Monday, March 28, 2011

Home sick :(

My throat is killing me and my head is pounding. I stayed home today to try to get well, but so far, I'm not having much success. I may need to head to the doctor in the morning to see if I have strep throat since everyone else seems to have it.

Here's a photo of my mini karate quilt that I made for my karate instructor for his birthday.

And on Sunday, when I wasn't feeling so miserable, I finished the top that I made with the the stencil looking panels - it finishes about 51" square (although it sure doesn't look square, does it - funny how fabric placement can make a piece look bigger or smaller or longer or wider than it actually is).

After working with just 3 fabrics, I had to pull out some scraps to stimulate my mind, so I worked on my Virginia Bound a bit more. I think I'll leave this up on my design wall for a while; I've been working on this quilt off and on for quite some time and I'd like to make significant progress.

OK, that's it, back to bed for me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Indomitable Spirit

If you read yesterday's post, you know I was feeling pretty low. Not so anymore.

First, I showed up at the karate test early and someone had found and brought my top. Yay! I'll still have to do 50 pushups at class next week, but at least all my hard work was going to pay off. The test itself wasn't perfect. I fell down doing a spinning hook kick, a kick I have done thousands of times. I sat in shock for a moment, but then jumped back up and got going again. I got kicked by the girl next to me. Ouch! I have a bruise, but I asked the instructor if we could spread out a bit, and we kept going. During knife defenses, I completely forgot one of them. My partner was gracious and told me what to do and we completed it successfully the next two times through. At board breaking time, I cleared my earlier mishaps from my mind and kicked through that thing like it was nothing - I knew I could. Triumph! Then, at the end, when we received our pre-black belts and were listening to our instructor ramble a bit before dismissing us, he told us that the theme for the Pre-Black Belt class is INDOMITABLE SPIRIT. It was like a light went on in my heart. THAT was what was lacking in me lately. Life has been hectic and stressful with a couple disappointments lately, sure, but I can't affect what happens TO me, I can only affect how I RESPOND. And I should be responding with an INDOMITABLE SPIRIT. No more loser posts, guys; I've got a new mantra!

The day just got better from there. I swung by the restaurant, and they had found my camera. Yay! I feel the need to go sew something so I can take photos! If nothing else, I can't wait for the karate studio to open back up next week so I can take a photo of the quilt I made for Master Clements.

I took the kids to the community (indoor) pool because they were have a free family fun swim for two hours. We were there for - you guessed it - two hours! Then, since it is the end of the month and I only get paid once a month and I am broker than broke, I took the kids to a restaurant in town where I had a gift certificate. We did a great job of not spending more than the gift certificate, but when we got to the register, we found out that the gift certificate was for the sister restaurant in another town. Oops! But with my indomitable spirit attitude, I told the kids we were going to be able to eat out again soon! Then off to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities, again with a gift card that I had been carrying around for a rainy day. We had fun trying to spend exactly that amount of money, and managed to just go over by 2 cents, but everyone has 2 cents in the bottom of their purse, right? Then, it was off to the drive-in movies, where I was volunteering so we could all watch both the movies for free, plus get free popcorn. If only I had gone to the right restaurant, we'd have had an entire afternoon and evening of free food and entertainment, but as it stands we did all that only spending $11.

I'm not always so poor at the end of the month, but not only did we have our huge twice annual heating bill due this month, but we also bought the home theater seating. Check it out! (and yes, I know that we STILL haven't painted down there, but I think having the furniture there will inspire me to get going on that project.)

The kids were the first to try it out. I'm pretty sure the delivery truck was still in our driveway when I took these photos.

I still haven't watched anything down there, but I have tried out 4 of the six chairs and they are COMFY! I'm gonna have to start watching more TV and movies just so I can sit down there! In fact, that's where I will likely spend a chunk of time today when I am not sewing and cleaning house a bit. Have a great Sunday, all!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


I am a loser. Literally. I lose things. Here's the latest...

