both boys in school together now - I feel much more relaxed, much less like a chicken running around with her head cut off picking up one, then the other, trying to remember two different schedules and whatnot.

Donald getting on the bus. The driver rushed him on, wouldn't let him pose on the steps for a photo. C'mon grumpy ol' bus driver, dude! A kid only has ONE first day of Kindergarten!

I got over my annoyance with the bus driver once I realized that I got to enjoy my entire 18-minute commute to work in SILENCE. Or listening to NPR without someone in the back seat complaining about the boring news. I sure do love my little boys, but I am also enjoying the independence we are all gaining as they grow up!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I had a list for myself today.
  • Bake banana bread with those bananas that are starting to attract fruit flies
  • Read a book on the porch with a cup of coffee and a yummy snack
  • Sweep all the floors to see how many dust puppies we can make with all the hair my dog has shed since the last time I swept
  • Mop the floors to see what color they truly are
  • Wash clothes since the sun is shining and the @$*!#@% dryer is on the fritz again
  • Watch some TV or a movie
  • Make some progress on my great-grandmother's quilt

I did everything except watch TV. Six out of seven isn't bad, now, is it? I'm feeling pretty darned good about myself!

About the book, it was Rumor of Bones by Beverly Connor, and I really enjoyed it. It is the first of a series about an archaeologist who finds herself solving mysteries, new and old. Apparently there are 5 books in the series, and I'll be going to the library tomorrow to see if they have any more of them. It seems Beverly Connor also has another series of 9 books with another female anthropologist protagonist. I imagine I'll be checking those out eventually, too. I love finding new series to fall in love with!

And while I was on the porch reading, Donald was building a house
and Jason was working on his summer workbook
(Yeah, school starts tomorrow. I TOLD him to work on it a little every day this summer, but did he listen to me? NO! Instead, the last three days have found him poring over this book for HOURS. I feel for him, but I'm not above saying "I told you so!" I did let him eat some of the fresh-from-the-oven banana bread, though.)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my Great-Grandmother's quilt, here's what it looked like in May 2009. The story of this quilt was in my first entry for this blog in June 2009.
It was falling to pieces, with holes big enough to fit my torso through.
Even though much of it was un-useable, I told my mom I would try to resurrect it. So, I've been cutting the pieces down to 2" squares where possible, and putting them back together. Some are solid blocks, some are HST. All are extremely fragile and faded and lightweight and uber-stretchy. I love all the neat fabrics and the concept behind this project, but I ran out of steam a while back, partially because I was making blocks with no idea how to set them together.

Well, today changed all that. I had and idea and tried it out and I LOVE IT! My interest in this project has been renewed! What do you think?

And as you can see on the top of the photo, my next color word is YELLOW. A couple years ago, I realized that yellow is beautiful, a very under-appreciated color. Have you re-discovered a color, one that you once passed by but now can't get enough of?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Tomorrow (well, today, since I am up after midnight) is the last day of my last summer vacation week. How is this possible? I don't want the fun to end!

I spent my sewing hours the last few days stocking up on some quick gifts. I had planned to make 10 gift card keyrings, but accidentally cut one fabric twice, so I have 11.

My favorite is this green - I may have to keep it for myself.

I also made two crayon rolls, but I have more fabric picked out to make some more. These were a hit last Christmas. Don't you just love the snake fabric?

Both of these are great projects to use up that last little bit of a fabric that isn't really big enough to feature in any other project. I was diligent about cutting any leftover scraps from these fabrics into my scrap squares. Slowly but surely, I am whittling away at my scrap piles.

Those 1.5" squares continue to be fun to work with. Today, I finished GREEN. I would make the G a little differently if I were to do it again, but this works for me, too.

And since I was using black thread, I whipped up another pair of wonky stars.

