Monday, December 31, 2007

How did a whole week get away from me? It's not as if I have been swirling around in a rush of holiday parties and frivolities. Our Christmas was a quiet one this year. Santa filled stockings for Hubby, Harper and me, too. Lots of fun goodies can be found in the toe of a stocking. Harper has checked hers each morning since Christmas to see if any more treats might be coming her way.
The Princess called us mid-morning on Christmas and we fired up the web cam. It's amazing how technology really can let you be right in the room. It was fun to watch her open gifts - just like when she was little . . . although receiving new socks is no longer the disappointment it once was. We had a quiet dinner at home, sparkling lights on the tree providing ambiance.
Hubby took vacation days all last week and this week, too. It's fun to wake each morning, leisurely drink coffee and look through the paper together. He has worked hard finishing up the bathroom (remember when we put in new floor in November? still needed paint and the vanity and sink installed.) We went to the movies one afternoon - Juno is enjoyable. We recommend it. And have generally been hanging out - playing games, watch t.v., and cracking each other up - we may never grow up, and I'm glad.
I have started my Four Seasons Swap piece. I know I said I wasn't going to share progress, but the recipient doesn't know who she is - and there has been precious little going on in the way of quilting for me to share otherwise. Once the embroidery is done, I plan to add some wool applique and maybe a little wool needle felting as embellishment before I baste the backing and quilt.
Because I have been having so much fun goofing off with Hubby, I am terribly behind in blog reading. Please bear with me as I catch up with all of you . . . I may not leave a comment at each stop, but I will surely read every word.
As we say good bye to the old year and ring in the new, I want to say that the kindness, inspiration and above all friendship that I have found with you, my blogging friends, has made 2007 a special year. Looking forward to lots more in '08. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Merry Christmas to all . . . and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The halls have been decked, shopping and gift making is done, holiday cards written and mailed, all of the wrapping that I plan to do has happened (have I mentioned I don't like gift wrapping?) festive holiday music has been playing . . . still I just didn't seem to be filled with the holiday spirit. It has bothered me. I just couldn't seem to find the joy and anticipation I have always had in the past.
Yesterday I finally found it tucked away in a drawer in the kitchen inside this old cardboard box - my mom's kitchen thermometer set. Mom made fudge and sometimes other candies every year at Christmas time. That glass thermometer was clipped to the side of her copper-bottomed Revereware pan. Not one to trust such highfalutin technology, she always had a measuring cup of cold water next to the stove to drop a bit of the cooked syrup in to check doneness . . . soft ball, hard ball, hard crack - depending on the recipe. If I waited quietly and patiently, I could count on being given the little ball of sugary goo to eat when the test was complete.
Wonderful memories of Christmases past came flooding back yesterday when I clipped that old thermometer to the side of that copper-bottomed pan. I used her aluminum measuring spoons that dangle and clink from their little ring. I have other, newer measuring spoons, but it seems that recipes turn out better when these trusty old relics are employed.
Once the clean up was accomplished and the candies packaged, I began delivering to friends and neighbors. With hugs and good wishes for a Merry Christmas, it came to me that the holiday spirit is all around me . . . I just needed to let it out of that old cardboard box.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

