Monday, November 30, 2009

Yeah, still.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Still Waiting for the Magic

Still sick. ARGH! I've been trying to do a few things here and there, but it's at a snail's pace--I should be ready for Christmas by Easter at this rate. Again, I'd just like to say, "ARGH!"

In the meantime, speaking of magic, a woman in Massachusetts was doing her laundry and noticed Jesus on her iron (although I kind of think it looks more like the Mona Lisa):

Here's the caption that went with the published photos: "In this photo taken Monday, Nov. 23, 2009 residue is seen on the bottom of an electric iron at the home of Mary Jo Coady, in Methuen, Mass. Coady says an image of Jesus Christ that she sees in the pattern on the bottom of the iron, which she first noticed on Sunday, has reassured her that 'life is going to be good."

I read a little further about Ms. Coady and found that she's not a full-blown wackadoodle: For instance, she's not putting her iron on display for the faithful to come see and worship. From what I've read, she just sees the image and its resemblance to Jesus as a bit of good luck--kind of like finding a four-leaf clover. But I still have to wonder--why alert the media?

Oh, and speaking of the media, I'm sure you've all heard the story about Tiger Wood's car crash early Friday morning. While we don't know what led up to the accident, the media has questioned why Tiger was driving away from his home in the wee hours of the morning. What I don't get though, is what's the mystery? Hello!? Don't they realize it was Black Friday and Tiger was probably heading out to get in line at WalMart for some good bargains? Cut the guy some slack! Geez!

Time for me to go chug down some Nyquil and go to bed. Thanks for stopping by to cheer up the sickie!

Saturday, November 28, 2009


The magic that was support to happen today? Didn't. I woke up with Hubby's crud.

The sleeping in? That didn't happen either. I woke up before 7 a.m. with a fever.

The organized chaos? Just chaos. I herded up the pumpkins. The unlucky ones went into the garbage. The lucky ones await execution in the garage, perhaps not realizing their eventual fate. I took down and sorted the fall quilts--some into the laundry, and some folded to be put away. I washed our bedding (but am still working up the energy to put it back on the bed). That was the extent of the magic.

Then I slept. Then I coughed and coughed and coughed. Then I drank liquids, microwaved and ate some leftovers, drank some more liquids, took some medicine, and folded and glued a Martha Stewart paper train and train station. Then I sprayed the train cars, the train station, and my hands with glue and glittered everything. My hands turned out really pretty. Do I know how to have a good time, or what?

I wish Hubby hadn't been kind enough to share his bug with me. I have too much to do. Why can't they move the cold and flu season to a slower time of the year?

Friday, November 27, 2009

And In With the New . . .

Thanksgiving's winding down to a close. It's 8:30 p.m. and it feels like Thanksgiving has lasted at least two days. I was up at 6 a.m., getting the turkey into the oven. I spent the day as many of you did--cooking, cleaning up, cooking more, cleaning up more. Eating here and there. Testing and sampling throughout the day. Our dinner was at 1 p.m., and dinner that early always throws off my internal clock. We had coffee and dessert at 6 p.m. Now I'm having a half a turkey sandwich and thinking about the day. It feels good to sit down--my feet and legs are ready for a rest.

It was a good day, spent with Soccer Son, the Wild Child, and their significant others. I like my kids and I like the people they've chosen to spend time with--I'm lucky in that. When they were growing up, there were times I was unsure. Later in the afternoon, Soccer Son and his Lovely Wife to Be Someday went on to her mom's house for their third Thanksgiving dinner (the first was at her dad's house last night). The Wild Child and her boyfriend took the Drooling Dog for a walk. The momentary peace and quiet was a welcome break.

Hubby is still sick; his Thanksgiving dinner was eaten in his recliner, where he spent much of the day, wrapped in a quilt, watching football. This evening, though, he seems a little better. I'm hopeful tomorrow will be a better day for him still.

As for me, after a long two days of preparation and celebration, I'm ready for bed--jammies, a cup of hot chocolate, and a book to read sound perfect. And tomorrow? Will I be up in the middle of the night, camping out in front of WalMart or other Black Friday merchants? No. Not me!

Tomorrow I will sleep until I wake up. No alarm will wake me. (Although I can't count out a small, furry, black and white creature who wants to play when HE wants to play, regardless of the sleeping habits of his people!)

Tomorrow I will take down the fall decorations. Hubby--if he's well enough to lift a knife and a scooping spoon--will spend a little quality time with the various resident pumpkins that have reached the end of their lives--I want to keep some seeds to plant next year, and I want to roast some pumpkin seeds as well.

Tomorrow I will not cook. At most, I will microwave turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy or slap together a sandwich.

Tomorrow the Christmas season begins. Tomorrow chaos reigns in this house as some things are packed away and other things are taken out of boxes. Tomorrow the real work begins. Tomorrow the magic happens. And tomorrow night? I bet I'll be more tired than I am tonight. Thanksgiving and Christmas. Isn't this just the BEST time of the year?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We Just Can't Put it Off Any Longer . . .

