Tuesday, May 31, 2011

California Dreamin'

Last Wednesday evening, after work and karate, I loaded my kids in the car and drove them to my mother-in-law's in Pennsylvania (about 5.5 hours with no stops, but c'mon, I've got two kids in the car - there were stops!). Needless to say, THAT was a late night. On Thursday morning, after taking the kids out to the bike path to wear them out a bit on their scooters, I left them in her loving care to drive south to Philadelphia to meet my husband at the airport and fly off into the sunset with him. We landed in San Francisco, then drove south to Palo Alto, as the purpose of the trip was for me to present at a conference at Stanford.

Friday was a picture perfect LAZY day - naps, walking around town, a picnic lunch of Vietnamese food, a matinee - followed by a pre-conference dinner meeting that night. Saturday, however, was a marathon - we had to be at the conference no later than 7:45 AM, and it ended at 6:30 PM - but an invigorating one. It was one of those days where I realize that I am truly good at what I do and that what I do makes a difference, and it gives me the energy to keep going.

Then, Sunday morning, it was back to the airport for the long flight back east, and Monday it was the long drive home again. I had a great time - it is important for my husband and me to have some time together but without the kids to reconnect every now and then - but how nice to sit still for a minute, even if it is at work.

In quilty news, I spent my time working on my Lil Miss Shabby Birdie BOM blocks. I finished February, and am at least halfway done with April, which means, I'm really only 1 month behind now with May left to do. Here's February, un-ironed and without the 2.5" blocks around the border yet. This was my first attempt at the Lazy Daisy Stitch - I like!!! All those hearts, though, I didn't really like. I finally realized that I can modify these however I want, right, not just the colors but also the design, so on the April block, I'm leaving out the Easter Eggs.

Funny side note - as I was sitting in the staff room at the conference during a break working on this block, a man asked me if that was a "Shabby" pattern. I was taken off guard - did he really know what I was working on? He DID!!! His fiance also follows Lil Miss Shabby and is working on these blocks, too! How neat (and unexpected) is that!?!

There were also a couple minor fabric purchases during this trip. I stopped by the quilt shop near my MIL's to get another quarter yard of Kona Snow to finish the Bee Block that I ran out of fabric for before I left home. I went in, got what I came for and left without even peeking at the other fabric in the store. It practically KILLED me, but I did it! Then, while in California, my needle threader broke (OK, folks, does anyone have a recommendation for a needle threader for embroidery floss? I use those cheapo fake metal ones from a 3-pack at Walmart, but I go through them SO quickly. Please tell me there is something better out there!), so I went out in search of a replacement and I stumbled across a JoAnn's. While there I checked out the clearance fabric and found this green polka dot flannel (1 yard - I'm so attracted to dots these days!) and this red pirate fabric for my boys (1/2 yard).

Less than $5 spent - I'm so proud of my restraint!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bee balm?

I love the word BALM. To me, it is calm and soothing and quiet and restorative, and that's just what I was seeking in my sewing room today as I escaped the chaos that is my life. I don't want to bore you with the whiny details, but this snippet should sum things up:

-the plumber as he is trying to fix a leak in my basement outside my sewing room, "CRAP!! Um, do you have any towels?"

I'll work on my Bee blocks, I said to myself. Both April and May's fabrics arrived within a week of each other, so I had two blocks to make. I started with May. We could make any block we wanted, and the fun fabrics included a monkey that was screaming out to be the focus, so I made an EXTREMELY modified Weathervane block. I like the way it turned out, but believe me, the modifications weren't intentional but rather the result of poor planning on my part and some premature cutting.

Fun, but not really an experience that served as a balm. On to April. These fabrics are much cooler - Kona Snow and three green/grays. The request was for a pinwheel-type block. The first thing that came to mind was a Dutchman's Puzzle, and I cut, and started sewing before I realized I didn't have enough Kona Snow to make that. Hmmmm.... How about I use those bonus triangles, too? That should give me enough! Nice try, Erin. Close, but no cigar. (Where does that expression come from anyway? I use it, but it makes no sense to me!) So, here I sit, two 2.5" squares of Kona Snow short of finishing her block. The frustration of that didn't really soothe my nerves either.

Finally, as a leader and ender, I sewed together some 2.5" scraps to play with one of my setting ideas for my Birdie BOM (yes, I still only have 2 blocks done, but I'm hoping to finish block 3 on the plane ride to and from California this weekend).

Not sure about this setting - it is hard to tell how it will look with so few blocks.

