Tuesday, December 31, 2013

FAL Q4 Wrap Up - It Could Have Been Worse

she can quilt

It's time for our Q4 wrap up. It's probably no surprise that I only finished one of the four projects on my list.

 Of course it was Batman's quilt, which still doesn't have a name or a label.

My challenge quilt didn't make the deadline.  It's still in bits and pieces.

I never even pulled out the other two projects that I so ambitiously added.


The good news is that tomorrow offers a brand new quarter, a clean slate, a fresh start...and I have plenty of UFO's left to finish!

Have a safe and happy New Year's Eve...see you next year!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Last Menu Plan Monday of 2013

It's Menu Plan Monday and I've been a total slacker about posting the last two weeks.  I want you to know, though, that I did make my menu plan both weeks.  I just didn't get them posted.

The week ahead has an invisible line drawn through it on Wednesday, when we will have the traditional pork, black eyed peas, and greens.  Before that is a mixture of favorite indulgences, while after is a return to Skinnytaste.  We are trying out some new recipes; the ones we love end up on my Pinterest board.

I also received a FitBit Flex for Christmas from The Pit Boss; after some discussion with the Twilters, I decided to swap it out for a FitBit One.  I can't wait for it to arrive so I can start using it.  Hopefully that will help me stay accountable, renew my motivation, and let me join in all the FitBit Twitter fun!

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 18 - A Brand New Year and a Debriefing

Holiday Grand Plan

Looks like we made it - all the way to Week 18! I hope you all had a wonderful week, free from any extra holiday stress. Was it worth it to start planning way back on Labor Day weekend?

For me, it definitely was worth it.  Although I was AWOL from the blog, we had a wonderful and relaxing Christmas with a delicious dinner.  I was at work until 2 on Christmas Eve, but still made time to meet Mom for coffee and a little bit of people watching for our annual tradition.

We decided to go to Mass at 9 pm instead of midnight.  Afterwards I let The Pit Boss open his first gift - a new wedding ring to replace the one that went missing during the renovation - and we asked Father Dan to bless it on our way out of church.   On Christmas Day, the grands came over for Crown Roast of Pork, The Pioneer Woman's Perfect Potatoes Au Gratin (plus her Skewers of Glory as an appetizer), oven roasted asparagus, Deuce's homemade bread, and Mom's English Trifle. 

Now it's time to celebrate the New Year, reflect on 2013, and plan a debriefing dinner with the family.
  • What did everyone like best?  What would you prefer not to repeat?
  • What was the best freezer dinner?  (make 2 next year!)  Bring a list to the meeting so they remember which ones you tried.
  • What was the best treat?  Which one wasn't worth the time and effort?
  • What worked about the holiday meals?  Were they at a good time of day?  Were the recipes "keepers" or do you need to test a few new ones next year?
  • What was the best memory of the season?  Was it a family activity that you want to be sure to plan again, or having friends over to decorate the tree?  Was it shopping with each child alone for a bit, or maybe cooking together? 
Also, catch this great guest post over at I'm an Organizing Junkie by Sharon from MomOf6 about making New Year's Predictions instead of resolutions. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 17 - Celebrate!

Holiday Grand Plan

It's Week 17, the one we've been waiting for. Keep household chores to a minimum and focus on the reason for the celebration. Is it a religious holiday? A time for visiting with family and friends? A day off work? All of the above? Whatever your reason for celebrating this week, keep sight of it and try not to let drama or stress distract you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

#TBT - Throwback Thursday - Oh Holy Night!

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

Today's quilt is a Christmas quilt that I fell in love with one year at Tiny Stitches.  It is a simple panel with two borders.  I made it on one of my Panama City Beach retreats with my BQF Pam.

My favorite things about it are that it is flannel and that it was one of my early attempts at FMQing that really went well, which gave me confidence.  The thing I wish I could redo is that I got lazy and made it too small.  It would have been such a cozy snuggle quilt for the holidays if I had only hung in there for some more borders or blocks around the panel.

At Christmas it lives on the back of an old bench that was in Gram's basement when she moved out.  Details are vague on where it came from or why it went unused in her house.  I adore it.  Mom and Dad had it refinished for me as a gift one birthday or Christmas or anniversary.  (I keep trying to take pictures of it for you, but the lighting is awkward where it is.)

Gram was a Quaker, and very involved in her community when her kids were younger.  I like to imagine that it was in their meeting house, with room to store hymnals or text books or something.   It sits by my front door with hats and gloves and old dress up/Halloween/play costumes inside.  Just about the time I think my kids have outgrown this, I get a request for a Harry Potter cloak or angel wings.  

Do you have an old mature holiday craft to share with us this week?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 16 - Steady Now!

Holiday Grand Plan

It's Week 16 of the Holiday Grand Plan. If all has gone well, we are to the fun part. This is the week where we eat a few of those meals from the freezer, visit with friends and family, and keep home maintenance to a minimum.

If a few things have slipped through the cracks, hopefully the rest of your preparation has helped keep it from feeling like a crisis.