Last night, we had a surprise birthday party for my karate teacher. His birthday is actually March 30, so I thought I had more time to make his gift, and I procrastinated. Then, word of the surprise party came along, and I had to get my butt in gear. I wanted to print a sillouette of a side kick from the computer, applique it onto a background, border it with the colors of the different belt levels, quilt in some of the key words like "Honor" and "Respect", making a small wallhanging for the dojo. Wednesday night I finally decided to get started, but my printer wouldn't print so I had to wait another day until my (wonderful) husband got that working again. So, on Thursday night at 8:30 PM, I finally started working on his gift to give him Friday night at 6:00 PM. Luckily, I had the day off from work on Friday, so I should be able to get it done.

Things were going swimmingly and I was digging how things were looking. I got everything I needed done on the machine done by about 11 PM on Thursday. I had fused on the sillouette, but I wanted to blanket stitch around it to ensure that it stayed on. By hand. Of course, I don't do this very often, so I had forgotten HOW to blanket stitch. I went looking for my handy-dandy printed out guide to various hand stitches that I printed out last time I was doing blanket stitch. Hmmm, now where did I put that? LOST. I finally gave up and looked up Blanket Stitch on my Blackberry (which I guess I should have done initially) and at 11:30 PM, I was ready to begin. I turned on the TV to watch a movie while I did it. Big mistake - I watched something I've never seen before, which means I worked more slowly that I would have liked because I was watching TV more than anything else. I remembered that I hadn't eaten dinner yet. (Did I feed the kids? Sure hope so, 'cause they are already in bed. I think, unless I misplaced them, too. Take a quick trip upstairs to check on them - fast asleep and not looking malnourished. Back downstairs to cut some cheese to eat with some crackers while I watch the end of this movie. What!?! The end of the movie? But I'm not done sewing yet!)

At 2:45 AM, I stagger off to bed, loving the look of the appliqued piece, but that could be because I'm cross-eyed from lack of sleep.

My darling Donald slept in until 8 AM (meanwhile, I had to wake Jason up at 10 AM - I swear there is a teenager trapped in that 8-year-old body). The quilt top still looked good in the morning light, so I went down to sandwich it and get started with the hand quilting. I had other things to do that day - pop in to work for a few minutes to finalize some letters to scholarship winners and non-winners, take the kids and dog for a walk on the Chessie Trail, prepare the movie theater for furniture delivery, wash our karate uniforms to be ready for our Pre-Black Belt test later this morning. But at 5:30 PM, the quilting was done, and I had sewn on both a label and a sleeve. I had to abandon some of my quilting plans because of time restraints, but I still really like the way the little quilt (approx 12.5"x14.5") turned out. I wrapped it in wrapping paper, and we were off and arrived ON TIME. I grabbed my gift and my camera, and we went in.

Here's where the details get a bit fuzzy. There were tons of people in the restaurant (I feel for the few people who WEREN'T there for the birthday party because there was a large, loud lot of us) and getting a table was tricky and after he arrived I still had his gift to give him, but my camera was nowhere in sight. I went back out to the car. Nope, not there. I looked around at our table; nope, not there. In my brain, I just assumed I had left it home, and I asked someone else to take a photo of the little quilt for me. Hopefully, she'll get the photo to me sooner rather than later. I hate having a whole post about a project, start to finish, but having no photo so show for it! (and before you ask, because EVERYONE does - no, I do not have a camera on my phone. I am the only person on EARTH apparently, who does not have a camera on her phone)

I went home and tore the house apart looking for the camera, but no luck. I called the restaurant twice, but again, no luck. I have no idea where that stinking camera is! Hopefully, if someone finds it, they will recognize my kids and get it back to me (the benefits of living in a small town and having beautiful, outgoing children).

Already feeling down about the camera, I got the clothes out of the dryer to lay out our uniforms for the karate test this morning. Everything is there except my top. I take everything out of our karate bags, I scour the car, I do the rest of the laundry in the house thinking maybe I mixed it up with another load. Nada. I can't test today without my uniform top, so I called all three instructors and left messages, even though it is 9:30 at night and I don't like to call anyone that late. Nada. But if I come early in the AM, maybe it will have turned up or they'll have a loaner for me. Either way, however, I know I have 50 pushups ahead of me - if you leave any piece of your uniform or equipment at the dojo, it is 50 pushups per piece.