Anyway, I know that part of my agitation is from going away. With all the travel I do, you'd think I'd be better at it, but ALWAYS, the night before I leave, I am a basketcase, trying to get everything done, making lists and checking them twice. Is this normal? Does everyone have pre-trip jitters?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My weekend adventures

While this weekend was mostly consumed by an AWESOME Cub Scout Campout, I did get a bit of sewing done. Jason's school backpack is falling apart, but rather than buy him a new one, I took one of his school t-shirts that he has outgrown to make a backpack.

And that new pink owl fabric that I bought has been calling my name, so I whipped up a nightie/sundress for my niece. It was so easy, I'm pretty sure I'll be making another one for the daughter of a friend. Donald was not happy about being pressed into service as my dress form.

The weekend is nearly over, and I've not accomplished nearly the sewing that I had hoped to do:

  • make a second dress

  • make two Bee blocks

  • sandwich the quilt that was commissioned at the Old Middlebrook Village Day, now that the backing and batting has been ordered and received

so I guess I should get back to it. I'll leave you with photos from the campout - what a blast!

We camped at the top of a hill at a Field Training Exercise site for Virginia Military Institute.

Down the hill was a pavilion with electricity and bathrooms where we ate and also watched "Follow Me, Boys" a 1966 Disney movie with Fred McMurray and a young Kurt Russell about scouting.

We could get down there by following this path,

but the boys preferred to pile into the back of this truck - can you blame them? Even I went for a ride in the back.

We played an extremely unfair couple games of Tug Of War - tons of scouts:

versus 5 leaders (I'm the second in line wearing a cap and giving myself a hernia trying to pull those trash-talking tykes over the line.) Needless to say, we lost.

They also played ball, took a tree-identification hike, and made duct tape wallets. Truly, the only downside of the whole adventure was the ticks, but luckily I only had to extract 1 from my boys. So, another year of scouting under our belts. Donald will be joining as a Tiger Scout next year, and I volunteered (in front of many witnesses so I can't back out) to be his den leader. Jason is bummed that I won't be his leader, but I reminded him that he still can't drive, so I'll still be at all his meetings; besides, Donald needs to see that I am willing to commit to his activities the same as I've been committed to Jason's these past few years. I'm just hoping that I don't overextend myself to the point where I need to be committed...

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When it rains...

You know the expression, "when it rains, it pours," right? It seems appropriate for so many reasons lately. First, literally. I don't think we are the only ones feeling soggy in the US right now, are we? I'm trying to focus on how lush and green everything looks instead of how soggy everything is.

But it has been pouring figuratively lately, too, particularly around my house. First, the microwave stopped working. No problem, we recovered a spare that we had in our rental property. Then the oven stopped working. Inconvenient, but truly, as the weather warms up, I use it less and less anyway. This week, the dryer stopped working. This is particularly troublesome since it keeps raining so there's no way to dry the clothes outside. And two days ago, I discovered a leaky faucet/valve/thingymajig in the hot water closet that was flooding the floor outside my sewing room. I think it is time we called in a handyman to start fixing all the things that are going wrong around here. Most times, I love owning my own home. Times like these, I wish I had a landlord to call and complain to.

I did try to get my windshield replaced. The repairman came out to my job earlier this week only to discover that we had ordered the wrong windshield. Aargh!

And my calf muscle has been healing nicely - now it is just tight and achy instead of actually sore, so I've been slowly easing myself back into karate. Well, but maybe not slowly enough. Yesterday, I decided to join in when we were doing our board breaking combo - a front kick to break the board in front of us and a side kick to break the board behind us. I'm happy to say that I broke both boards on the first try, but OUCH! I was on ice for the rest of the evening. Patience is not a virtue that I possess in any great quantity.

The weekend retreat with my sister was fantastic last weekend. We ate, we shopped,
(lookie, lookie, I found a sale!)

we explored, we discovered GLEE, we laughed, we drank coffee from these cute little mugs that remind me of an appliqued quilt,

and occasionally, we slept. I didn't get a lot of sewing done, but I did finish my second Birdie BOM. I love the scrappy colorfulness in my version, and am already playing with setting ideas, never mind that I only have 2 of 12 blocks done. :)

During my flights to and from Boston, I finished Jennifer Chiaverini's latest, The Union Quilter. Her books that take place in a historical context are my absolute favorites, and this book didn't disappoint.

Tomorrow night is the cub scout pack's annual campout and crossover ceremony - my little scout will be a Webelo before the weekend is over! Now if only it doesn't rain...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Another (mis)adventure!

Those of you who follow me know that most of my adventures have unexpected hiccups sprinkled in them to keep things interesting. This weekend with my twin sister on our 4th annual Twin Retreat promises to deliver more of the same.