One day last week, I had the television on while sewing and was half-heartedly watching Martha Stewart mostly for background noise. But my ears did perk up when I heard that coming up next, a woman was joining Martha to demonstrate making homemade marshmallows - then dipping them in homemade fudge made using homemade marshmallow creme. This is the very thing that can send me over the moon squealing with delight. Suddenly I was watching and listening VERY intently.
Several years ago, The Princess tipped me off to a Martha recipe for homemade marshmallows and we were off and running. We were moderately successful - good taste, but difficult to remove from the pan and TOO much powdered sugar. In watching the demonstration last week, I picked up a couple of pointers that easily remedied those issues. I am now ready to become a marshmallow making fool.
You can find the recipe on the Martha Stewart website by clicking here.
This is the mixture that will become the marshmallow squares.In the pan all ready to set up overnight.
Ready for dipping.
They don't look nearly as professional as the gal on t.v., but I bet they are as tasty as can be.
I think that having a dipping helper would be very beneficial since the fudge began to set before I was done. I think next time I will just skip the fudge and dip them in chocolate. I already know they are delicious just plain. Hot chocolate anyone?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Eureka - I have found the best way to stay happy and warm at the same time. Last Christmas, The Princess gave me this beauty of a queen-sized whole cloth quilt. I forced myself to complete a couple of lingering UFO's before I started work on it. It wasn't long before it was simply to hot to sit under all of that fabric and batting, causing me to carefully fold it up and put it away. Saturday afternoon I was a little chilly but didn't want to adjust the thermostat and I remembered this quilt waiting patiently. Two days of pure joy and warmth later, I decided to share my progress.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I have some blog keeping that I must tend to today. Some of it is very long overdue and for that I am quite embarrassed.
Back in May, I shared a completed quilt in this post. I asked for help in finding a way to transfer a vintage photo to fabric that I could use as a label. I got lots of great response and ordered Printed Treasures right away.
As soon as it arrived, I selected my photo and transferred it to the fabric. And that's when it all came to a screeching halt! The quilt and unpersonalized label have been hanging on a quilt ladder for nearly 7 months. It took only minutes to finish the label and stitch it on. Shame on me.
But here it is - with the personal stuff cut off to protect the innocent. The quilt is for my brother who is almost 10 years older than I. Here we are at Christmastime 1962. I was two and he was 12. Probably the time in our lives when the age difference was most evident. I think I still have that dolly.My other sharing is not nearly so old. At the quilter's Christmas party last week, we had a gift swap and I promised to share my bounty . . . I do believe I received the best gift of all. Like the potluck where no one signs up, we don't draw names. There's a dollar amount given and the rest is left of to the creativity of the giver.
Just look at these 9 fat quarters! Do they have my name written all over them, or what? I could hardly contain my joy and delight. You can also see just a little bit of the box they came in - it's covered in a great orange-y fabric and has heavy duty snaps that can be undone so the box may be stored flat. I'm sure I won't use the snaps. The box is to cute to be stored away, I'll keep it nearby filled with some fun treasure.
Also a new box of flowerhead pins (my favorite) and an ergonomic seam ripper. I will get plenty of use from that, too. I am famous for having to unsew the same mistake multiple times before my brain engages.
Every year our fearless leader makes little quilts to give to each of us. My collection has really grown and I just love them. Here is the newest addition. Isn't it darling?

Perhaps a good resolution for the new year would be to not put things off. I'll think about it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Well, I've had a day of play and a day of civic duty . . . now I plan to get back to some quilting fun. On Monday, Hubby took a vacation day so we could head north to the 'Merriest Place On Earth.' It is quickly becoming a tradition for us to see all the decorations and lights done up only like Disney can do.
It's A Small World comes to life in spectacular fashion . . . even the song doesn't seem so annoying.Sleeping Beauty's Castle capped in 'snow' and dripping with icicle lights.
Remember our fall trip to Germany? It's easy to see how Neuschwanstein Castle became Walt Disney's inspiration.Yesterday I was on jury duty. Our county has a one day/one trial system. If you are not selected for a trial, you won't be called for at least one year. If you serve on a jury, your service is good for three years.
It's a bit of a boring process, just waiting in the jury lounge - but mostly I don't mind. I made it a point to arrive early in order to get a seat at one of the few available tables. I used the waiting to address Christmas cards, stitch labels on two small quilts and do some hand quilting on the bear paw doll quilt. I did get assigned to a courtroom just before the lunch break but was thanked and dismissed by the defense just before the afternoon recess.
I have finished putting together all the pennies for A Penny Saved. Now to pull out the magazine with the pattern and start laying them out on the background.
A little dividend. In order to reduce bulk, I cut out the backs of the large and medium circles as I appliqued. Now I have this happy little pile of small and smaller circles. Yo yo's anyone?
I'm making nice progress on my Fever blocks. Only three sets of blocks left. I think I am 1 block shy of 90. Rats . . . I'll have to cut one more time. I can hardly wait to lay them out and see what I've got.

