Sunday, August 28, 2011

Kicking off the Grand Plan!

Can you believe it's time already to kick off the Holiday Grand Plan?

Those of you who can't stand the C word before Halloween might want to plug your ears and sing "la la la" for the next several Sundays, because this is how I roll.  It is the only way to save my sanity and guarantee that I don't finish up football season with a full blown panic attack over how much there is left on my to-do list. 

This week we are making our lists.  Some people prefer to make cute binders, but I put all mine on a Numbers/Excel sheet.  If you would like a copy of the template, please feel free to email me at quiltinjenny AT gmail DOT com.

It's also the week the clean up your front door/porch area. Normally this one doesn't take too long because we don't have much of a porch, but we just cut down several large hollies near the door and had the outside of the house painted, so it could use a little TLC. 

In addition to a recipe for a meal that you can freeze to pull out on a crazy night, I'm also planning to post a weekly recipe for a treat and a DIY gift to share. If you are doing the plan with me, please link up.

Here we go!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Not much quilting going on these days because we've been doing a lot of this:

Last night was a late night after a nail-biter that went into overtime.  Hoping to get back to my machine this week.

Also, I have a surprise for you tomorrow! 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Podcast Roundup 2011

It's football season and you know what that means - MORE PODCASTS!  Although my driving to and from football practice has virtually ground to a halt now that The Bear is in high school and stays after instead of being driven across town in rush hour traffic, I still find myself with lots of time in the car.

The two podcasts I've recently added to my subscriptions are The Off Kilter Quilt with Frances, and Hip to be a Square with Pam. 

Frances is a sort of newish quilter, professional author of young adult novels, knitter, fiddler, and gardener.  She records quilt diaries that frequently veer off the subject of quilting and into her interests and life with two tween boys and The Man.  She has a gorgeous South Carolina accent that is soothing when there's construction or a wreck or a long grocery list, so that I wouldn't even care if she wasn't talking about quilting.  But she is.  I love listening to her progress and laugh at some of her conversational tangents because they sound so darn familiar!  The pins holding up the curtains in her son's room made me glance around for hidden cameras.  Frances's podcast and blog have a conversational feel to them, which often pulls in other quilters I love through the comments and posts.  Now if we could get her on twitter!

Speaking of twitter, that's where I most often "see" Pam.  She, Sandy from Quilting for the Rest of Us, Brye Lynne, Allison, and so many more feel like friends I've known a long time instead of disembodied voices.  As it turns out, she's also local, so probably my best bet for one day meeting in real life.  Pam claims to be podcasting about "all things quilty and geeky" but there's not a lot of geek.  There is a lot of Zapper, the helper cat, who is drawn to the microphone like toddlers to their mother when the phone rings.  Pam is active in the Atlanta Modern Quilt Guild, which is where I'd like to belong when I grow up.

Who are you listening to these days? 

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Day With the WannaBees - Back to School

Yesterday the WannaBees got together for the first time in a long time.  Summer is a real challenge, so we are pretty sporadic in June and July.  But the kiddos are back in school so it's time to quilt!

It was a very back-to-school episode of the WannaBees.  It's amazing how different we all are and yet have so much in common.  The conversation covered new preschoolers, home schooling, charter schools, and one sweet girl who is leaving for college today.  Good luck C!

We also welcomed our newest member, Laura.  She is a former art teacher like Ben, so I can't wait to see what she comes up with.  

Somehow I forgot my camera, but you can check out a few pics of what Ben has been working on over at Jodi's blog, On Forward Motion.  I love the one block wonder that Ben made.  Can you see the fish?

Jodi was doing some wool applique, Vicki showed off a gorgeous Block of the Month top she just finished, and I was doing some piecing for a project I'm going to show you soon.  But mostly it was just good to get together and catch up.

I hope you have time this weekend to sit and sew with friends.  It is truly a blessing!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Fresh Coat

I've been reading Kate of Centsational Girl's blog for about a year and getting those yearnings you begin to feel when a young man and a young woman...oh, wait, that's a different story.  THIS story is about the yearnings you feel when you see a great pattern or beautiful fabric or clever craft idea.  The yearning to make and create and plant and redo.  Yes, those.

