Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Another year is about to come to a close. 2008 has been good to me and my family.
Topping all the lists would be The Princess' return. While it was an adjustment for everyone in the beginning, it has been nothing but wonderful to have her in the same time zone once again.
Hubby filled my heart with love and laughter every day of the year.I enjoyed the garden . . . . silly squirrels excepted - all spring and summer long.
We continue to enjoy it's bounty now with a full freezer and pantry.All along the way there were quilts - a lot got started, a few got finished, all were enjoyed.
But in the end, it was really about the scraps. I knew at the beginning of the year that I had to organize and attempt to streamline my quilting supplies. The first step was attempt to tame the scrap basket.
I was exhausted and amazed when I finally found the bottom of the basket. You can read all about it here.
Still I would have never thought that from the contents of that basket I would find all of these quilts! Take a look for yourself.

All of those quilts came primarily from scraps. I wouldn't believe it if I didn't see it with my own eyes. Still at the end of the year, I have an abundance of scraps that I can work with all through the year. That is some great news.
Wishing you all the best for a happy and prosperous New Year. And if for some reason life hands you scraps - find a way to make a quilt.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It didn't take long for me to reassess my plan to get just one more quilt made in the last days of this year. It's not as if I don't feel like I've accomplished enough, nor is the family going to be cold without another available quilt before the ball drops in Times Square. So instead, I opted to begin a project that has been rolling around in my head for the last few weeks.
There is no pattern or sketches for me to use as a guideline, just some random ideas that are floating around that I'd like to incorporate into a quilt. Hubby and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary in 2009 and I'd like a quilt to commemorate the milestone. I looked through my supply of patterns and books, searched websites of my favorite designers, and kept an eye on blogs for inspiration. The conclusion I came to is: The quilt I want to make should be unique to us and that I won't be able to find in a previously published form.
I'm going to start by making blocks of different designs and sizes, lay them all out and see what I get. These are the fabrics for the first set of blocks.
And the second set of blocks.
I probably won't share much more than fabric selections for some time, at least not until I get something that looks like it's going to become an actual quilt.
Let me finish with a quick and easy dinner idea. Keep in mind that you have to like strong flavors - garlic, kalamata olives and anchovies. The Princess turned up her nose a little the first time she saw the ingredient list - now it's one of her favorite dinners. If you keep the ingredients in the cupboard, you'll always be just minutes away from a quick satisfying dinner. The hardest part is waiting for the the water to boil.
Salt and boil water to cook your pasta. I use a one pound box of linguine. While the pasta is cooking, in a large saute pan combine one tin of anchovy fillets, 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic and a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Cook over medium heat - the garlic will brown a little and the anchovies will sort of dissolve. Drain the pasta and add to the saute pan - mix in a little bit of the pasta cooking water, if needed. Plate and serve. Garish with kalamata olives and some fresh grated Parmesan cheese and a nice green salad on the side. You're family will be full and you'll be back in the sewing room in just a wink.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

All the build up to Christmas can only lead to one thing: The Day-After-Christmas-Sales.
Our little family enjoyed everything about Christmas. The weather was chilly and a few rain showers came our way. Just enough to keep us tucked inside all day. We slowly ate our way through far too many goodies and watched several Christmas and non-Christmas movies. All too soon the day was over and the newspaper filled with deep discount advertisements was on our driveway.
With no interest in fighting the crowds in the mall parking lot, I had only one stop to make - my local quilt shop. Everything in the shop was at least 25% off. I had in mind the things that I wanted and waited until early afternoon to go. I didn't want to get swept up in the wave of early morning bargain hunters. It's easy to become distracted and start picking things up just because some lady has a cute little knickknack in her hand. The only 'impulse' buy I made was that familiar brown envelope you see tucked in the back. Everything else was on my mental list of stash enhancements.
Now to get shopping in the stash for the next project and find my way to the cubby to get to work. I'm hoping for just one more project before the end of the year. I'd better get busy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our nest is nearly ready and the excitement is mounting. My Christmas wish for each of you is that the day is filled with warmth, laughter and love that will continue all the year long.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Hubby and I are always fascinated with the process of making things. We enjoy watching shows on how products are made. To add to the fun, we like to try the process on our own when we can. You may remember when we made the 'Million Dollar Mustard' some time ago. So it went without saying that when I saw Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse making Worcestershire sauce last week, I knew what our weekend project was going to be and quickly set about gathering the ingredients.
