Thursday, September 29, 2011

Wnner! And losers...

Most first commenters on giveaway posts lament the fact that they are the first commenter, certain that they won't win. Not so this time - my Random Number Generator chose number 1, Linda from Illinois! Gotta wait until I get back in the country to mail it Linda; I forgot that my flight was at 6 AM so I had no chance to mail it today.

The losers I referenced in my title were a couple at the airport this morning. The flight was overbooked by one seat. I volunteered to stay behind for a later flight - I don't have to be anywhere until 8:30 AM tomorrow, and there was another flight that would get me here tonight and I'm always interested in the $400 travel vouchers. However, at the last minute, the captain radioed to the gate agent that they were going to be over the weight limit, so even though there were 2 empty seats on the plane, they could only take one more passenger. The two people who were supposed to be in those seats were a couple headed to a wedding. They refused to be separated and put up quite a fuss, but there was nothing the gate agent could do. I felt so bad for those two as I boarded the plane and they were left behind. I hope they finally got wherever they were going in time.

I, on the other hand, had two seats to myself on the otherwise full plane, and then had a row of 3 seats to myself on the plane from Atlanta to Mexico City. I arrived around noon, and after checking in at my hotel, walked around in this frou-frou neighborhood for a bit. I'm staying at the JW Marriott, as usual. Somehow I missed this the last two years (or forgot), but directly across the street is a Bentley car dealership, and just down the road, a Porsche dealership. Needless to say, I didn't do any shopping today because I can't afford anything in this part of town. It sure is nice to walk around in, though. I grabbed some tacos at an outdoor cafe, then came back to the hotel to rest. I'm pretty tired after my 4 AM wake up today to catch my flight. I chatted with the family using FACETIME on our iPads (genius! the kids even danced for me, it was great!), and then I nipped across the street to Starbucks to get a chocolate croissant for dinner. What's that you say? Croissants aren't dinner? Whatever, you only live once. Now, I'm debating heading down to the hot tub (outdoors) or just staying inside in the plush robe that comes with the room. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I'm not all that keen on being away from my family for so long, but travel isn't all bad!

After my conference presentations in the morning, I plan to head over to the Centro Historico to check out some museums and maybe make some purchases. I'd also like to check out Chapultepec Castle - we'll see if I have time. I'm not sure if I can get photos on here with only the iPad and my phone to work with, but I'll try. Plus, there may be another giveaway if I find anything interesting to buy during this week, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Catching my breath

I don't know why I do this to myself.

I arrived home on Sunday after a miserable travel day (5:15 AM wakeup call to catch an early flight, plane malfunction - discovered while we were in the air!, diverted to a new airport and switched to a new plane, turbulence that resulted in the lady behind me breaking my eardrums with her screams and the gal next to me dousing my lap with her drink, and when we finally arrived - late, of course - no luggage!). Monday, I was swamped at work, then had 2 karate classes and grocery shopping to do. Yesterday I was so strung out at work that I never stopped for lunch AND worked late AND brought my computer home to get some more things done.

However, when I arrived home with my kiddos, the sun was shining, there was a gentle breeze dancing over our mountain, and I said "ENOUGH!" I got a tall, frosty glass of ice water, pulled a picnic blanket out of the car, and settled myself down on the lawn with some books to read to the kids. I had to catch my breath - all this running hither and yon gets to be too much sometimes. We finished reading HOLES (just in time, too, because the movie is supposed to arrive from Netflix today!) and read DONKEY DONKEY, a book that I remember loving when I was a kid, so I ordered it online (can I just say that I LOVE Amazon Prime! I ordered the book on Monday afternoon, and it was in my mailbox on Tuesday!). I petted the cats, I brushed out the dogs. I caught my breath.

At that point, I could have gotten some work done, but I was on a roll now. I helped the kids with their homework, and then headed downstairs to prep some sewing to take on my next trip. (I leave tomorrow morning for Mexico, Costa Rica and Ecuador - another early flight with a 4 AM wakeup call, sheesh!) I sandwiched the little pink and brown doll quilt and stuffed the pillow to go with it (oops, no photo). I made another pillow for Rosabelle the dog (oops, no photo again, but it was nothing fancy anyway), and in between times, I worked some more on my current Leaders and Enders project with 1.5" scrap squares.