Thanksgiving's here--almost. As I write, the kitchen's organized chaos. It's a little bit before 8 p.m., and I've made clam dip, spinach dip, and turkey stuffing. I've hard boiled eggs for deviled eggs and I'm soft setting lime jello for a salad (I don't know what's come over me--I've NEVER had any desire to make a jello salad--which seems like a serious contradiction in terms to me anyway--but for some reason, lime and pineapple jello salad made its way onto my menu this year). The cream cheese/pesto/sundried tomato spread is in the refrigerator. As is the premade, store-bought chocolate cream pie.

Hubby's sick and it's probably all my fault. Sometime last week, he stepped on a pin and shoved it pretty well into his big toe. A couple days later, signs of infection were apparent, and on Saturday morning when I got up, he was gone, visiting the urgent care clinic. They gave him antibiotics and Vicodin, and his toe's been improving. BUT--and here's the complication: Yesterday he came down with a cold or the flu, most likely something he picked up at the clinic. And on top of that? He's having a Meniere's attack right now. He's taken something for it and is sound asleep on the recliner, head back, mouth open, with a cat in his lap.

Do you know about the Breatharians? A bunch of nut cases as near as I can figure, but right about now, I'm thinking about running away and joining them. You see, Breatharians don't eat food, which means never having to spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. Not at Thanksgiving, not at Christmas, not ever! If you read the Wikipedia article I linked to, you'll see that every now and then, they might run into 7-Eleven or a fast food place to get some junk food, and I think I could handle that! Maybe when Hubby wakes up from his nap, he'll find a note pinned to his shirt, telling him I've run off to join the Breatharians, and could he please clean up the kitchen because I'm never going to need it again?

Soccer Son, the Wild Child, and their significant others are coming for dinner on Thanksgiving. Would they be disappointed if I wasn't here? More importantly, perhaps, Collins mix is chilling in the refrigerator, to be mixed with red Christmas glogg and "tested." All that hard work and aging for weeks for nothing? Well, maybe I WILL head back into the kitchen for a bit, but I'll keep my bags packed, just in case I change my mind. I reserve the right to do that--it's tattoo'd onto my forehead.

I think I'm about half way there as far as cooking goes. I still have to cut up the French bread for the spinach dip, mash up egg yolks for the deviled eggs, make a pumpkin pie, put together the jello salad, and if I have any energy left, make a batch of Amanda's pumpkin gob cookies.

You know what? I just realized that once I'm done cooking, I won't have to cook again for about a week. That's kind of like the Breatharians but different, 'cause I'll have good stuff to eat! There, I feel MUCH better now! Thanks for listening to me!

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Remember this guy?

Stitch has actually gotten a bit larger since I took that photo--I need to take a couple new photos. In any event, we continue to have fun with him although we still have a few problems with our older cat--they still aren't best buds by any stretch of the imagination. In order to protect himself at night, Stitch has taken to sleeping with us, and usually seeks out the space between our pillows to burrow himself into--it's obviously safe there from the large mean cat and the two larger humans who might roll over on him!

And sometimes at night, Stitch is still quite playful when it's time to sleep--he particularly likes to jump on us, claws out for the best leverage and/or startle/scream factor. Sometimes I give him a toy to play with, or sometimes he likes to play with my braid--my hair is quite long, and I sleep with it in a braid. As long as he has something to keep him busy, he tends not to dive bomb us too much, and before long, he'll settle down and go to sleep.

This morning I got up and went about my normal morning routine, which always involves coffee and computer time before I start getting ready for work. When I returned to our bedroom to get ready, I noticed a lock of hair on the bathroom rug. "What the . . . ? That looks like MY hair!," I thought. I bent over and picked it up, and then I pulled my braid forward to compare--and another lock of hair fell off my braid, much the same as the first--two 4" lengths of hair!

So as near as I can figure, apparently Stitch eats hair. (Lord knows what happened to the rubberband that was on the end of the braid!) This kind of gives new meaning to "hairball," doesn't it? Sure, I've had cats play with my braid in the past, but none has ever tried to EAT it--until now. I'm kind of afraid to go to sleep tonight. I think I need to wear something on my head to protect my hair from hungry kittens. I don't know . . . I'm thinking maybe THIS might be a good bedtime look for me.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Can't Get Off!

Remember when we were kids back in the 50s and everyone had a train that went around the bottom of their Christmas tree? Well, actually, our family never did, but I saw it on just about every Christmas movie made during that era (not to mention the fact that at 29 years of age, I'm MUCH, MUCH too young to know anything about the 50s!).

So anyway, I was thinking on my drive home from work tonight that around this time of the year, I feel like I'm a passenger on one of those trains just going around and around in circles. My days seem to consist of a never-ending loop of JoAnn's, Michael's, the grocery store, JoAnn's, Michael's, the grocery store. Despite having gone grocery shopping on Friday night and thinking there wasn't anything else I could possibly need between then and the day after Thanksgiving, guess what? I spent more quality time tonight in the grocery store, racking up another triple-digit grocery bill. On what?! Sheesh! And during my lunch hour? JoAnn's, yet again, hoping to find silicone-dipped light bulbs but coming up empty--except for that bag I hauled out with me of stuff I didn't know I needed until I saw it. ARGH!

