Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Traditions -  old and new - that's what keeps the season special.  This Christmas is full of firsts for us this year, many fun and exciting like celebrating with our new son-in-law and his extended family.  Some strange and different, such as not much in the way of decorations around the house.  The good news is I can enjoy some of my favorites like this quilt by going back through old blog posts.
This is one of my most favorite quilts, Christmas or not.  I took a class at Fat Quarters Quilt Shop with Cheri Payne with two of my quilt pals.  It was an all day class and I remember being SO excited about this quilt that I came home and stitched on it until beyond midnight  so I could get it finished and hung on the wall right away.
Traditions around our home also tend to revolve around foods - things we only enjoy during the holidays and usually decadent.  Those decadent foods have had to go by the wayside, but I can see no reason we should be left eating gruel  while huddled in the corner.  Instead I am working to recreate some of our favorites in a 'heart healthy' way.
Breakfast on Christmas morning is always a strata - so easy to prepare ahead of time and then *pop* in the oven while the family is opening gifts.  Check out this recipe that I have always used and you will quickly see why it shouldn't be part of our festivities any longer.  I just couldn't let strata go.  So I came up with this alternative recipe:
4 slices whole grain low sodium bread 
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1 can diced green chiles
a splash of non-fat half and half
2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
shredded sharp cheddar cheese and fresh cilantro for garnish
Spray three individual oven-proof dishes with Pam.  Cube the bread slices and distribute evenly among the dishes.  In a small mixing bowl combine the eggs, egg whites, dry mustard, half and half and green chiles.  Pour the mixture over cubed bread.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour up to over night.  Pre-heat oven to 350, remove plastic wrap and bake strata for 30 minutes until eggs are set and the edges of the bread is browning and crunchy.  Sprinkle with cheese and cilantro just before serving.  Some sliced fresh fruits and maybe even some turkey bacon will round out your breakfast.
(photo before baking)
 Okay, time to get off the computer and get back in the kitchen.  I'm going to try out a chocolate cake recipe that will be topped with 7-minute frosting (always a favorite for me)
Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you and yours make lots of merry!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Okay, so where was I?  Oh yeah . . . . going off the grid.  Well, I didn't really intend to be off the grid for quite so long.  But what's a girl to do?  On November 15, Hubby had heart surgery.  It is a rather long and involved story.  To sum it up:  He had a congenital heart problem that has been well documented and monitored.  We have known for a good long time that this surgery would be necessary and were not surprised when it did, but maybe not fully prepared for everything that was going to associated with fixing him up just right.  The good news is that the time was right in every way.  We were in the right place with the right people and just the best possible care.  And now we are back in the business of the rest of our lives.
Starting with a whole new way of life when it comes to diet.  Hubby's troubles were not lifestyle born, but we certainly don't want lifestyle to become an issue down the road.  Let me introduce you to my new, best friend -
I ordered it from Amazon on the day we got home from the hospital, one month ago today. So far everything I have made has turned out to be quite yummy.  I find myself leafing through the pages every day for ideas and inspiration.
The other thing we are doing is walking.  Walking and walking and walking.  The prescription was for Hubby to start with short walks of 10 to 15 minutes each, three to four times per day, slowly building toward walking continuously for one hour every day.  And we are doing just that now including taking on the hills in our neighborhood.  *whew* It can wear me out.  I have teased that he's going to have me running wind sprints in the soft sand at the beach before we know it.
What this does not leave time for is all of the prep work I did before going off the grid.  I have not touched Folk Art Gathering nor taken a single quilting stitch in the hexagon stars.  I finished knitting the bag that was on the knitting needles and it has been felted.
But it has not been lined, nor have the handles been applied.
I took a few stabs at one of the punch needle projects.
There is still a way to go before it can go in the finished column.
Hubby selected fabric to make a thank-you quilt for his surgeon.
It's been washed and ironed and there it sits.
Now let's talk about pre-washing.  I don't like it and I normally just don't do it.  But look at all of those reds - with the intent of making a gift, I knew that pre-washing was the right thing to do.  Still this just irks me  . . . .
That represents wasted fabric to me.  And it is only the ball of *yuck* I pulled off when I ironed, it is not what I scraped out of the washer or the second wad that came out of the dryer.  I just don't like it and will go back to my non-washing ways immediately!
The holidays have gotten away from us this year, too.  Precious little decorating has gone around here.  I artfully tossed a couple of Christmas quilts across the banister and stapled a few more on a blank wall.  That was going to be it.  But we live in a neighborhood that is quite festive.  Not competitive, but festive.  And I am nothing if not a girl who likes to participate.  A quick trip to Home Depot and *voila*
We have a fully decorated and lighted tree smack in the middle of our front yard.  Bonus - we can enjoy it from the living room.  I may be onto something here - I don't have to worry about keeping the stand filled with water, the rains have taken care of that.  And I don't have to vacuum up any needles from the floor.  This is how a new tradition is born.
Back in November, I thought about Christmas cards.  Even tried a few test photos of Larkin.
This is the best of the bunch and she looks rather like an evil elf.  The little hat is really for a cat.  She has grown to the point that it won't fit anymore.  Today I tried getting a decent picture with a Santa hat.
She was skeptical.
Then she shot me a *raspberry*
 And finally just laid down in surrender.
I have an idea for a New Years card instead.  I know that I will need to take her on a good, long walk before hand in order to garner a little cooperation in the way of being tired.  Stay tuned I know we can do it.
Well  . . .  that was a really long post.  Congratulations if you made it to the end.  I hope you and yours have a wonderful Christmas.  Ours will be a quiet one, but filled with joy for sure.