I flew up to Boston on Thursday, gave a presentation on Thursday evening, then drove to Amherst, MA to spend the night in her home, arriving at 12:30 AM. Up at 6:30 AM to see her and the kids off before school, and then I spent a wonderful, lazy morning reading, visiting a coffeeshop, visiting my sister at her school where we laughed at everyone's doubletakes when they saw the two of us together, shopping, and then off to Deerfield Academy for a college fair. Once that was over, the Twin Retreat could officially begin. We packed up the car and headed off to Bennington, NH to spend the weekend in her new vacation home.

We took the scenic route up here, and stopped first at the New England Fabric store where I made some fun purchases.

(I see a cute little something for my niece being made with these pink owls - aren't they adorable!)

We also took the time to walk around downtown Keene to shop for trinkets for the kiddos (just because they weren't invited on this trip, we don't want them to think we don't think of them!) and to pick up some Thai food to bring back to the house for dinner. We arrived around 9:45 PM only to discover that we hadn't brought keys. Oops!

We found some flashlights and went around checking all the windows and doors to see if any had been unlocked, but no luck. We called her contractor to see if he was around to let us use his key, but no answer. We called her husband to see if he had hidden a key here somewhere. Nope. So, we arranged blankets in the back of the car and settled in for a Thai picnic, prepared to spend the night in the car.

A little after 10 PM, just as we were hooking my laptop up to the outlet in her car to watch a movie (gotta love modern technology) a truck pulled up. Apparently the contractor had received our message and had come to rescue us. Ericka hopped out of the car and rushed over to greet him, only to stop short when she discovered it was the cops. Apparently, a neighbor had seen us nosing around with flashlights and thought we were trying to break in (which we were). Luckily, this was a very good-natured cop with some time on his hands, so he hung around to see if he could help us find a way in. We found an enormous ladder, and he helped us move it around to get onto the porch roof to see if the upstairs windows were locked. I just had to take a photo of that!

But no luck. Then he found something in his car to help us jimmy open a window, and right after 11 PM, we finally made it inside. Here he is, our hero, whose name we forgot to learn. Gotta love the guys in blue!

So, it's late, and we've got a big day planned tomorrow, but can't go to sleep yet! Don't see her often enough to waste time sleeping. Stay tuned for more adventures with the Bobsey Twins!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Most(ly) Satisfying Day!

Last September, I set up a booth at a local flea market with some of my quilts and other fabric crafts to see if I could peddle some of my wares. Nothing sold, but one of the many people who stopped by my booth was a woman who was part of the committee that runs Old Middlebrook Village Day, an annual event about 45 minutes from my house that features live music, an antique car show, and crafts and demonstrations, all by local people. She invited me to come to their event as an exhibitor, so I marked it on my calendar and that's what I did today.

Now, injuring myself earlier this week made me cross some of my plans off the list because I just couldn't move fast enough to get it all done, but I managed to get myself and my wares there today and set up shop. While selling stuff would have been nice, my focus today was promoting quilting, particularly to kids. So, I threw my Orphan quilt down on the ground to make an inviting spot for people to sit and:

  • I had 4 mini design boards made of flannel taped on the back of a clipboard, and had two little bins of solid fabric in squares and triangles so kids could design their own quilt blocks.

  • I had two hoops prepared for anyone to learn/practice hand quilting.

  • I had an embroidery hoop plus lots of colorful DMC floss and fabric squares for anyone to learn how to backstitch.

  • I brought my kids' quilting picture books to read stories to kids.

  • I meant to photocopy blank quilt blocks and bring crayons so kids could color their own quilt blocks, too, but that is one of those things I ran out of time for doing.

It was a HIT!!! There were kids in my booth non-stop! I read stories. I taught about 6 kids how to do a hand quilting stitch. I taught about 4 kids how to do backstitch, and they were able to keep their projects - one girl made her mother's initial with one color thread and made a heart around it with another color thread to give to her mom for Mother's Day. About 20 kids designed quilt blocks on their own little design walls.

And with kids came grown-ups! With money! I sold this hand quilted composition book cover:

I sold this flannel play quilt:

I sold a crayon roll, not one of the ones pictured, but I couldn't find a photo of the actual one that I sold:

AND a woman commissioned me to finish this quilt for her!

Beyond those customers, so many other people came to look around and ask questions and make me feel REALLY GOOD about myself and my creative output. My head is so big right now I could barely fit through the door when I got home!