This snowman toy was one of those things I didn't know I needed. An obvious impulse buy. He reminds me of childhood toys--you push on the bottom and he collapses forward. Hours and hours of entertainment, particularly on whatever night I decide to try that Red Christmas Glog I've been "aging" in a large container in the kitchen. Ah, and this brings me to tonight's crafty activities. Remember the bottle brush trees I bleached? (Fun with chemicals!) Tonight I glittered them by painting glue on the brush tips and rolling them in micca glitter--micca is that old-fashioned looking glitter that comes in flakes. I bought a baggie on eBay or Etsy last year, and having no idea about the weight/volume ratio of micca glitter when I ordered it, I didn't realize I would be getting enough micca to glitter the Sacramento skyline. I foresee a lot of trees and other glittery goodies in my future!

Kind of cool, though, huh? The last step will be adding "ornaments" to the trees. See the red "ball" poking in on the left side of the photo? I think that will be one of them--I've been looking for something appropriate and I think these are it. And my other little project tonight? Finishing up the bon bon bags I mentioned the other day. Now I have that cute little original stitchery version as well as four holly leaf and berry versions.

Seriously, I have a whole design wall I've pinned "containers" on; now I need to come up with stuff to fill them.

Finally--are you still with me?--the winner of the Bon Bon pattern is . . . Anonymous (aka Zel)! Hubby picked number 21, and that turned out to be Zelda's entry. Please send me your snail mail address, Zelda, and I'll get the pattern in the mail to you! (If anyone else wants info about the pattern, it's called Christmas Bon Bon by Australian designer Hatched and Patched. If you're here in the Sacramento area, Bearpaws & Hollyhocks carries it--or if you're outside the area, you can call the shop and arrange to order it from them.)

Thanks for stopping by to visit! See you again soon!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Old Stuff

No, this isn't old. But I "found" it at the thrift store a couple weeks ago for 49 cents. It's silver-plated and needed some polishing up. Any idea what it was supposed to be used for? It has a hole in the top, so a ribbon could be added and it could be an ornament, although it's fairly heavy. The bottom is wide open--it's not a salt or pepper shaker, but it's about that size. I might just "park" it on a shelf or windowsill for the holiday season.

As I was polishing up my little snowman, I started thinking about the difference between me and Hubby when we thrift store "hunt." I most often like to look for vintage "treasures" while he looks for stuff he can use that's cheap. Cheap is important to him--if something costs more than he thinks it should, back it goes even if he thinks it's just what he wants--he's sure he'll find it cheaper somewhere else. (Never mind that he'll spend twice as much on gas during the hunt and never find it.) But he never specifically looks for anything "old."

I think--and this is a generalization here, of course--that most men don't appreciate "old" and "vintage." Gran and I were talking about that at the American Country shop we went to last weekend--how our husbands wouldn't understand the whole grungy primitive look and the idea of paying so much money to have it. And I'll admit it--some of it doesn't appeal to me much either. Still, I like old and vintage things.

Here's a small example of the difference between my thinking and Hubby's when it comes to "old." A year or two ago, we needed to replace some of our backyard fencing. I asked Hubby to save a few boards for me. "But they're no good; they're rotten! You don't want any of THIS wood." "Yeah, I do," I replied. He didn't get it. He didn't understand that I planned to just cut off the "bad" parts and I'd be left with some nicely aged and weathered wood for all sorts of projects. Maybe it didn't make good fencing material anymore, but it was perfect for other things. And no matter how I tried to explain, he just shook his head and muttered.

About a year ago, a friend gave us a 6 foot length of old black-painted wrought iron fencing that she'd been using as a headboard but no longer wanted. It was a little rusty, but that was to be expected since it was supposed to be quite old and brought to the US from England, I believe. Well, I kind of have my doubts about the origin of the piece, because there's really nothing particularly special or ornate about it that would justify the cost of shipping it this far, but who knows? That's not really the point. The piece has a little age on it, and that's fine with me. Rusty? That's okay too. It adds to the character. We've had it in our back yard since we got it but my plan is to use it in our front yard landscape re-do, which Soccer Son has been working on the past couple months.

Of course, Hubby thinks we need to strip the paint off it and paint it white. "Oh, no," I said, "It's fine as it is, and it needs to be black."

Yesterday Soccer Son was here, doing a little more work in the front yard, and wanted to talk to me about what I had in mind and what he planned to work on next. The fence was mentioned. He confirmed that his dad wanted to sand it and paint it white but he thought white wasn't a good idea; he DID, though, think it needed to be sanded and repainted black. While I don't think so, I'll take another look at it. But really? I think it's just that neither one of them understands the appeal of old, rusty, vintage "stuff."

Me, on the other hand? Well, I spent a little time today mixing some chemicals together with silver bells and setting them out to rust. I imagine Hubby's probably shaking his head and muttering again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

At The Quilt Show . . .

Of course we all go to quilt shows to see the quilts, but I'm pretty sure many of us go to see the vendors, too, don't we? Which types of vendors attract your interest?

