Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten of 2011

Isn't it my obligation as a blogger to do a retrospective of 2011? Here are my top ten favorite things that I blogged about this year:
  1. Snowmageddon And reading all four books in The Twilight Saga in a week!
  2. The See Greer Grow Quilt 
  3. Really getting the hang of FMQing on my machine
  4. Welcoming George to our family.  This little dog has his moments when he makes me crazy, but I forgive him every time he snuggles up on the couch and buries his head behind me to keep his nose warm!
  5. The Bear's graduation and starting high school.  Also, I finally finished his quilt.
  6. Achieving the goal of having a quilt I worked on in a show other than our own guild.  A technicality but still a highlight.
  7. A Day with an Angel
  8. The Modern Blocks Quilt Along.  You can click on the tag "quilt along" to see all of them.
  9. The Chill Out Party What a great way to celebrate without stress!
  10. Joining the SeamedUP team!  Especially the part about getting to be on the podcast. 
What were the highlights of your year?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Studi-O-rganization Challenge


Yeah, you know I'm a total sucker for anything with the word "organization" in it. Then why am I not organized? It's a mystery! 

 Allison from Within A Quarter Inch shares my addiction.  She's thrown down the gauntlet, issued a challenge, said "It's ON!" to messy, disorganized studios.

Check it out, grab a button, and join us!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along - Four Acres

Now that the site is back up, the Modern Blocks are back!

My next block in the Modern Blocks Quilt Along over at SeamedUP is called Four Acres by Solidia Hubbard.

Let me tell you, this block went together in no time flat!  (Perfect for the week before Christmas.)  I think it would be a real stunner in a big bed quilt and would be such a fast quilt with a big impact.   It reminds me of a Bento Box, which I love.  Same visual appeal, same quick assembly.  This one's a keeper.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

All Wound UP

I'm practically bursting at the seams to tell you a secret I've been keeping since September!

Should I spill it or just give you a hint?

Okay, okay!  Remember when I interviewed Allison Rosen of SeamedUP back in June?  They had been talking about needing some help with social media around that time, and I was secretly hoping she was calling to ask me.  She wasn't, but the possibility was in the back of my mind as we chatted happily for far longer than either of us planned.

Then in September Allison called again.  This time, she really was asking for my help.  ME!  Helping with the awesome new website for quilters!  And not doing the hard coding part (Brye) or the spreadsheets and content part (Allison) - I get to do the fun, chatty part like writing blog posts, surfing the web to find the latest and greatest content for our What's UP? page, choosing featured projects for our facebook page, and tweeting.  And now that we've spilled the beans, I get to be on the podcast too!

If you haven't joined us already, now is a great time!  We are thisclose to moving the site to our new, faster server with plenty of elbow room for all the projects and fabric stash we want. 

Check out Episode 9 where Brye, Allison and I talk about what I'll be doing, the site move, the Modern Blocks Quilt Along, and the prank Allison and I already pulled on Brye.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Holiday Grand Plan Week 18 - Looks Like We Made It!

It's Week 18 of the Holiday Grand Plan!  We made it! 

This week is for the looking back, the reveling in what worked and the learning for next year what didn't work so well.  Write yourself a note and put it in your calendar for next September 1.

This year I found a few things to be true.  First, we cut way back on the amount of shopping, baking, and decorating.  I left the Dickens Village in the boxes and only made three kinds of cookies; there were a few big gifts under the tree instead of a lot of little things.  I found myself less stressed and calm, right up through the last minute.  Best of all, I had a great time!  And I think my family enjoyed themselves as well.

Second, we entertained slightly more.  Not the grownups, because they are high maintenance, but we had more kids here.  I love that my son's friends like to hang out at our house.  I love that they feel comfortable here.  The boys were surprised when I mentioned this, but the truth is that I'd rather feed them breakfast than have to wait up, worrying, for my own child or someone else's to get home safely.  I'd rather buy Dr. Pepper by the case and bagels by the dozen than wonder if my son was at a home where the parents are friends instead of parents.  I had a great time listening to Grace and her friends starting to whisper about boys and what they really wanted for Christmas. 

Third, I made a concerted effort to appreciate what we have.  Unfortunately we have a few friends who had a less than stellar holiday season.  One is in the hospital with her son after a bone marrow transplant.  One friend lost her dad suddenly the week before Thanksgiving.  There are more stories like this all around us.  Despite the economic hard times or the people who didn't make it home for the big dinner, I felt like it would be a horrible insult to those friends to complain that the kids left a mess or that The Pit Boss had to work late again.  Life is good.  Treasure every minute. 

