Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frightfully fun weekend!

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to fit any sewing in this weekend, but I did! It doesn't have a name or a purpose, but this 45"x48" lap/baby quilt can now come down off my design wall,

making room for the plaid Dresden Plate that is consuming my thoughts these days. Lots of scraps got completely used up in the making of this quilt, which makes me happy. And if I am counting correctly, 65 different fabrics appear in this quilt. Lots to look at.

While at a Halloween/birthday party this afternoon, I managed to start appliqueing down another Dresden Plate - just three of the nine plates left before I can start sewing it all together. I'd love to get all those plates done this week so I can start top assembly next weekend.

I fear my children and I should also do a sugar detox this week. They had Halloween parties at school on Friday. After I worked Saturday morning, we spent all afternoon and evening at a Halloween party. This afternoon we went to another party,

(the two Grim Reapers are mine) and then finished the night with some Trick-or-Treating. We've had so much sugar even my prodigious sweet tooth is screaming, "UNCLE!" I'm thinking fresh fruit smoothies for breakfast - we need something made by nature, not made by mixing corn syrup with artificial coloring. How was YOUR Halloween weekend?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Slowing down with some hand sewing and reading

This has been my first full week at home since Labor Day. Aaaahhhh! I thought I would spend lots of time in the sewing room with my machine and my fabric, but instead I have found myself hanging out with the boys, working on Halloween costumes and reading Halloween books and watching Halloween movies. Do you think they're excited about Halloween?

So, that means instead of a quilt top to show you, all I've managed to do this week is applique down two more scrappy plaid Dresden Plates.

It's going to be a busy Halloween weekend with pumpkin carving tonight, work tomorrow morning and a Halloween party tomorrow afternoon, plus a Halloween party and trick or treating on Sunday, but I really want to fire up the machine and do something that looks like progress. Check back on Sunday - I promise to have something to show!

I've also been doing a lot of reading lately. I love Emilie Richards' Shenandoah Album series of books, but I've read all of them and no new ones seem to be coming out anytime soon. Then I discovered her Ministry is Murder cozy mystery series - love it!!! I've finished the first two, and have the third at my bedside. And lucky me, she just published the 5th in the series, so I have a couple weeks of reading ahead of me. I also just read her book, Happiness Key, which I also enjoyed. I'm going to have to check out even more of her books!

I've completely run out of Beverly Connor's Lindsay Chamberlain mystery series. There were only 5 books, and I devoured them. I was an archaeology major in college, so these stories about a forensic anthropologist really appealed to me. The website says there's another book in the works, but I don't know how accurate that is. Beverly Connor has another longer series with another protagonist, Diane Fallon, also a forensic anthropologist, which I am going to try next.

And what have I been reading to my kids when I can distract them from Halloween? My two absolute favorite quilt books for kids, Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt

and The Quiltmaker's Gift.

If the young people in your life don't have these books, GET THEM! I love reading them, I love the artwork, I love the messages in both of them. They are wonderful!

And finally, I leave you with images of the two most special people in my life...

today is western wear day at school...

and who doesn't love hanging out in a wheelbarrow?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Happy Post - Wedding bells and Giveaway winnings!

My younger sister got married this past weekend. It was a wonderful, relaxing three-day affair. We rented out all of the Lydia Mountain Cabins for the 40 or so guests, and arrived Friday afternoon and didn't leave until Sunday afternoon. The weather, the food, the company, the activities - everything was great! What fun to happen upon a cabin to see this:

or to come across a pack of roaming kids enjoying the freedom this remote location afforded them:

or to come across a cluster of adults just relaxing and enjoying each others' company:

or fun times on the zip line:

(Um, Curtis, the zip line is for KIDS!)

It was an outdoor Quaker ceremony, which meant quite a bit of time sitting in quiet reflection. I was so proud of my boys for sitting quietly, but when I peeked over, I saw why they were so quiet - Donald had fallen asleep! Oh well, whatever works!

Once the ceremony was over and the band started to play, the kids danced the night away.

The beautiful couple!

Aren't her flowers gorgeous?

My mom, my sisters and me - so many cameras were flashing at once, we are all looking in different directions!

And not only did I come home with great memories, I came home with goodies from my sisters! Ericka brought me some bone china tea cups that she found in her new house that she is fixing up, and Kerry brought me some fabric remnants. Aren't sisters the best?