Monday, November 12, 2012

I'll be 'going off the grid' for the next little bit.  In anticipation of this, I have been working on putting together a portable bit of handwork that covers a range of projects to  keep me busy.
First I decided on some knitting. KNITTING?
I have very rudimentary knowledge of knitting - I can cast on with the help of YouTube.  I know how to accomplish one stitch.  I have had the pattern Ewe Old Bags by Lynda Hall for years now, but have been flummoxed by just how to get from knitting the bottom of the bag to knitting in the round.  I studied, I pondered, I thought, I consulted Hubby for ideas and then just went for it and I did it!  While I love (LOVE) the idea of knitting my own socks, I know that I will never take on such a project.  But I do think that this project is perfect for me - it's rhythmic, relaxing and relatively mindless now that I've got all of those stitches on the needles.
Also in my basket of portable tricks are some more applique blocks from Folk Art Gathering by Cheri Payne.
I am nothing if not determined to get this quilt done.  I've been working on it for so long, but my love for it never wanes.  
Another project that is easy to take along is punch needle.  Though I haven't pulled them out for some time, I have the needle and the hoop on hand.  So I started surfing the 'net for a kit or two that I could take along.
I landed on Country Threads website where I found a wide range available.  As I prepared to place my order, I read the fine print which indicated that it could take up to two weeks for my order to arrive. *yikes*  That wasn't going to work.  Well, I picked up the phone and gave the shop a call.  I explained my plight and offered to pay any extra for express shipping.  No need.  My order went out that day (Thursday) and was in my mailbox on Saturday. 
To round out my basket of fun, I'll bring along the hexagon top that I've been quilting on.  A few snacks, a water bottle, my Kindle and a paperback book (just in case).  I should be able to keep myself busy and out of trouble.  When I'm back I hope to have lots of fun stories to tell, a book review or two, and maybe even some completed projects to share.  TTFN.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

To my two favorite (and the cutest) Veterans
Thank you for serving our country!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

237 years of The Few, The Proud, The Marines
Happy Birthday United States Marine Corps

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

After months (really this campaign has felt like years) the day is finally here.  So do your part and get out there to vote.  While voting is a right, the more important thing is that it's a responsibility.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Being creative is messy -
But when you let sleeping dogs lie -
You can get a lot done.  I'm getting some applique blocks from Folk Art Gathering all prepped for hand stitching.  We'll see how long Larkin's nap lasts.

Friday, October 26, 2012

I have a confession - I am a shameless thief!  In my previous post, I shared some photos from the wedding day.  Photos from my camera, which I put away before the ceremony began.  So over the last couple of days I have been skulking around Facebook stealing photos that family members have posted.  I should feel bad (and I do a little bit) but without them, I would not be able to share this precious moment.
As he is walking The Princess to her waiting Groom, Hubby is telling her her favorite *knock knock* joke in order to keep the tears at bay.
Nor would I have this sweet shot of The Happy Couple during their first dance.
(just look at all of those cell phones - I have some more Facebook friends to visit)
They chose for their dance (she also walked in to an instrumental version of the same) I think it's a perfect choice.
So a BIG thank you to Aunt TLP for letting me snag these to share.  And now back to work that I can call my own.
I've started quilting the hexagon stars, simple straight lines from side to side. I think I'm really going to like the end result.