This time there was no fancy equipment needed, but one ingredient - cane sugar syrup - was not readily available in any local market. I did find it online, but did not receive it in time to begin. Instead I remembered reading a post at Morning Ramble on how to make your own and doubled our 'how-do-you-do-that' fun.
Knowing that the simmering time is a minimum of 6 hours, Hubby and I set out early in the morning with the chopping, dicing and shredding. There are a lot of tears shed with the amount of onions and horseradish to be handled.
Here is the mixture just as it was reaching a boil.
After three hours of simmering.
And after 6 hours.
Next we strained it all. Using progressively finer mesh strainers, the sauce seemed good after three go rounds.
Then the mixture cooled overnight before being ladled into jars and processed in the canner.
Following the recipe exactly, we ended up with about twice as much as the recipe states. The amount left over after I ran out of prepared jars this morning will become marinade for the Christmas dinner roast. All's well that ends well.
Now I'm off to bake some gingerbread. I'm tired of the smell of Worcestershire sauce.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

You hear it said all the time, 'Christmas is for the children.' It is true there is a magic in the air at this time of year that surrounds little ones and draws them in. Still that doesn't mean it is not there for the grown ups, too. Here is the little girl in me - the one that still wakes up before dawn on Christmas morning just aching to get out to see what's under the tree.
The treats and treasures of the Christmases that have gone before live with me always through that little girl and in a few very special decorations that bring the generations together every year. While I enjoy bringing out all the decorations each year, it is these few that are among the most special.
This little Santa bank is the only Christmas decoration I knew my Grandma to have.
In my lifetime, she never decorated a tree in her home. She was always at our home for Christmas. Still she kept Christmas all the year through. Santa lived on the buffet in her dining room and I would marvel in him and long for Christmas every time I visited.
My mom always looked forward to putting up the little choir boys every year. She always loved Hummel figurines and these have a look reminiscent of those pieces.
Not only are they sweet to look at, but a music box too. They play O Come All Ye Faithful. We would wind them up over and over and over again as we decorated the tree.
My own contribution to the collection is this Santa made from a hurricane lantern.
This was a craft project from my Blue Bird days in elementary school. He is meant to be a candy jar. So cute when he's filled with peppermints. Can it be that I made him nearly 40 years ago? The glass is thin and delicate, so I don't fill him up anymore.
And the newest of the bunch. The Princess' own rendition of Rudolph.
She made these as gifts when she was 6. His face just couldn't be sweeter. He looks like he might be keeping a secret . . . . like just what time Santa is going to come down the chimney.
I am so looking forward to Christmas. That little girl in me just can't wait to open up the gifts beneath the tree. The grown-up in me is looking for a few new memories to take out again and again in the years to come.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Watching the weather reports on the news this morning let me know that many folks will be enjoying a white Christmas this year. We had a couple of nice rainy days this week, but there is just no chance of snowfall in my neck of the woods. No pretty ice formations or piles of snow in my yard - these are the things I found today on an early morning tour.
Even with things like citrus and roses, the air has been chilly. That makes wonderful weather for hand quilting. Here's some of the progress I've on my Amish Pinwheels. At about a block a day, it is slow but satisfying work.
Santa visited my mailbox this week. He brought a package all the way from McIrish Annie on the east coast.
Isn't this little guy sweet? He now hangs on the door to alert us when Santa arrives. I really hope to get a good look at him this year. Thank you Annie - you are a sweetie!
Today I'm making one last trip out into the retail world. One item on my gift list has been a little elusive to find. Then I have only write our Christmas dinner menu and make a grocery list for the fixin's. How in the world did it get to be less than a week until Christmas?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I never get over the amount of inspiration that can be found on the internet and in particular the many blogs dedicated to quilting. Over the weekend, I found myself reading my way through my long list of favorites and found another example of that inspiration. Jane at Sew Create It shared a picture of a quilt she recently completed. A simple top made from a string of 3 1/2" strips - easy, fun and pretty, too. I left a comment saying I might just have to give it a try working from my abundant stash of 1 1/2" strips. Jane very sweetly sent back an encouraging reply and included the calculations she had done to make a 64-ish" square top from my strips.
I headed out to the storage cabinets to retrieve the box of strips. It practically exploded when I removed the lid.I needed to make my strip 4096" long. Because the contents of my box are such random sized pieces, I rounded that up to become 120 yards of strip. I stitched and stitched and stitched. Using the 'nose-to-finger-tip' measuring technique, I met my goal by late afternoon.