These blocks are 6.5" unfinished, and I'm not sure where I'm going with them. The point is to use up the black floral that is surrounding half of the blocks. I had a whole stack of 4.5" squares of that, and I wanted to use them up.

So, for this trip, in addition to packing the doll quilt and my September Birdie Stitches BOM to work on, I'm going to pack these, which I also ordered from Amazon on Monday, and which also arrived yesterday:

While browsing on Amazon, I saw that there are 2 Clare O'Donohue books that I don't yet own and a new Jennifer Chiaverini book coming out in November. Can you hear me rubbing my hands together in anticipation? I LOVE QUILT FICTION! Reading and quilting are two of my favorite pasttimes, so putting them together is a winning combination for me!

If you like batiks, don't forget to enter my birthday giveaway for 2 half yard cuts of batiks from Ghana. I will choose the winner tonight before I go to bed, and pop the box in the mailbox tomorrow on my way to the airport.

Do you know the "law of tenfold return" - give and you shall receive back tenfold? (I'm paraphrasing, I don't know the exact quote, although I am pretty sure it originated in the Bible) I know this to be true, and yet another example of this was waiting for me when I got home this weekend. I bought some fabric to give to others, and in my mailbox, from my mom and younger sister, was a box containing this - a pattern for Skiers in the Air and yards and yards of FLANNEL fabric to make it!!! Thank you, Mom and Kerry! Great gift that I will DEFINITELY put to good use!

And wanna see my favorite card? This is from my college roommate for my birthday this year:

I'm glad she thinks I'm remarkable - I'm going to need to be remarkable to get done all that needs doing today! I'll be out of the country until October 8, so I need to get all my affairs in order today, then on October 9 I have a group of 13 students visiting campus at my invitation for 3 days. And during the 28 hours between my return on the 8th and their arrival on the 9th, guess what is happening? Some of you probably guessed it - a cub scout campout!

I'll end the way I started...I don't know why I do this to myself!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Giveaway! From Ghana by way of New Orleans and Virginia...

Hey, Erin, it's your birthday!!!

40 - WOO HOO!!! So far, I'm loving this start to my fifth decade of existence. I attended two conference sessions this morning, and then set off exploring. Yesterday, Wendy commented that I should find a store here in New Orleans that sells fabric and goods produced by women in Ghana, so that is what I did. If you are ever in New Orleans, I encourage you to visit their store, but even now, at home, you can visit their website:

I was awed by many of the handicrafts there, but went in with the sole purpose of buying fabric to:

A) help support keeping young girls in Ghana in school (proceeds from sales help the SISTA - Stay In School Tuition Assistance - program; what better tribute to my commitment to access to education, the topic of BOTH conference sessions I attended this morning!) and

B) to share these lovely fabrics with YOU, my blog readers!

So, simple giveaway here - leave a comment on this post by the end of the day, Wednesday, September 28, and I'll enter you in a drawing to win half yard of each of these batiks that I picked up at the store.

As a hand quilter, I rarely use batiks, and even then, just in small doses, so this fabric is for YOU!

Once I found the store and made the purchase, I wanted to explore some more. I headed down St. Charles Avenue to take some pictures in the Garden District. I discovered that those beautiful homes are hard to photograph because of all the greenery that surrounds and shields them, but I've shared some photos here. My favorite architectural features are the working shutters, the two levels of porches, and the wrought iron detailing.

I ended up walking more than 4 miles, finally taking refuge in a public library where the book that caught my fancy was The Cottage Book: Living Simple and Easy by Carol Bass. After looking at all these fancy homes, it was refreshing to go from looking at what incites my curiousity to what feeds my soul. I may marvel at the fancy pants homes, but simple, country living is what appeals to me most and where I feel most at home.