And when we got home today, there was a surprise in the mail. I won a giveaway from Rebecca at Our Busy Little Bunch in the Fall Into Fall Giveaway, and she sent aprons for my boys. Of course, they wanted to cook right away, so we scoured the cupboards and found the fixings for oatmeal raisin cookies, which we took to our Cub Scout Den meeting tonight. Thanks, Rebecca, the aprons are fantastic - I love the design, the durability, and the fabric!

As you can imagine, I am not only really far behind on reading blogs, but also pretty far behind on sleep. I promise to catch up with you all later - right now I'm off to catch some ZZZZZZs!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Daydreaming about the future

Remember these plaid Dresden Plates I worked on while traveling (before they took my needles away, that is)?

Here's where I am going with them.

I'm making quite a dent in my plaids and homespun stash, and since the blocks and sashing are so big (16" blocks, 3" wide sashing strips), it is coming together quickly. If I add one more row, it should measure 76.5" square. Notice I said "should", it won't, and I'm OK with that.

Anyway, here's the plan. My sister and her husband bought a second house in rural New Hampshire, walking distance to a swimming beach on a lake, just across the road from some hiking trails through the woods. They've spent the summer (and their savings) fixing it up with the idea that they can use it as a vacation home, but also as a vacation rental and retreat location. Her husband is an English teacher and a triathelete, so he was thinking of running creative writing and triathalon retreats. My sister is a knitter, so she was thinking of running knitting retreats. Guess what I get to do?

You guessed it! Quilting retreats! My head is spinning with the possibilities! I'm thinking of starting with a weekend flannel rag quilt workshop for beginners. I've not only made them, but also taught two other people how to make them so far, so it seems like a good place to start, as well as something that can be completed prior to the end of the workshop.

So anyway, back to the plaid Dresden Plates. I am making quilts for the beds in the house. It will take me quite some time, but what better advertising for the quilting retreats than sleeping under quilts by the instructor, right? (OK, there's probably better advertising out there, but humor me; I'm excited!) And since there will be retreats there that will attract both men and women, I wanted to make something that might appeal to both. The plaids say "masculine" and "cabin in the woods" to me, while the Dresden Plates say "a touch of femininity" and "an appreciation of pretty things." Do you think that works, or am I way off base?

And since I'm dreaming about the future, let me just tell you how my kids are making me realize that the future is rushing up and past me, despite my best efforts to slow it down. When I came back from abroad, Donald showed me how he now knows how to tie his own shoes! I am so proud! But gosh, that wasn't a milestone I wanted to miss, and it feels like one that just opens the floodgates for more independence.

Then yesterday, Jason was elected to student council. I don't even think we HAD student council in third grade. But he is walking on cloud nine. I must say, his poster was pretty,

and his speech was earnest and heartfelt. Again, I am so proud! I just hope he doesn't take this elected office idea too far and try to run for president one day. He just might win, and I'd really hate to have him have such a thankless job.

And finally, I'm worrying about my friend's future. Remember my neighbor who moved to a retirement community with her husband who has Alzheimers? Remember my recent visits with them and the adventures we had? Her husband died yesterday morning. I'm so sad, and so concerned for her. They were married well over 40 years, possibly over 50 years. I can't imagine being left alone after all that time together. I need to make sure to make a greater effort to go see her more often; she's only a little over an hour's drive away, but she's no longer driving, so it is up to me.

We never know what the future may hold...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The last 63 hours

Friday, October 15
6 AM: I woke in time to get in a run and some weight lifting in the hotel gym before my first school visit. Trying to run at 10,000 feet above sea level when you ordinarily live at 1,000 feet above sea level is quite a challenge. It took me 12 minutes to run a mile because I had to keep slowing down to a walk to breathe. Oh well, it is the thought that counts, right?

8:30 AM: I'm at my first school, starting my presentation and one girl in the front cuddles up with a friend and closes her eyes to take a nap. I stopped mid-sentence and said, "Don't go to sleep; that is rude," and then continued on with my presentation. Little twit! They were some of the rudest kids, as a group, that I've ever encountered. Ugh!