Centsational Girl, in case you don't follow her (which you should), does some pretty awesome things with spray paint.  She uses other paints and different tools as well, but those things go ~ whoosh ~ right past me.  The spray paint projects are the ones that get my trigger finger itchy.

I decided to test out my shootin' skills with a project that could not possibly matter less, just in case I totally screwed it up.  These metal planters have been sitting under our deck rusting years since we moved in. 

I started off with my handy dandy Dremel tool.  Actually, I had to call The Pit Boss and ask him to bring it home from work since I've never even used it.  Then I went to continue my entertainment of the guys at my local Ace Hardware and find the right attachment.  But THEN I used it.  A Dremel is a wonderful thing.  I sanded the rust and flaky paint off, probably causing some deadly lung disease before I remembered to put on a mask.

I would have loved to test out some of the awesome new colors available in spray paint, but I already had a can of flat black I had bought for this very purpose a long time ago.  Plus, I thought black would look very classy against the freshly painted white trim on the outside of the house.

I think it does, don't you?

Thanks so much, Kate, for the inspiration to fix something up.  I can't wait for my next project!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Momma Needs a New Pair of Shoes

First, let me say this is NOT a sponsored post.  No one has offered me anything to write this.  Not saying I wouldn't accept if offered. 

You have heard my tale of woe about my feet.  You have seen a few of my desperate attempts to avoid going back to the orthopedist (he said he would put me in a boot or consider surgery if I came back and wasn't better, so I didn't.).

OT:  funniest conversation about this topic with my crazy liberal California brother.

B:  So, how's the working out going?
Me:  What working out?  I can't even walk one mile without my foot killing me!  I hate the gym and the exercise bike, and I can't afford a gym with a pool.  
B:  Did you get a recommendation for an acupuncturist?
Me:  Yes, I'm going to see him next week.
B:  Great!  What else have you tried?
Me:  Well, the orthopedist said he'd try a boot or surgery if I came back and wasn't better.
B:  Orthopedists!  All they want to do is immobilize or operate!  I can't believe they're still allowed to be called doctors!*

Anyway, back to my commercial.  I finally realized that the advice (by the orthopedist) that was most valuable was to wear good shoes.  He did not approve of the really cute flip flops I wore to his office.  He specifically mentioned Merrell, but noted that there are other good brands out there.

I know it's obvious, but I noticed that when I wore cute shoes, my feet were killing me.  A day in flip flops could leave me practically crippled.  Wearing my running shoes made the pain all but disappear.  For our Grand Canyon trip last year, my mother-in-law generously insisted on buying me a pair of these hideously ugly incredibly comfortable Keens.  I could live in these shoes.  My feet do not hurt if I wear them faithfully, including in the house while I'm on my feet cooking for hours.

But.  They aren't cute.  Not even a little bit.  They're not appropriate for work or Mass or lunch with the girls.  It was a choice between fashion and function.

Once again, my mother-in-law came to the rescue.  For my birthday this year she bought me not one but TWO pairs of these cute Merrell sandals.  Honestly, I love her.  She is so practical.  I protested that they cost too much, but she asked me to calculate how much I had already spent trying (unsuccessfully) to be not crippled.
  • Orthopedist Visit, complete with x-rays:  $40 copay, lots more for the insurance company
  • New running shoes with orthotic inserts and special cushioned socks:  $145
  • Acupuncturist, 3 visits:  $275
  • Advil, Aleve, Tylenol:  $25
  • Time lost icing my foot, elevating my foot, and generally laying around:  priceless
In other words, the shoes are worth it. And cute!

Toes:  Dutch Tulips by OPI

After one month of wearing ONLY these shoes, my running shoes, or my Keens, I am happy to report that the pain is, if not gone, under control.  I have been able to walk for exercise short distances and hope to work up to more. 

*The opinions of my crazy liberal brother do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this blogger.  Please do not write to me if you are an orthopedist.  Or an acupuncturist.  