Tomorrow, I want to do some handwork (sew down the binding of my mini quilt that I machine quilted so I can show you all my maiden efforts) and sew a few more blocks on my Great Grandmother's quilt and visit my mom and watch some TV and read on the porch and nap and whip up another color word (I really want to do YELLOW) and go to the pool with the kids and the list goes on. There's no way I can do everything I want to do on my last day of vacation. What I really need to do is one last load of laundry so I start the week laundry-free and mop my nasty floors. Today, I bought a new mop head, thinking that would motivate me to mop. Nope, didn't work.

Since there is so much I want to do tomorrow, I should go to bed so I can get up early and get started. Make the most of your day, too!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

If I ever find the time to sit still and write...

...I shall like to write in one of the quilted composition books I've been working on lately. Just trying to use up scraps and small orphan blocks and the like.

Only one, the purple with green leaves, has been hand quilted so far, but I'll be working on the others soon.

But there's been no time to sit still lately. On Monday, we went to Kings Dominion amusement park. It's official - I'm a scaredy-cat who doesn't like rollercoasters!

On Tuesday, it was Colonial Williamsburg. As an archaeological anthropology major in college, I really enjoyed this trip. Jason also enjoyed it and wrote "HISTORY ROCKS!" on his brochure. Donald, on the other hand, complained nearly every second of the day. But what fun, hands-on stuff there was to do!

Washing hands the old-fashioned way (soap and water instead of hand sanitizer from a pump dispenser)

Making biscuits in a kitchen that put every sauna I've ever been in to shame!

Playing dress up

Sitting on the "throne" in the jail cell

Participating in a play (Jason -in blue in front - was militia; that's why he's marching)

Rolling hoops - I must say, I'm quite good at this!
I'm proud to report that I resisted the temptation to leave the complaining Donald in the stockades until we were ready to leave...

Mashing clay with our feet for bricks - like a facial for your feet - heavenly!

Wednesday, we had karate, and then rollerskating, but it turns out the skating rink was closed. Never fear - the bowling alley was right down the road. The boys were hilarious cheering each other on. Also waiting for the balls to return (yeah, one of those kids isn't mine - Donald had a friend over for a sleepover).

Today, I've been doing laundry and sewing while they've been exploring the woods. They found a turtle, and brought him inside in a shoebox to hang out with them until I documented for them his escape-artist tendencies and convinced them he was better suited outside.

Tonight, more karate, kindergarten orientation, and Back to School night for cub scouts. I can't believe tomorrow is Friday - where has my week of vacation gone? I thought for sure I'd have a chance to sit back and relax!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reflections on a long day

Today's day trip to Harrisonburg was fun, but exhausting, both physically and emotionally. I really wanted to go to the Virginia Quilt Museum , but I'll have to save that for another day. Instead, the kids and I went to the Harrisonburg Children's Museum, which had free admission since it was National Children's Day, or some such thing. It was small and modest, but perfect for my age kids.

Trying on the football gear (it's funny, the football gear was right next to the pretend ambulance - coincidence? I think not.)

Rock wall climbing

In the cutest pretend barn you ever saw, collecting eggs from stuffed chicken puppets while wearing cowboy boots and cowboy hats

After we painted our own faces (note, we kept our facepaint on for the remainder of the day, which got us some stares and giggles at the gas station, the retirement home, the restaurant, the highway - I hope I made someone's day with my silliness)

When the museum kicked us out at closing time, we walked up the street for some homemade ice cream. Yum!

Then it was off to visit our old neighbors who moved away two years ago to live in a retirement community. First, they moved into a home, but as dementia became more cumbersome for both of them, they moved into assisted living. This was our first visit to them since they moved to assisted living about 3 months ago.

I'm so glad I went to visit, but I've had a ball of tears sitting in my throat since we first walked in the door. My first thought was that their lives have shrunk so much. He worked for the State Department, and they lived all around the globe in their younger years. When they were my neighbors, they were retired and caring for their beautiful home that they had built themselves on their 8 acres of heaven. Now, they are living in two meager rooms that, combined, are smaller than my dining room. I had brought them a dessert ready to pop in the oven to bake, a Peach Crisp made from peaches that my co-worker picked from her own tree and brought in to me, angel that she is. However, they don't have a kitchen or any way to cook or keep it, so I discretely brought it back out to the car with me when we left. This for a woman who greeted me with fresh baked cookies on the day we moved in, and who never once let me come over without offering coffee or tea and a treat.