10:25 AM: Even though my next school visit was scheduled for 10 AM, and I was there 5 minutes early, the counselor didn't come get me until 10:25. Just in time, too, because I had told myself that I was leaving at 10:30 - c'mon, do you know how far I traveled to get there!?! Show a little respect! So I shouldn't have been surprised by the kids' lack of respect when I finally got to see them, since the counselor was so lax. They were eating, doing homework, talking amongst themselves; I couldn't wait to get out of there. I have a feeling I'll be cutting those two schools in the future - nowhere else do I experience such rudeness.

12:00 PM: My flight from Quito to Atlanta doesn't leave until 11:30 PM, so I ask my driver to take me somewhere I can try some typical Ecuadorian food. I can definitely say it is not my favorite type of food, although I do love that avacados are so pleniful there. Here's an example: I try the soup. It is passable. I recognize potato and onion and, "oh, what's this?" I ask. I thought perhaps it was calamari, because that is kinda how it was cut. Think again, it is pig intestines. "I'm full; let's be on our way, shall we?" Yeech!

2:00 PM: Since I have so much time to kill, I have the driver take me to Papallacta, a small town about 40 miles outside of Quito, known for its hot, natural, mineral springs. $7.00 gets me admission to a series of tiled pools. I tried them all, but spent most of my time in this one, the hottest and therefore my favorite.

5:00 PM: I'm paying the driver by the hour, so I have him drop me at the airport where I can kill time before my flight for free. It turns out, I couldn't even check in until 8:30, so I spent 3.5 hours just sitting in the lobby reading. And then, when I do check in and go through security, you KNOW what happens (read my last post if you missed it). Not the most pleasant 6.5 hours I've ever spent.

Saturday, October 16
1:30 PM: I'm finally back in Lexington, VA after 2 long, miserable, uncomfortable flights and a two-hour maintenance delay tacked onto my 3.5 hour layover in Atlanta. I was so glad to see my family, and the screech of joy the boys let out when they saw me was the loveliest ear-splitting noise I've ever heard.

8:00 PM: I'm finally back home. We couldn't come home once I picked the boys up from their father at the gym because there was a cub scouts cookout at 3 PM followed by a fundraising event at the elementary school at 6:30 PM and we wouldn't have had time to come home and go back out again. I am a walking zombie, but I am proud that I stayed awake through reading the boys a bedtime story.

9:30 PM: I'm showered with a fresh (home bathroom) haircut and swept floors. I crawl into bed with a book thinking I'm going to stay awake until my husband gets home from basketball practice. Think again.

Sunday, October 17
9:30 AM: I can't remember the last time I slept for 12 hours, but I feel great! I spend the next 3 hours cleaning house and doing laundry and unpacking, then spend a few hours outside with the boys enjoying a spectacular fall day. I'm so glad to be home!

9:30 PM: After a wonderful day, which included some belly laughs as the boys decide to give yoga a try,

I'm ready to head down to my sewing room. This week's goals include:
  • 2 more Dresden Plates prepared for Wednesday's trip to Atlanta and this weekend's wedding festivities
  • Finish sewing together the rows for the scrappy lap quilt currently on the design wall
  • Sandwich and baste my great-great-grandmother's quilt. I'd love to have that one done by Christmas

What do YOU have planned for this week?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Me robaron!!!

When they took my tiny sewing scissors in Costa Rica, I wasn't so upset, even though I've traveled with those very same scissors for years; after all, I had my backup thread cutter medallion. But now they have gone too far! I'm in Quito, flying Delta, and they removed EVERY SINGLE basting pin in the tablerunner I'm (still) quilting, took two packs of quilting betweens, and all my flower head pins that I've been using to hold my Dresden Plate blocks together!

I have been traveling with sewing supplies for years, and the only thing anyone ever objected to before was scissors. This is outrageous! I have 10 and a half hours of travel before I get home, and I can't even sew! Argh!

(Actually, I had a pretty good day today, which I will share when I get home. Right now, though, I am just seeing red. I never thought of those pins and needles as weapons, but oh, what I was tempted to do to the security guy with them!!!)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Greetings from the middle of the world!

Quito, Ecuador. I'm in my third time zone in a week. What day is it? What time is it? Yawn!! But before I retire here (loving the rose - nice touch),

I thought I'd share my purchases from today. After I arrived in Quito this afternoon, I walked to the Mercado Artenesal. I love the place, and could spend hours and mucho dinero there. But I was good. Kinda.