Or a crazy liberal.  It's a term of endearment.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Recipe - Mushroom Pork Roll Ups

The Pit Boss and I are on this whackadoo 21 day cleanse that he got from my crazy liberal brother when he had a work trip out to California last month.  Apparently my brother and sister-in-law are looking mighty buff and healthy these days (I'll find out myself when they arrive later today) and The Pit Boss wanted in on their secret. 

We're two weeks in, and it hasn't been as bad as I anticipated.  The only thing is that it gets a little boring grilling chicken one night, pork tenderloin the next.  And throw in some ground turkey every few days for variety.  I decided there had to be something good I could eat that was gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free...and a whole list of other things. 

Here's what I came up with, and it was delicious!

Mushroom Pork

  • package or two of boneless pork tenderloin chops, sliced thin
  • egg
  • Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour (or breadcrumbs if you're not in whackadoo land)
  • package of sliced baby bella mushrooms
  • small sweet onion, cut into quarters
  • clove of garlic
  • olive oil
First I put the garlic, onion, and mushrooms into my food processor and pulsed it until it was chopped finely.

I dumped this into a skillet with a little olive oil and sauteed it until it was fragrant and soft.

Then I  beat the egg with a little water and dipped the pork chops in it.

Then into the flour (or breadcrumbs):

I put a spoonful of the mushroom mix in the center of the pork chop and rolled it up, ala Gina at Skinnytaste.

I snuggled them up in baking dish, spooned the rest of the mushrooms over the top, and popped them into a 325 degree oven for 25 minutes. 

While the pork was baking, I made some quinoa and sauteed some spinach in the same leftover olive oil and garlic pan.  It smelled so good that I didn't even take a plate picture, but it was quick and yummy!

Things I might try next time:
  • making my own GF breadcrumbs to use in place of the almond flour or trying harder to find some at the store.
  • browning these a little first before baking them.  I didn't do this because I didn't have any toothpicks or baking twine. 
Let me know what you think if you try it out!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cross THAT Off My Bucket List!

Yippee!  We just got an email from Ben that WannaBee at the Ocean was accepted into the East Cobb Quilt Guild Show!

Does that count?  For years I've had a New Year's resolution/bucket list/Top 40 list item about entering a quilt into a show other than our guild show. 

I think it might be a technicality, but I'm going to call it done.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to School

Awesome locker accessories: $13
New school shoes:  $47
Supply list:  $187

Finding out your BFF since kindergarten is in your class:  priceless!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oversized Disappearing Nine Patch Tutorial

Although this quilt is everywhere, and I'm possibly the last quilter on earth to make one, I thought I'd give you a quick overview of how I did it and the size blocks I used.

Recap:  A Disappearing Nine Patch block is a Nine Patch that you cut in half horizontally and vertically and then rearrange the resulting blocks.  There are numerous layouts you can use, although I haven't found one site that lists them all.

Here are some that I love and considered:


Easy Sashing and Cornerstones

On Point

Twist and Turn


I chose to make the "chain" style (and that's only my name for it, as far as I know).  I wanted it to be a little less random and scrappy looking for this particular quilt.

I liked how the giant Bento Box blocks turned out on my older son's quilt, so I went for the same look here.  After playing with the math, I ended up with twelve 19 1/2" blocks.  This gave me a finished quilt that was 58 1/2" x 78". 

To get these, I chose six green fabrics, six gold fabrics, and one black fabric.  You need 2/3 yard of the black, although I bought a yard so I can use it for the binding as well.  You also need 1/2 yard EACH of the green and gold fabrics if, like me, you found six different ones.  If you only use one of each color, then you will need 2 yards of each.  Plus you need any border or back you choose. 

I cut eight 7" squares from each green and each gold fabric (for a total of forty-eight green and forty-eight gold).
I cut twelve 7" squares from the black fabric.

Before doing any sewing, you need to decide if you want the blocks to be the same (as in, the same green in each corner and the same gold in all four places) or truly scrappy.  I tried to audition them both ways, but it was a little tricky to envision.  If you are unsure, sew them together so they are the same, and try mixing them up after they are cut.