Here's a look at the various stages. Talk about some good, mindless sewing.
To satisfy my inner nerd, I kept track in the beginning. Starting with a fresh bobbin, it took just over an hour and a bobbin change to finish the first pass. After that I only had to change the bobbin one more time to complete the top.
Here it is - a real trip down memory lane. Strips from quilts that have been given as gifts, for charity, some that are still here with me and others that have worn out over the last 10 years.
Wouldn't it be fun to cut a strip from every piece of fabric you use during the whole year. Kind of like the rings of a tree - a real road map of your quilting year. Thank you, Jane. I love it!
My heart just about melted earlier. That puppy dog of ours is really feeling the Christmas spirit this year. Look what was found under the Christmas tree. Harper left us gift - her HippoBaby.
Is that not the sweetest thing? She's been seeing us put things under the tree and just had to get in on the action. I'm pretty sure Harper is on Santa's Nice List.
I'm not sure if I'm on the nice list, but I do know that Lisa at CandleLightQuilter was very sweet to offer me this Kreativ Blogger Award. Thank you so much, Lisa. It's very nice to know that the triumphs and struggles as well as some of the silliness that goes on here is enjoyed.I don't think I could limit my nominations to only 6, there are so many creative bloggers out there that inspire me daily. If you are reading this, I'm sure you are one them and so this award is for you.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Looks like someone isn't going to miss out on seeing Santa this year.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Not all holiday traditions are handed down from the generations. Some are picked up along the way because a friend or neighbor does something that seems meaningful or fun that you want add to your family's celebration. Others just begin to evolve right before your eyes when you didn't even realize it was happening. Before you know it, you are looking forward to something year after year.
For Hubby and I, that thing is a trip to Disneyland to see it decked out in all it's holiday best. It started for us 10 years ago. On our 19th wedding anniversary we were celebrating being married half of our lives, we gifted ourselves with annual passes to Disneyland. I had always heard that the park was beautiful at Christmas time and couldn't wait to see it for myself. It really is wonderful, not even the smallest of details is overlooked. We have gone back in December every year since.
We always stop at the Candy Palace on Main Street USA for a peek in the window. There is always something yummy being cooked up. Caramel pecan patties - I'd love to take a whole tray home with me. No matter what the season, I visit this little statue of Pluto at the circle in front of the castle. I close my eyes, rub his nose and make a wish. I can't tell you the wish or it won't come true.
Frontierland is where you'll find Santa, his reindeer and Mrs. Claus' kitchen. Mrs. Claus sells cookies to decorate. We each decorate a cookie, laugh when our tongues turn colors and get the biggest kick out of watching little kids decorate their cookies.
That first year, we purchased an ornament for our tree as a keepsake. Last year, it took a tumble and shattered on the floor. There is a huge selection to choose from - here is the new ornament to take its place. I really like his crooked carrot nose.
The park is a wonderland in the day, but it really comes to life when the sun goes down and the lights are turned on. Here a day and night look at Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
And just a few of the trees that are all around.
It's A Small World gets a complete holiday make-over. With all those shimmering lights, even the song doesn't seem so annoying.
There was a full moon out last night. Hey! Are those mouse ears?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Most of the country is experiencing a big winter storm - lots of cold and even snow. Meanwhile in my neck of the woods, the gardening continues. It has been a while since I've taken you on a tour of the garden. Most everything has been pulled up and remains only a distant memory of watering, harvesting and putting up for winter. But I never took out the pepper plants and they continue to produce with gusto.
This morning I filled my picking bucket with 20 Anaheim peppers and 35 jalapeño peppers. As you can see, some have been left on the plants long enough to ripen and become red. Aren't they pretty? Like a southwest Christmas decoration. I'll be roasting these to join the others in the freezer. There are more still on the plants that I will allow to dry. I think maybe I can make my own crushed red pepper flakes from them. We'll see . . .
In the cubby, I finished the hand work on Church Cat earlier in the week. I went with my original plan to turn it into a pillow cover. Boy did I struggle with that ruffle. Maybe I shouldn't have been so resistant to taking a Home Ec class.