For instance, in my first few years of quilting, I loved visiting the vendors who carried fabric. After all, I was getting a late start and needed to catch up quick, and what better way to do that than by visiting every fabric source possible? After a couple years, I STILL loved the fabric vendors, but I gravitated more to the specialties--wool and hand dyeds--because they weren't widely available in the local shops.

Now? Well, I'd still visit the wool and hand dyed merchants but there were none at this show--or if there were, I sure didn't find them! So what drew me? A button vendor!

A few months ago, I was reading Andrea's blog, Under a Blue Moon, and she was talking about using clear, glass buttons to decorate a tablerunner--the clear glass would catch the sparkle of candlelight. I was hooked by that image and "collected" a few clear glass buttons for a "someday project." (I'm still collecting.) I've always LOVED buttons, and the opportunity to collect a few more clear glass buttons and other lovely things sidetracked me at the quilt show; before I knew it, I was pawing through boxes and flipping through cards. I knew I was in trouble when the vendor handed me a small basket. Yes, I found some clear glass buttons, and I also found these lavendar glass buttons--

There's something about that particular shade of purple and the semi-see through quality of the buttons that just hooked me. No, I have absolutely NO idea what I'll do with them, but someday I'd really love to use them in a project--and I'm not even a "purple person"!

As I was paying for my buttons, more buttons caught my eye. These were carved from a nut and looked much like carved ivory. Because I collect rabbits (in a small way), I was particularly interested in the rabbits, and one came home with me--this was my big splurge of the show! (You can't see the button hole, but it's in the bunny's tail.)

And here are the last couple photos of quilts from the show--some minis. They had lots and lots of minis this time but I didn't photograph more than just a couple. I'm not sure whether they may have been part of the quilt show challenge project or whether people are just getting very interested in making minis, but I wanted to show you some--they were all wonderful small pieces of art.

And here's what I've been doing for the last day or so. I'd seen this little project made up (by Gran) at Bearpaws and Hollyhocks the last couple times I'd been in, and it's the cutest thing! (Candies/treats or other goodies go inside.) The shop also had additional "kits" with the fabrics. So when I was there for a class on Wednesday evening, I finally gave in and bought the pattern and fabric kit.

Here's the pattern--it's by Hatched and Patched.

And now that I've made this project, I think it's time for me to pass the pattern on to one of you--if you're interested, please leave me a comment telling me you'd like to be entered in the drawing. I should tell you that the pattern came with the design pre-printed onto a small piece of muslin, and I've used that in this project, but you can trace another one onto muslin yourself, so it shouldn't be a problem. I think I'll make a couple more, but instead of the stitchery, I'm going to substitute some wool holly leaves and button berries on a muslin background.

Oh, and the final thing I wanted to show you since we're talking about the quilt show, vendors, and Bearpaws & Hollyhocks--BP&HH had a booth and gave out these cute snowman pins and a little "kit" to make some small, simple gift bags. I don't recall a vendor giving out free swag like this before, so I think this is really special that they did--and it's not because I'm biased since I teach at the shop!

I hope you're enjoying your weekend and, if you're here in the States, preparing for a wonderful Thanksgiving later in the week. There are so many things still to do here, but I'm mixing in a little play time too. I'll draw a winner for the pattern on Monday evening and announce the name on my Tuesday post, so stop back by!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Has Come to My Attention . . .

Did you know there's a lingerie football league? Sheesh! I was at work today, and I stumbled upon photos and a story on the internet. Lord knows what I was looking for--I certainly don't remember! Here's a photo, just to give you an idea of what it's all about.

People do the weirdest things, don't they?! Who would want to play football in their underwear? And how did someone think it up? (And, more importantly, what happens when it SNOWS?!) Want to see more? (Or distract your Hubby while you're smuggling those bags of fabric from the car trunk into your stash?) Click HERE for quite a few photos from two different games. Oh, and I asked Hubby tonight if he'd ever heard of it. Yes, as a matter of fact, he had but he didn't think they still played it. Huh. I guess I should pay more attention to those sports update shows he watches!

Okay, so back to the quilt show for a few more photos. OUR kind of eye candy! This first one was a quilt done in memory of someone or something--I kind of think it was in memory of a cat--at least that's the impression I had at the time. But what I liked was the way it incorporated embroidery and piecing and had meaning to the quilt maker. The color layout is pretty cool too!

These next two quilts caught my eye just because they made me feel happy! I think it was the use of color and the scrappiness of them.

That one just above--well, I love scrappy quilts and this certainly was. I never noticed it at the show, but when I uploaded my photos, I saw a couple of "humility blocks" in this quilt. They may have been intentional or they may not have been, but it's a wonderful quilt either way. I'd love to make one.

Finally, there are these two patriotic quilts--I'm a sucker for patriotic quilts. I like the way some of the stars in the quilt on the left are so light they almost disappear--isn't that neat? And then there's the illusion of circles in the one on the right. (Seeing these quilts really makes me want to make myself a new one to replace the one that turned yellow HERE.)

