Monday, January 31, 2011

January Book List

So sorry for my lack of posting.  I am in full auction mode, just like last year.   The twins' quilts are languishing, which is a serious problem since the shower is in 7 days!  EEEK!!!

So I haven't been doing much quilting, but I have gotten a few other things accomplished.

One of my resolutions that I didn't blog about yet is to read at least a book a week in 2011. I don't think it will be difficult, but I've never kept track before.  I really have no idea if that is a lot, a little, or about average.

Do you keep track?  Do you have a number of books you'd like to read this year?  Any suggestions?

In January I read:
  1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - initially I had no interest in this series.  Then Gracie asked if she could read it.  I asked several friends what age was appropriate, and got as many different answers as friends!  I decided I'd have to take one for the team and read at least the first one for myself.  About halfway through Twilight it started snowing.  During my week of house arrest I managed to finish all four books.  Thank goodness for the Kindle!  I'll admit that I got sucked into the storyline and enjoyed this easy read, downloading them one after the other.  Sadly for Gracie, she won't be reading these anytime soon.  
  2. New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
  3. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  4. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
  5. Angel of Death Row:  My Life as a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer by Andrea Lyon - I read this one because it was free on the Kindle.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a true crime junkie.  I love fictional law and order as well, but true crime is my first love.  It started when I sneaked my mom's copy of Fatal Vision to read late at night when I was 14.  Oddly enough, I can't watch a horror film or read Stephen King, but I can read an autopsy report or watch In Cold Blood while eating Chinese food.  Go figure.  Anyway, I've been faithfully following the Caylee Anthony case, and Andrea Lyon was briefly a member of the defense team.  When I saw that this book was free, I was intrigued enough to download it.  It was a pretty good read and left me with some interesting personal opinions about why she left that case.  Which I will keep to myself since I have no interest in getting sued over something I said on a quilting blog. 
  6. The First Rule by Robert Crais.  Another crime thriller by an author I love.  I have to say that, although this was a good one, I have decided I prefer the Elvis Cole novels to the Joe Pike novels.  Don't get me wrong.  I adore Joe.  I think it's just that there isn't enough dialogue when he's the main character with all the strong, silent type thing he has going on.   
What are you reading? 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overheard - On Religion

From my 14 year old son...on religion:

"I'm just sayin'...if I had written the Bible it wouldn't be so many pages and wouldn't have taken, like, thousands of years.

It would just be 'The Only Letter of The Bear to the God, believe in Him, and be nice to each other.'  Blind carbon copy to the Jews, the Romans, and all those other guys."

He kills me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mise en Place for Quilters

This is what my sewing table looks like right now.  Baby boy quilts, anyone?

I find that life goes more smoothly mise en place, that is, when everything is in place ahead of time.   I started doing this with my cooking, mostly to avoid the inevitable moment when I'm halfway through the cake batter only to realize I've used the last of the vanilla.  Eventually, while watching me go through this slightly OCD routine, my aunt informed me that not only had I not invented the habit, but it was a named and well documented technique. Oh well.

I do it with everyday life.  Now before you go accusing me of being a total control freak, let me say that I don't do it consistently.  I wish.  I have just noticed that when I make the effort, the day seems easier and my mood better and the stars feel as though they've aligned.  Setting up the coffee pot and putting it on "auto" to begin brewing just as my alarm is going off is the best.  Especially when I've taken a few moments to make lunches and get the kids to pack up their books and PE bags and agendas.  When I've got all the laundry not just clean, but put away so no one wakes up on a rainy Monday morning wailing, "I can't find any sooooooocks?"  And when I don't do it?  All I can think is, "Ugh.  Why didn't I?"

When analyzing my UFO pile for my New Year's Resolution post, I finally came to the conclusion that the quilts that don't get finished right away are the ones where I got stuck; I ran out of batting or didn't have enough fabric for the border or just couldn't bring myself to make that many yards of bias binding.  But when I precut all the pieces and have everything laid out in front of me, when the batting has been bought and the back pieced along with the front, that's when I discover the hobby or art or what-have-you of quilting that I fell in love with sixteen years ago.  I imagine myself preparing to make a complicated recipe and getting all of my ingredients and tools ready to work.  I feel capable of creating without the distraction or interruption of looking for the next piece. 

Just like with cooking, I realize now that I am not even close to the first person to make this comparison.  Brenda Gael Smith applies it to dyeing fabric.  Karla wrote a great post after she was inspired by the Top Chef finale.  Even the acclaimed Alicia Paulson thought of it and wrote about it before me. 