With a great stroke of luck, the finished piece was just the right size to cover a pillow I already had. We have a couple of throw pillows that live on the bed and this one will make a nice addition to the pile. What girl doesn't just love a big assortment of pillows on her bed?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Good golly, Miss Molly - I may just have to change my name to A Lucky Girl! Yesterday, late in the afternoon, the doorbell rang. After checking the peephole and seeing no one, I cautiously opened the door to find a package on the doorstep. And even though it is the gift-giving time of year, I hadn't been expecting another thing to be arriving until much closer to Christmas. *hmmmm* This package bore my name, but an unfamiliar return address. Seems that Santa had employed an Elf in delivering this surprise. There is only one way to solve such a mystery - open that box!
Take a peek at what was inside - a stocking, being used as gift wrap - what a great idea. Now at this point I am already giggling, just a little. I now know it's from Karen - Log Cabin Quilter. Karen and I had several e-mail conversations about making stockings and patterns a few weeks ago. Looks like she has been very busy making her own batch of gift wrap stockings. Can you see something peeking from the top? Me, too. From my vantage point, I could tell that it was something deliciously quilted. I let out a gasp of delight when I unrolled it to see this wonderful wall hanging. The Princess was sitting nearby and put aside her schoolbooks to see what the fuss was about. She quickly pointed out that the girl's likeness to me is uncanny. Such a comedienne, that Princess. I'd like to point out that I have much more hair.
Now in all seriousness, I was about to become tearful when I turned the piece over to look at the back. Then the tears did come . . . . tears from laughter. Can you see right there, depicted in cotton applique, my arch nemesis - The Squirrel! Karen put so much thought into designing this piece just for me. It couldn't be more perfect. And while she said in the note card that I may coffee or tea dye it, even hang it on the fence if I like - it will remain just as she made it and it will find a place to hang right here next to the computer where I'll see it every day as I am blogging.
The generosity and thoughtfulness of quilters is just beyond words. I've said several times this week that I am becoming quite spoiled. Still it's not a bratty kind of spoiled like a child who has been given every desire on a whim, but a very heartwarming kind of spoiled that comes to me by way of some very kind and giving people. Gestures that are filled with friendship and a giving spirit - the kind for which I can't say thank you enough. The spirit of giving and Christmas is all around.
Oh, and one more thing. Look what I found out in the garage.
Looks like someone has been bitten by the 'tree-in-every-room' bug. After we decorated the house this year and placed several of our trees in one area, I was a little concerned I might have a problem getting Hubby to agree to purchasing more next year to fulfill my dream of a tree in every room. Seems that the Christmas spirit is really contagious this year.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Tis the season. Filled with generosity and chocolate, too. Look what arrived in our mailbox this weekend, all the way from Sweden! Stina and I came up with a little one on one Santa swap a few weeks back. I had no idea what delightful things were about to come my way. Lots of goodies in my favorite brown paper tied up with string - and button embellished, an idea I plan to use in the future.For just the briefest of moments, I considered putting the packages (minus the chocolates which the entire family enjoyed) under the tree and waiting until Christmas morning to open them. But it took you longer to read that sentence than it did to change my mind. I am so glad I didn't wait. Just look at this beautiful sampler angel. She's just delicious. I don't know that opening the picture larger would help to see just how tiny and delicate those stitches are. I can't imagine how Stina kept her eyes in just the right place or her poor sore fingers working with stitches so small.
No Christmas angel is this girl. She will be on display all the year round. I want to be able to look at her everyday.
Also she sent this lovely wire heart hanging. The Princess and I have been arguing a little over just where best to display it. You see, she thinks her bedroom would be just right - but I cannot concur. I kept careful eye on her while she acted as my hand model to make sure I got it back. We have agreed that it will be perfect hanging in the window, but a better photo was in front of a plain wall.
Stina tells me it was made by a man that lives near her. I bet he could a lot of business with an online shop. I would love to see more of his works. Thank you so very much Stina for a wonderful package - I think I am the lucky girl in this swap.
There has been a little dab of sewing going on in the cubby. Last week, I pieced the stars from the kit I won in Kathie's drawing. I could quickly become very spoiled with pre-cut kits. Such fun to sit down and start sewing. I think I will quilt it with either clamshells or Baptist fans, two designs I have been wanting to try on for size.
I wonder if Kathie knew there was another quilt inside that kit? I used the pieces left from the snowball corners on the stars to make this. It's a little wonky, but so am I. The hst's are about 5/8" finished.
And just like an info-mercial, if you wait -there's more. I pieced up a back for the little quilt from the leftover squares.
A lot of goodness has come my way via the mailbox in the last week or so. Just like the song says, 'It's the most wonderful time of the year . . . . .'