That's it for tonight. I have just two more photos to share and then I wanted to show you a couple things I bought from the vendors, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the LFL (Lingerie Football League), click HERE for Wikipedia. Apparently there's a game every Friday night. I wonder who won this week?

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Dunno

The quilt show is here! The quilt show is here! My friend Jacquie and I went to the first night of the local guild's quilt show right after work and we had a wonderful time looking at lovely quilts and vendors' fine temptations. This year the theme was Teatime in the Garden, and I took lots of photos to share.

See that title up there? What that refers to is pretty much what I know about each of the quilts I photographed. Don't you hate it when you come home and realize you didn't take notes and can't remember anything? Yep, I do that all the time. You'd think I'd learn. The only problem is that NOW I'm getting to the age when memory isn't going to start improving--it's all downhill from here.

I'll do the best I can, but really, if you live in or near Sacramento, you'd be much better off attending the show yourself. You can figure what I'm showing here is just a little teaser, okay? Oh, and I think I'll need to divide this up into two posts because there's too much good stuff. So here goes.

We're going to start with my strengths. This is a quilt made by our featured artist, Laurel Anderson. Laurel has a pattern design business, I believe, called Whispercolor. This particular quilt was inspired by a Christmas card her grandmother (maybe) received (sent?) and I think it was from Germany (or a Scandinavian country--sad, I know, when you consider this is a quilt I actually think I know a little about, isn't it? See what you have to look forward to the rest of this post?). The quilt was just too darn cute and the quilting was spectacular!

Next up? Okay, don't hate me, but I can't remember the name of the quilter. I think this quilt won best of show or judges' choice by all the judges or something like that, and you can certainly see why! For some reason, I thought a lot of the info would be in the program booklet and I'm sure it is except I don't know the name of the quilt or the quilter, and when the booklet was printed, of course the winners weren't selected yet. If anyone reading this knows about this quilt, please leave a comment. It's too beautiful for such vague info! Check out the quilting too!

This next quilt was made by Chloe, Lindy's (of Bearpaws & Hollyhocks) granddaughter. Those of us who have been in the shop over the last six or eight months have seen Chloe working on this one, so it's a treat to see it finished and sporting a blue ribbon (and a green ribbon, but I dunno know what the green one means). When I started quilting, I took beginning lessons from Lindy, and Chloe was only a few months old. Based on that, I think Chloe is 10 years old now, but I might be wrong. I mostly am.

I loved the applique and the painterly quality of this quilt. Other than that, I dunno. I want to live there, I think.

Again, applique. I love applique and enjoy the more traditional subjects too, like these baskets.

So, there you go. The first part of the quilt show! Wonderful, isn't it? If you'd like to see it yourself and answer the questions I couldn't, the show is open Friday (9 to 5) and Saturday (9 to 4) at the Scottish Rite Temple in Sacramento. Oh, and the food's good too--I had a tri tip sandwich for dinner and it was served on a super fresh ciabbatta roll, and the tri tip practically melted. Yum! Well, now I guess you know what I DID pay attention to! More show tomorrow!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Celebrities in the News

Did you read about how Martha slammed Rachael Ray? If not, check it out HERE. Well, it's not the first time I thought Martha was unnecessarily rude. She's not someone I'd ever want to hang out with, and I'm sure the feeling would be mutual (although I DID break down and buy some of her candycane stripped holiday paper napkins at Michael's today--NOT that SHE'd ever use paper napkins, of course!). I think Rachael would be more fun to spend an afternoon with--we'd toss back a couple beers and eat pizza.

If you locked Martha in a room with Rachael and told them to slug it out, who do you think would win? Given Martha's stint in jail, I bet she's learned a few things, but then again, Rachael seems more scrappy. What do you think?

Oh, and I put together my holiday "to do" list today.

People's Sexiest Man Alive for a second year--and he's in good company with other two time winners, George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Yum! I wanted to put George and Brad on my holiday "to do" list also, but I couldn't find photos of them looking Yule-ish, so I'll save them for the post holiday slump "to do" list.

In the meantime, I'll just sing, "She's makin' a list; she's checkin' it twice, gonna find out who's naughty and nice . . ."

Don't you just LOVE the holidays?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Update

I'm a sort of boring blogger tonight. Hubby and I haven't felt very well for the last couple days, and I stayed home from work today and slept quite a lot, so there's not much to talk about. Both of us have had some kind of body ache/upset stomach thing but I think we're starting to feel better. Sometimes I think it's just our bodies' way of telling us to stop for a minute, when we're much to busy to slow down otherwise.

This evening I finished making five of these bags to hold potpourri and Christmas gifts.

I was thinking about making more, but five is enough. There's a certain boredom threshhold that is reached when making the same thing over and over and I've hit it! Any other "containers" will need to be different.

