Happy New Year

Saturday, December 31, 2011

This was the view this morning out the back of the cabin ... it was perfection ... and it was an amazing way to start the last day of the year!

It's only natural to close a year looking at the highs and lows ... and the highs definitely won this year ... they were big, encompassing and meant so much.  A milestone birthday ... 10 years cancer free ... a new grand baby!  The two house robberies had financial implications, but no one was home and it was only 'stuff'.

We've had a fabulous day out at the cabin ... relaxing and watching a movie and making process on a few quilts (look forward to more posts this week).
Duck was in the oven
Happy New Year!
I wish all of you the happiest of times in 2012 and that the highs out weigh the lows for all of you!

All the best

and it was a busy year ...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

new job ... busy year ... and still got a little quilting done! Happy with the outcome!

Holiday Biscotti

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday office presents
A couple of holiday office presents for the team.  The mugs are courtesy of Value Village and the Biscotti is homemade by my wonderful husband.

This year's family Christmas presents center around a kitchen theme.  John's contribution was the homemade biscotti.  After 4-5 test batches (which we SO enjoyed) ... he finally landed on a recipe that has already gotten rave reviews from friends!

As we were mailing these to far away places, we needed to come up with a way to keep them from grating on each other and crumbling.  I found some little bags on Amazon, bought some red wrappia and  and picked up kitchen storage containers, with festive red lids, from the Container Store.  We also coupled it up with lovely porcelain mugs (sets of 6) that we found for a great price on Crate and Barrel's website (with their free shipping promotion).
Mugs and biscotti
You've likely seen the placemats and potholders I labored over this fall.  Also added to the package was a flower-sack tea towel in a coordinating color and a little bag of some of our favorite teas.

If you're up for trying some FABULOUS biscotti.  The recipe is as follows.

John’s Biscotti recipe
4 Tablespoon unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon  anisette extract
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
one grated orange zest
3/4 cup silver almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 375 F.  Butter a baking sheet, dust with flour and then remove excess flour.
Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then add almond and anisette extract.
Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl the add minced orange zest.  Add flour to the batter a little at a time.
Divide dough into half and shape each into a 2-inch wide log and place on baking sheet.  Bake until the loaves are golden about 30-minutes.  Remove loaves from oven and lower temperature to 250 deg F.
When loaves are cool enough, cut each on a diagonal into 1/2 inch slices using a serrated knife.
Place slices on baking sheet, return to oven for 8 minutes, then carefully turn them over for another 8 to 10 minutes until they dry out.
Will keep in an airtight container ... if you can keep them away from everyone!

The biscotti has also found its way into our neighbors hands ... and recipe requests have come in ... including one from our neighbors who came over last night to wish us a Merry Christmas (even though not everyone in the photo was willing to smile).  It's always fun to have kids in the house during the holidays!
Family of Santa's

I hope that you're having a Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

All the best

Have I mentioned that angel I am married to ???

Monday, December 19, 2011

So the cold that I blogged about here has now turned into a sinus infection ... which apparently means [gasp] I am snoring at night!  

So my dear husband left our bed last night at about 2AM having tired of trying unsuccessfully to quiet me down and get back to sleep.

He groggily went downstairs to the the guest room where he knew the bed was made ... where he encountered the current WIP.   He had the presence of mind at 2AM to figure out that the two rows at the top are only pieced (not sewn) together.

He did find another bed to sleep in ... but it was without any sheets and covered with all the extra packaging from the major Christmas present mailing we just did with packages shipped from Hawaii to Toronto to Virginia.  I found him buried in bubble wrap at 7AM this morning ;-).

Sometimes the "process" isn't just about how the quilter gets from point A to point B ... sometimes it's about how the family adapts to the "process".

I definitely married a good one ...

Hope your holidays are full of joy!

All the best

A "thank you" pillow

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patriotic Pillow
Earlier this year ... a long-time family friend, Evelyn, sent me a copy of The Lost Heroes Art Quilt book.  This is a book that tells the story behind the Lost Heroes quilt that was made to honor our fallen soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  This quilt, which has been on tour around the country for the past year, has 50 panels to represent the 50 states, and a fallen soldier has been chosen to represent each state.  In each panel on the quilt, there is a photographic image of each of these soldiers when they were children.