I went to bed feeling like a loser, and woke up feeling the same way. I'm hopeful that writing about my boneheaded-ness will make me feel better about myself. In the grand scheme of things, these aren't big problems, I know.

But I'm also starting to wonder - this is the second instance in only 7 days of me not having a shirt. Perhaps there are some latent, exhibitionist tendencies stirring to life in my (exposed) chest...

May your days be better than mine have been lately!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My tiny contribution for Japan

I had to hem my son's karate pants before our Pre-Black Belt test this coming Saturday. Hemming - ICK! I was avoiding the sewing room so I wouldn't have to do it. But then I saw that Beth is collecting blocks to make a quilt (or two? or three?) to send to Japan. That got me down into the sewing room in a jiffy. I've been a bit paralysed by the enormity of the troubles in Japan, and feeling a bit helpless to do anything about it besides send money. But a quilt block, that I can manage. Especially since it is a scrappy one that can be made from units that I already have pre-cut in my scrap tins. In no time at all, I had made FOUR blocks to send.

I wonder how she's going to lay them out - perhaps like this?

Thanks, Beth, for mobilizing me into some sort of action, no matter how small.

And check out what was in the mail for me when I got home:

Thank you, Nancy, for the lovely apron and the books. My friends are the greatest! I made a new chicken curry recipe last night with mango and raisins (pretty adventurouse for me) while wearing that apron and SUCCESS - NO LEFTOVERS! Even my 5-year-old ate some! It must have been the apron!

(Oh, and I DID hem the pants. Yay, me!)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend project

If you have had a chance to read my last post, you know that I was in desperate need for 1) some down time and 2) some successes, no matter how small. What better way to get both than through quilting?

On my drive home from West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, I stopped at Tamarack as I always do. I love looking at all the craftsmanship, and since there are so many quilts, getting ideas. I forgot my camera (no big surprise if you remember all the other things I forgot on that trip!), but I did have my handy-dandy little graph paper sketchbook. I jotted down prices and sketches and whatnot as I made my way through the wares.

I came upon a very simple table topper, machine quilted in the ditch, selling for $42. Some of the prices amaze me - I couldn't imagine paying that much for something so simple. But it gave me an idea of something I could make to feature some focus fabric that I had recently acquired.

Rewind to LAST weekend, which I know I never posted about. Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts and the quilt guild meeting took place at the same time. I was loathe to miss either, and found myself racing back and forth several times. Jason's Pinewood Derby car came in last every time, but I told him that 4 was my favorite number (that's how many cars in each race) and that he should be proud. And at the quilt guild meeting, a woman was selling off LOTS of books plus a few other odds and ends. I picked up two panels from her for $1 each, as well as a book, Quilting (Instant Expert) by Jenni Dobson. (Note to publishers: when you make a book spiral bound like this one, I am very likely to buy - I LOVE spiral bound quilting books!!!)

I began with the stencil panels - we finally bought seating for our home theatre (after it is delivered later this week, if I disappear for a while, don't worry - I'll eventually run out of movies that I haven't seen on Netflix and re-emerge) and I figure we need some lap quilts to snuggle up with while we are watching movies. Right now, we share blankets on the (world's ugliest and most uncomfortable) couch that is down there now, but these are 2 rows of 3 reclining leather seats with armrests with drink holders in between. It would be awkward to share a blanket over the armrest, especially if there is a drink up there.

So I began to play with those stenciled panels, setting them in a square and putting them on point, but in my mind's eye, I only saw myself using 8 or 9 of the panels for this small quilt.

I decided to whip up a tabletopper or wall quilt using one of the remaining panels. Sketched, cut, sewn, sandwiched, HAND quilted and bound, all in a day and a half.
I feel so accomplished and rejuvenated! And I like it so much, I may just whip up another one and commit myself to only using 8 panels in the lap quilt.