A couple people asked me about the "roll thing" in the center of the holly leaves. I tried to make it look a bit like a cross between a peppermint and a bloom--I hope it looks something like it. To make it--and you're welcome to make some too--I took strips of red and white wool that I cut 3/8" wide. (You could also use felt, I suspect, as long as you didn't plan to wash your project because I'm not sure what would happen to washed felt.) I doubled the strips so the red and the white showed up better and, using a fabric glue to hold the strips together, I rolled them into a "roll." Once they dried, I was ready to attach them to the background. To do that, I used a white thread and brought it up one side of a white strip and down the other. I also sewed from the bottom across several layers. I kept going around, sewing the "roll" to the background until I felt it was secure.

You may well wonder what this next photo is. It's actually Stitch underneath my acrylic sewing table. Spike used to do the same thing when she was little and it's the funniest thing to see a kitten squeeze itself underneath! Unfortunately, there's too much glare and reflection in this shot to see him very well.

I tried to get another photo of him, but the camera batteries went dead and I didn't get them replaced until long after Stitch got bored playing at sewing.

And speaking of Spike and Stitch--well, they're starting to get along a little better, although Spike still goes after Stitch on occasion. Not long after that last photo, Stitch had fallen asleep on a small table next to my sewing machine, and out of the blue, Spike came up and gave Stitch a couple slaps. Of course, she has no idea that he'll be as big or bigger than she is one of these days. In the meantime, though, he's FASTER than she is--but not so much when he's sleeping!

At other times, she just seems curious and will sneak up and sniff him a bit. Then there are times like this--

Times when they're both too hungry to care who they're dining with.

Time for bed--and back to work tomorrow, I think. Happy stitching!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Breast Cancer News

Have you heard about the new breast cancer screening recommendations? I think it's going to be controversial for some time to come. A recent "task force" looking into breast cancer screening has recommended that women don't begin getting routine mammograms until age 50 and then from age 50 to 74, getting a mammogram every other year (and in the UK, once every three years is the recommended interval).

The other finding--and it's been talked about for some time--is that self-exams do little good; now they also think physician exams aren't much better.

I'm not sure what I think about all this. I believe statistics show a decrease in breast cancer since we've become more aggressive about screening, and that must be attributable to something, but then again, there are likely other factors that may play a part in the decrease.

I've also thought in the last few years that yearly mammograms--in women without a family history of breast cancer--are somewhat excessive. I worry about radiation, for one thing, and once a year--or more if a repeat film is required--seems like a lot. And I know it's the subject of a lot of humor, but really, I wonder what harm there may be in being compressed in a vise-like device?

I hope scientists and medical professionals will find some other way of screening that's safer and more effective. In the meantime, I suppose we'll all need to get what information we can, discuss it with our physicians, and follow our instincts. If you'd like to read the article, click HERE.

What are your thoughts on mammograms and the new recommendations?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Santa's Workshop

This elf has been busy with a few Christmas projects this weekend--I thought you'd want to see. When I mentally assessed my gift list this year, I realized that although I don't have too many BIG gifts to plan for, I have many friends I'd like to remember in one way or another--so you'll see I've started on a few small gift projects and one Christmas decorating craft. I've given you links to the first two projects in case you want to make them too. First up? A project that has become one of my all-time favorites: Happy Zombie's Pennie Pockets. These look wonderful on the tree and nicely hold small gifts, like gift cards, cash, candy, etc.

Next are bottlebrush trees. These still need to be embellished, but they've gone through the bleaching stage. Check out Sarah's tutorial HERE. (I don't know what's up with that tree on the right--for some reason, it has a bunch of black gunk stuck to the bristles. At least the others turned out!)

Finally, I have a little bag project of my own design that I'm working on. I think I'd really like to make several of these--I still need to make the inner lining and finish this one up, but I'm planning to fill it with peppermint potpourri and hang it in my kitchen. I got the general idea of putting potpourri in a hanging bag at the American County store--it's decorative AND it will add a lovely scent to the kitchen. I ordered the potpourri online today, so I'd better get my bag finished soon!

And, I've been meaning to mention--have you been following the Cross Country Blog Hop? Plenty of great ideas and patterns from some of our best designers are offered each day. If you haven't had a peek yet, check them out HERE.

Now, go put your elf ears on and get busy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thelma and Louise Ride Again

A beautiful Autumn Saturday here in the Central Valley of California meant one thing: ROAD TRIP! And Gran and I had BIG plans!

So, at the crack of dawn (9 a.m.), I pulled up to Gran's house and found an alarmingly large pile of luggage in her driveway. Had I misunderstood our plans? Were we going away for a week or two? No, it was just a day excursion, and I never DID discover what was in all the luggage I drove around the Central Valley today, but I should have taken a photo!

Something else I should have photographed? Skydivers! Our excursion took us south on Highway 99, and there's a little airstrip/skydiving outfit right off the freeway about a half hour outside of town. I don't recall ever seeing skydivers coming down over the freeway while I was driving along that stretch before--this was a real (if somewhat startling) treat! And we saw more on the return trip. Skydiving isn't something I want to do (EVER!), but it was kind of fun to see.