The quilt has been used to honor the fallen and their families, as well as to raise money for charities that support the families of fallen soldiers.

It turns out, that Missouri is represented by Bill Hecker ... the kid brother of a friend of mine from high school.  Bill came from a military family and left behind a wife and four children ...

I've been meaning to pull something together to send Evelyn to thank her for the amazing gift of this book.  And while I am late in getting it put together ... I completed this 12 x 16" flag pillow for her today.

With our final soldiers now returning from Iraq this week ... it seemed an appropriate time to remember the 4,802 American soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice and did not get to come back to their families and friends.

All the best

Lotsa pillows!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The pillows are complete!  The two on the left go to my brother's two daughters (aged 13 and 16) and the two on the right go to my sister's 2 daughters (aged 16 & 19).  The one in the middle is my "oops" pillow and will stay right on this bed in the guest room.

I did finally get them monogrammed correctly.
Monogrammed pillow backs
And each pillow, actually is accompanied by a smaller pillow as well.
Pair of pillows
Pillows by the number:

  • 2 pillow forms -- 16" x 16" and 12" x 16"
  • Patterned fabrics from Lotta Jansdotter and Metro Living by Robert Kaufman.  The gray is Kona Coal (some of the small pillow fronts, and the back on all the pillows).
  • Fronts have very light quilting with batting.  Backs are strictly material with a zipper installed.

The final cost I figure was bout $26 per set of pillows -- broken down as follows:

  • $16 for pillow forms (with 50% off coupons @ JoAnns)
  • $4 in printed fabric (total printed material cost was $25, but I have about 1/3 of material left over, so can't assign all the cost to these pillows)
  • $2 in solids (~1/2 yard per set and a 40% off coupon @ JoAnns)
  • $4 for zippers 
  • Free -- batting, trimmed from quilts 
The weren't exactly the bargain I had initially anticipated ... the pillow forms were over 60% of the cost.  But I was really happy with how they came out and they definitely fit with this year's present theme ... home made and from the heart ;-).

Hope your holiday presents are nearing completion!

All the best.

Don't you hate it when that happens ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I really appreciated your advice a few weeks ago on this post.  I did decide to go ahead and monogram the pillows.   I sent a Facebook message off to my niece to make sure I had the correct middle initials ... and then waited ... and waited.

So I went ahead and made the pillows ... and of course.  The next day got the message back from my niece -- initials are CMN and KAN.

So what the heck ... I can put the intials on the back ... right ?!?!?  How hard can it be?  Well ... it was a little tricky ... but it actually came out pretty good and I liked the fact I had personalized them, without having to put it on the front.

Not so fast ... her initials are CMN, not KMN ... yup ... I mixed up the sisters initials.

It's not the end of the world, I had already realized that the pillows go great in my guest room ... no one will notice the initials on the back.  So I started to make another one for my niece.

I still have enough fabric left ... so I pulled it together and realized I actually like this one a little better than the last one ;-).

Until I see problem #2 ... I forgot to cut off the selvage.

Well ... nothing that a little seam ripper wont fix.  At least that one's fixable without having to remake the pillow.

Now I need to pick up a zipper tomorrow and finish it up by tomorrow night ... then I'll be right back where I started ;-).

At least this time I got to appliqué the monogram before I put the pillow together.

Thanks again for the great advice on the first round!

All the best

Holiday Hostess Gifts

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Here's a great idea for a hostess gift for all those holiday parties you're heading to over the next few weeks!

I purchased some fabric from Pink Chalk Fabrics last week and Kathy was giving away a pattern for some really cute holiday potholders as thanks for the order!
I loved her concept of the tree from the scrap bin and I've kept that element.  But I passed on binding them and instead did a self binding, which I find so much more effective for potholders and placemats (you can see my tutorial for self binding placemats here).

I made them in pairs ... using 2 coordinating base fabrics ... one on the front of one and then the back of the other and vice versa.  Then kept the quilting light ... just around the tree, which helps hold everything in place and creates a nice pattern on the back.