Let's all think positive thoughts that it will be large enough to use on my queen-size bed. With sashing and borders, I think it just may make it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Last week, the wacky weather guys began predicting a storm headed our way. From the looks of this sunrise Thursday morning, it didn't seem like any of it would come to pass.But for the second week in a row, we had much needed rain come our way. It is starting to feel a little winter-ish in my neck of the woods. By Saturday evening the temperature started to drop and on Sunday morning we could see SNOW! from the kitchen window. It is miles and miles and miles away, but we can see it and that counts. It's mostly gone now, but I just stared and stared at it while it lasted.
Even in my neck of the woods I can start singing . . . I'm dreaming of a white Christmas . . . .

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Now to sit back and enjoy the season. The stockings are hung.This little tree is usually in the kitchen, but this year has moved next to the dinner table.
A tree all decked with wooden ornaments that I painted back in the 90's. Their original fabric wrapped dowel tree has long since been tossed. It was a happy, happy day when I discovered I could use this old milk can for a tree stand.
For many years, this tree was our family tree. It was maligned by The Princess and her friends for being skinny and 'brown'. I LOVE this tree! Last year it moved to the bedroom and has a collection of animal ornaments.Last but not least . . . the big guy - full of all those wonderful memories of family, vacations and Christmas past.

I think maybe I'm starting to feel a little of the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Today I began decking the halls. It's almost like Christmas morning, opening all the boxes and finding surprises and some old friends, too.
This little angel is one of the first ornaments we ever purchased. Being poorer than church mice when we were first married, Hubby and I had no Christmas decorations of our own for our first four Christmases. Instead each year Mom would come to visit for the holidays and she brought all of her decorations for us to use. We would buy a small tree that was often reduced in price because it was late in the season - think Charlie Brown - and decorated with all the things I grew up with - red balls, red bows, red lights and candy canes. (Mom LOVED red!) When we moved to the east coast that plan was no longer possible and we were forced to fit holiday decorations into our budget. Everything that year came from Pic-n-Save. Some have gone by the wayside, but many (like this little angel) have stood the test of time becoming some of the most beloved.These are some examples of The Princess' early artwork. The felt bell photo frame is a kindergarten project. After 22 years, there is still some glitter. The little salt dough bell in the background came along a couple of years later. It's such fun to think about those chubby little fingers hard at work to make something pretty for Mom and Dad.
The little glass bird is the only ornament that my mom had that was not red. The balls, bows and candy canes did not endure - but I always think of her when I come across this little beauty.
This little fella is relatively new. We found him on a trip to Virginia about 4 years ago. The Princess was stationed at Andrews AFB then. She took us to Old Town Alexandria and we found a fun Christmas shop filled with treasures like this. I must admit I've never been able to resist a Marine.
The party last night was fun. It was not an 'all dessert' year . . . maybe next time. The treats were a hit. I came home with a wonderful gift. I'll share it in another post. Of course, I think I got the best one of all!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thanks to everyone who had such kind words concerning my daydream post. I have always enjoyed the movie The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty and when I found myself in the midst of a very Mitty-esque daydream, I just couldn't help but share it.
As for the quilt, I am still working at getting the blocks pieced. While I was stitching, I was thinking about the quilt and came up with a name: Fever. Remember, the original was used to cuddle in when I was sick as a child. Combine that story with the new red color scheme and the name could be nothing else. Should I decide to one day recreate it again using blues, as in the original, I plan to call that quilt: Chills.
Tonight is the Christmas party with my local quilting friends. There is a potluck and gift exchange. The best part of the potluck is that no one signs up for a particular dish . . . I think we are secretly hopeful that one year there will be only desserts. It always works out to a yummy balance of delicious dishes. Usually I take a savory dish, but this year I chose to go sweet (maybe this will be the year *s*)
This morning I made a double batch of toasted cinnamon almonds using the recipe that Kairle from Happy Valley Quilter shared last week. A very easy recipe to make up, the house smells absolutely delicious and the nuts taste so yummy good. Thanks Kairle - I know these are going to be a big hit!
I also made a pan of Magic Cookie Bars. Another quick and easy recipe that comes out tasty every time. These were my favorite when I was a little girl. My mom used to make them when it was my turn to bring the snack to the Camp Fire Girls meeting. It was all I could do to not take several samples from the container (an old coffee can decorated with Contact paper) during the school day.Christmas decorating is very slowly beginning to happen. So far the quilts have been hung and the big tree is in it's designated spot. I hope to add the ornaments tomorrow and put up the other trees around the house over the weekend.
This little wall hanging is in the kitchen just above the coffee maker. I believe the original pattern is by Eleanor Burns of Quilt In A Day fame. My strips are resized to 1 1/4" cut and the applique bow is from a Blackbird Designs pattern.This quilt is from a Thimbleberries book and is large enough for a twin bed. Currently there is no bed that size in the house, so now it's hanging in a handy spot near the sofa to cuddle under while watching Christmas dvd's.
Today all the news folk have been aflutter with talk of the huge surf that is coming our way. A storm that began in Alaska has made it's way down the west coast and is bringing us waves up to 15'. I drove by the beach while out doing my errands and saw some very big waves, but didn't have time to stop. When I came back, the surf had calmed down some. I had only my cell phone camera with me and this photo is a bit deceiving. It was taken near low tide and from atop a cliff. If you can enlarge the image, you will see something(s) dark in the crest of the wave near the center. There was a pod of dolphins traveling northward. It is not unusual to see two or three dolphins but today there must have been 20 or more. Quite a sight.
Just like the surfers, they just couldn't resist those big waves.

