Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just in case you think my travel is glamourous...

Let me be the first to dispel that notion. Today started with a cold shower. Note that I HATE cold showers, but I couldn't figure out which way to turn the knob for hot water in my sister's guest bathroom and I was the only one awake. Pathetic, I know, but I was in a hurry. I wanted to leave early enough to stop by a Dunkin Donuts on the way to my first school visit. Doubly pathetic, I know.

I got out of the house in plenty of time, but Dunkin Donuts was not to be. Knowing that I had to make a left turn eventually, I was driving on the left hand side of the many lanes of traffic on my way to the first school visit when I realized, too late, that I needed to be in the right lane to continue on the road I was on. I tried to move over, but I'm not the aggressive driver I used to be, and I didn't make it. I found myself driving over the bridge into Camden, NJ. Luckily, I don't stress out about being lost. I do stress out about being late, though, so I called the school and let them know my mistake and that I'd be running behind. Once over the bridge, I swung around to come back into Philly, along with about half of New Jersey all trying to squeeze into the same four lanes. Unfortunately, as I was nearing the toll booth, I remembered that my cash was in my jeans pocket - back at my sister's house. I navigated out of the toll lanes and started driving around Camden looking for an ATM. That experience was much like finding my quilting needle when I lost it on the couch one day this summer - akin to finding the needle in the proverbial haystack all the while with a rising sense of panic. I finally found a bodega with an ATM sign outside, got some cash, and got back in line to cross the bridge. I made it to the school half an hour late. Oh well. I'd be on time to my NEXT visit.

Wrong. The directions said that the trip to the next school would take 12 minutes. Try 31 minutes. I was late there as well. 0 for 2.

I arrived at my third school on time and had a nice chat with 3 young men who were interested in my university. I was feeling good about myself until the 4th young man showed up as I was packing up to go. I couldn't NOT take the time to talk with him, so there went my cushion of time between visit 3 and 4. I left there with not a minute to spare to get to school number 4 on time.

Did I mention yet that Philly is experiencing heavy rain today? Flood and tornado watches? Just as I was about to arrive at school number 4 on time, I was turned back by 2 men who had blocked the road with their emergency vehicles. The road was flooded. They sent me about 5 miles around to another entrance to the school, but I was late again. How embarrassing! In 8 years, I have rarely ever been late to a school visit, but today ruined my record.

I'm not doing this trip again next year. It wasn't just today. On Monday, I visited 7 schools in Wilmington, DE and got lost 4 times. I must have driven past a sign for the BLUE BALL BARN eight times on Monday. At one point, I was starting to think that it was a sign that instead of visiting schools I should find some good-timing cows to bring to the frustrated bulls that must certainly reside in that barn. (If that reference is lost on you, bless your pure heart and clean mind. If that reference offended you, I apologize, but don't you think it is better that I was silly giddy instead of succumbing to road rage?)

So, after visit 4, I began the trip back to my sister's house, a 30 mile trip that took nearly 2 hours, during which my monthly cycle began. Lovely. I came in the house, put on my pajamas and picked up my nephew for some baby therapy. I would be perfectly happy never getting back into a car in Philadelphia ever again. Of course, I have to go out later tonight to give a presentation. Ugh!

The whole week hasn't been me driving around lost. My nephew is super cute and such a happy baby. Doesn't he look good on me?

This was us yesterday. I came home from the school visits and found my sister in tears. We were supposed to be going out for a nice dinner and she had been trying on clothes trying to find something that fit to wear out. Those of you who have given birth understand her tears. It hasn't even been 4 months, and my poor misguided sister thought she'd be able to get back into her pre-pregnancy 2s and 4s. I packed her and the baby into my rental car and we went to Macy's to go shopping for clothes that fit. After giving her a crash course in styles and fabrics that compliment her more mature, voluptuous figure, I could virtually see her spirits lifting as we took advantage of a huge sale to get nearly a whole new wardrobe for her. By the time we dressed for a (very late) dinner, her smile was a real one. She's one hot mama, isn't she?

The whole happy family (that's the top of Dorian's head peeking out of the wrap on my sister. He slept through dinner. I tell you, he is ONE GOOD BABY!)

After two school visits tomorrow, I head back home. I'm looking forward to the quiet, leisurely pace of life in Lexington, VA and to hanging out with my three guys. And I am determined to spend some time with my sewing machine before I leave for Mexico next Wednesday. At least in Latin America I have a driver and don't have to navigate the roads on my own!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Three great days back to back!

No time for lots of text but there's always time for photos!