I can't be original, at least I'm in good company.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surviving Snowmageddon

In case you haven't heard, here in the ATL we've been snowed in - iced in, really - for about a week.

It started snowing Sunday evening, and left a good 5" in our area. I know you Yankees are holding your sides and laughing, but that's a lot of snow in Atlanta. Normally anything more than a dusting causes schools and businesses to close all over the city for the day. And then it's gone, life goes back to normal, and everyone's a little less stressed for having an unexpected day off.

This time it didn't do that. This time we got the beautiful snow and then it started with the freezing rain and sleet. This is the real killer in Atlanta. First of all, the layers of ice take a lot longer to melt than snow. Trees tend to come down and frozen power lines wreak havoc throughout the city. Plus, no matter how fabulous a driver you are, you can't drive on an inch thick layer of ice. We had snowplows sliding into one another and firetrucks stuck in ditches. It was a mess.

And then the other unusual thing happened. It stayed cold. Really cold. As in, not above freezing until Thursday. Four DAYS after it started snowing. Even then, it was only for a few hours. Despite three days of warming temperatures - it hit 47 today - there is still thick black ice in many of the shady areas.

There's been no school for a week. A WEEK! That's a lot of time for kids who just got back after Christmas break. By Monday, when we are out again to observe MLK day, the kids will have been in school only 4 days of the previous month.

My husband stayed home from work.  Yeah, that really sums up how bad the roads were.  He decided to go in for a bit on Friday, only to have someone spin out on an icy patch and miss hitting him by inches before sliding into a ditch.  So the kids and I stayed home one more day.   Nothing is that important!

It actually wasn't too bad.  Many of my friends were moaning and groaning about how terrible it was and how sick they were of the kids bickering and being bored.  We managed not to get on each other's nerves too badly, especially considering that I have no memory of all five of us being in the house together for this long EVER. Of course, it wasn't really like being with the boys since they spent a significant amount of time playing Xbox Live with all of their friends.  Thank Heaven the power and internet never went down or it might have been a different story.

Gracie and I baked a little.  I'm surprised I didn't sew a stitch, and I didn't even blog a lot.  Mostly Daisy and I did a lot of cuddling in the chair with a blanket, coffee, and my Kindle.  (I read all four Twilight books!)

What's your favorite snow day activity?  Do you get cabin fever or relish the break?

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quilt Shop Visit - Tiny Stitches

I've mentioned that there are is a baby boom going on, and I have some quilts to make.  Last week, Mom and I went over to Tiny Stitches in Marietta to see what we could see.

One of the reasons I love this shop so much is that they have this great room full of novelty/baby/kid fabrics and lots of flannel.  I wanted airplane fabric for two of the quilts, the ones for Beth and Matt's twin boys, and I figured I'd have the best selection here.

I ended up picking out this Timeless Treasures print that is just perfect.  I found two cute coordinating fabrics - one red and one green - so I can make the same quilt but different for the twins. 

I love how this shop has so many samples and kits and classes for you to ogle and pet and dream about.  I also think the way the fabrics are grouped makes so much sense.  I never have to search long for what I'm looking for, and love browsing through the colorways.  

They also have this fantastic classroom space that is new(er).  Classes used to be held in the room in the top picture, but now they have expanded.  I once took a Mariner's Compass class in there, and it was tight with just 4 students and a teacher.  But now?  YAY! 

I'm so glad we went last week - with all this snow the shop has been closed and I haven't been going anywhere!  You'd think being trapped in the house for six days I'd have gotten some quilting done but, sadly, that is not the case.

Tomorrow:  what we did during our WEEK off school due to the snow. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Down - The Minkee Quilt

I finished whipping down that small section of binding on the charity quilt and moved right along to putting the long-lost blanket binding on Gracie's minkee quilt.

I started this quilt about five or six years ago when my husband was in Las Vegas for a long weekend.  I got most of it done in just a few days, and then put it in the pile for another few years.  Why do I do that?

I finally finished it a year or so ago, except for putting on the blanket binding.  Grace has been using it like that the whole time!  After losing and finding the binding, I got it stitched down last Monday just in time for the guild's UFO challenge night.

