Yes, that's the sound you make when you bring a tree down. And, I have brought down the tree, with a little help from Sydney. And, then we took down that garland that hangs across the ceiling. So, basically, my holiday un-decorating is done.

But, I still haven't braved organizing the pantry. That might have to wait until Sunday.

But, before I started that, I made three of the blocks from RRCB part 7

And, while I was trying to figure out the mystery, I came up with a couple of blocks.

I'm thinking of a lap quilt from Bonnie's pattern and two lap quilts from these other two layouts as Linus quilts. I'll have to make a little extra, but not much. I could get three quilts for the work of one.

Or, maybe, I'll just keep it for myself. You never know about me.

Take care and have a great New Year's Eve.

Lane, Rob and Sydney who are all sneezing our heads off from the dust coming off our decorations.


And, that makes four

Four good mariner's compass blocks that is. I just finished the last one and now I can go fix my family some supper. After all, I have to be ready for the next clue in the RRCB mystery.

Before I can move forward with the baby boy quilt, i have to draft the corner blocks; ships sailing, based on the ones in this picture, but turned on point.

Just keep quilting, just keep quilting....oh, and that quilted roman shade is finished. Now, I just have to figure out how to hang it on the wall. I might have put the cart before the horse on that project. But, I'll get it figured out.

Yesterday, I organized my half of the closet, my dresser and the linen closet. Today, it was the laundry room shelves, the kitchen cabinets and the bathroom cabinets. One left. The pantry. I'm afraid to go in there...

Take care and hope you're revving up for a wonderful new year. Lane


I think that I shall never be

much of a paper piecer. Oh, I can do it. I'm just not sure how much I enjoy it. It's not as relaxing as patchwork piecing for me.

I decided to make 4 mariner's compass blocks for the baby boy quilt I started.

The top two are my practice. I have to have them so that I can remember not to try to use pieces that I've cut to a bit oversize. It never works. I need to work from long strips and that works for me. But, it's very fabric wasteful.

On a different subject, I've worked my last day of the year and am off to clean out the closet because I found out that there's no room to hang the new clothes I got for Cmas. What a shame, to have too many clothes. But, there's still time to make a goodwill run and I have 4 or 5 homespun shirts that are beautiful, but uncomfortable as heck. The fabric is rough and wrinkles; ironing is futile as every move leaves a wrinkle. They're left from the days when I spent 2 hours ironing for work every Sunday afternoon. I have better things to do and am now purchasing poly/cotton blends. Right from the dryer to the back. I think those shirts will make great quilt fabric.

After that, it's more cleaning and straightening. Yippee. But, every chance I get, I'll be sneaking in to sew. I want to start a garment. But, I don't know what. Maybe a shirt or a pair of slacks. Goodness knows I have plenty of fabric for a muslin and that will probably satisfy this wierd need I'm having to try following a diffferent kind of pattern. And, I'm thinking about those Linus quilts. January is to quilt one I have pieced and then cut the other 11 so that I'll end up with 12 for the year. High hopes and all.

Take care and have a great Wednesday. Wednesdays are normally such plain days, but it's the last one this year.

I'm also thinking about my Dad. He had some surgery this week and is recovering. All seems to have gone well. It's hard to be so distant, in miles and in years and everything else that divides us.

I remember that every year during my childhood, he took a nice long vacation around Cmas and NY; two weeks at least. And, during that time, one of the things we did was return anything we had borrowed. Local legend had it that whatever you were doing on NY day, you'd be doing all year long and he didn't want to be borrowing all year.

Funny how things stick with you. I don't want to be disorganized next year, so I'm working on big organization plans. Won't take me long to get tired of that. I can't think of a thing I've borrowed.



Twas the day after Christmas

And, all through the house, not a creature is stirring, except a quilter snatching a few extra minutes of sewing time before the house awakes.

I have one brown triangle sewn to all the threesies, but I kept losing count, cutting the triangles, so I gave up and just started sewing them on. When I sew all I have cut, I'll know how many more I need.

It's cold as ice here and I'm cuddled in two pair of handmade socks and a heavy sweater, but I'm looking out on a quiet world and enjoying the end of all the celebrating.

Rob's given me two different tear jerkers in a row, and the melancholy is a nice change from all the hype.

Take care and have a great Sunday. I'm going to sew all I can. The only thing I don't want to do is cook. And, I'm not much on eating right now, either.



All is calm

Our day is ended and what a wonderful day it was. This morning, Rob and I puttered around while Sydney slept in a bit...so glad we don't have one that has to be up at 3am to open presents. I think that's part of the beauty of us doing so much shopping together. We know what we're getting, we know we'll like it, and because we shopped early, we've forgotten we picked it out. But, she knows that it isn't going anywhere and she doesn't have to be anxious about getting her hands on it. That's been a long battle and I'm so glad to see her doing better every year.

Then, there were the mountain of gifts to open and then the mountain of paper to be done away with. Then, the lunch to cook and some last minute cleaning and then my best friend and her two sons, age 22 were here for lunch and more gift exchanging.

Then a long nap. And, THEN I did dishes and by the time I finished, it was time to pull it out for supper. All I could handle was a small sandwich.

The pic below is one of my presents. It's a huge vintage cone holder. It's massive and I can only imagine the things it has seen in some industrial sewing company.

Okay, so that's it for today. I'm off for a holiday episode of Dr. Who and toddle my tired self to bed.



Progress being made...updated with commentary

Okay, so I didn't realize I'd posted a picture and no text. I thought it didn't upload.

I am making a baby boy quilt and decided I wanted to put a ship block in the center. I had trouble finding a pattern for the block and when I did, it was only a 12" finished block. I wanted something along the lines of 24". I was going to draft the block to the bigger size and then thought, what if I increase the number of blocks and from there, it was quick to just three ships.