Of course, if you know me at all, you are probably scratching your head at all the matchy-matchy stuff I'm working on - where are the scraps!?! Never fear, they were my leader/ender project as I played more with my 1.5" scrap squares.

Another home theater lap quilt in the works?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

One of those days

Ever have a day when you just can't do anything right? I have them more often than I would like to admit, but yesterday was a doozy.

I started the day with high expectations. It was supposed be 80 degrees and sunny, and after the last two grueling weeks of work, I was planning to leave work early and enjoy some "me time" before I was supposed to drive 3 hours to Charleston, WV to conduct scholarship interviews this morning. I didn't pack a lunch because I was planning to leave by noon. It was going to be a good day.

When I got to work, the only thing on my agenda was to get our scholarship letters out the door. But as I was reviewing them, I kept finding mistakes, not big major mistakes, but I didn't want anything going out the door that wasn't perfect. I was frustrated with myself for not having caught the mistakes earlier, but better late than never. They got out the door on time. By then it was noon; maybe I wouldn't have all that much "me time" after all. But there were a few more things I had to take care of at the office first.

At which point, I discovered that I had neglected to communicate some information to the financial aid office. Information that was going to throw off our bottom line, a mistake that was NOT going to make my boss a happy man. I swallowed my pride and admitted my mistake and tried to rectify the situation as soon as possible. I wasn't getting out of the office anytime soon. So, instead of leaving work early, I worked late. Luckily, I found out as I was leaving that I actually HAD shared that information with financial aid, I just couldn't find a record of it. So I hadn't made a mistake, I had just made a fool of myself with my boss and possibly taken a few months off his life as he worried about the ramifications of my oversight. Ugh!

Fast forward a few hours, and I am finally on the road to West Virginia, hours behind schedule, but that's OK. Until I realize that I left all the materials for the next morning's interviews on my desk at the office. Dilemma. Do I turn around and add an hour and a half to my journey? I pulled off the highway and got on my Blackberry and realized that I had the documents in my email as an attachment to someone else. I would continue on, and just print them off when I got to the hotel. Back on the highway I go.

And then it starts getting dark. And it starts to rain. And I see the first TOLL ROAD sign. Crap! I had forgotten about the tolls! I pull off the highway again and check my wallet. $2.75. If memory serves, there are two $1.25 tolls - I should be fine. Well, memory DIDN'T serve. The tolls are $2.00 each. I paid the first toll and resolved to get off the first exit to find an ATM. (and before you suggest this, I KNOW that you can tell them you don't have money and they will give you a receipt and you have 10 days or so to pay the toll, but that is what I did in the fall when I went to WV, and wasn't able to pay the toll in that 10 day period because of all my travel and ended up paying nearly $30 for that $2.00 toll - I prefered to find an ATM, pay the extra $3.00 fee, and be done with it). So, next exit, I get off, but the gas station is several miles down the road. When I arrive, I discover that the gas station is boarded up and abandoned. Okay... The road I am on parallels the interstate, so I decide to keep going forward rather than double back - it is getting late and I don't want to waste any more time and perhaps I'll find an ATM.

OK, those of you from West Virginia, stop laughing at me. Not too many ATMS on these back roads in rural WV. An hour later (about 9:30 PM), I finally see lights that tell me civilization is closeby. I head towards the lights and find a gas station with an ATM and hey, look, there's the interstate. I get my $20 and get back on the highway, immensely proud of myself for keeping my cool and for having such a good sense of direction, and wouldn't you know it, I've driven so far that I have already passed the second toll booth.

10:15 PM, I arrive exhausted, starving and wet from having to traverse an entire packed parking lot (it is state basketball tournament time, after all, and all the hotels are booked solid) and inquire at the desk about the possibility of printing out the information I need for the morning's interviews in their business center. "Sorry, m'am, but our printers are down." I am too defeated to do anything but call my husband to let him know I've arrived, brush my teeth, and fall into bed. I'll just get up early, go down and use the business center computer and make notes for the interviews.