Rested, I hopped on a streetcar for the ride back to the hotel. What fun! After that ride, I was hoping to find that I could watch A Streetcar Named Desire on Netflix, but alas, it is only on DVD, not streaming. Another night, I guess.

Now, I am resting my feet before heading back to Cafe Du Monde for my third round of coffee and beignets. YUM!

(the menu...)

Here's a shot looking out over Jackson Square (across the street from the Cafe) at the Saint Louis Cathedral and a museum. Can you see all the carriages lined up to take tourists around? And behind them, the artists selling their wares along the fence?

And this is the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co that I've passed several times on my daily pilgrimage to the land of beignets. I love the colors, those circular details under the windows, and those arches over the windows.

Lest you think all I am doing is walking around eating beignets and photographing the homes of unsuspecting private citizens, here is the Birdie Stitches BOM for August that I finished during the conference sessions.

I'm working on September now, and hope to have it done by the time the weekend is over. Speaking of which, I should probably stop typing and start stitching!

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me...

Friday, September 23, 2011

TreeHouses and the Big Easy

Greetings from New Orleans!

I'm attending a conference here - are any of my quilting/blogging buddies who work in education here as well? If so, let me know - I turn 40 tomorrow, and while I am used to spending my birthdays on the road, alone, I'd rather do something fun here in this fun city like meet a blogging friend in person!

I had been having some fun in between the educational sessions. My hotel is on Canal Street, so I am very close to the French Quarter. I wandered down Bourbon Street yesterday morning to see what it looks like when there AREN'T drunken hordes in the streets - all very wet as they sprayed everything down, with delivery trucks lined up bumper to bumper. It amazes me that that street is like a party every night - how exhausting!

I made my way to the French Market, where I stopped at an artist's co-op called Dutch Alley Gallery. It is my dream to open an artists' co-op one day, so I had a great time perusing their wares and talking with the artists. Over near the quilted items, there was a painter named Dan Fuller who paints fanciful treehouses. As my children are OBSESSED with building a tree house (my fault for mentioning it in passing one day - it's funny, they forget that you asked them to take out the compost or clean their rooms, but that one comment lodged itself inextricably into their little brains...) I asked him if I could photograph him in front of his work.

I also bought one of his note cards to have him sign it. I wish I could have brought a whole painting home, but a) I am traveling with just a backpack and a laptop, and b) it isn't really in the budget this week/month/year.

After that, I strode purposefully to Cafe du Monde for beignets and frozen cafe au lait, black pants be damned. Just as good as I remember it from 5 or 6 years ago when I was last here, so I'll be going back again today (and tomorrow, and Sunday if they are open that early before I go to the airport). That delicious treat was followed by a stroll through Riverwalk, and then down to the Convention Center.

On my way back to the hotel yesterday, I passed this "treehouse", honoring the people and remembering the events of Hurricane Katrina.

Tree/house just seemed to be the theme for yesterday. One of the things I love about New Orleans is the architecture, from the amazing homes in the Garden District (where I had a wonderful dinner last night), to the historic gems in the French Quarter, to the great detail on the businesses down town. Check out this detail over a doorway of what is now a bank:

The other thing I love is the tropical-ness. There are palm trees outside my hotel. There are ferns hanging from nearly every balcony, and windowboxes every which way you look. There is a green square around every third corner - just foliage everywhere!

It inspires me to make a quilt with both houses and trees, both items I've been wanting to incorporate into a quilt sooner or later. What do you think, a Tree House quilt? Maybe for the kids to keep in THEIR treehouse, which one of these days, I'm going to have to get off my keister and help them build?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A day to play


That's the sound of me sleeping in, the sound of me not leaving the house all day, the sound of me reading and finishing a movie and sewing and eating homemade Apple Crisp and building with Lincoln Logs with the kids and reading them a couple more chapters of HOLES at bedtime. That's the sound of me relaxing. What a wonderful day!