I started cutting pieces and laying them on the table and it started to take shape and I started moving things around and this is where I ended up. I sewed it up this morning. I was going to put 8" stars around the two sides and the top and some pieced fish underneath, but now I'm thinking about surrounding it in nautical signal flags. Haven't decided yet. There are a couple of things I wish I'd done different and if I ever need to make another baby boy quilt, I might do it then.

Anyway, hope you're having a great day before Cmas eve. Not out doing too much last minute shopping. Lane


The holiday begins

Hmmm. Anybody else having trouble posting pics? All I see is the html, but when I go to preview, I see the picture. Saw others having trouble on a forum this morning...well, actually, Rob did. Mostly, I just humphed around because something wasn't going right.

Tamales, like the delicious ones in this picture almost make the holidays worth it. They're a staple around here at the holidays, and seems that we all end up discussing the best place to purchase them. Rob gets me a couple of dozen every year from a restaurant where the cook uses his grandmother's recipe. And, two dozen is plenty because they're all lard and salt and bad for me stuff that I find irresistable. With two dozen, we have two meals and I can be content that my lard quota has been satisfied for the year.

Today is the last day at the office. I've been working on a big project and the research is finished and today I need to organize the data and write the conclusion. Soon as that's done, I'm home for the duration, except for a tiny bit of shopping that we'll do family style. We have just one gift to buy and I think we came up with the perfect thing this morning. Now, we just have to find it.

Hope you're having wonderful holidays. I'm looking forward to spending some really intense sewing time while I'm away from the office. I need to start a baby quilt. That's my goal during the time off; to at least get it started. Oh, and I guess I need to spend at least some time with the family. I'm planning to make a sailing ship block and surround it with stars across the top and halfway down the sides and then in the bottom half, paper piece some fish and a whale. I've seen the patterns, but am going to have to track them down again. An adventure.

Take care. Lane


Retroville, TX

Today, we have a guest blogger.

I express myself with fabric and words. Rob, on the other hand is an audio/visual person. What he has created is two parts. First is the written description of what this particular village means to him and why he loves it so much. Second, there is a video (believe me, my living room has been a sound stage for the last several mornings) of his Retroville, TX village.

We hope you enjoy it.

Retroville is a childhood memory of small towns I grew up in and around. Although I was a child in the 60's &70's, it looked a lot like the 50's in rural America. Christmas was a full contact event. Our youth group(s) would go caroling numerous times and at each stop there would be hot chocolate and sweet treats. The evening usually ended with a hay ride that found its way to the Drive-In theater and a bonfire. There, parents and chidren alike would come together...parents reliving old memories ... children creating new ones.

I always enjoyed the simple decorations that hung from street light to street light over Main Street creating a tunnel of light that transported one to magical destinatoins. (Actually just the other end of town but the places that a child's imagination could take them were boundless) With a back drop of new fallen snow and the glitter of hundreds of bulbs and tinsel, no tree in Rockefeller Center ever inspired as much awe and wonderment.

Community...that's what I felt then, and it's what I feel now as I gaze upon Retroville. There was a real sense of belonging. I think I aspire to create that same sense of belonging as an adult with the traditions and activities I pursue with my own family. This is Sydney's 4th Christmas with us and she already "expects" certain things (Retroville, The Santa Collection, the Christmas Trees,etc.) to be gouped in a certian spot at a certin time. She already anticipates that these traditions and the responsibility of carrying them out will be hers one day.

One of the most important experiences we can pass on to her,in my opinion, is that of being part of something familar, consistant,...the knowledge that whereever she goes and whatever she becomes or does...she will always belong somewhere...she will always have Retroville to come home to...even if one day it is just a memory manifested in a few porcelain houses and figurines.

You'll have to copy this address into your browser. I didn't post this from home and my employer has youtube blocked, so I couldn't do a direct link.


Happy Christmas, Lane, Rob and Sydney.


Weekend projects

Another busy weekend for us. Fortunately, we weren't out in the shopping craziness. Well, we did dip our toes in a couple of times, but when it got too busy for us, home we went.

This is what I did in the sewing closet. You won't know it to look at these pics, but much re-arranging was done.

In this pic, there are 4 bins. Three of those bins were twice as large as the current bins and got moved on to Rob for storing holiday decorations. YEAH! That means that half of what was crammed into those bins has been moved along in the fabric user's system to either used or ready to use. The new 4th bin is Linus fabrics. Yes, there's a whole bin of stuff for Linus that I can cut freely from next year to meet my goal of a quilt a month. More organization intended to move this fabric along to it's next life. (I know, I know, my tub labels aren't good descriptions, but I just wasn't up to that after I finished the other day.)

And, this is where all my current stash went. The shelving unit is one that was on the way to the trash at Rob's office. No more. He thought fabric, and I took out a huge and bulky shelving unit with the tubs from the previous photo and replaced it with this. The drawer unit was a Goodwill find for 6 bucks and has blacks, whites and neutrals in the drawers. They wouldn't fit in the shelves. The two small drawers are sewing notions; marking tools on top and scissors on bottom.

I did not finish pressing all 600 half triangle squares open. I think this is roughtly 270 or so that are boxed and ready to go for Roll, Roll Cotton Boll from Bonnie Hunter.

I also made Rob a pair of lounging pajama bottoms, and managed not to get a picture of them. But, I know he likes them because he hasn't taken them off yet. They fit funny for him. Something about the pattern and not enough room in the seat, but I can fix that on the next pair.

Yesterday, Sydney and I baked. And, baked, and baked and baked.