My kids came, as did my husband and my brother with his family. It was such a fun day! The kids were able to make rope, milk a plywood cow, use a hand pump to draw water, ride a pony, crack corn, spin yarn, all kinds of fun stuff! Other booths featured pottery, wooden toys and puzzles, penny rugs, candles, basketry, wood furniture, rag rugs, folk art, handmade custom greeting cards, and on and on. There were several exhibitors from the local Frontier Culture Museum. There were beekeepers and people who made homemade ice cream and animals to pet and wagon rides and...can you tell that I think it was a FANTASTIC event! What a fun way to spend the day!

But now, I'm exhausted, especially since we went to the drive-in movies last night and didn't get home until 1 AM. And joy of joys, I don't even have to prepare supper for the family because my hubby took the boys directly from the event out to dinner and to another movie. I just finished a bowl of soup, and put on my PJs, and now I'm headed down to our movie room to watch as many episodes of Brothers and Sisters as I can before I fall asleep.

Oh, I just noticed my title and that reminds me. The reason the day is only "mostly" satisfying is that a rock hit my windshield on the ride home, so I'll need to replace that. Bummer. But the good news is that I'm pretty sure I made enough money today to fix that. How cool is that?

I'll leave you with photos of some of the kids who stopped by and the quilt blocks they designed (don't worry, I asked their parents for permission to put their photos on my blog).

In case I don't make it on here tomorrow, Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

Friday, May 6, 2011

HOT new finish!

I'm feeling absolutely NO GUILT about sitting and sewing while I recuperate from my calf injury - after all, how can you sweep a floor or scrub a toilet on crutches? So I'm thrilled to present my Independence Table Runner, done in plenty of time for the 4th of July! Although, I probably won't keep this - I have a recipient in mind...

And while I was downstairs sewing on the binding, I also whipped up some 7.5" square hot pads. The ones I use in my kitchen are scorched and stained and tattered, so it was time for something new. I had purchased some Insul-bright specifically for this purpose some time back and have finally gotten around to using it. What a fun project - no measuring, no precision piecing, just grab some scraps and go!

(you can tell I haven't yet sewn the space at the bottom where I turned it right-side out, and I think I'll also do a minimum amount of topstitching/quilting, but other than that - DONE!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thank goodness for sedentary hobbies!

This is one of those times when I am glad that my hobby is one that can be done while sitting down. Yesterday, in karate, while trying out a very simple grab on my son, I tore my right calf muscle. There was an audible POP! which stopped everyone in their place, including me, and then the pain began. I'm in much less pain today, especially after an ice bath for my leg in the training room at the University, but the doctor says I shouldn't use it for the next 48-72 hours, and then gradually begin to introduce weight to the leg. Thank goodness I still have my crutches from last September's mishap. So what will I do? QUILT!

And to cheer me up, look what was waiting for me when I got home today:

I had forgotten about my online purchase from earlier this week. I see a pink and brown quilt in my future! And 4 yards of that polka dot should make a nice backing for something.

I'd rather my leg didn't hurt, but I'm glad to have a reason to NOT clean house, to just sit and sew.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I'm b-a-a-a-c-k!!!

Actually, I haven't gone anywhere; I've just been burnt out by work and the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was get on the computer. Instead, I've been doing my best to finish up some projects, relax, and watch Brothers and Sisters, my new favorite show. I'm still in Season 1, episode 20 or so, and I am already dreading when I run out of episodes and have to say "goodbye" to my new friends. Seriously, I felt like my friends had moved away when I finished the 7th season of Gilmore Girls, so I know this one will affect me, too.

One project I started and finished since my last post is a pair of ragged edge placemats. I had seen some done with this method in a magazine, and decided to design my own and see how they came out. I drew a deisgn on paper, laid it over three pieces of fabric pinned together, stitched on the lines, tore away the paper and then snipped away one or two layers in each section with a quarter inch seam allowance to make the design appear, then snipped all the seams like a rag quilt. After washing and drying to get the fringed edge, I was thrilled with them...

...until I noticed that I had accidentally cut a hole in one of them. (Can you see it there on the right side of that yellow square?)

It is a hole that defies fixing (I know, I've already tried). Don't you HATE that, when you work so hard on something only to see that it wasn't a success? Oh well, I can still use them - I don't care if my placemats are hole-y, but there goes my idea of giving them as a gift. I think I may just purchase some SNUB-NOSED clippers and try again.

In the meantime, swim lessons have begun for my boys. For me, that means 30 minutes of hand stitching time three times per week while they splash away in the pool. I'm committed to completing my 4th of July tablerunner this week, and hopefully my martini girl, too.

That's all for now. My stomach is calling - it would much rather I eat than blog during my lunch break. Hopefully, I'll find a chance to catch up on all the blog posts I've missed in my two week hiatus soon - I've missed you guys!!!