I've already given away 2 sets to holiday hostesses ... only 5 more parties to go ;-).

Happy Holidays!

Under the weather ...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cabin quilts
Well ... the only good part about a bad cold is ... pulling out every quilt I have at the cabin and piling 'em all on ...

Of course ... that comes with the 'not so good' as well ...

Hope to be 'back at it' tomorrow ...

All the best

Call to action ...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Denyse Schmidt's Blanket Statement
I tried to make the "Blanket Statement" from Denyse Schmidt's book "Quilts" several months ago.

The premise is that you take an old wool blanket and update it by sewing on strips of colored/patterned fabric.  I thought it would be perfect for the cabin.   I am not sure I would recommend the project.

I started with a $4.99 blanket, cut it in half to make it a lap quilt and applied the material.  The challenge is that the blanket stretches and you can imagine how that turns out ...

I had applied the fabric back in early summer, didn't like how it ended up and decided not to invest anymore time.

Then I read an article this week.  There are an estimated 600 people living in cars in Seattle.  It was a number that stunned me.  Their stories stunned me.  It was a sharp contrast to the weekend we've just had here in the U.S. -- one that starts with counting our reasons to be thankful ... and one that seems to end with a bit too much conspicuous consumption over the Black Friday weekend.

A local organization, "Heroes for the Homeless" is holding a drive for coats, sweaters, mittens, sleeping bags, blankets, etc.   If you're living in your car ... a wool blanket is a lot more important than a pretty blanket.  So I bound it and finished it up yesterday.

It's that time of year ... and I encourage everyone to take a look through their closets (linen, front hall and clothing) and find those warm items that just aren't getting used and can be better utilized by someone in need.  I would also recommend that you look one step beyond Goodwill right now.  While I love their business model and think it works well, today, in this economy, there is a real need out there for some basic items for free.  Some of these folks are making decisions to stay warm or to eat.  Decisions that no one should have to make.

Thanks for taking a peek and remembering those that are struggling right now ...

All the best

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Placemats and Potholders

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Each set = 4 placemats & 2 potholders
Four sets complete ... three more in various states of production ... glad it's still only November 22nd!

This is probably my favorite set ...

It's for John's 30-something son who is a bachelor ... I was trying to go a little more masculine ... 
and now I want it for me!

Hope your holiday creations are coming along equally well!

All the best!

Need a little advice ...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Update:  Thanks everyone ... initials it is!

I am blessed with 4 lovely nieces!  For Christmas this year, I splurged a little at Pink Chalk Fabrics on some 1/2 yard cuts from the new Lotta Jansdotter line ... along with a little Metro Living to make them some pillows for their rooms.

So here's where I need help.  My original plan, before I picked out the material, was to make them each a pillow with their names on them.  They are aged 13, 16, almost 17 and almost 20.

I was thinking of personalizing them along the lines of these pillows I made this summer.
But then I bought the fabric ... and I'm wondering if that would really fit with this material?  Or should I go ahead and make the pillows without their names?  I'm torn and would value some thoughts (particularly from anyone who has insight into teenage girls ;-).

All the best

Placemat tutorial

Saturday, November 19, 2011

As I posted here, I had a few of these to make ... and as I indicated in my previous post, I have completed 16 out of the 28 needed for this years Christmas bundles.

I got a late start for a variety of reasons ... but one was that I didn't actually know how to make a placemat ... and as I learned from my pot holders ... just treating it like a mini-quilt does not always work.

So I decided to put together at tutorial for anyone else out there that might be trying to figure this out ...

The tutorial is not about how to design the front of the placemat.  As I had previously mentioned, the inspiration for my placemats this year was Kate at Needle and Spatula.  But rather, the tutorial focuses on how to put the place mat together.