I wanted mine to be as scrappy as possible, but I got a little controlling with making sure that there weren't clumps of the same color.  Here's how I did it:
    1.  Lay out the stacks of fabric so that all of the squares in the stack are the same.

    2.  Take 2 squares from each green fabric and set them to the side.
    3.  Take 2 squares of each gold fabric and sew them to a black square. Press towards the black.

    4.  Now you have 6 remaining squares of all 12 fabrics.  Starting with one green stack, pair each one with a different gold square.    Follow this pattern for the remaining five green fabric stacks.  This will use up the remainder of the squares.  Sew these pairs together.  Press all of your pairs towards the green. 
    5.  Sew each black/gold pair to a green/gold pair, ensuring that the gold fabrics are different.  Press toward the green/gold pair.  You will have green/gold pairs left over.

    6.  Select another green/gold pair that has different fabrics and sew it to these blocks.  Press towards the black.  You will have green/gold pairs left over.

    7.  Now take your remaining green/gold pairs and the green squares you set aside in step 2.  Sew a different green to each one.  Press towards the green.

    8.  Lay out your blocks to make sure they are as scrappy as possible and sew the bottom row onto your nine patch.  Press toward the center.

    You should now have 12 scrappy nine patch blocks.  Cut each one in half both horizontally and vertically.  Now you have 48 ten inch blocks.

    Lay the blocks out in whatever way pleases you and sew together.  I prefer the "chunking" method to sewing them in rows.

    Add a border if you prefer.  I chose not to.  Press well.  Sandwich for quilting.

    Quilt as desired.

    Just kidding!  You know that's my pet peeve!  Of course you can quilt it however you'd like.  I chose to use a grid similar to the crosshatch design on my older son's quilt.

    If you try this, let me know how the directions might be improved.  I'd love to see pictures of your D9P quilt!

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    If It Only Had a Name!

    It's done! 

    Last night, while The Pit Boss and I sat down to watch the very last episode of Lost (I forgive you for all those hair-tearing cliff-hangers and WTH? moments now), I whipped down the very last stitches on the binding for The Bear's quilt.   It is done.

    But not "done done."  Because the label isn't on.  Because I can't think of a name. 

    When I made my older son's quilt, it was a Bento Box pattern and he was graduating after nine long years from a school that is, to put it nicely, structured.  Is there an opposite to Waldorf/Montessori/Reggio?  This is it.  The poem, The Hundred Languages of Children, is about this school.

    So I called the quilt "Out of the Box." 

    The Bear went to the same school for six years until we finally figured out that he was not ever going to thrive in that environment.  We moved him for middle school to a place that encouraged and loved and challenged his marching-to-a-different-drummer personality, where he truly showed what he is capable of and can never be compared to his brother or sister because no one there knows them.  Now he is going off to high school with his older brother, where's he always wanted to go. We are all so excited about the whole new world of opportunities and adventures that await him there.

    His quilt is a Disappearing Nine Patch pattern.  I am completely stumped for a name.

    For now it is fresh out of the dryer.  It was supposed to be finished by graduation.  You know, in June.  I had to get it done by today so he can sleep under it tonight.  Tomorrow my boy starts high school. 

    How is that possible?  This child whose pregnancy and birth were a roller coaster of scares and emotions; who suffered so mightily with true colic that the doctor asked me every few days if I were having thoughts of harming him or myself.  That same doctor assured me that these are the most loving children once they outgrow it, and he was right.  None of my children is as openly affectionate and in tune to my mood, a benefit I chalk up to the hours I held him and walked him and rocked him, back before I knew the words attachment parenting.  This is the child I rode with in the ambulance when he got pneumonia at Disney World; who once sagely asked me at the age of four, "Is it a rule that you have to go to the same school as your brother?"  The one who desperately wants to know how the world works and why and for how long.  The one who loves music and sports and his friends.  The one who won the election for Student Council President when he quoted The Breakfast Club letter in his nomination speech.  My baby. 