This was a very easy quilt, despite how long it took to finish.  I had bought the minkee and the flannel back on a quilting weekend in Panama City Beach with my friend, Pam.  There is a terrific little shop there called Quilting By the Bay that I love to visit.  There also used to be a quilt show every President's Day weekend in PCB - I don't know how regularly they have them anymore, but it looks like there's one this year!  (Road trip, anyone?)

I decided to cut the minkee into big squares, remniscent of Gracie's original baby quilt. 
I sewed chunks and then strips of the minkee squares together, and then put them back-to-back - no batting - with a big strip of the flannel using spray basting adhesive.  I quilted the section with doodly free-motion quilting, and then zig-zagged around the edges.

Then I pieced the next section, laid it right side down on top of the first section with one of the edges matching.  I put the flannel back piece, right side up, underneath and matching the same edge.  Pin it to DEATH.  I stitched on this seam, flipped the new section so they were wrong sides together, spray basted, and then started quilting that section.  I zig-zagged around the edges of each new section, and I kept doing this until all the pieces were together and the whole quilt was stitched around the edges as well.

When I was quilting, I did a lot of words and symbols that are special to our mother-daughter relationship, including song lyrics, hearts, flowers, and all my funny nicknames for her.

Finally I added the blanket binding.  I have two words to say about that:  NEVER AGAIN.  What a pain!  You have to pin it to death and I still kept getting little tiny puckers.  I thought it would be a fast way to bind a quilt, which I suppose it was, but I don't think it was worth the headache.  If there is some trick out there to doing it, please let me know and maybe I'll give it another shot.

So that's two down, and twelve UFOs to go.  Not bad for January!  What are you working on this week?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Resolution - Bountiful Harvest

It seems that all of my resolutions are intertwined.  This article about gardening and childhood obesity connects at least two of them.

This year we were able to enjoy a small sampling of delights from the "garden" (translation:  collection of pots and a Topsy Turvy), and in 2011 I hope to bring in a more bountiful harvest.  We finally got rid of our old wooden playset - yay Freecycle! -  but the guy who took it didn't need the sandbox frame.  He suggested that we use it to make a raised bed and start small.  

Over the summer I managed to take pictures of different areas of the yard to see which spots get the most sun.  I hope to have at least one sunny day when I can move the frame, share the sand around to our other beds, add soil and compost. That will not be this weekend, however, as they are predicting snow again!  Inconceivable! 

Sorry.  Ahem...

So far I've managed to grow tomatoes, bell peppers, and zucchini along with the bountiful herbs I've had for years.  Right now I'm trying to decide what to add more of, and what new vegetables to introduce.  I also want to give the blueberries another shot - last time we planted them Daisy dug them up mercilessly.  I don't know why she hates those plants so much, but she just couldn't leave them alone.  What she didn't dig up, the birds ate.  I think I may be investing in some chicken wire and bird netting this year!

Sadly, this cartoon sums up my typical gardening activities.

What does your garden grow?  Any suggestions, must have plants, or fair warning?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution - Money, Money

Money is probably tied with weight loss for the most common New Year's resolution topic, don't you think? Sadly, money is one of the areas where I am least confident and organized, so another post where I can't really give you much help except a list of links - sorry.

I've been listening to Money Girl's podcasts and following her tips on facebook. This past year I've done a much better job of spending less and earning more. I'm cooking at home much more frequently, subbing more frequently, and have put myself on a strict fabric diet (ouch!). But now I think I'm going to make yet another effort at creating a budget and sticking to it.

One of the ways we are trying to keep a better grip on where our money goes is with the Money Manager feature offered by American Express to certain types of cardholders.  This compiles all of your charge and banking info in excruciating detail.  While occasionally painful, it really does help us see where the cash cows are and makes me think twice before I swipe the bank card at JoAnn's or my LQS!

I also like to listen to Clark Howard in the afternoons while I'm waiting in the car pool line.   If he's not being broadcast in your area, you can still listen live online.  He also has podcasts you can download on specific topics.  Clark's Greatest Hits is like the FAQ for the years and years of his show, and is where you can find an Identity Theft Guide, what the heck is a 529 plan, and so much more.

Another place I'm looking for guidance is Dave Ramsey.  I have a friend who took his class with her husband and says it changed her life.  I think I'll start with his 7 Baby Steps and go from there.

What are your financial weaknesses? Spending? Saving? Tracking purchases?

P.S.  I am not providing these links in exchange for anything.  They're just sites and shows I personally like.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resolution - Get O

My eternal quest!  I certainly can't tell anyone else how to get organized, but here are some of my favorite tools and motivational links: 

Totally Together Journal - By Stephanie O'Dea, author of A Year of Slow Cooking blog and books.