I spent some time today in the sewing room. I wanted to make a doll quilt, and was thinking that I wanted to make it from bowtie blocks. I pulled out a bag of solid scraps that I bought in WV last year (or was it the year before? Or perhaps 2 years ago? Where does the time go?) and pulled out all the pink and brown. When I was in Atlanta, my friend's daughter gave her room to me for my visit. Her room is decorated in pink and brown. Her birthday is coming up, and I thought I could make a quilt and pillow for her American Girl doll, Addy Rose Alston. Of course, with my quilter's ADD, I got bored making just bowties, so here's what I finally came up with:

Now to stuff the pillow and quilt the quilt. Of course, I just realized that I don't know what size her American Girl doll is. If it is one of those enormous ones, this quilt won't do. But you know what? When making the free-pieced letters, I realized that the doll has the same initials as my niece! If the quilt isn't big enough for the American Girl doll, I'll give it to my niece - I'm sure she'll have a doll or stuffed animal who will fit under it. Or I could make her a little rag doll to fit under there...

While I was playing in the sewing room, the rest of the family was playing, too. I walked by my husband and eldest playing Air Hockey...

to find my youngest playing deep sea diver in my tub.

I love it when everyone is happy and relaxed and having fun. And you know what, those bubbles look mighty good to me! I think I may just go banish Captain Jack Sparrow and his compadres from my bathroom, light the candles, and end my weekend with a book and a bath myself.

Have a great week, everyone!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Look, Ma! No pattern!

I've been wanting to make an iPad cover/carrier for a while now. We take our iPad with us EVERYWHERE!!! I did research online and found tutorials for how to make a cover. And I fully intended to use one of those patterns to make my cover. But then I didn't. I just started cutting and sewing, never mind the fact that I've never really made a bag before other than my drawstring backpacks.

The result is a bag that I love, that is big enough to fit the iPad plus a few other things that I may want to carry around with me including the wireless keyboard, but that won't win any awards for design or construction. For example, it didn't occur to me that I had no idea how to add straps until after the rest of the bag was done. Live and learn. Next time I'll use a pattern. But for now...


The yellow fabric is a durable canvas-type material and the inside is soft, cozy flannel. Everything, from the fabric to the button to the elastic loop for the button, was from my stash. It took less than an hour, and I will be using it regularly, I am sure. Well, at least until I make another one where I actually follow a pattern!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sitting and stitching

Last weekend when I was in Atlanta, I visited my friend, Nancy/Mamanance. (thank goodness I was able to visit her because she rarely gets a chance to update her blog in her super busy retirement! - hint, hint, Nancy!) I have photos because she and her husband are quick to document life through the lens of their cameras. We spent most of the evening after dinner in her sewing room - I love it! Lots of space, great stash, floor to ceiling bookshelves with quite a few quilt fiction titles, and then, of course, Nancy!

How fun to sit and stitch with Nancy while we caught up!

I'll be sitting and stitching for most of this weekend, too, if I have anything to say about it. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather is a bit cool, so I can think of nothing better than curling up under a quilt that I am working on. And EAT, PRAY, LOVE came in the mail from Netflix. I thought I'd watch it a couple of nights ago until I saw on the cover that the running time is 4 AND A HALF HOURS LONG!!! Are you KIDDING me? Who has that kind of time? That has to be a typo, right? Anyway, I'm tackling it this weekend no matter how long it is.

Have a good one, y'all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

One down, three to go

Travel season has begun, so my blogging is likely to be sporadic until mid-October. I just got back from my first trip - ATLANTA. I love going to Atlanta because I get to stay with friends, one night with Nancy (mamanance), where we talk and quilt and talk and quilt and eat her yummy food and talk and quilt. Then two nights with a girlfriend that I met when I lived in Atlanta 14 years ago, one of those friends where you can be apart for 9 months and when you see each other, the conversation picks up right where you left off.

Quilting-wise, I spent my spare moments working on the August Birdie BOM block, trying to meander quilt my Chicken Soup quilt by hand (confession - I am picking out the machine quilting; I am just not happy with the results), and a stop in a new-to-me quilt shop, Red Hen Fabrics in Marietta, GA where I picked up some chubby eighths for my Let's Bee Together quilt and some Heat Press Batting Together tape. Has anyone ever used this? I am curious to see how it works since I have so many batting scraps that aren't quite big enough for a quilt.