She had her first baking disaster. Not sure what happened here, but I think she knows. She kept saying there was something wrong before it went in the oven. I couldn't taste anything funny, but she didn't seem surprised that it went wrong and I think she must have done something and didn't want to fess up to it.

While she had that in the oven, I made a batch of Blondies from the recipe Bonnie Hunter posted on her blog (MMMM. If I had taken them out a bit earlier, they would be perfect. As it is, the outside ones are a bit crunchy, but the middle ones are great!)

Since we'd been having a bit of bad luck, we were especially careful of the pumpkin cheesecake. Rob can't wait to cut this, but he's going to have to wait until Friday at earliest. Sydney is convinced there's something wrong because it cracked. I tried to explain that as long as it didn't fall, it was fine, but she enjoyed picking at me about that crack being big as the Grand Canyon. But, I'll be she eats her share, crack or no.

And, we made cookies to frost; ginger and sugar. Sydney and I have decided that we don't like to bake the kind of cookies that say "chill, roll, and cut". We're "scoop by rounded tablespoonfuls" kind of people. By the time we both finished our cookies and I had done all the dishes, we were pooped! The cheesecake was a Paula Dean Recipe, so there was butter dripping out in the oven. We needed a drip pan, but before we put one in, we smoked up the whole house. I was worried the alarms would go off, but they didn't.

Overall, it was a great weekend of family time. Some grumpiness, which is apparently hormonal and part of being 13, but for the most part, other than when I caught her moving dishes from the clean pile to the dirty pile to keep from having to put them away (lazy heifer!) all went well and we enjoyed this part of the Christmas holiday.

Things got a bit wierd this morning. I hope that was because I had to leave for work and they wanted me to stay, but I suspect it was more about everyone needing some space after three days of togetherness.

Hope your family is having a great holiday, too. Family can be a real blessing. Even when it's hard work.



power through...

If you're cutting and sewing and wiping sweat from your forehead, know that it is possible to piece all 600 of those HST's.

This morning, I powered through the last of them. Now, just pressing and cutting off the dog ear. But, I have to get on to something else.

Today, I'm changing my stash storage and doing some sorting and dividing. I love the days I get to play with my stash!! But, lately, it's gotten overwhelming and I have some stash busting plans.

So, let's go dig in!




Six Hundred?????

SIX HUNDRED!!!!!!!!!

I was intimidated when I saw that this morning. 600 half triangle squares that finish at 1.5 inches.

But, when I started cutting and sewing, they really went fast. Love that easy angle ruler. And, I pressed my strips together before cutting the triangles and that makes them cling to one another and so much easier to handle.

I'm at approximately 330 now. And, I haven't been working at them very long.

I spent most of the day putting that white featherweight back together. It went perfect! It's almost silent and makes a beautiful stitch. Next, the case. There's some repair work there and then I hope to move that to someone that will love it.

And, I think I might have thought of someone to sell that serger to. It was too good a deal to pass up and I've been waiting for someone to come along that needs one and I can give that great deal to.

Today was Sydney's first day of holiday break and she and I went to do a bit of shopping and then out to a lunch, just us. We had a really nice time and she picked up a few crafty things so that she'll have stuff to do other than watch TV and play video games while she's out of school.

Hope you had a great Friday. I'm off to bed so I can get up early and whip out those other TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENTY half triangle squares.




There was never a better string of letters in the alphabet. WFH stands for work from home. Today, I am WFH.

Work from home days are always busy for me because I never want my boss to think I abuse them and not want me to take them. But, I planned a special set of activities today that would leave free time to play. I'm letting the computer do all the work as I pull data from our many data sources. I am being very productive getting my hands on it and then summarizing it.

But, I'm also burning episodes of Quilt in a Day to disk. I had 31 this morning and between the duplicates I had already burned and the ones I've been able to burn today, I have that down to 15. And, I got my apron finished, including getting the pockets on. I made the pockets during the time I would have been driving to the office this morning.

But, there is a down side to every day. I had a cleaning at the dentist. That's always unpleasant at best. I mean, it's not like I get to show my good side...well, except for those compliments because I DO floss each and every day.

Okay, so I'm back to work. This little break has been nice. Just a minute to read some blogs. But, I'm sure my last data request has either bombed or finished by now, so back to it.



New Apron time...

In my lifetime, I haven't needed many aprons. I wasn't raised to see men wear aprons, except the occassional man who had one for grilling. That's what my paternal Grandfather had; an apron made of ticking to use on the huge old bar-b-que grill in the back yard. My Grandmother made it for him and when I was young; maybe middle school or high school, I must have asked for one. I can't think why she would have given me one without my special request. That's it on the right side in the picture. Stained. Old. Used up. But, I wore it for perhaps 20 years. It was well made and has stood the test of time. The tie is one long, continuous piece that goes from one side, up a sleeve on the side of the apron, around the neck, down a sleeve on the other side and out again. At one time, the tie was long enough that I could wrap it around and tie it in front, but over the years I wore it, I changed and had to start tying it in the back. (I was still a growing boy when she gave it to me...see how important rationalizations are?)

About 10 years ago, I was a follower of Martha Stewart and doing all that cooking, I needed an apron...or at least I thought I did. I made one much like the chef's aprons that Martha wore, but it was made of a heavy muslin. My best friend's son loved it when he came on Thanksgiving and helped me cook and got to wear it, so I gave it to him.

But, that meant I needed an apron, so I made the linen one that is second to right. I used my Grandmother's pattern, except I added about 3 inches all the way around so it would cover more of me. And, instead of running a continous tie all around, I put ties on the sides and a separate one around the neck with a button to make it easy to get on and off. And, I made the ties about 8 inches longer. Each. So it would tie in the front again.