Friday, November 30, 2007

In my mind, it could have been a scene taken from 'The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.' After all my fabrics were pressed and cut, I would sit at my sewing machine . . . ta pocketa pocketa pocketa . . . and beautiful quilt blocks would rapidly emerge before my very eyes. In no time at all, I would lay the blocks out on my design floor and begin piecing together a quilt top. Next I would open the fabric closet (cue singing of the angels) and the perfect piece of fabric for a quilt back would glisten and twinkle from one of the shelves. After a particularly satisfying session of quilting, I would sit in my favorite chair, pop in a dvd, and stitch the binding on my new quilt. Hubby would come home late Thursday night from his trip to find me sleeping peacefully wrapped in this new beauty and smile.
Instead . . . he was greeted with this. And this. He was forced to clear a tiny area just to have breakfast and enjoy his newspaper.
It was a wonderful daydream anyway. Today we woke to RAIN! We need it so very badly.
At least I have something to keep me busy today. Back to the sewing machine . . . ta pocketa pocketa pocketa.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Progress is slow, but I am enjoying myself. I didn't actually get started until after lunch yesterday and pressing and cutting took a good bit of the afternoon. I was determined to have some sort of measurable progress by the time I went to bed. One block fully complete and a stack of matching blocks nearly done.This morning I got right back to work. This is where I am as of about 7 p.m. tonight. (There's a small stack of hst's to the right of the machine that you can't see.) Because I'm working without a net (pattern) I need to periodically cut more fabric to finish a section. Initially I cut one strip in the required size from each of the fabrics (i.e. 1 - 2 1/2" strip and 1 - 1 7/8" strip from a red subcut to its proper size) So now I'm just trying to even it all out.
I know there are some eagle eyed readers out there who will notice the blue hst's toward the top left of the picture. They belong to this group of fabrics that I had planned to use for my winter Four Seasons Quilt Swap. Sometimes the best laid plans just don't work out and the majority of what I did ended up in the trash. Do not feel sad - it was not a good idea. I was fortunate to receive my swap partner's name yesterday and will happily go in a complete different direction. This will be the last you hear of this swap until the piece is received . . . my partner is a known reader here and I'd like to keep it secret.
I think I have been at the sewing machine for as long as I can stand it for today. I'll do a little hand work and stare at the television for awhile before bed. Then right back to those reds and tans first thing in the morning.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's a girl to do? Hubby left very early this morning for a business trip which leaves me to my own devices for a great majority of the week. With a fridge still at near capacity with holiday leftovers, I have all the supplies I need to lock myself in the house and spend the time doing something fun.
When I first found out about the timing of the trip, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for me to do all of my holiday decorating. Nothing like a festive home to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart. But then I looked at the calendar again and rethought that plan. As much as I love Christmas (and I do LOVE Christmas) once I tire of the decorations, I am completely over it and want them down and put away. Starting the decorating this early could cause me to peak with holiday overload too early. I would never want that to happen, so the decorating must wait.