So are you wondering where we headed? Our first stop was at a shop called American Country in old downtown Turlock, just a bit south of Modesto. What a wonderful shop--I'm sure Gran joins me in recommending a shopping trip there if you're ever in the area. And now? A moment of silence while I let you ohhh, ahhh, and drool over my photos:

Lovely, isn't it? In reviewing my photos, I regret I didn't get a photo of the bedroom, but each and every part of the shop was filled with wonderful treasures. We had to look through it two or three times to make sure we didn't miss anything, but even so, why didn't I buy that North Pole sign? I must have missed it! All that shopping worked up an appetite, so Lori Barnard, the shop owner, sent us down the street to 234 Bistro for an excellent lunch. Between American Country and Bistro 234, I was feeling quite spoiled!

But you know what? That wasn't all! Next stop? Ladybug's Quilts in Manteca!

Neither Gran nor I had been to Ladybug's before, but it's a favorite shop of our friend Pam (Orcsmom) and we'd heard lots of good things about it. And yep, for a somewhat small shop, it sure seemed to have EVERYTHING we could want and it all was displayed beautifully! Are you familiar with Tracy and Plumcute Designs? Well, the owner of Ladybug's, Jennifer Dancy, must have the world's LARGEST selection of Plumcute patterns and shop samples--and, of course, I came home with a couple patterns in my bag (and yes, I DID actually PAY for them--I know what some of you are thinking!).

Gran and I were also fascinated by Ladybug's P.M.S. nights--click HERE to check it out. I think we'll need to take another roadtrip to attend one of these--it sounds like a lot of fun, especially if we can get Pam and her BFF Colleen to go too.

Once again, I was reminded what a small world it is when you're a quilter--Gran and I ran into another Sacramento friend, Wilma, at the shop in Manteca. It seems we always run into people we know wherever we go--which means, I suppose, that we should act mature and lady-like, right? After all, as teachers we have a certain reputation to maintain. Well, when we were driving down the road leading TO Ladybug's, we saw a road work sign bearing the last name of our friend Pam; I thought it would be just the thing if I stopped long enough on the way back for Gran to jump out of the car and grab it as a souvenir for Pam, but by then we KNEW people in town and we were afraid we'd be spotted, recognized, and arrested. Fame is such a burden, isn't it?!

By the way, are you wondering about the Thelma and Louise reference? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, we DID run into Brad Pitt! No, no we didn't--I'm lying. I'm NOT lying, though, when I tell you I broke the law. But just a little bit, and it was an accident. I ran a red light when I was distracted and excited about finding the American County shop. The light was still a little pink though--I KNOW it was yellow just a second or two before. So it doesn't really count, does it? Yeah, I didn't think so either!

The rest of the day was just as nice. A little nap when I got home included a few visions of sugar plums, cute country primitive stuff, and quilt projects dancing in my head. After that, dinner and some play time in the Sweat Shop. And in a few minutes? I have a cup of hot chocolate waiting for me and a good book. Can life get much better?!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's Better to Give Than to Receive . . .

or is it?

I know it's best to do things for others all year long, but let's face it: We're coming into the season of giving, when our hearts--and pocketbooks--open more than ever to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Today I did one of those kinds of things and it sure made me feel good! And given the way the economy's gone the last year or two, there are more and more people in need, so I felt even more grateful to be in a position to help someone else, even a little. It could so easily be ME and MY family who needed help--and there's no guarantee it WON'T be me next year, or the year after.

Years ago, when my kids were young, I "taught" them the concept of charity by incorporating into our Christmas tradition the experience of selecting and purchasing gifts for an unknown child. You know how so many malls have Christmas trees with the names and needs of children? Well, at the start of the holiday season, we would select one of those children to buy for. I think it's a good value lesson for our children, especially if it can be made more meaningful for them by asking them to contribute something from their allowance and help select items for a child their own age.

Back then, helping to make Christmas a little nicer for an underprivileged child was an uplifting experience, but during the years we did it, it never really hit home the way helping a family does now--now that there are so many families JUST LIKE US, made up of people who have fallen on hard times that aren't the result of their lifestyle choices but simply because they've lost their jobs and/or lost their homes through no fault of their own.

So I was thinking about that on the drive home from work--thinking about how good it made me feel to help someone and wanting to talk about it here in some way. So, of course, I thought about what I wanted to say, and then that got me thinking . . . . I didn't want to make it a post about ME and what a good person I am, because that's not why I did what I did. And that made me wonder whether we're motivated to give to others because it makes us feel good about ourselves; which, of course, seemed like a really selfish reason for giving. Am I overthinking here? Maybe. I know that ahead of time, I didn't think about how giving to another family would make me feel good, so I know I wasn't motivated by any selfish reasons.

Still, is it better to give--which might make one feel prideful--or to receive--which might make one feel humble? Interesting concept when viewed that way, in a somewhat biblical sense, isn't it?

Regardless, though, the family that's hungry isn't going to analyze what motivated you to fill a bag with food for their holiday table, nor will a child who receives a few gifts on Christmas morning wonder if you gave only because you felt it was expected of you. And in the end, it's really about how they feel, right?

So go ahead. If you have it to give, then give. And as an added benefit, it will make you feel awfully good--just enjoy the feeling and don't analyze it.