Then, I decided I needed a Christmas apron for the holiday cooking, so I'd look pretty while I put the finishing touches on lunch after the guests had arrived. That one is third from the right. Okay, I know, that's Hannukah fabric with rainbow flag trim. But, ain't it festive? And, I get the most fun comments.

Alas, I wear my aprons and that means they get stained so my good clothes don't have to and that linen apron that I wear almost every day is in pretty bad shape. There are purple stains and brown stains and red stains and it has lost all its shape. Not much to do but make another.

I pulled the piece of off-white shirting with its simple black pin stripes and blue diamonds to cut up for the mystery quilt I'm working on, but I never actually cut into it. Not sure why. It's a fabric that I inherited at least 12 years ago, from a friend that also sewed, but he made clothes, and it was old when he gave it to me. There were two just alike, one with blue diamonds and one with red. Not sure what happened to the red. I guess it made it into a quilt sometime. But, that shirting looked up at me for a couple of weeks and when I decided I needed an apron, it was at the front of my mind. When I unfolded it, there wasn't enough to make the apron like I had before, with deep folded hems all the way around. It was exactly as wide as it needed to be and getting ties out of what was left was going to be difficult. Last night, when I couldn't sleep because of the allergies we're all suffering from, I came up with the idea of cutting an edging tape out of a blue fabric and using that around the top half of the apron and as the ties.

I thought I'd finish this morning, and I might have, but it took more of the blue edge tape than I anticipated and I have to cut another strip. That's the result of adding another 8 inches to the ties. Hey, just because they'd tie in the front didn't mean it was comfortable.

So, I'll have a new apron for the holidays. I'm thinking of washing it and ironing it and wrapping it and putting it under the tree; to me, from me. I like to do a little something for myself every year. Am I the only one that does that?

Okay, so that's my Way Back Wednesday post, going back to my first apron, a gift from a very special Grandmother that reminds me of she and my Papaw, both. An apron that is still being used as the basic pattern for all the aprons I make myself, even though I think I've made a few improvements since the original. Like longer ties.

Hope you're having a great day. Lane


The season of distractions

Are you distracted? I certainly am.

I have a pile of holiday gifts to wrap. I have another pile to buy and then wrap.

I am making gift bags for some little gifts. Something simple, cut with a rotary cutter and serged.

I need to make some fudge.

I need to find a ham.

But, I keep working on that Roll, Roll Cotton Boll mystery from Bonnie Hunter. I finally finished step 3 yesterday morning, except I have 10 more blocks I need to take the paper from and trim to square. While I was cutting a few strips of neutral for step 3, I cut the neutral strips for step 4 and this morning, I cut 20 pair of green strips and got the first...oh, about 15 neutral and green bricks sewn together before I had to walk away to shower.

I love a mystery. Some of my favorite movies are the half dozen Thin Man mysteries with Myrna Loy and William Powell. Even though I have them memorized, I still like pretending I don't know what's going to happen. I love Agatha Christie mysteries, too; I'm a big Miss Marple fan. I enjoy a good Sherlock, especially Basil Rathbone's interpretation.

So, throw two of my favorite pass-times together, quilting and mysteries, and I'm happy as a big ole pig in sunshine.

I'm thinking that over the holiday break, when I'm home with the Syglet, bored because all she wants to do is play her new video games, I might quilt a holiday quilt I pieced a couple of years ago. I found the quilting motifs in a coloring book a couple of months ago when the holidays were far away and I wasn't in the mood to think about them.

See how easy it is to get distracted? I need to find more giftwrap.

When can I get to Target? Oh, sorry, that's Friday and Bonnie will release the next step. I'll be busy that day.

So, every once in a while, I mention a blog that I'm enjoying. I found this blog by this guy that makes clothes. He lives in New York City and, well, he inspired me to buy a couple of clothing patterns. Sewing clothing will never compete with quilting, but I think I'd enjoy the novelty of making a pair of jeans, and I have bolts of denim that I've been saving to make picnic quilts to sell and we see how far that's gotten. Anyway, his name is Peter and he is at Male Pattern Boldness. He is a very funny and enjoyable read. Oh, and he's making a men's coat right now and I am just fascinated with the construction.



My first quilted item and the weather

I'm going to show a picture of the first quilt related thing I ever made. Don't laugh. I'm sure that in every quilter's closet, there is something terrible.

But, we keep using this one because it's also kinda wierdly cute. And, we only pull it out once a year, and we cover it with presents, so the painful part is pretty short.

This is my Cmas tree skirt. Now, I remember the lady that shared the pattern and the instructions. I don't remember the conversation, which is a shame because she was a really nice lady that retired a year or two after sharing this with me. This would have been the late 80's. And, I didn't even know I was quilting when I made it.

This is a quilt as you go project, where the back and batting are layered and then a center triangle was pinned on and strips were added, log cabin style. The backing is the cheapest muslin ever and the polyester batting feels like steel wool inside it. I used commercial bias tape for the binding and ran out of red and substituted in a burgundy to finish.

But, it serves it's purpose and hides the tree stand nicely.

I'd like to make a new one now. I still have the pattern for the backing. I wonder what it would look like if I gave it another try? I know it wouldn't have any Christmas fabric in it if I made it again. Maybe I'll do that next year. Or maybe not. It's been under my trees for so many years that now it's become a tradition.

Anybody else use an ugly tree skirt because it means something to you? Maybe something in a green felt with fuzzy ball trim around the edges?

I watched the news. I apologize to all my friends that are snowed in for the following photos. But, it was beautiful at our house yesterday and we spent a chunk of the morning putting the last things to bed before last night's hard freeze.

I promise that some time, the sun will come back to your house. Right now, it's sunny and high 50's outside.