Speaking of my Let's Bee Together quilt, I received another block; isn't it cool?

But here's what is NOT cool: On Friday night, while my kids were enjoying Parents Night Out at karate, I went to a quilt guild meeting and trunk show and then hit the grocery store to pick up food so my family wouldn't go hungry during my absence. I picked the kids up at 10 PM, and had them in bed by 10:30 PM, me, a bit later. On Saturday, I got up, made breakfast, packed, showered, and was on my way to the airport by 9:30 AM. Fast forward to 10:30 PM yesterday (Tuesday), when my flight landed and I went back to my car for the drive home. Guess what I found?

Yup, the groceries from Friday night. 4 days in a closed car in the Virginia heat. I think I know what a corpse smells like. Did you know that packages of Jimmy Dean sausage will explode when left out in the sun? Or that frozen pot pies nearly liquify? I don't even want to know what was growing on the inside of the bread bag, and I am thankful that not ALL of the yogurt containers burst.

I drove to the nearest gas station and pumped gas as a cover for my dumping $98 worth of groceries in their trash recepticles and then scrubbing the back of my car with antibacterial wipes. At 11:00 at night. Before an hour and a half drive home. With all the windows down and the sunroof open in an attempt to get some breathable air.

PLEASE, make me feel like I am not the only bonehead on earth - leave me a comment telling me something boneheaded that you have done. I can't be the only one, right?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tension Troubles

My mother-in-law came through surgery OK, and now they just have to figure out what to do next. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and positive thoughts. It certainly made ME feel better!

But still, I've been tense this week. I've been chewing up the inside of my mouth. My shoulders are sore from being held so stiffly. I'm not getting enough sleep, and not sleeping very well when I do.

I really want to get this quilt done so I can send it up to her. So after karate and dinner last night, I went down to the sewing room to see what I could do about quilting it. First, I started with some straight lines - BORING! I couldn't make myself do more than 2 lines, which I will be taking out. Time to put on my big girl pants (borrowing from Em) and try Free Motion Quilting. A meander can't be that hard, right? I thought I'd practice on one of my hot pads that I had made this spring, the one I messed up on and left the space between the O and the T, the one I am definitely keeping for myself anyway:

OK, not too bad, I can do this. Of course, the hot pad is only about 8" square...

I got started on the Chicken Soup Quilt and the thread kept breaking. I rethreaded 3 times before I pulled the quilt out and looked at the back. Not only was the thread breaking, but the back had ridiculous loops. Obviously my tension was wrong. Maybe I should read my notes from when I tried free motion quilting once before. Why don't I ever read the instructions FIRST?? I had in my notes what tension works for me, what stitch length, etc. I made the adjustments and switched to new thread (why not? maybe it was the wrong thread and THAT is why it kept breaking), and started again in another place.

It isn't perfect.

The shapes are funny looking and in some places, much more angular than smooth, sometimes crossing over other lines of stitching even though I was trying hard to avoid that.

I am finding it very difficult to maintain the same speed throughout so that I can have the same stitch length throughout.

But I'm doing it!

Unfortunately, I have a bunch of stitching to pull out from the first thread...UGH!

You know, I'm also tense because of the book I'm reading. Someone from work read my blog and offered me her copy of THE HELP so I wouldn't have to wait for the library copies to come available. I'm really enjoying the story, but it is also making me tense. I just KNOW something terrible is going to happen. Despite my knowledge of segregation and discrimination in the US, reading about it still exasperates and angers me. But it is a good story, so I keep reading.