For me, a necklace and a hat.

Up for grabs for giveaway winners and/or officemates and/or my mom and sisters, (and you know I'll be keeping a little something for myself),

a zippered, lined bag,

a scarf/shawl that I had a terrible time trying to photograph,

a table scarf, although I must say, I like the way it looks draped over the bed,

a bunch of earrings made mostly from seeds and nuts and wood (a weakness of mine in case you hadn't noticed),

and some artwork made from leaves and bark and whatnot which reminded me of applique

Check out the detail of the flowers

Anyway, giveaway winners, I'm probably done making purchases. I hope you see something that you like either in this entry, or this one from Costa Rica or on this one or this one from Mexico. If so, let me know your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice in an email or comment, and I'll pop your winnings in the mail to you when I get back to the States. Thanks for hanging in there with me on this trip.

Now, off to bed so I'll be ready for tomorrow's school visits...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Costa Rica

I left Mexico on Sunday morning, early. Too early. When I arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica, it was still only 10 AM. I came to my hotel, played on the internet until it was late enough to eat lunch, ate, sat reading by the pool for a while soaking up the Costa Rican sunshine, then came up to the room to take a nap. I spent the rest of the night in my room (you KNOW I was tired if I missed dinner!), watching TV, doing some work on the computer, appliqueing my second plaid Dresden Plate.

Monday morning, I had to leave the hotel at 6:30 AM in order to make it to my first school visit on time. How lovely to have a driver to deal with the traffic! I sat up front and practiced my halting Spanish with him all day as he drove me around the city. Did you know that they don't have actual addresses in Costa Rica? The addresses are like "200 meters north and 300 meters south of the catholic church". Can you imagine being a foreigner trying to find your way around here?

Anyway, Monday was a long day - I didn't get back to the hotel until 7:30 PM. It was all work except a quick brunch at a small corner restaurant eating a typical Costa Rican dish, gallo pinto con huevos revueltos (rice and beans with scrambled eggs). Isn't this the cutest little place with the colorful walls, the hanging bunches of onions and plantains, the coffee bags covering the ceiling? And the food was GREAT!

Today there was a bit of time between some school visits, so my driver took me to the Sr. y Sra. Ese Souvenir factory and store where they make and sell wooden souvenirs from some of the fantastic exotic wood found in Costa Rica. Of course I had to pick up a couple trinkets, wooden earrings,

a little wooden painted lizard,

and a wooden hotpad(?).

There were so many cool things there, just not many that I could 1) afford and 2) fit in my luggage. Exhibit A - this awesome carved bull's head.

This evening, I'm lounging in my room, watching TV, sewing, reading, catching up on blogs, and generally just relaxing prior to tomorrow morning's flight to Ecuador. I'm still having fun, but I SO miss my family!!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I love tequila!

Remember when I posted yesterday that I was a bit tipsy? Today I am sloshed! If what I have to say makes no sense, please blame it on the tequila. I swear to you, I only drink one of two times a year, only when I am traveling and with friends and not responsible for my children. Today, I let loose!

We had a 4 hour college fair today. 4 hours standing behind a table saying the same thing over and over again. 3 hours is torture. 4 hours is unimaginable. But salvation came in the last hour when a girl approached me and asked tentatively, "Um, do you have a twin sister who is a guidance counselor at a high school in Western Massachusetts?" My answer, of course, was "Yes!" How is it that I met a girl IN MEXICO for whom my twin sister had been her guidance counselor two years ago? It's a small world, after all...

After the fair, I hit the executive lounge in the hotel for some free hors d'oerves. I'm loving my upgrade!!!I get free laundry service, so I sent my gym clothes off to be laundered this morning (I've been hitting the gym for a mile run and and upper body free-wight circuit while abroad), and lo and bhold, they are back in my room wrapped in a cute package - free of course. Then, my two new professional friends, Lisa and Leticia, joined me on my adventure taking the Metro to a place to buy traditional Mexican dress. Jackpot! I bought this dress

and this shirt. Loving them both!

I also bought a small woolen bag in autumn colors with a butterfly on it.