On Thursday, I stopped by Tamarack in Beckley, WV to check out the WV artisans' work. It's a good thing I can make quilts, because I could never afford to buy one there. This lap sized, machine quilted quilt was nearly $1200.

I love the stitching!

This hand quilted bed-sized quilt was nearly $2400! (sorry, forgot to rotate the photo)

Another photo not rotated, but I loved the quilting as well as the two fabrics used in this lap sized quilt. $600

I had to take a photo of this Christmas Tree quilt so I could remember to make one for myself. Very festive, but it isn't made with holiday fabrics.

It was the first time I've ever seen dolls made from corn husks. Aren't they precious?

Then, late on Thursday, my twin sister arrived in town, and we hung out late catching up.

Friday was a work day, but I was able to start and end it with my sister, and apparently she spent all the hours in between explaining to everyone she passed that she was not me. People didn't believe her. I know we are twins, but I don't think we look that much alike anymore. Apparently, I am in the minority. She loved the quilted composition book I gave her

and she gave me the coolest (warmest) socks that she knitted
and a novel, The Writing Circle, with a personalized note from the author to me saying that maybe this would be the year of MY novel. Oh how I wish!

Today, I had to work in the AM, then took my sister over the mountain to my mom's in the afternoon, then back over the mountain to my house to have dinner and fun with my brother and his girlfriend and her kids. Fun included all three of us siblings dying our hair reddish,
plus some karaoke
and some karate demonstrations.
Needless to say, I haven't been to bed before midnight in three days and I am exhausted, but my face aches from smiling so much. I love my family! I just wish my younger sister had been here to have fun with us. I'm on my way up to Philadelphia to recruit for this coming week, and I'll be staying with her, so we can work on making some memories of our own.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Quilts, quilts and more quilts!

My days on the road have a predictable rhythm to them - rush about from 7:30 AM until 3 PM, visiting school after school, saying the same thing over and over again to new faces every hour, craving something to eat or drink but not having the time to stop for fear I won't make it to my next appointment on time. But then 3 o'clock rolls around and schools let out, and there is nothing more for me to do. That's when I start exploring. And West Virginia is fertile ground for seeking out QUILTS!

I stopped at a public library to use the rest room, and this antique mall was across the street.

"Eh, I'll check it out, maybe they'll have a quilt or two," was my thought. Jackpot!!!
These old quilts are SOOOO soft!
I was intrigued by this block - I'm pretty sure I've never seen it. Anyone know what it is called?

Here's what I'd like my hand quilting to look like on my quilts decades after they have been completed. Beautiful!
New and old, all mixed together.

I love driving the back roads rather than the highways. There is always something to see. Jackpot!

What a great pattern to use up tiny scraps!

There were so many things I'd love to have taken home with me, these 32 hand pieced blocks, for example. I love them, but I feel confident that I'll not piece these blocks on my own.

Oh, I LOVED this soft, worn earthy quilt!

but personal property taxes are due in a few weeks and I'm trying to be mindful of money. I patted myself on the back for walking away with just a bag of solid fabric scraps, something I don't have much of (solids, not scraps).

The big SALE sign at JoAnn's got me in the door. I was looking for more Quilt Patis to work on my Grandmother's Flower Garden hexagon quilt. No luck, but I did get two packages of batting for 40% off (I can't wait to get my needle into my Great Great Grandmother's Quilt!), two remnants at 50% off, and some flannel for $2.99/yard. I've got an idea for a rag quilt percolating in my little head...

So, while I'm missing my guys out here on the road, I'm taking advantage of being unencumbered by karate and cub scouts and the incessant "are we there yet?" and seeing where the country roads take me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Almost Heaven, West Virginia

West Virginia is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been - and I've been lots of places. I love the texture, the colors, the surprising vistas around every curve. Instead of taking the highway today, I took John Denver's "country roads", and what a treat! He was right, it IS almost heaven.

But the joys of my day were overshadowed by sorrow. One of the students that I recruited from West Virginia 4 years ago lost his battle with cancer today. When I got the news, I sat in my car and cried. It isn't that I was particularly close to this boy, but that's what he was, a boy. A brillant, kind-hearted young boy. Had he lived, he'd have graduated from college this coming May, very likely near the top of his class - he was just that smart. When he was diagnosed with cancer last year, he "friended" me on Facebook and sent me a message to let me know what was going on, but also how my husband and I had made an impact on his life. I wish I had kept that message. I honestly never thought that he wouldn't win this battle. He was such a GOOD person, and in my mind, bad things don't happen to good people.