Stay warm. Lane


The spirit of Christmas

I think I found the spirit of Christmas this morning.

I've been so wrapped up in my own stuff, and the real spirit of Christmas is about letting go of my own stuff for just a while...not focusing on me or how I feel, but rather focusing on other people, just for a season. Picking people that are special to me and giving them the gift of focusing on them for a season. Focusing on giving them the best time I can offer; the best gift, the best meal, the most peaceful day.

I mean, that's the focus of all those holiday movies we weep over every year, right? And, me? I've been selfish and wallowing in my hurt feelings and missing out on all the really cool stuff that's happening.

Stuff like watching Sydney come up with gifts for Rob. Not hand prints or finger painting, or pages out of coloring books or popsicle stick ashtrays, not that there's anything wrong with those gifts except that she's outgrown the giving of them. But, she's really focused on giving something of herself and thinking about who Rob is and what he would like. And, knowing she's doing the same thing for me.

And, knowing that I'm doing the same thing for her.

And, knowing that whatever gift I give, it's not nearly as important as the time I spent thinking about the recipient. And, knowing that Rob and Sydney will look past whatever I give them and see the caring that lies behind it. Even when Sydney opens that box of underwear. She'll know that I was thinking about her looking like a teenager in the locker room and won't care that you can't spend Christmas day playing with underwear.

That's the meaning of Christmas. It's time, not money. It's thinking about someone, not rushing to get them whatever it takes to keep the gift giving accounts in balance.

What better gift can I give than to think about someone during the holidays. And, then letting them know I thought about them during the holidays. That's all it takes to make me happy.



The God's of Electricity have smiled...

Okay, so that's a way big overstatement, but isn't it wierd how sometimes, a series of slightly related coincidences happen that make you think maybe there's some other power at play?

It started with my car, a couple of days ago. It's cold and my car is not as new as I wish and it was sluggish to start; once last week, and once on Tuesday afternoon. I hate getting stranded in a parking lot...that's just such wasted time, so I took it in for a battery on Wednesday. But, on Thursday morning, it gave me even more trouble starting. So, I worked from home and Rob came home in the morning and we put it in the shop. They looked it over and couldn't find anything wrong, so I had the brakes worked on while it was there. Gotta keep up with the maintenance on cars and sewing machines, right?

Chapter 2. If you remember, I dropped a brand new laptop early in the summer and killed it. I replaced a very expensive screen on it, but that didn't make it whole. So, for cmas, I was going to buy a very expensive hard drive and give the whole thing to Rob. When I went to buy it, the price had dropped by like 80%. Whoo-hoo! That left me the money to buy him an inexpensive starter camcorder for cmas. And, now the laptop works again. That's two electrical items that worked out right in a single day.

Chapter 3. That little white electric singer featherweight I bought at auction a few weeks ago had a real problem. The hand wheel was not balanced and wobbled when I used it. I think the machine and case had been dropped upside down because there's some paint chipping on the hand wheel and the top of the case is broken. The wobble probably didn't interfere with the usability of the machine, but it meant it wasn't worth much...certainly not as much as I paid for it. And, that bothered me. Bothered me so much that I can't enjoy the machine. I feel so stupid because I overpaid for it, outbidding a woman that really had more cash to spend than me, but also had more self restraint, and feeling that way has actually affected my ability to enjoy the machine. Since I couldn't work on Thursday, I pulled it apart and found the offending part, the main (horizontal arm) drive shaft of the machine was bent, probably confirming the previously suspected fall. I located one on ebay and ordered it. In process of working on the machine, I broke another part (the inexperienced should never repair things, but if the inexperienced don't, how do they become experienced?) The guy with the arm also had the linkage part I broke and in 5-7 days, I should have that little beauty all fixed up. What did I need a second featherweight for anyway? Especially one that I feel bad about buying. (I'd rather have something else. Something older. Something much less costly. Like a 1950 Singer 301a, black, long-bed. But, that's another post.) Anyway, with the new parts, I believe this little singer will bring more than I paid, including the new part, if I can get it on ebay just after the holiday when everybody has their holiday gift cards and is spending them with abandon. Even if I lose a little money, at least a machine that I'm never going to be able to enjoy as much as it deserves will go to someone that will feel that they got a real bargain and will enjoy it more than I can. That's gotta leave me with a good feeling. That I rescued it, fixed it, and sent it on.

Now, these are three disparate stories that probably don't say much about electricity turning in our favor, except that this morning, the rear windows of my car, which haven't gone up and down for 2 years suddenly started working again.

It's an electrical miracle. Things are looking better every day.

Okay, so it's probably more of a statement about my optimism than it is about electricity. But, it feels good to feel optimistic again. I've been laid low this holiday season and I'm needing to feel good about stuff again. And, this is all good stuff. Even playing hookey yesterday from work. Everybody needs a good hookey day now and then. And, yesterday was a good day for me.

So, y'all take care and I hope there are things going on for you that make you feel optimistic too.



Chicken 'n Dumplings

I love Chicken and Dumplings. Not everyone does. I understand that the idea of boiled dough is just gross to some people. But, not me. A good chicken stew with dumplings dropped in and cooked until they're firm...there's nothing like it.

Chicken and Dumplings was something that my Grandmother made. She made them like a side dish, not a main course. She'd serve them with her Turkey dinner at Tgiving and Cmas. She'd serve them with a roast. She'd serve them just because she knew I was coming.

And, so many times I got to stand in her kitchen and watch her make up those dumplings, using flour she scooped out of a large can that would have held a 25 pound bag easily and was painted light robin's egg blue and lived in the cabinet under her sink (in most houses this is a gross dark damp place, but not at her house). It wasn't just a canister. It was practically a barrel.