Organized Home (home of Organized Christmas and the Grand Plan)

I'm an Organizing Junkie - I especially like her Menu Plan Mondays.

You can get a free interactive (Adobe file that you can type right into) organizer just by liking Michele Connolly - The Organizing Wizard on facebook.  Her website is chock full of resources and ideas as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Resolution - Get Moving

I think this one is on everyone's list and speaks for itself.  If "fits and starts" counted as exercise, I'd be Kate Moss.  Or whomever is the anorexic supermodel de jour.   (I'm old.  What else is new?)

Anyone want to Couch to 5K with me?  My favorite new thing on this website is the podcasts with music and cues of when to walk and when to run.  Seriously idiot proof!  I started this program several years ago and made it part way through before I got distracted with...who knows?  You're shocked, I can tell. 

 You know who will be really happy about this facet of my New Year's Resolution?
  Let's get moving!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Resolution - Queen of the UFOs

Oh, how I love a new day, week, year! Even better this year when January 1 was on a Saturday. New Year's Day is a holiday, so I never really want to start my resolutions in the morning and then eat a big dinner of pork and black eyed peas and collards that afternoon (usually followed by dessert...AGAIN!).

This year we got January 1 to relax, and then today, Sunday, January 2 to plan and resolve.

I have lots of resolutions. The first ones are quilty. I was the last crowned Queen of the UFOs on Stashbusters for 2010 and finished in the nick of time to avoid a penalty.

This year I managed to complete 38% of the 13 UFOs I listed one year ago:
  1. Susan's Quilt
  2. The Green (and Purple) Quilt
  3. Orange Crush
  4. WannaBee at the Ocean (not originally listed for some reason)
  5. Mom's Quilt
  6. In the Beginning well as several Kindle covers and other small projects.

I am taking honest stock of my 2011 UFOs and WIPs.  There are so many!

Jewel Box Jacket - haven't finished because I can't remember the "safe place" I put the remaining precut pieces

Grace's Minkee quilt - which only lacks the binding.  I bought pink satin blanket binding for it years ago and put it in yet another "safe place."  I can't bring myself to buy it again. UPDATE:  I found it while I was cleaning out my UFOs!  This is first on my list to finish!  (Too bad the Jewel Box Jacket pieces weren't with it.)

Breast Cancer Quilt - more of a WIP than a UFO, but I work on it in bursts

Cut Ups 4" Block Swap Quilt - needs to be sandwiched and quilted, always a bump in the road for me

President's Quilt - ditto

Winnie-the-Pooh quilt - another twin sized quilt with no planned home.  I lost interest.  It only lacks a border for the top to be complete.

Purple quilt - I won these blocks in a guild block swap, put them together on point, and now the edges are all wavy and wonky. 

Home Guild Challenge - the only new 2010 UFO.  I'm so disappointed I didn't finish this.

Halloween Round Robin  - Not on the original list -a guild challenge from several years ago.

 Christmas Round Robin - Not on the original list - ditto

Pam's Gift   - Not on the original list - this was a Christmas gift ages ago from a quilting buddy.  I kept thinking I'd add to it, but never found the right fabric.  It just needs to be quilted so I can move along!

Purple Medallion  - Not on the original list - I won this at the guild Christmas party and never finished it.  Again, thought I would add to it.  I may just re-donate it to the party so someone who loves it can have it.

Sunshine and Shadow  - Not on the original list - This is probably my oldest UFO now that Mom's quilt is done.  It was my attempt to make a king sized quilt that I could quilt myself, in sections.  I would love to finish it as I still love it.

Charity Quilt   - Not on the original list - just some strips that I used as leaders and enders and then practiced my free motion quilting.  Binding almost done!

And my WHIMs as well (none of these have been started, but they all have to get done this year):
  1. Baby Boy Quilt 1
  2. Baby Boy Quilt 2
  3. Jamie and Joe's Baby Quilt
  4. Guild Challenge
  5. The Bear's Graduation Quilt
If I could finish one of these every 2-3 weeks I'd clear the decks by 2012!  Can you imagine?  (No, me neither.)

True confessions time:  How many UFOs do you have?

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    Happy New Year!

    In 2011...

    I hope you dance...

    ...celebrate togetherness...

    ...see the wonders of life through the eyes of a child...

    ...and dream big!

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