And if you're on the receiving end? Just know that in allowing someone to help you, you've also helped them. The magic of the holiday season.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What's Red and White and Polka Dotty All Over?

Oh, and so cute I can barely stand it? It's my holiday table! Or at least it WILL be in a few weeks!

I finished the placemats tonight, although I still need to make some napkins (there's a red napkin with white blanket stitch in the picture, but I just bought one and I'll use it for decoration somewhere, like in a basket or something). I'm really liking the whole peppermint theme so far! I snuck a few of my treasures out of that Pier 1 bag I told you about. What do you think? No, I didn't buy an entire table of plates--just those two and the square polka dot one in the upper left corner--they'll all go in my hutch for decoration and to use as serving pieces. More than likely, I'll use plain white plates for the place settings or maybe some other Christmas plates--I have some dessert plates I bought at Tuesday Morning about 15 years ago, and some Johnson Brothers dinner plates I collected over the years. Can you see the three-pack of candles? I'm kind of tickled about finding those at Pier 1. I just love the stripes and polka dots--but I guess that's obvious, huh?! They go perfectly, though, with the rest of my decorations. (You can see the peppermint picks piled up in the background at the top of the photo too.)

You know what? I kind of wish Thanksgiving was already done so I could put these decorations out--I'm getting awfully excited about them! Tomorrow my friend Missy and I are going to go to Goodwill during our lunch hour and see if we can find anything--I have a couple ideas but I need to find a few things to carry them out. As always, I have lots of ideas and a limited amount of time! How about you? Have you started thinking about the holidays yet?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Okay, Now, Here's What You're Going to Do . . .

Are you ready to make some placemats? Is this the cutest placemat fabric, or what? I found it at Quilters' Corner, a local quilt shop, during a lunch hour excursion today--it's from a Timeless Treasures line called Kitchenette (you can find it on the internet too--try eBay). My friend Teri pointed out that it would make a great apron too!

Anyway, pick out three fabrics and grab yourself some batting. Get out your cutting stuff and have at it! Here's what you'll need and what sizes you'll cut. For the two front pieces, cut two different fabrics that go well together:

Backing fabric - 12-1/2" x 18-1/2"
Batting - 12-1/2" x 18-1/2"
Front pieces - 12-1/2" x 13-1/2" and 12-1/2" x 7-1/2"
Rick-Rack - Approx. 12-1/2"

Here are my pieces cut and ready:

Now, on the bottom, set the piece of batting. On top of that, layer the backing piece that measures 12-1/2" x 18-1/2" with the "right" side UP. (Layer so edges line up--I've just offset mine so you can see what I'm doing.)

Next, the smaller front piece that measures 12-1/2" x 13-1/2"? Turn one edge under about 3/4" and press so you have a finished edge. That edge will be placed toward the center of the placemat and the piece will be on the right side of the placemat, so if you have a directional fabric, please take that into consideration when deciding which edge to press under. Now layer that right side piece, "right" side DOWN, on the right side of the placemat. If it's directional, place it so the top of the print is at the bottom of the placemat closest to you and the bottom of the print is at the top of the placemat. In other words, the placemat, as you're layering it is, upside down. I hope that makes sense!

Finally, place the left side (larger) front piece, "right" side DOWN on the left side of the placemat. Pin all four corners and pin where the front pieces overlap on the long sides. (Note that the two front pieces are on top--you should see the two different fabrics with the backing fabric in the middle of the "sandwich" (facing up) and the batting on the bottom.)

Now, sew all the way around, taking a 1/4" seam. I prefer to use my walking foot because I feel the layers feed better and don't shift, but you probably know how your machine works best. Just keep in mind that the bottom layer, the one against the feed dogs, is your batting. Once I'm done with the seam, I also trim the corners almost to the seam lines to reduce bulk.

Okay, this is the cool part, I think! You know how you make a pillow cover and overlap the back pieces to slip the pillow in? Well, the placemats are kind of like that. Turn the placemat right side out through the overlapped opening between the two front pieces. Press the outer seams flat so you have a sharp edge and press any other wrinkles out at this point.

The final step is to stitch the center opening closed and add top stitching along the outer edge of the placemat. I like to add something like rick rack to stitch down and cover the place where the two front sections come together (just turn under the raw ends and sew down). In this case, I wove two colors of rick rack together, wrapping them back and forth. I used monofilament as my top thread so it was clear. At this point, you can also add additional quilting to the placemat if you wish, although it's not really necessary.

These can be made fairly quickly. I cut enough fabric to make six placemats but I only finished this one because there was nothing else to watch on TV tonight--I'll finish the other five tomorrow night and show you--they should go pretty quickly, although the most time-consuming part will be weaving the rick rack!

Enjoy! (P.S.: Yes, the placemat I showed you to begin with isn't the same one I eventually sewed together first. All six of my placemats will be different, and the one I sewed just happened to be on top after I pinned them all--you're not going crazy or getting confused!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Awwwwwwwwww . . .

I thought you might enjoy a kitty fix. By the way, we've named him Stitch. Here he is, napping in one of the wool baskets under my desk in the office.

I wouldn't throw THIS boy out of bed for eating crackers!