She'd measure out the ingredients into her sifter and sift everything into a bowl and add the milk and stir it up. Then, she'd drop them out onto the counter on one of those old Tupperware rolling mats...you Americans know the one; with red circles on it that marked the dimensions of an 8" and a 9" pie plate. She didn't use a rolling pin. She'd use a thin glass drinking glass and she'd keep her fingers inside the glass so that she didn't press too hard and crack it. She'd roll those dumplings out paper thin and then use a knife to slice them into little squares. Then, she'd drop each one into the center of that boiling chicken stew, where they'd sink until they were done and then float to the top. And, she was always careful to make sure the new ones dropped under the ones that were already cooked so that we didn't end up with a chewy dumpling.

At Cmas, all the family would gather at my grandparent's house. They raised 8 children and all but one of them came home every year with all their offspring, making a house full of warmth and comraderie. There would be a feast and the good silver and good dishes and the leaves for the old dining table would come out. And, there would be so much laughter and joy and food.

One year at Cmas, I ate so many dumplings and ran around so much playing with my cousins that I threw up in the back yard. Not a nice story to tell, but probably one that every kid went through at some point of overindulgence.

I can remember when I was a teen that my Mom made chicken and dumplings. But, she made it for the main course, and I thought that was just so wrong that if I'm not mistaken, I refused to eat dinner that night. What a little prig I was.

Anyway, I tried many times to make them before I finally learned the secret of dropping them into the center and making sure they sink. And, I can remember once, when I was taking care of a friend that was ill and dying and his family had come to visit one Sunday, I had made a huge pot of dumplings in a delicious stew and they all stayed for supper. They were hispanic and had never had anything like chicken and dumplings before and they dug in and ate all I had. There were so many people that we used all the bowls I owned and people were sat all around, on the floor, in the living room. Everywhere. I don't know how that pot of dumplings fed so many. It's like the story of the loaves and fishes. It just kept stretching and going further and further. And, everyone laughed and ate and visited. It was one of Joel's last good evenings with his family.

And, that's how something as simple as boiled dough, otherwise known as Chicken and Dumplings, became part of my history. And, now you know. I still make them when I can, but I'm the only one at my house that will eat them, so I make a pot and eat from them all week for lunch. Mmmm. Dumplings and a big pot of butterbeans and some chili sauce to spice it up.

Hope you're having a great Way Back Wednesday!



I love quilting

I love the sense of accomplishment that I get from it. I love that I can create something that I think is art and that I can display it in our home.

This is the quilt where I learned to appreciate applique. And, it's last year's Cmas quilt. This post has some close up pictures of the blocks. My mentor made one of these from a kit and she loaned me the patterns and I did my best to recreate her work, right down to the quilting her longarmer did. My mentor helped me pick fabrics and loaned me her quilt to take pics of each block before she hung it. It was very fun and took a big chunk of last year.

I can't just sew. I have to think while I'm doing it. And, the more stressed I feel outside of my sewing space, the more time I spend thinking about while I'm sewing. Soooo, I had to come up with a formula for the string pieced blocks. I can't do random. I wish I could, but random just never looks right. My formula for these is
2 narrow dark strings,
2 strings with white background,
2 ugly fabrics that I thought I'd never get rid of,
1 or 2 that lean in a yellow/gold direction and
two hst's from my bag of hst's and they can meet one of the criteria above.

Fill in with a couple of my lovely tone on tone strings left over from previous quilting projects and I'm done.

Well, half done. I'm working 5 blocks at a time instead of the 2 that Bonnie suggested and timed myself this morning (remember that my mind must keep working). It took an hour to half finish 5 blocks, so about 2 hours to complete 5 blocks. When I break it down, I've certainly made a lot of blocks for other quilts that took longer than that. It makes it sound so much more "do-able".

And, in case you're wondering where that wonderful bag of neutral hst's came from, well, this quilt left me with a lot of them. While that neutral background looks like one fabric, it's actually made up of a bunch of tone on tone prints that were very close in value. I also had some others in there left from other projects...way more than the 120 required for these 60 string blocks...especially since some of them are big enough to cut in half.

I don't know why I'm so drawn to my quilting. I can say that it gives me a peace that I don't fully understand. It's taught me that everything doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. I've learned that I can do anything I'm willing to practice and that if I have patience, rewards do come. It's given me a place away from the hustle and bustle; a place to retreat and to hide and to lick my wounds and to prepare for what's coming.
Everyone should have a hobby or a gift or a something that gives them this much pleasure.


Weekend happenings

Ok, just to aggravate your sweet tooth, this was Sydney's first banana bread. Who would have thought she'd enjoy baking??? She made the homemade potato rolls for Tgiving and those loaves of halloween bread. Now this.

And, she's planning to make the monkey bread for our traditional post gift opening snack on Cmas day. Soon as we get up, it's coffee while the bread rises and then into the oven while we open. By the time we've putzed around a bit, distributed the gifts and started to open, the monkey bread is ready and we enjoy those delicious, cinnamony, raisiney, nutty bread bites.

So, I've been thinking about what to do next year. It's about time to think about some goals. And, I have to be reasonable. Last year, my goal was to finish all my UFO's. Now, I am absolutely certain that I finished 10-12 quilts this year (plus the one I threw in the trash). And, I know that I slipped up and started three new projects, including the current RRCB mystery from Bonnie (that I couldn't resist), a hand piecing/quilting skill builder and that fancy quilting skill builder. Only one of those is completely finished. And, I still have 9 WIP's and 3 UFO's left. (How did that happen?) My only consolation is that 7 of those 9 WIP's were WIP's last January, but weren't even pieced and are now ready for quilting. But, I can only quilt so fast. (There's that long dead time while I wait for a quilt to speak to me and tell me what to quilt on it. That can take a year before I hear it, which doesn't help.) Maybe finishing all my UFO's will have to be an every-other-year goal for me until I'm about 173 years old and have them all finished.