As for me, the part I'm still working on is my shopping.  But guess what!  I'm pretty calm about the rest of it, so I can enjoy some "last minute" shopping.  It also helps to keep things in perspective; the year I was pregnant with Deuce, I had been on bedrest for a month and had done NONE of my shopping or wrapping on my due date/Christmas Eve when I was finally allowed to get out.   That year triggered a complete meltdown in the middle of Perimeter Mall which led me, eventually, to The Plan.  Just another thing to apologize to my mom for.

So I'll shop a little this week and maybe meet TPB for lunch or an after work date to get the kids taken care of. 

One thing I'm still pondering - what do you do about co-workers' gifts?  Do you give them?  Is there an organized exchange?  The two young women I work most closely with are so young and so broke that I hate to give anything that feels like an obligation.  But I do adore them both and would like to give them a little token of my appreciation for their companionship, hard work, and a lot of laughs over the last six weeks.

They are both dieting, so I can't give them baked goods.  Except...hmmm...maybe some of Gina's Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars.  What do you think?

Friday, December 13, 2013

FMQ Friday and a Whoop Whoop! - Fabric Postcards for Christmas

Free Motion Quilting Friday

Today is Free Motion Quilting Friday over at Leah Day's Free Motion Quilting Project.

The rules are simple:
  1. Link up with a post that features something about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ). 
  2. Somewhere in your post, you must link back to Leah's site, or you can just post the FMQF button in your sidebar. 
  3. Comment on at least a few of the other FMQF links. Share your love of free motion quilting and make this weekly link up a fun way to connect!  

I'm so excited to finally show you the fabric postcard I made for Carol for the postcard swap over at Quilt Cabana Corner.

I had bought this fabric at Sew Main Street over a year ago, but couldn't quite bring myself to cut into it yet.  When I saw the postcard swap, I knew immediately what I was going to do.

I started off by fusing a 4 1/2" x 6 1/2" piece of fabric onto a 4" x 6" piece of Peltex.  Then I lightly marked the path of my letters and pinned my cording into place. 

Using a narrow zig zag stitch, I couched the cording into the word "Joy."

Then I held my breath and FMQed all around the design with Sulky Sliver, a beautiful but sometimes challenging thread to sew with.  I used it on the snowflake quilt with a lot of cursing and breakage.  This time I turned the tension WAY down and went a little slower.  Voila!  No breakage or nesting at all!

I trimmed the top fabric to the 4" x 6" size of the Peltex.  Then I cut a 4" x 6" piece of white muslin for the back.  I drew a line vertically down the center and wrote POSTCARD at the top with a Pigma pen.   I drew horizontal lines on the right side for the address and filled that in.  Then I added my message to the left side. 

I used my Tulip Tool to add a little extra sparkle to the front. I love how this looks!  Last, I layered the back onto my quilt sandwich and stitched around the edge with a tight zig zag stitch twice.

I ended up mailing mine in an envelope because the line at the post office was insane, but I have had good results sending these through the mail.  Carol sent me this beauty, and it arrived perfectly with no envelope to protect it.  She also used metallic thread and did gorgeous FMQing.  I will be bringing this to work to show off and adorn my desk.

Thanks so much to Sandi for organizing and to Carol for my lovely postcard!  This was such fun.  If you want to see the others, you can visit the Flickr group Sandi set up.

Can I Get a Whoop Whoop?  My big boy will be home tonight.  Nothing makes me happier than having all my chicks in the nest.  I hope you are surrounded by people you love this month.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#TBT - Throwback Thursday - Ragtime Reindeer

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

Today's selection is a pair of those "shaggy raggy" quilts that were all the rage about ten years ago.  I made these on a retreat weekend with my BQF Pam.  We had been to a larger retreat the year before and decided that a weekend with just the two of us in Panama City Beach sounded like less money, better food, and more fun.

So off we went to PCB and had such great talks on the ride.  We barely got out of pajamas the whole weekend, but got so much quilting finished.  We never made it down onto the beach, but it was warm enough to leave the sliding doors open and hear the ocean.  My favorite moment of the trip was watching an episode of ER where a soccer mom type had gotten hooked on meth so she could get everything done.  Pam looked at me solemnly and said, "That would be us if we didn't do things like this weekend."  Amen, sister! 

Anyway, I wanted to make a flannel rag quilt for each of the boys for Christmas, and had found holiday flannel on sale at JoAnn's.   That was my first mistake.  As I would eventually learn, not only does cheap fabric fray wildly (which might sound good for a rag quilt), but the color also bleeds no matter how many times you prewash with color catchers. 

I chose a simple rail fence variation for speed and simplicity.  The quilts went together in no time, and I happily snipped the seam allowances in front of the TV until I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome.  I finally finished just before Christmas and, despite having been warned, decided to try washing them in my home machine.

I can not emphasize enough what a bad idea this is.  Especially on Christmas Eve, when a washing machine repairman is nowhere to be found.  And when the dry cleaners and laundromats are closed.   Don't do it. 