Enjoy Heaven, kiddo. I'm down here in Almost Heaven thinking of you up there.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reluctant realization

I'm not as liberated a quilter as I'd like to think I am. Sure, my stuff is scrappy; I have no qualms putting a batik next to a repro next to a novelty fabric. Sure, patterns are merely suggestions in my mind, and I rarely do as told. Sure, I think wonky is wonderful, and do not stress over points that don't match or corners that aren't square.

However, I realized today that I am a slave to symmetry. I was playing around, continuing to add to my ERIN quilt, and was careful to make sure that the odd fabric triangles in the 2 rows of green/beige that I added were diagonally opposite each other.

Then, I almost didn't add the bottom row with the 4 Drunkards Path blocks connected by the strips because I didn't have a similar batch of orphans to add to the top of the quilt. Why is symmetry so important to me? Especially in a project like this, which is my version of V's/BumbleBean's "15 Minutes of Play", a vehicle to use up orphans and other scraps of fabric? Here I thought I was so liberated, but as I look back over my creations, I realize I am not. That makes me a little bit sad - it is hard to come to terms with the fact that you are not exactly the way you imagine yourself to be.

So, I'm challenging myself. At some point soon, I'm going to try to make something that is not symmetrical. Please help me hold myself to that challenge.

In the meantime, I was also playing around with all those new scraps of mine, and couldn't resist starting something new, something that could be made with 5" charm squares.

(note that only the right side has been sewn together, which is why the left side looks so wonky)
So far, 50 fabrics have been incorporated into this project, but I think I'm going to have 6 rows of 12 fabrics rather than the 5 rows of 10 fabrics that I have so far. That will leave me with just enough of the white fabric to add a 2" finished border and then that white fabric is all gone - stash busted!

Tomorrow morning, I head off to West Virginia. I wish I could make this weekend last just one day longer. I accomplished all the goals I set out for myself on Friday with the exception of going through the kids' clothes for Goodwill donations. Not bad! Here's hoping that my week on the road is just as productive, if not as creative.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Goals for the weekend

It's Friday, it's Friday!!! Anyone else out there doing a happy dance?

Here are my goals for the weekend:
  • Help my son set up his online fundraising site for cub scouts (I HATE fundraising!!!)
  • Prepare some hexagons to take with me on next week's 4-day driving trip to West Virginia
  • Go through my children's clothes and take a load to Goodwill (and maybe, just maybe, while I am dropping things off, I can take a peek to see if they have anything I want to take home...)
  • Continue playing with this to see where it goes next (I see lots of orphan blocks finding a home with this project)

  • Finish reading The Geometry of Sisters by Luanne Rice (LOVING it!!!)
  • Spend as much time as possible outside, enjoying the end of summer/the advent of autumn
  • Hug my family enough to get them (and ME) through next week's separation

Here's hoping your weekend plans include fun and family, too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Lesson Learned

Every evening, I try to remember to ask my children what they learned that day. Then, I try to remember to ask MYSELF the same thing. Yesterday, I learned two things:

First, you can't help someone who is not willing to help himself. Long story, but a lesson that I needed to learn.

The second thing I learned is that it is easier to be WONKY when you start WIDE. As I promised myself, I delved into my new scraps yesterday. I wanted to make some free-pieced, wonky letters/words, along the lines of Em and Tonya. I found a thin strip of blue in my scrap bag, and then picked one of my new neutral scraps out of my newly purchased scrap bag, and sat down to sew.

It was fun and liberating to just let the letters come together on their own, but I couldn't go as wonky as I wanted because my blue strip was so thin, only about 1" wide. So this is little, about 6"x12", but I've already located two orphan blocks that I want to add to it, and I have a feeling it is going to grow. The perfect project for an evening when I wanted to clear my mind. The border is made from some of my pre-cut 1.5" squares.

But the lesson learned - next time I make free-pieced words (and there WILL be a next time), I will start WIDE and be WONKY as all get out!

What have you learned lately?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I want to be at home playing with scraps!

Not at work trying to wade through the mountain of work that piled up while I was gone. At lunchtime, I took out my $5 scrap bag from my visit to the quilt shop yesterday to see what I ended up with.



And probably my favorite of the bunch (well, today's favorite, anyway)

I hope there are leftovers in the fridge, 'cause I plan to do some serious quilting therapy this evening!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Georgia on my mind

Here I sit in Charlotte Douglas Airport again, Gate E6 this time, awaiting my flight home. My trip to Georgia was quite the rolleroaster ride, and I am anxious to return to the familiar chaos that is my own life. I’m glad that my first trip of travel season is a short one, it helps me ease back into being apart from my family.