But, next year I have two new goals.

One; I want to work on my machine applique skills. I like machine applique and a friend gave me two whole extremely beautiful kits a couple of years ago and I want to make them. I've been intimidated by their complexity. Plus, I have another applique project picked out and all the fabrics are purchased for it. It's much simpler and will give me good practice. And, I have another applique quilt that was a BOM from last year and I think I got through July or August. And, one more that I only have a pattern for, but really want to start (Ruby McKim's Flower Garden quilt from the 30's as interpreted by the San Jose Quilt Museum).

Two; charity quilt. In 2008, I committed to Project Linus. My goal was to make a quilt every month and I did that. And, I attended the meetings each month to work with the group. I'd like to go back to the meetings, but am not going to commit to that. I'll have to wait and see. But, I do want to get back to the quilt a month for them. One week a month to start and finish a quick quilt. And, it will have to be quick and preferably made mostly out of my stash. I usually buy a half or three-quarter yard piece of focus fabric and then match to it out of what I already have, and I want to keep doing that. My machine quilting skills are good enough that I can get through a lap sized quilt in a couple of hours and I use the simplest of piecing patterns to keep that quick as well. I used to "birth" them all so I wouldn't have to bind, but now that I can machine bind, I can do that, too, if I want. I bound a quilt in under two hours the other night. If I can get it to 4-6 hours to piece, 2 to quilt and 2 to bind, this goal should be do-able. And, hopefully, I'll burn through some fabric that way.

Speaking of burning through fabric, Rob brought me home the simplest set of plastic shelves. Small, convenient, great for fabric. My current storage is all these bins and a huge black industrial shelving unit and there is very little space in my storage closet for all the other things, like ironing boards and vacuum cleanders that have to go there. I want to downscale and declutter my stash and move it into the more open storage unit and make a cover for that to prevent dust.

Stash is a very personal thing. Quilters love our stash and our children and our spouses and our pets and our machines and our gardens; in pretty much that order. So, for a quilter to say I'm going to declutter my stash is a really big statement. But, it is time. That's going to move a good bit of fabric into the Project Linus bin, which is another incentive to make as many Linus quilts as I can next year. I've let all this get a little out of hand and it's time to pull in the reins a bit before this gets absolutely out of control. Repeat after me. I do not have to have it all to quilt. I do not have to have it all to quilt.

I do not have to have it all to quilt.

But, isn't it fun to try?



Step 3 moves slowly

Bonnie was right. She's been going easy on us up until this week. And, this week, she's given us quite the challange. First, she said dig deep. And, what did I find when I went there?

Some really ugly fabric. That bug fabric from the bottom is the very first fat quarter I ever bought and it's never been cut. The newsprint is left from a pair of lounge pants I made Rob about 9 years ago. The rest are from here and there.
And, I had a lot of really pretty long strips left from my quilt making. Tons of them. From 1" to 2" wide. And, a whole bag of neutral hst's.
And, this is what I've ended up with so far. they're pretty slow. I've spent a lot of time on just these 15. I might be able to get 5 more out this weekend, but I'm betting I won't finish this clue by week's end.

So, this is my first string piecing. Never done it before. I've saved strings forever and have a huge tub of them, saved. And, thanks to Bonnie, now I'm finding a use...oh, and a use for last year's phone book. Good thing they delivered new ones this week.

I also got a quilt bound and soon as the sleeve is on and it's washed, I'll post a pic of that. Take care and I hope you're having a wonderful winter weekend.



A time of excess

You have seen pictures of our house. While I do like a lot of furniture packed into a small amount of space, Rob has taught me some restraint in the parts of the house I share with everyone else (obviously not my sewing room). But, at the holidays, we go all out.

We share responsibilities on decorating. Rob has his part, I have my part, Sydney helps and provides technical support and advice (and runs errands, like keeping our glasses full of fresh, cold water while we often put up decorations in 85 degree November temps(not the case this year)).

First is the swag. We have a vaulted ceiling with a huge beam that runs along it in our great room. And, we have enough holiday decorations to put up two trees. But, there's no room for two trees, so we put the second set on this swag. We've been collecting these red ornaments since we got together, almost 11 years ago.

This is the first thing guests notice when they come into the house because it is a bold holiday statement.

Lit up.

Some of the ornaments. There are pieces of glass candy and balls and hearts and apples and birds and squiggly shapes, but they are all basically red.

And, then there's the tree.
This is decorated with the ornament collection that my Mom started for me when I was a kid.

And, we've added to it, too. We love the LiBien ornaments from Pier 1 and have a large collection of the dove ornament that they release each year as well as some other beautiful hand painted ones.

I think this angel is the oldest ornament on the tree. She has a date on the bottom of 1964 and my initials. And, the little disk next to her is a Norman Rockwell ornament. My Mom bought those for several consecutive years and I think there are about 10-12 on the tree.

That's it for my decorating. Funny, it took two days to put it all up and just a couple of pics to show it off.

Rob does a different set of decorating. He's in charge of our Christmas villages (yes, multiple towns). I'm hoping I can get him to write me a couple of blog posts about the best points of that collection. How would that be? Maybe if we all clap like we did to keep Tinkerbell alive he'll write something on here for us?

Take care and I hope your holidays are shaping up nicely and that you have fairies that do all the decorating work for you so you can just sit back and enjoy it. Lane


My voice...p.s.