The valve where the water drains out of my washer got all clogged with loose threads on about the second cycle.  I had a washer full of water, a sopping wet quilt that weighed a ton, and a laundry room full of clothes that still needed to go in.  TPB was not happy to spend Christmas Even trying to take the washer apart so we could use an unbent coat hanger to fish fabric out of a tube.

Eventually, though, the quilts were completed, and the boys still keep them on their beds in the winter.  When they are sick, this is the quilt they want to wrap up in on the couch - much to my dismay since they have to be taken to the cleaners.  At this point it might be safe to wash them at home, but I'm not going to try it!  There are still pink blotches where the color has run so many times and cannot be gotten out, but no one cares anymore. 

These truly are utility quilts, used and abused on a regular basis, but so loved.  When I see them I think of my boys when they were little and remember that wonderful weekend of quilting with the sound of the waves at my back.  I think that's what makes quilts so magical to me - so many memories triggered by the sight or touch of a bit of fabric and thread. 

What magical memories will you share with us this week?   Link up and let us all see!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Exam Week One

It's Menu Plan Monday and we're kicking off our first of two exam weeks.  Deuce starts today and will be home Friday night.  Gracie starts Thursday and will finish next Tuesday, when the Bear starts taking his finals.  I'm planning on using a few of my freezer meals so I can focus on wrapping up my holiday plans and getting some decorating and last minute baking done.

Remember my resolve to get back to exercising last week (and the week before, and the week before that)?  Raise your hand if you're surprised that that didn't happen at all.  Anyone?  Bueller?

I need to get my act together, because I just found out that my new job hosts a swanky party at the end of January where I will need to put on a fancy dress and look smashing.   Yikes.

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 15 - Let's Do This!

Holiday Grand Plan

It's Week 15, y'all, and it's getting real! It's time to catch up and wrap up.  Time to face the cold hard truth about any unfinished homemade gifts and get packages mailed.  Time to deep clean any critical areas you missed, and finalize plans for holiday parties and dinners.

We got an early Christmas gift today of a Kamado Joe ceramic grill from my in-laws, so The Pit Boss is we are reconsidering our Christmas dinner plans.

My weak spot at the moment is my gift list.  I was doing so well, but the kids are somehow hard to shop for this year.  Any suggestions for three teenagers?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

#TBT - Throwback Thursday - Magnum Opus

Quiltin Jenny

It's Throwback Thursday here at Quiltin' Jenny, and I hope you'll link up and share your own creative adventures from your pre-blogging days.

In honor of Batman's arrival, I thought I'd show you the quilt Mom and I made when my niece arrived almost eleven years ago.

My brother is a musician and studio engineer, which is why they live in California and not down the street like I would prefer.  He and my sister-in-law also used to be cat people.  (They've converted in recent years.)  When we found out my niece was on the way, we decided to make a simple quilt with alternating nine patch and snowball blocks to show off the colorful and cute fabric line we found of these jazz cats. 

We found an assortment of black and white prints, many with musical themes.  We had such a great time shopping for them all.  We found the Jazz Cats fabric and most of the black and white prints at Quilts and Fixins in Jonesboro, Georgia.

Then we added prairie points around the border.  I love the extra dimension they provide, especially on baby quilts. 

Then, of course, Mom added her beautiful hand quilting.  These treble clefs still make me smile.

We decided to call it Magnum Opus.  We knew that no matter what musical work he did or how many Teacher of the Year awards my SiL won, parenting would be their masterpiece.  We were right - they are amazing parents and have awesome kids.  I can't wait to meet Batman in person and watch his personality bloom.

Now I want to see your blast from the past.  Link up and let us all see!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

He's a Boy!

Yesterday I got this text message:

A short while later, we heard that Batman is a baby boy.  He was over 9lbs, but the delivery was much faster and smoother than the last two. 

Everyone is doing great.  I am so excited to be an aunt again, and can't wait to meet my new precious nephew.  Thanks so much for your prayers.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - Hang On Tight!

It's Menu Plan Monday and we're trying to recover from a roller coaster weekend.  It was so wonderful to have Deuce home for such a long break, and hard to send him back.  Luckily he'll be home for Christmas in less than two weeks!  I enjoyed having four days off work in a row; although I neglected a long list of things to do, it was very relaxing.  And, of course, we had the highs and nauseating lows of watching the Seminoles win and the Crimson Tide lose in that last second heartbreaker. 

We also ate way too much.  This is the day that I will get back on the elliptical in an effort to hold the holiday pounds at bay.  My nearest coworker has recently lost a lot of weight, and is inspiring me with her diligent exercise schedule.  If she can get up and drive to work at 5:30 in the morning to use the gym when it's this cold out, surely I can walk downstairs to my guest room and exercise for thirty minutes a day.  Right?

I'll let you know how that goes. 

My user name on My Fitness Pal is QJ2013 if you want to be friends.

MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter
What's on your menu?

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