With that decision made, I knew what my alternative would be - make a quilt. But what quilt? There seemed to be no pattern, stack of fabric or basket of scraps anywhere around that brought about inspiration. I thumbed through books and magazines hoping for that great light bulb moment. NOTHING! No worries with a few things in progress, I'd just work away at getting something done . . . or a least a little nearer done.
Then it happened! I knew just the project that I needed to start. What relief.
When I was growing up, we had two quilts in our house. Both of them tattered, well worn and not held in very high regard. One is an applique basket quilt with embroidery embellishments - the other a two color pieced scrap quilt. We used them when we were sick (I'm sure so that we didn't mess up any of the 'good' blankets.) When they came into my possession, I tried to care for them and offer up some of the TLC that had been lacking. I knew when I became a quilter that maybe someday I would try to recreate one or both of them. I spotted them today sitting on the shelf and I knew the day had come.
I pulled out my Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman and located the name of the block - Double X. Then referred to Around the Block by Judy Hopkins to find I had cutting and piecing instructions for a variety of sizes. Next I opened up the fabric closet and started pulling out fabrics and piling them on the floor. Oh my, such fun.
I came back after after letting them settle for a bit and culled them down to these choices.
I'm going to quickly vacuum the living room, then set up the ironing board and begin pressing and cutting. Oh goody . . . this is going to be fun.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast on Thursday. The table was nearly overburdened with all that we piled on it. I had to email a photo to The Princess and give her a little tease - Hubby said next year we might to put up a kiddie table for her to sit at.While I have to admit the original meal was a delight . . . this is what I look forward to the most - turkey sandwiches. I laughed on Wednesday when reading the cooking section of our newspaper. It was chalk full of recipes for leftover turkey. Around here we run out of turkey long before we tire of eating sandwiches.
The bathroom floors have all been installed. Here's a look before the grout went on (in?) Such an amazing improvement over the vinyl that had long since passed being serviceable, let alone attractive.
Here's a view of the second bath with the new tile, sink and vanity. We just had to put the vanity in to have a look. You can see how the former counter top extended all the across the top of the toilet tank - that design decision was always a mystery to me. What we gained in space is mere inches, but I know I'm going to love it. Next - fresh paint, a new shower curtain, rugs and window valance.
That means - SHOPPING! Whee . . . We avoided all retail endeavors on Black Friday save one loaf of bread. I just didn't want to be a part of the traffic or madness. I'll just wait until mid-week, when everyone has gone back to work and/or exhausted their available credit lines. I doubt what I'm looking for was high on the early bird shopper's list allowing me a more leisurely retail experience.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Out of the kitchen (briefly) and back to the sewing machine. For more than a week now, I have had the fabrics piled on my sewing table for the next top from Prairie Children and Their Quilts - Bear Paw. One of the joys in these little quilts is the speed and ease in which they come together. I hope to layer it and begin quilting this evening. I also played with some fabrics to use for my Four Seasons Swap - Winter quilt. This is what I've chosen so far. The light fabric on top does not photograph well. It is a Brannock and Patek jacquard. I have gotten a good start on my piece, but I won't share it here. Since I don't know my partner yet, I'm not sure this is my final plan. Sure is fun to play though.

Okay, back to the kitchen for me - there's an apple pie to be baked.