In order to get the family in on this, I asked them to write a letter to each of the four grandparents thanking them for the huge part they play in our lives.  Shopping for them is a challenge, and no matter what I buy each year it never seems enough to express how grateful I am for their presence, support, time, and love.  We are so blessed to have all four of them healthy, busy, and living within a 7 mile radius.  I took a quick peek and welled up at the things they remember and love.  Everyone likes to be thanked, and I know my parents and in-laws will appreciate it. 

On the topic of thank yous, write your notes this week while everything is fresh in your mind, and have your kids write them too.  Don't let them hang over your head into 2012. 

Last, take down the tree and swap out your decorations for New Year's Eve.  We don't decorate for New Year's because we typically go to a friend's house for a bit.  However, the tree will be down before midnight on the 31st, in honor of The Pit Boss's superstition tradition.

I hope the last week of 2011 brings you peace and reflection on the past year and the next one.   

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May the breath of heaven pour holiness down on you today and every day.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Chill Out

Inspired by Kelle Hampton over at Enjoying the Small Things, I caved when Grace asked if she could have a few friends over to celebrate school being out for Christmas.

Grace originally wanted to decorate individual gingerbread houses, but realized that she could invite more girls if she switched to gingerbread men.  Publix graciously obliged with very cute ones!

When the girls first arrived, literally minutes after school got out for Christmas, they were wound up.  Grace just wanted to "chill out", so they immediately changed into pajamas that we had asked them to bring.  Note:  we didn't ask them to bring one other thing.  We could have done an ornament exchange or Dirty Santa, but the point of this day was to relax.  Nothing required.

Grace and her friends are big into the crazy mismatched socks thing.  I found these fuzzy socks with grippers on the bottom at WalMart super cheap.  I hung them by the chimney ~ with care ~ and asked each girl to pick a solid and a stripe.

After lunch they watched Elf, one of our holiday favorites.  We had inflated the air mattress and scattered pillows and sleeping bags all around.  At first I was afraid that they were too wound up to watch it, but they quickly settled in as they recited the lines and nudged one another to say, "This is my favorite part."

By now they were hungry again, so we selected a dessert and fixed hot cocoa.  

Last, we decorated our gingerbread men.  I couldn't think of any other way to keep them working at the same time than to give them each their own bag of icing.  I bought a pack of the disposable piping bags, set them up in cups, and made a huge batch of icing.  I also put little bowls of small candies around for decorating.

As a memento of the relaxing day, each girl brought home a jar of our "Calming Cocoa" mix and a bottle of "Sweet Dreams Pillow Spray."  I hope this the beginning of a very relaxing break for the girls and their parents!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along - Follow the Leader

My next block in the Modern Blocks Quilt Along over at SeamedUP is called Follow the Leader, by Sherri McConnell.

This is a great block to use all kinds of scraps.  You could make a really funky quilt with this.  I was having so much fun that I made it twice with the same fabrics in different positions.  Just kidding.  I really cut twice as many pieces as I needed by accident!

I chose to use a different technique for making the flying geese than the one in the book.  I like this one a lot - no wonky bias edges and it makes them super quick!

Are you participating in the quilt along?  Download the e-book and join us!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along - Night and Day

Night and Day by Kimberly Walus

My next block in the Modern Blocks Quilt Along over at SeamedUP is called Night and Day, by Kimberly Walus.

I love this block and think it would look fantastic as a whole quilt.  Before I do that, though, I need to work on my quarter square triangle accuracy.  Whoops!

This was just made with plain black muslin and some of the gorgeous fat eighths I got on my visit to A Scarlet Thread back in July. They are from the "Never Enough Romance" line that Alex Anderson designed for P&B Textiles.

Are you participating in the quilt along?  Download the e-book and join us!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Grand Plan Week 17 - Celebrate!

It's Week 17 of the Holiday Grand Plan.  Let's celebrate!

Just do the Magic Minimum.  Finish any last minute details, use some freezer meals, and take a few minutes to appreciate this special season.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along - Checkers

Today's block in the Modern Blocks Quilt Along over at SeamedUP is called "Checkers" and it was designed by Monika Wintermantel.

As any regular readers know, I do NOT do applique.  I just don't.  I chose this block because I love my pups and thought this was adorable.  I felt it would force me out of my comfort zone, but not too far out.  Plus, how hard could it be?  It's just fused, raw-edge applique on the machine.  Easy peasy.