My second thought was that losing your memory has to be the cruelest thing there is. Jason asked them how many children they had, and it took some time for them to remember. When we went out to eat (to a buffet, of all places, what a terrible idea for a party of two active kids, two senile adults and one bewildered and beleaguered woman trying to keep track of everyone), every time they got up, they sat back down at a different table and I kept having to go find them and bring them back to our table. The husband never spoke our names the whole time we were with him - I'm pretty sure he had no idea who we were, but was happy for the company nonetheless. I can't count the number of times I heard one or the other of them say "I don't remember".

My final thought was that I need to enjoy and appreciate my loved ones every day that we have together. I wish I had visited them more when we were neighbors (of course, maybe THEY wouldn't have wanted me over there any more than I already was), I wish I had asked more questions and absorbed more of their wisdom while it was still readily available for them to share. I wish they were still the same friends that I knew and loved, whom I could look up to and rely on. It is selfish of me, I know, but I'm not ready to be the responsible, older and wiser generation - I still want to leave that to others so I can go to them when my young, inexperienced, naive self needs help. I claim to embrace change, but in this sense, I do not.
Are you depressed yet? Let me lighten the mood, first with a photo of the wall in the women's restroom at the museum - I love the whimsical paint job as well as the sentiment expressed.
And I've seen this building every time I've gone to Harrisonburg, and every time I have gone out of my way to drive by it multiple times - I think it is so neat. So this time, much to the amusement of my children, I stopped and took a photo.
Wouldn't you just love to go inside? I sure would. Of course, I'm happy enough just to gaze upon the outside - the detailing on the porch, above the windows, that neat windowed room(?) at the top. One of my favorite pasttimes is walking or driving past homes and trying to imagine the lives that are lived there. I wonder if anyone ever does that when they drive past my house (of course, since I live on a dead end dirt road with only 2 families up beyond us, we don't get a lot of traffic past our house). But if they did, I would want to assure them that the lives lived here are full to bursting, full of color and noise and chaos and peace and happiness and awe and irreverence and laughter and love.

Super Saturday!

I was greeted by this gentleman when I emerged from my room Saturday morning.

It turns out, he was a spy, although I don't know for whom he works. Apparently, for an ally nation here to share child obedience intelligence because when I returned from my quilt guild meeting, my children had showered and cleaned their room and were playing nicely on the porch. At Show and Tell, I shared my Tree Skirt, my orphan quilt, my Bright Future quilt and my Ribbon Quilt. Yup, you heard me correctly - I finished piecing the Ribbon Quilt top and it is off my design wall - time for something(s) new!

I did the requisite hour of domestic duties (on this day it sweeping floors, feeding the children lunch and washing dishes) before retreating down to my quilt studio to sew away the overcast, drizzly afternoon. The story of the adventurous, imaginative Anne of Green Gables was a great accompaniment for my first project - machine guided quilting. My quilting feet arrived in the mail on Friday and I was itching to try them out. I decided to start with the walking foot, and what fun that was! What a neat sensation to feel the fabric feeding through like that nearly on its own. I quilted up that mini quilt with the orphan 4-patch blocks all with straight lines, but no photos yet - first, I have to figure out how to bury those stray threads.

Then I moved on to a new color word. It should be no surprise that PINK was the next word I tackled - short and sweet (and quick!). I think I'm out of 3 and 4 letter colors, unfortunately.

And then, I chose to try a project that I saw on the Greenstitch blog, making a drawstring backpack from a t-shirt. I took one of the many t-shirts that I have and don't wear, but don't want to get rid of because they mean something to me. For this project, I used a t-shirt from a parent vs. kid (college aged kid) soccer game in which I participated 5 years ago at work. I was on the parent team, and had a great time, but somehow managed to dislocate 2 ribs. I guess I got a little carried away. Anyway, barely half an hour later...