When we returned, there was a reception for all us college counselor folks and the bar was serving a drink called a Paloma (dove). Lemon juice, tequila and Squirt (grapefruit soda). It is my new favorite drink, and I drank them down like lemondade, and didn't notice until I stood up that I was drunk, having drunk more than I have since before I graduated from college 17 years ago. My wake up call is in 5 hours for my flight to Costa Rica, so I'm not sure tomorrow morning is going to be all that pleasant, but boy did I have fun hanging out with the girls this afternoon and evening!

And before you think I have spent all my waking hours in a cup of tequila, I did finish one Dresden Plate block, and started in on number 2.

And guess what I forgot to share with you all? Remember my string quilt that I sent away to be quilted last February,

only to have the quilter disappear off the face of the planet? Well, she's back, and she contacted me on Thursday to get my mailing address to send my quilt back to me. Yay!

OK, must go. My cheeks are numb and my eyes can hardly stay open. I hope to catch up on blogs when I get to San Jose tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, ciao!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Greetings from Mexico City!!

I'm not going to lie to you - I'm a tad bit tipsy. I just drank a frozen tamarindo margarita the size of a toilet bowl. Oh, that sounds gross. Maybe the size of a fish bowl. Not much better. Let's just say the bowl of the glass was about the size of my head. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

I arrived in Mexico City Thursday night at about 8 PM. An hour and a half later, I was through customs and the longest taxi line I have seen in life, and on my way to the JW Marriott. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I was upgraded upon arrival, so I'm staying on the Executive Level on the 23rd floor where everything is free. No joke. I can have two items of clothes pressed each day within one hour - free. I can have 5 articles of clothing laundered every day - free. Wi fi, free. I have access to the Executive Lounge with free food and drink at all hours - I'm nursing a coffee right now, hoping to counteract some of my tequila buzz. And get this, I can have fresh hot coffee and all the fixings, including real cream, delivered to my room each morning at a time that I specify - FREE! I am being royally spoiled right now.

But that is good because you need something to make up for the HOURS spent in traffic. I presented 2 sessions at the American School Foundation this morning, then sat in traffic for hours getting to an Education USA event, then sat in traffic some more on the way back to the hotel. I didn't even go to my room - I made a beeline for the Executive Lounge and poured myself a hefty glass of Merlot and snacked on the hor's d'oerves.

Then I got together with some other college counselors and set off in search of some Mexican goodies - after all, I have a giveaway to start collecting goodies for. Speaking of that, according to one of the online random number generators, the winners of the giveaway are:

#23 - Rachel, who said, "Oh Erin, you ARE a busy girl. Your adventures wear me out haha. Love the photo of your adorable nephew on that beautiful quilt. I agree - that is why we do this!
Have a great trip. You deserve some fun...and a rest!"

#18 - ShelleyK, who said, "I bought a house ~7 months ago. The only room that I got around to painting was my guest room - with a Central American theme! I've been to Guatemala and El Salvador, so I've sworn to only fill the room with authentic artwork - whether it be colorful paintings or woven fabrics. I would absolutely LOVE another piece to put in there! By the way, I don't comment often, but love following your blog. Your quilts really get me in the sewing mood."

#20 - Debbie, who said, "I hope you have a safe and uneventful trip. I don't comment often but I do enjoy reading your blog. I have even checked out some of your reading suggestions from my local library. I would love to entered into your giveaway."

So, ladies, congratulations, and be sure to stay tuned to see what treasures I find in my travels. Not too much today, because of all the time spent in the bus, but I did find some drink stirrers with red and green chiles on top, and some typical colorful paintings on parchement-like paper.
I've just arrived back at the hotel after a late dinner with an alum from the university where I work who wants to be involved in spreading the word about Washington & Lee University in Mexico. He is a delightful young man, and I had a great time talking with him. Plus, he took me to a wonderful traditional Mexican restaurant with fantastic food (I had fish tacos - yum!), a live mariachi band, and drinks the size of toilet bowls. But we've covered that already, haven't we?

Tomorrow afternoon, after the college fair, I am hoping to hop on the subway back to Templo Mayor, where I visited 2 years ago during my last visit to Mexico City, to look for some traditional local crafts. Then, early Sunday morning it is off to San Jose, Costa Rica. But for now, it is off to bed for me. Despite my reservations about all the unrest in Mexico right now, I've been having a great time. Here's hoping the rest of the week goes as well!