And it was.  Monika has another similar block in the book called "House on the Hill."  In that pattern she mentions how cute this would be for a block swap.  Can you imagine?  I would love for everyone in our bee group to make this with their house or dog or favorite quilting notion.  The possibilities are endless!

This is also a great block for using up scraps. 

Are you participating in the quilt along?  Download the e-book and join us!


Eighteen Years

Eighteen years ago today, I was still a fairly new first-grade teacher. Our class was getting ready for Christmas, and we had big plans to build our own gingerbread houses with milk cartons, graham crackers, frosting, and plenty of candy. It was going to be a wonderful day.

Eighteen years ago, I knew something wasn't right. I was secretly pregnant, but had suddenly stopped feeling the symptoms. I know when I called my doctor she thought I was just worrying because of a previous miscarriage, but that morning, my worst fears were confirmed.  Just nine days later was the most difficult Christmas dinner I've ever known.

One of the most permanent, striking memories from that day is of our ride to the hospital. I spent the entire drive on our first cell phone calling my teaching assistant and parent volunteers, telling them where the milk cartons were stored and who was signed up for each station. I didn't want to think about what was happening.  I didn't want the kids to miss a thing.

Eighteen years ago, we lost our first baby girl.  After two deliveries with the NICU Crash team on board and another miscarriage, I thought she would be our only one.  And then we got Grace.

You know, these special dates start to come and go without a mention after a few years.  I doubt anyone but me remembers.  And honestly?  Sometimes I don't even remember until something startles me and I realize she is with me.

That's how it is today.  I have been busy planning a little Christmas party for Grace and her friends.  She asked for gingerbread houses, and I didn't even realize.   I have been having crazy dreams about elaborate decorations and candy that I don't think anyone even makes.  I've had ideas that made me sit up in bed and come write at 3:00 in the morning.  She is here, looking at me through her sister's eyes, and reminding me of the beauty and magic in every single day.

So happy birthday, baby girl.  I hope the gingerbread houses where you are have the best candy and never get stale.  Thank you for your presence and for the mother you made me.  I love you!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Reusable Gift Bags

One of the "gifts from the studio" projects I did way back in October but never blogged about are my reusable gift bags.  I saw this on a bunch of blogs, but the one that made an impression was from Amanda Soule last Christmas. 

I made my bags even less complicated than hers!  I found some leftover upholstery fabric when I cleaned out the linen closet.  I think if the piece has already been recovered again, it's safe to use the fabric for something else, don't you? 

All I did was take a long piece (sorry, no precise measurements.  I used what I had) and hemmed the short ends.  Then I stitched up the sides - no fancy French seams for this project! - and stuck a gift inside.  I can't tell you what it is because The Pit Boss has recently started reading my blog (everyone say hi!) and it's for him.

I tied a bow around it and called it done.  Quite possibly, it took less time than finding scissors and tape and wrapping the gift.  For sure next year when I can just pull them out, I will be so thankful!

Also, this is a great procrastination project when you really should be folding laundry or making your next Modern Block.

Did I say that out loud?  Just kidding, Hon!  The laundry is completely caught up!  ~nod nod nod ~


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along - Sea Glass Steps

My next block in the Modern Blocks Quilt Along over at SeamedUP is called Sea Glass Steps, by Louise Papas

I did mine in pink and lavender from my stash, and immediately fell in love!  I believe this will be the design for my next baby girl quilt. 

Are you participating in the quilt along?  Download the e-book and join us!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas with the WannaBees

It's that time of year when the WannaBees get together for our annual holiday lunch at P.F. Chang's. This year we each brought three fat quarters from our stash - one each in red, green, and blue - and passed them around the table so that no one got two fabrics from the same person.

I picked up these fantastic additions to my stash and shared some of my favorites.

It was a wonderful way to spend a strees-free couple of hours in the middle of this busy season.  I hope you can find some of those yourself.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Grand Plan Week 16 - Keep Calm and Carry On

It's Week 16 of the Holiday Grand Plan!  Your preparations should be pretty much completed and minimum maintenance required to keep the house read for Christmas.

What's left?  Decorate your tree, make plans for New Year's Eve, and use some freezer meals!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Modern Blocks Quilt Along

Is anyone else participating in the Modern Blocks quilt along over at SeamedUP?

I am having lots of fun making these blocks.  A whole project right now seems more than I can face, but sitting down each day to make one block seems entirely reasonable.  I've even found that I'm in a better mood since I'm getting some crafting time in without the stress of a deadline.

Best Friend, designed by Angela Pingel

Slot Machine, designed by Angela Pingel

So far I've made these two blocks.  Download the e-book now and quilt along with us!

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