First, I start with the excess batting I have laying around from making quilts and cut a piece for each placemat.
15" x 20" batting
Then lay the back of the placemat onto the batting -- if you're using a print, you'll want the wrong side of the fabric to face the batting.
14" x 19" back of placemat (right-side up)
Then lay the top of the placemat onto the back -- in this case you want to put the right side down towards the backing material.
14" x 19" front of placemat (wrong side up) pinned
Sew 1/4" from edge of fabric, leaving an opening on one of the long sides of the place mat that is large enough to get your hand into (you will need to turn it right side out).
Open seam seen at top
Trim the excess batting and clip the corners.
Clipping the corners
You will then need to turn the place mats inside out.  Pushing the corners out as much as you can with your finger.

Right-side out placemat
Then I use a letter opener to finish pushing out the corners (be careful here not to push to hard and rip the fabric).  

Then gently iron around the perimeter, getting the fabric to lay flat and closing up the opening you used to turn it right-side out.  
Ironed (you can see opening on bottom left)
I then stitch about 1/8" of an inch from the edge -- this ensures that you get the opening caught and closed to avoid fraying later.  I have also been shifting the needle one notch to the right (as opposed to keeping it central).  This gets me that much closer to the edge.
Stitching close to the edge
I performed two rounds of perimeter stitching, as in my inspiration placemat.  

Perimeter stitching
I also did some straight line quilting ... which you can see front and back below.
Quilted Top
Quilted back
Let me know if you have any clarity questions.

All the best

Place mat Progress!!

Rainbow of quilted placemats
16 completed ... 12 to go!

10 Amazing years ...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

You've come a long way baby ...
How lucky am I ?!?!?
For those of you who follow this blog ... you've heard me reference this anniversary before ... well ... it's here!

Ten years ago today, November 14th, they removed at tumor that was the size of a grapefruit from my abdomen.  It was stage IIc Ovarian Cancer ...

I am alive today because of three WONDERFUL doctors (Drs. Hambrick, Stern and Cecchi) who saw me through surgery and chemotherapy.

I am the luckiest women around because of them and because of the fabulous man I am married to!!!  We will celebrate 16 years of marriage on Friday of this week.

Ten years ... WOW ... I am so amazingly grateful ...

But I cannot forget the 154,000 women in the U.S. who have died of Ovarian Cancer in those 10 years ... or the 5,564,900 other Americans who will have succumbed to cancer over those 10 years ...

I will run my first (and likely last ;-) half marathon in honor of those folks in May.

In the interim, I am so happy that I can count 10 years in my list of life accomplishments ...

Have a great week!

All the best

Happy Veterans Day ...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

... or Remembrance Day ... where ever you are ... take a minute to say thanks ...

Thanks Dad (Vietnam) ... Thanks Patrick (brother, Iraq & Afghanistan) ... Thanks Brian (brother-in-law who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Cyprus) ...

Thanks to all the men and women who have served ...

Quilted placemat

Quilted placemat
I am getting a bit faster on the pot holders ... so decided to try coordinating placemats to go along with them ... this was my first attempt ... which is now off the docket as 1" squares are a bit ambitious for a 'quick' effort.

I used this as my inspiration.

I will keep this one and after the holidays finish out the set for me!  But in the interim, I need to try a couple of options this evening for a band of color that will be fun, but not quite as complex as 60 1" squares.

Hope your holiday gift creation is going a bit more expediently ;-()

oh ... and I almost forgot ... welcome Mary ... my 100th follower!!!  Who knew?!?!?

All the best

Late start for Christmas ...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I hadn't originally planned on making Christmas this presents ... but I've now decided that I do want to have some of our presents come from the heart this year ... so the theme is around the kitchen and coffee, tea and some of John's home-made biscotti ...

So this weekend I made the trial and first set of potholders to go in the package.
I actually think that they came out better than the photos imply ...
This set is reversible and will go in the package with the Scattered Blocks quilt for my friend Patricia ... as she has also just moved from TX to CA, so this will be a little something for the new house.  One is made from the colors in the quilt and the other from coordinating fabrics in the scrap bin.

I searched long and hard for a potholder pattern and finally landed on this one by Texas Freckles.  It was designed to be fast ... though I think it's still taking longer to make these than I want ... I like the self-binding option and it makes a nice thickness with the right level of heat protection.

Most importantly ... this is a GREAT scrap buster!

Hope everyone is having a good weekend.

All the best

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