Monday, October 22, 2012

First we rehearsed.
Then the parents waited in happy anticipation.
Dad nervously reviewed his welcome to the guests and toast to the happy couple.
He then prepared to escort the beaming bride to her awaiting groom.
I put my camera away to enjoy watching it all happen.  The ceremony was sweet and meaningful. The newlyweds are just joyous.  The reception was wonderful in every way.  The guests have all gotten on their way home.  The honeymoon has started.  I'm going to take a nap!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Learning to be a 'Blog Dog'  -  first, strike an adorable pose when the evil vacuum cleaner is in the vicinity.
Decide to investigate something across the room just as the camera shutter is closing.
Try out a funny face when you think no one is looking.
Lull the photographer into a false sense of security by posing ever so briefly.
Wander into a shot unexpectedly.
Plop yourself down in a spot when your presence isn't really called for.
Wait, I think Larkin is trying to tell us something  . . . .
Ta Da!!!! It's done - the Hexagon Star top is complete.  With apologies for the sunshine, I just couldn't wait another moment to share the finish.
And just check out the back.  It's almost as fun to look at as the front.
Now to piece a backing, get it basted and start quilting.  In quilting there is no rest for the weary.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rainy days and Thursdays always mean quilting time.  Okay, not exactly a great song lyric but there's truth in it just the same. First I lit the fireplace.
 Then laid out the remaining puzzle pieces for the hexagon star quilt and got busy stitching.
This is all I have left to put together and I will be done Done DONE!!!!! with the top.  That's right, folks - the very next time you visit this blog it will feature a finished hexagon star quilt top.  Seven years in the making (three plus of those years where not a stitch was taken)  How long will it take to quilt it? 
When I pulled out the camera to take pictures, I discovered that some photos had been languishing there for nearly a month!  *shame on me*  Seems I have been relying on my camera phone lately.  When I posted the picture of the 'wedding quilt' I got some queries for more detailed photos that I didn't think I had.  So here are a few details (that I enhanced in an odd way via Picassa to show the design more clearly)
And finally a look at the whole-ish quilt with the binding stitched down (some of it is lopped over the fence) before it went in the wash.
And last but not least there were several of these.
 I was very nervous that the quilt would somehow disintegrate in the machine and I wanted proof of it's existence.  I am sure I will have the very same anxious moments with those hexagons but it will be a while before we know for sure.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Remember when?  This blog used to feature quilting projects with stunning regularity.  This year that all but dried up as I struggled for something - anything to post about.  Well, now the secret is out and I can share with you  . . . The Wedding Quilt!
A queen-sized whole cloth quilt that I have been working on (with dogged dedication) since March.  It is shown here before it was trimmed, bound and washed.  The blue lines help the design to be seen.  I held my breath while it was in the machine - not only in hopes that those lines really would wash out but also in fear that my stitches might somehow unravel. Everything worked out beautifully and it came out of the dryer that delicious crinkly look that I love so much.
This photo shows the VERY LAST stitches loaded on to the needle and my under the quilt finger in all of its stabbed and calloused glory.  Hubby and I had The Happy Couple over for dinner last week and presented them with the quilt - after all the sauces and salsa from our favorite Mexican take-out had been safely cleared away.  They seemed quite happy - The Princess said she thought they might be getting a quilt.  The Intended was impressed that all the stitches were done by hand, though wondered aloud why it couldn't be done on the machine (he's a very mechanical kind of guy).
Hubby and I had a little celebration of our own over the weekend.  We celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary with a trip to The Happiest Place on Earth.  The weather was beautiful and we really enjoyed ourselves - though we checked our cell phones often to see if there was a frantic call from the puppy sitter begging us to come get our darling little charge.  That didn't happen making the weekend a complete success.  
We brought Larkin a souven-ear!
All of my doggies get mouse ears.  But at long last, Disney has seen fit to make them in a doggy size! After we took this photo, we had just enough time to run out the door to get to puppy kindergarten.  Somebody was graduating yesterday.
We still have a l-o-n-g way to go in the training cycle, but we are on our way.  Next week we start our second set of kindergarten classes.  These will be a LOT more learning and not so much 'recess' time.  Should be interesting.

Monday, October 01, 2012

When last we met, I shared a quilting finish.  It has been a long time coming to finish anything it seems.  Lots of starts and not many finishes.  So it seemed it was time to assess the collection of projects yet not done.  I have a healthy pile that I have ordered and I'm ready to start tackling.  If you've been with me for at least the last three years, you may remember this -
Hexagon Stars - the photograph is from three mailing addresses ago.  I put this one aside in favor of Martha Washington's Flower Garden because I wanted a bed sized hexagon quilt in just the worst way.  In the greater scheme of things, I am really quite close to having a completed top.  I just need to work out the odd pieces to fill in the edges, which is rather like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
This is a corner piece all laid out and ready to be stitched together.  Let me just say that this is the perfect project to work on during this resurgence of hot weather.  It can easily be carried out to the patio for some shaded relief in the hottest part of the afternoon.  About the time these last pieces are assembled into a top, the weather will have cooled enough to make it pleasant to hold the whole quilt in my lap for hand-quilting.
A bright spot when it comes to the weather is that it's perfect for tea dyeing muslin.
I did just that with a couple of yards on Saturday afternoon.  It will be ready and waiting when I decide to take on a new project.  I know my resolve to only work on unfinished projects will only hold for so long.  Something 'shiny' with catch my eye  . . . and I will be ready.