You know what DIDN'T stress me out? On Monday evening, I watched the 1985 version of Anne of Green Gables, all 3.25 hours worth. No wonder it was on TV as a miniseries when I was a kid - it is LONG! But so good! I never even considered not watching the whole thing from start to finish. (I spent the whole time wondering, though, who cast Megan Follows as Anne? She's perfect for the role in temperment, but in the book, Anne is supposedly not pretty, and in my eyes, Megan Follows is gorgeous!) And while watching, I was transported to that magical place (in my mind), Prince Edward Island, and felt myself relaxing. I finished my June Birdie BOM (leaving me just August and September left to do at this point, which I will take on my first work trip this weekend):

and I made some more progress hand quilting my Pick and Choose Quilt. Will I EVER finish that quilt? I am starting to wonder...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Quilting as prayer

My mother-in-law, Wilma, is an amazing woman. She is kind and generous, brave and fierce, gentle and loving, funny and intelligent. I love her dearly. Unfortunately, she has been battling cancer for years now - breast cancer, uterine cancer, colon cancer. But, like I said, she's brave and fierce, and she's been doing an amazing job at keeping cancer at bay and living her life. We found out this weekend that her current threat is not responding to treatment and she's going to have surgery. Today.

I'm thinking positive thoughts. After all, she's fierce and brave, remember? Last night, I just felt like I had to do something, so I went down to the sewing room. At first, I thought flannel, something cozy for her lap while she is convalescing. I started picking out fabrics, but they were all so bright and saccharine. When you are sick, you don't need candy, right? You need chicken soup. I made a pot of homemade chicken soup on Monday. My kids have had the sniffles and coughs for two weeks now, and it was raining, and it just seemed right. So I set out to make a chicken soup quilt for Wilma, nothing fancy, no measuring, made from basic ingredients plus leftovers from other projects, but made with love, made with prayer.

Out came the shirtings and the homespuns and a baggie of HSTs that I got from someone down the line. I put my heart into it and I put her heart into it. I made a ribbon to symbolize her fight against cancer. I left an opening in the border with some HST arrows to show the way for that cancer to get out, out of her body and out of her life.

With every stitch, I thought of all the memories we've made over the last 18 years - the family gatherings, the vacations, the births and birthday parties, the board games, the movies, the sitting up late into the night talking. With every stitch, I sent positive, healing, loving thoughts her way, willing those doctors to fix what is wrong with her once and for all, willing her to have the strength to fight and persevere and triumph. With every stitch, I prayed for 18 more years with her.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bee Activity

We had our office retreat this week. Longtime followers will remember that we go to a wonderful lodge in the middle of the Virginia countryside, Fort Lewis Lodge, for two days of debriefing and goal-setting and bonding. I absolutely love it there! It is so serene and beautiful (with a quilt on every bed!). I didn't go kayaking this year, but I did go for a walk/run, spent a few minutes in the hot tub, and ate embarrassingly large quantities of their fantastic food. I justify myself by saying, "Well, it is a retrEAT, after all!"

(this photo, lifted from the Fort Lewis Lodge website, is of the outdoor pavilion where we have our meetings and where we hang out in front of the fire after the days work is done. Seriously, if you are ever visiting SW Virginia and looking for a spectacular place to say, I can't recommend this place highly enough)

When I arrived home on Thursday, I received my fabrics for the September Bee Block. I whipped it up yesterday, and will put it in the mail today.

I also received another of my August blocks back. (curious - even though I got my fabrics out to Bee participants early in the last week of July, I've only received 4 blocks back so far in the first week of September - is that normal?) Anyway, this block was worth the wait - it is wonderful!

Plus, she threw in some bonus black and white prints for me - I love the one with the fancy ladies walking their fancy dogs!

My quilting goals for this long weekend are to finish my June Birdie BOM and prep my August and September blocks so I can take them on the road with me (my first trip of the travel season starts a week from today - back to Atlanta), to make some more progress hand-quilting the Pick and Choose quilt, and practice some free motion quilting on some hot pads for my kitchen. My home life goals for this weekend are to enjoy a campout with the kids, complete my online training for cub scout den leader for this year, and clean up this pigsty I call a home.

I understand there are some people out there who actually enjoy cleaning. Are any of you strange creatures reading my blog? If so, do you want to come visit me?