7:00 AM, both alarms and the wake up call are blaring simultaneously (after the day before, I wasn't taking any chances). I do some sit ups and push ups because today is a new day and I'm going to start it right, by golly! I shower, and put on my suit. Uh oh. The skirt and shoes are fine, but the jacket is a single button at the waist number, and I forgot to pack a camisole to wear underneath it. The twins are fully exposed, and I can't go ANYWHERE like that and not get arrested for indecent exposure. That's OK, there's a black undershirt in my karate bag in the car that will do. I slip into yesterday's jeans and head to the lobby to make the notes I need from the computer, and then head out to the car to get the shirt so I can get dressed. Not until I am halfway across the parking lot do I realize that I am driving a rental car and my karate bag is in MY car back home in Virginia, 3 hours away! For heavens' sake! Can I get a break!?!

I head back to the reception desk and note the time - 8:15 AM. I am supposed to be at the interviews at 8:45 AM and I can't go in my jeans and plaid shirt. I ask the receptionist if there is a WalMart of Kmart or any kind of MART that might be open at 8:00 AM where I can buy a camisole. "A what?" she asks. "A camisole." "What's a camisole?" "Uh, an undershirt?" (Sheesh! She's wearing one under her suit jacket and she doesn't even know what it is called!?!) I'm in luck, there's a Kmart just about 3 miles away.

I dash back upstairs to throw my stuff in my bag, rush back to check out and sprint across the parking lot. I went just a wee bit over the speed limit, and arrived at Kmart at 8:32. By 8:39 I was back in my car with the camisole, prepared to change in the car because that is the fastest way. But there's a guy taking a leisurely walk with his dog (in a parking lot!?!) so I decide to find a more secluded location to disrobe. As I head back towards the law offices where the interviews are to take place, I find a nice, secluded parking lot and slip out of my shoes and shimmy off my jeans and contort myself to clasp my skirt in the back. Before I change shirts, I glance around and think, "just to be safe, I should lay the seat down so no one sees me." I do, perform my Clark Kent routine, and sit my seat back up, surprising two men who were standing, gasping, hands on knees, catching their breath after finishing a run right next to my car. We stared at each other a moment, them in puzzlement and me in horror, and then I turned on the car and burnt rubber getting out of there. I arrived at the law offices at 8:46 AM, one minute late, not too bad! Especially since the interviews weren't scheduled to start until 9:00 and 8:45 was my own self-imposed deadline.

I park on the street and realize that it is only 1 hour parking, even on Saturday. No problem, I have change for the meter, and we have a break in exactly one hour so I'll come back out and pump in some more coins. I enter, laugh at my troubles with my co-interviewers and get down to work. And promptly forget all about putting more money in the parking meters.

Three hours later, I head back to my car, convinced that there will be a parking ticket waiting for me. Finally, luck was on my side - no ticket! I pumped a dime into the meter to buy myself 12 more minutes, grab my bag, and head back inside to change back into jeans before the 3 hour drive home. On my way back outside, my co-interviewers grab me to ask some questions, so my 12 minutes turn into more like 20. I finally make it back to the car, and wouldn't you know it, I got a parking ticket.

Monday, March 7, 2011

I machine quilted a quilt!

I just can't stop grinning! I did it! I machine quilted a quilt!

I haven't buried the threads yet and the binding isn't on yet, but Donald is upstairs sleeping under his very own quilt tonight. He's thrilled because his brother has had a quilt from me for years and its his turn. I'm thrilled because I slapped on the walking foot and machine quilted the whole thing in two sessions at the sewing machine. How novel to have a quilt quilted in just a few days instead of the couple of months it takes me when I do it by hand! I won't be abandoning hand quilting because I love the process and how it looks, but I'm excited to add this new technique into my repertoire. Granted, I'm not showing you any close-ups because it isn't all that well done, but I'm happy!

I'm also happy because all my hard work is finally coming to fruition - 180 students are arriving tomorrow to spend 3 days on campus to compete for 44 full scholarships. I've been working my tush off, but today, instead of being stressed, I left work on time and without my laptop because I AM READY. Bring 'em on!

The next two days will be long ones, so I pampered myself a bit this weekend...