Well, it's about 7pm and it just goes to show how quick I can stumble. All my big talk this morning and I lost my voice for about an hour tonight. That morning difficult communication did not go well and then got worse. I didn't accomplish anything good. It's as if I had no voice to accomplish anything good.

Holidays are hard all over, huh?

See ya round the net. Lane
It's Way Back Wednesday again and there's only one story on my mind. It's a story of finding and using my voice.

I haven't always had a voice and I made up for it by being angry.

Okay, so that needs some explanation. I kept my mouth shut and kept my mouth shut and when I finally had enough or when my feelings were hurt enough, I erupted. Being a parent meant that had to change. I could not parent that way. Rob was old enough to understand that there was a meaning behind the words and for the most part, he would wait until the storm clouds passed and then talk to me about it. But, kids don't understand that. She saw what I did in the moment and she saw that as a viable way of handling conflict. After all, it was what she grew up around and didn't strike her as unusual.

I can remember one morning, when I had just had enough and I was in her face, letting her have it and I looked down into her big brown eyes and I knew. This is not right.

How could I expect her behavior to change so that she could fit in with us as a forever family if I couldn't change my behavior first. The best lessons are those taught by watching someone do it and that's what I set out to do.

From that day forward, I started trying to understand how that happened. Was it a chemical defect in my brain? Was it behavioral? Learned? Controllable? Mental illness?

And, as time passed, I started to learn about myself. And, I talked about it to Rob and to the therapist and I saw that what I was doing was just taking and taking and taking and then letting it out. It had to come out somehow. And, it came out as anger.

I started to look at my shyness and I saw that it was a protection. Better to say nothing and stand on the sidelines than to say the wrong thing and be embarrassed later. And, I started working on talking to people. Saying the wrong thing. Messing up. Apologizing. Rolling all around in the mess of being a person and interacting with other people. And, I found out that what I thought was a wrong thing was often quite funny and people liked it and they paused to give me a chance to participate in conversations. And, you guys gave me feedback that you liked what I had to say.

And I learned that I have a voice and people kinda like it.

Now, if you've followed me since I started this blog, then you might remember back in April of 2009 when I went to a business meeting and stood against the wall and didn't participate. Too shy. And, you'll remember in April or May of 2010 when I went to a similar business meeting and spoke into a microphone for the first time in my life. People wanted to hear what I had to say and even though my voice was growing, the room was bigger than my voice.

Yesterday, I was with several of the people from those meetings again for the day. It was their day to present, not mine; so I stood in the back and listened. But, during the breaks and meals, they sought me out to sit with. They wanted to shake my hand and talk to me. And, I wanted to, and was able to, do the same with them. No inability to find the words. Over the two years that I've worked with them, I've found my voice and they wanted to hear it.

So, this morning, when I was faced with a difficult communication opportunity, I fell into my old ways. I was angry and resentful and just about to say all the wrong things. And, then I sat at a sewing machine for about 15 minutes and remembered; I have a voice. And, I used my voice. And, I said what I needed to say. About me and how I feel. No need to be angry. No resentment. And, because it was all about me, it can never be the wrong thing.

So, how does this qualify as a Way Back Wednesday post? As I search my memory, I think I lost my voice at least 25 years ago, when I moved to Texas and found myself around people that were different than the people I grew up around. These people were direct and didn't beat around the bush. They said what they wanted and they expressed themselves without anger. They knew how to communicate.

And, now I've found my voice again, after many years of searching. And, I know how to communicate.

Take care and have a great Wednesday. Lane

292 and waiting...

These are my 292 sections for Roll, Roll Cotton Boll, just waiting for tomorrow when the next set of instructions come out. I've only done one other mystery or BOM in real time. I've always waited until it was over and then set out with all the instructions in hand...and a picture of the finished product. But, I really enjoyed the mystery I did a few years ago, nice and simple with just a few steps. And, I'm sitting with anticipation, waiting for the next steps on this one. I have no more pink in my scrap bins and am cutting from yardage now. I didn't have much pink to start with and that gave me an excuse to buy a few yards last weekend. Unfortunately, Sydney isn't interested in pulling from my pinks anymore. Now, she wants into my purples...and those are harder to share.

My roman shade is still moving along. I worked on the mystery pieces last week, while I was waiting for quilting inspiration. It finally came and I found the perfect shape to quilt in the blocks and am progressing well, both adding the new shape and pulling the old shapes out of blocks I experimented in.

The family is having a hard week. The holidays have always been difficult with my family of birth, and are especially difficult this year. I've drifted so very far apart from them over the 25 years that I've lived in another state and it makes gift giving very difficult...imagine giving a gift to someone that you see once a year for a few hours in a single weekend, and that it needs to be the right gift or feelings will be hurt. That's the pickle I've gotten myself into and can't get help out of it, because feelings have already been hurt. Hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt. And, that's why the holidays are difficult. Happy Christmas, and a big bah-humbug.

And, my family of choice has had a difficult week. Being a teenage girl is tough for all of them. Our teenage girl seems to have it a bit tougher than most. But, I've been very proud of us as parents, with our empathy and understanding and willingness to stand beside her in a difficult situation...well, Rob stood beside her. I think they were afraid I'd lose my voice there yesterday, too and so he handled it. No matter why, I really appreciate his willingness to bring a level head to a bad time and help limit the amount of pressure I find myself under. It was a great day for me to talk about voice because he was inspired by what I wrote and went into the encounter with more confidence and an assurance that his voice was enough.

So now I'm just sitting in the eye of the storms, enjoying a bit of peaceful respite. I've made my apologies for getting out of control. I've shown myself to be a good and understanding parent. Now it's up to others and I can rest for a bit and move forward with my life and the stuff I need to do.

Take care and have a great Thursday. I think they'd call my mood today "neutral".