I spent Saturday night with my quilting buddy, Nancy, who moved away from Virginia in June and whose absence I feel acutely. She has a lovely home, and I’m sure you can understand my delight to sleep under a not one, but two scrappy Sunbonnet Sue quilts that her mother and grandmother made.

My visit with her was much too short, but this was a work trip after all, so Sunday afternoon found me on my way to my first college fair of the trip. Unfortunately, my materials weren’t on their way to the fair with me – the parcel delivery service (which will remain nameless) ignored the extra money I paid for Saturday delivery, and did not deliver my package. In fact, they LOST my package, and when they finally found it on Monday, they wanted me to pay an additional fee to ship it to another address. You know those cartoon characters with steam coming out of their ears? That was me.
But Sunday's fair went fine anyway, and that night I spent catching up with some of my best girlfriends, Celisa and Nikki. True and enduring friendships are such a blessing. We may not see each other for months or even years at a time, but we always just pick up right where we left off when we are together again.

Monday consisted of two more fairs, followed by dinner with a colleague – a long day that began when I left Celisa's house at 7:30 AM and ended when I returned at 9:30 PM. Today, there was another college fair, and then two high school visits. After that, what did I have but a couple of hours to spare before my 8 PM flight out of Atlanta to Charlotte. You know what that means…time to visit a quilt shop!

The closest shop to me was Little Quilts in Marietta, GA. I loved the entry,

and everything I saw inside. True to their name, there were lots of small quilts. I loved this little cutie
One thing that really impressed me was that many of the shop samples were hand quilted – I find that most often shop samples are either just quilt tops or are machine quilted. It was a treat to see so much hand stitching. Check out this little scrappy beauty, not just hand quilted but hand embroidery stitches as well.

But my favorite part of this shop was this treasure chest tucked away in the corner – scraps, beautiful scraps!!!

I plopped right down on the floor and got to digging through my version of “treasure”. They had a “fill a baggie for $5” deal, so I got a bag and had a ball.

In addition to scraps, I got lots of ideas - name quilts

Picnic quilts

And different style hats for Sunbonnet Sue.

If you are ever in Marietta, I encourage you to stop by Little Quilts – there is something for everyone, not just quilters, but those who work in wool, embroidery, hooking, etc. In fact, when I walked in the door, I overheard one woman joke to another, "I'm a hooker AND a stripper!" My kind of shop!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On the road, again!

Travel season has begun! I am posting from gate E24 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, awaiting my flight to Atlanta. Thank heavens for airports with free Wi-Fi! Of course, I have 3 books with me, but that's what I do on the plane. I hate to run out of reading material before the end of my trips, so I ration out my reading accordingly. I also have my 4th of July Tablerunner to quilt (big sigh of relief when my needles and scissors made it through security), but I thought I'd check out what was happening in blogland, first.

Besides, I got 3 (almost uninterrupted) hours of sewing in yesterday afternoon, putting the blocks from my Great Great Grandmother's Quilt into a top. Ta-da!

I love it! This is a quilt top that will definitely become an honest-to-goodness quilt sooner, rather than later.

I finished sewing it together just in time to make it to the tail end of our Quilt Guild Business Meeting (there were some very satisfying 'oohhhs' and 'aahhhs' during Show and Tell when I held this flimsy up - I'm not above wanting my work to be liked by others!), and in plenty of time for our featured speaker, Mrs. Jane Hall, foundation piecing expert. She brought quilts and slides and her sense of humor. She was prepared; I was not. I brought my camera case, but the camera was at home next to my computer. Doh!

Luckily, you can see her quilts on her website. My favorite that she brought last night was one of her most recent, Vinas Viejas.

You really have to see it in person to appreciate the complexity, though. Those borders have so much depth and texture because they are PIECED! Just awesome! I enjoyed her talk, and am envious of those in my guild who are doing an all day workshop with her today while I fritter away my time in the airport. Just know that there is a workshop that I WILL NOT MISS - Bonnie Hunter is coming to our guild in February. I don't care what is happening in the world of college admissions on that day - I will be at that workshop! (OK, everyone, all together now, knock on wood.)

Going on this trip today is not all bad. Tonight, I will be staying with my quilting buddy, Nancy, who moved away in June. On Sunday and Monday night, I'll be staying with one of my buddies from back when I lived in Atlanta, and one night will be Girls Night Out with my twin sister's college roommate who has been a friend of mine for many years. And I don't have to cook, clean, taxi anyone around, etc for 4 whole days! Both boys mock-cried and clung to me when I left this morning, but they'll be fine. And I'll be back home on Tuesday night, and our reunion will be sweet all around!