I'll be pampering myself again next weekend if I can - a pot of tea, a good book, a cozy quilt and the recliner. It's a date!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

One star, one orphan and 3 experiments

How I love an opportunity to sew just one block and feel like I've accomplished something! When I stumbled across the JUST ONE STAR challenge at Moda, supporting the Quilts of Valor Program, I knew I had found something I wanted to participate in. Here's my block - quick and easy:

But there were some itty bitty bonus triangles left over when I made the block. Rather than throw them away, I thought I'd see if they were big enough to make something with. This little baby Monkey Wrench measures 2" unfinished.

Very cute, but so much work! (much like real babies, I guess) I love the look of minature quilts, but seriously, it is as much work as a big quilt, but without the functionality. This little baby will not be getting any siblings. I suppose he'll find his way into an orphan quilt one day - right now he's hanging out on one of the design walls with all the other orphans.

While I enjoyed making the star and the monkey wrench blocks, they are all made of just two fabrics. Those who know me know, that just isn't enough! I need more variety, some scrappiness! So, as my leader and ender while I worked on these, I played around with some of my 1.5" squares since they have long since overflown their tin and are puddling around and making a mess of themselves. A four-patch of one color, surrounded by a border of another color, and floating in some 4.5" squares cut on the diagonal, a size that I have realized I pretty much never use and should probably eliminate from my stash management system. I'd need to make more of these 6.5" blocks before I decide if I'll actually pursue a top with these blocks, but for now, fun, fun, fun!

Hmmm, maybe they could be border blocks for something...

Anyway, it is raining cats and dogs outside today, which is perfectly fine with me; no guilt at all about staying inside today, reading (Jacobs Ladder by Lizbie Brown), stitching and sipping a warm beverage. Enjoy your Sunday!

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's 5 o'clock somewhere!

After the week I've had, you can probably imagine why this little embroidered tea towel caught my eye...

Oh, to be that crisp and pert! I feel like I've been hit by a bus and dragged for 3 blocks, and I'm sure I don't look much better. And while I've never actually had a martini, I always imagine that it is a "relax at the end of a long day" kind of drink. It's been a L-O-O-N-N-G-G couple of days, and some relaxation sounds pretty good right about now. So, I'll be making a little wallhanging of this gal to pull out on days like this. The pattern is in the June 2008 Crafts 'n Things magazine, a magazine that I've never seen before, but that my mom scavenged for me from some people at work who were throwing them away. I'm not particularly crafty, so there's not much in there that I can do, but I have pulled out a couple of ideas.

I also have been getting some ideas from Jenifer at Forty-Two Quilts. I first learned of her Wednesday Quilt Show when Bonnie Hunter had a quilt featured there recently. So I submitted some quilts and lo and behold, my Bright Idea quilt was featured there this week! So, while I was over there getting excited about having my quilt on someone else's blog, I came across the Diamond Argyle Quilt by Reeze Hanson of Morning Glory Designs. LOVE IT! It's on the same Wednesday Quilt Show blog entry as my quilt - go check it out.

Guess where I'll be going for eye candy every Wednesday...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Work, sleep, work, sleep (sew)

Somehow, my 8 - 2:30 workday turned into 8 am - 8 pm. Ugh! I did take a stroll through town with my hubby at lunch so it wasn't all bad, but oh, what a day! A bath is running right now because I need to ease the ache in my shoulders. It has been work, sleep, work, sleep for a couple days now.

I did manage an hour or so of sewing on Monday. These are my Bee Blocks for March - the focus fabric was to be the multicolored Asian print, and we could make anything we wanted. The first block is a variation of the Cheyenne block - a variation because I didn't have enough of the black or gold to make it the right way.

The second block is me trying to use up all the fabric she sent. I hope she meant it when she said to make anything we wanted.

It was fun to have a little bit of play time because that has been missing in my life lately. Once this scholarship event that I am planning is over, I'm going to take a little time off. I'm exhausted. And my bath is calling. So sorry to everyone whose blog I haven't read in weeks - I promise to get caught up when I have the time.