Look, it is lined!

I love it! I'll be wearing it today when the kids and I head to Harrisonburg to check out their Children's Museum (there is free admission today - yay!). Afterwards, we'll be visiting our neighbors who moved away to Harrisonburg to live in a retirement community, the neighbor upon whose quilt I took my first hand quilting stitches. I sure do miss them!

Have a supercalifragilisticespealidocious Sunday, everyone! (did I spell that right, Ms. Poppins?)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Check out all the embroidery!

Remember my first ever embroidery project - the four blocks I put together in a frame that I bought from Angela at Country Scrap Quilts for my mother-in-law's Christmas present?

Well, just for kicks, and inspired by Char at Cloth Stitched, I entered it into the weekly themed quilt contest over at Quilting Bloggers. Just now, I popped over there to see what else had been entered. Oh, boy, am I humbled! Click here to check out the 32 submissions for this week and vote for your favorite. I found lots of inspiration there, and you may, too! I'm pretty sure that embroidery will be my project during travel season this year.

But let's take things one day at a time. Once I get off work today, I'm heading straight home for an hour or so of sewing and listening to Anne of Green Gables - I repeat: I VOW to get those rows of the Ribbon Quilt sewn together and get it off the design wall TODAY. Then, it is pick the kids up from camp, head to the pool to cool off, then to the drive-in for Despicable Me, which I've not yet seen but about which I have heard wonderful things.

In the morning, I plan to bring my Orphan Drive-In quilt, my Bright Future quilt and my Christmas Tree Skirt to Show and Tell at the Quilt Guild Meeting, and then I want to get my flannel buzzsaw quilt and my great grandmother's quilt up onto the design wall to start making some progress on those.

I'm so glad it is Friday. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Better late than never, right?

A short while ago (well, back in July), I stumbled across Monkey Dog Quilts and her Christmas In July Blitz giveaway. Basically, she was fired up about getting started on some Christmas quilts, and wanted company. I signed up - heck, I'm tired of trying to get all my Christmas sewing done between December 20 and December 24 at 11:59 PM. Besides, I could win some Christmas fabrics! Well, I didn't win, but I did make a Christmas Tree Skirt, which I've been wanting forever! While it is not completely done, it is done enough to show and demonstrate that I followed through on my commitment to actually make something.

Hand quilting this puppy has been much more time consuming than putting it together. Honestly, this isn't a project that I wanted to commit hours and hours of hand quilting to, as it is going to be just peeking out from under a tree and likely covered by presents. That motivated me to go online yesterday and order a set of quilting feet for my machine - a walking foot and a free motion darning foot, along with a couple others. Machine quilting, here I come!

In the meantime, here's what I did on the Tree Skirt: outline quilting inside each of the tan pieces

and outline quilting around the circumference of the inner and outer darker (red and green) circles. Right now there is only one row of quilting in those circles, but I plan to at least do one more in each.

My plans to complete this by the quilt guild meeting on Saturday have been thwarted by the fact that Jason and I are taking a Nunchuck camp at karate this week, which translates into 3 HOURS of karate every day, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

By the time I get home, it is 8 PM. I have to prepare dinner and put the kids to bed, and then I'm asleep. I made a date with the hubby last night to watch our Netflix selection (the pilot of the HBO series, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency), and while I was enjoying it, I was asleep within half an hour. My wonderful husband just turned it off and sent me to bed. (By the way, this same WONDERFUL HUSBAND fixed our dryer yesterday!!! YAY! I probably won't use it anytime soon, but when cold weather hits, I surely don't want to be out taking frozen - and still wet - clothes from the clothesline.)

So, while I'm a little bummed about being behind schedule on this Tree Skirt, in reality, I am WAAAAY ahead of schedule, right? I guarantee it will be done a full 4 months before Christmas. And I bet this Tree Skirt will have siblings and cousins before all is said and done, since it was so much fun to make.