    Tonight he will sleep under his nameless quilt and tomorrow he will go off to 9th grade and geometry and geography and driver's ed.  Tomorrow I will make him pose again for a picture, holding the sign that says, "First Day of School 2011" just like I have for the past eleven years.  Tomorrow I will smile a lot and laugh a little and let just one tear escape. 

    "A parent owes a child two things:  roots and wings."  
    Chinese Proverb

    Today I will cherish the mundane moments, driving to guitar lessons and team pictures.  I will make conversation and act like nothing is changing. 

    But his quilt needs a name.  Suggestions welcome!

    Friday, August 5, 2011

    Turn Turn Turn

    Although it's only August 5th and it's still well over 90 degrees outside, I can feel the seasons beginning to turn.  That's sounds wrong, doesn't it?  I mean, the official start of fall is a good six weeks away!

    But school and football equal fall to me.  Some people are all bent out of shape because school starts pretty early here in the south.  The transplanted Yankees especially are outraged, and like to go on and on about how they never started until after Labor Day. 

    That is fine when you live in Michigan or New Jersey or Chicago where the water doesn't get warm until Fourth of July.  But here in HOTlanta, it is plenty warm enough to swim in May.  Sometimes even April. 

    June is bliss.  The berries are ripe and the sun is shining.  It would be a sin to sit in a classroom and try to learn algebra.  Going back to school after Labor Day means being stuck there through most of June and completely missing those days when you should just be outside all day, from sunrise to fireflies.

    Even though I was never very good at math, I know that 180 days = 180 days and there's no way around it.*  I do not want to spend June in the carpool line or urging my boys to study for exams.  I will not sacrifice June in exchange for the brutal days of August. 

    It is so hot right now that no one even wants to go to the pool.  I've quit complaining about excessive xBox, TV, or computer time.  I go to the grocery store before 11 AM or forget it.  The deck is blazing on bare feet, so relaxing out there is out of the question.  All I want is air conditioning and ice water.

    In fact, I mentioned today that the perfect school year would be out in time for Mother's Day weekend (what a gift!) and back in late July.  The former Ohioan I was talking to almost came through the phone line to strangle me. 

    Don't get me wrong; I'm not "ready" for school to start.  I'd gladly have another month of sleeping late and forgetting what day it is.  But when it comes right down to it, I would gladly trade these last few weeks for the month of May. 

    And to fall I say, bring it.

    *I know, I know.  Homeschooling has many benefits.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    Quilts of Valor - Presentation Bags

    I know it's been months since I got the Quilts of Valor from our guild challenge, and I've only presented two of them.  Like many of my projects, I got bogged down by the details.  Since we decided to donate these quilts locally instead of shipping them off to QOV, I got stuck on the part about finding the vets to give them to.

    As with most of the best things in my life, there was serendipity.  I had registered the two quilts donated to Donn and Mark with QOV, so my email address got put on a list somewhere.   Susan Gordon, the recently appointed regional coordinator, contacted me to find out more about our guild and the quilts we made.  She had some great information, including a contact at the Veteran's Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. 

    I also realized (after Donn and Mark got their quilts) that they were all supposed to be in a presentation bag/pillowcase.  I was going to just whip up a few out of the many patriotic fabrics in my stash until I found this:

    How perfect is that?  I was in JoAnn's to buy my favorite white marking pen while it was 40% off (marking the Bear's quilt took almost a whole one!) and noticed a display of July 4th type fabric marked half off.  I planned to just walk on by since, as I mentioned, I have PLENTY, when I saw these little houses.  There were 8 yards left, about enough to make ten pillowcases from this awesome easy pattern*, so I took it all.

    Now they are ready to go to their new homes as soon as I can get them to Augusta! Maybe next week when everyone's back in school. That ought to keep me busy instead of missing them.

    *The only things I do differently on this pattern are that a) I left off the accent strip, b) I didn't trim the selvedges before sewing the cuff on; I just trimmed the whole pillowcase after this step,  and c) I sew the side and bottom seams all at the same time, just pivoting around the corner instead of making it 2 separate steps.   Faster/lazier.  It's a fine line.

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