Twas the day before Christmas

Well, tomorrow is the big day.  And, true to my nature, I decided I wanted to give some other people gifts.  But, that I didn't want to go out in the crowded stores.  So, I made 19 dozen cookies...

There's an emoji for what you just felt when you read that. 

At the grocery yesterday, I picked up some trays for half off and used them to hold about four dozen each and we went to see the neighbors.  It was down right Victorian. 

Lazy frosted sugar cookies with a tiny bit of orange extract.  Lazy because I tried to pipe a few and said a most un-Christmas like word and frosted them with an offset spatula.  And, I made 10 dozen of my Mom's fruitcake cookies.  They're basically pecans and fruit held together with sugar, butter and eggs, so nothing wrong with that.  This year, instead of using the candied fruit my family has always used and I couldn't find in the grocery, I used dried fruit; pineapple and tart cherries.  And, they're even better than I remember them from childhood.  I made Lace cookies using Linda's recipe and a batch of Hello Dollies, which are a bar cookie with a graham cracker crust and coconut and pecans and chocolate chips...and a can of sweetened condensed milk.  Because, you know.  What's a little Christmas stress without a crapload of sugar content. 

Today is bread day.  I'll be making a monkey bread and rolls for tomorrow.  Tomorrow's tradition is ham and scalloped potatoes.  This year, in the new tradition of trying new recipes, I made my own pineapple spice ham glaze yesterday and we're having au gratin potatoes with spinach and glazed carrots and a salad and green bean casserole and rolls...and cookies. 

Yesterday was my Dad's birthday.  We had a very nice chat.  It was good to talk to him.  Unfortunately, I was keeping him from his lunch so didn't get to talk long, but it's always good to hear what he's thinking about.  He has a way of saying some little something when we talk that makes me feel good.  I hope one day Sydney says that about me. 

Everybody have a wonderful Christmas Eve!  Share a cookie with someone you love.  Instead of hoping Santa is good to you, I'm sending wishes of peaceful holidays, filled with love and laughter. 



In the mail

I finished the Christmas tree quilt.  Yesterday.  At the very last minute.  Of course. 

We made a board for the top sleeve.  Rob painted it and drilled a hole in each end and we used a simple piece of jute for the hanger so his Mom will only need one nail to hang it from. 

I sewed 28 buttons on it and we replaced the hooks on the flat ornaments with red ribbon so she can loop the ribbon over the button to decorate it.  We left some buttons uncovered so she can hang things there.  We're also punching a hole in our Christmas card and explaining she can hang it on a button too using the spool of ribbon we sent and the hole punch. 

The angel was perfect for the top.  I made the blue fabric ornaments about 15 years ago and never hung them on the tree. 

The silver candy cane came from Linda's Christmas boxes and the rest is mostly from our collection.  The rest picked up here and there as I've worked on this project. 

I know she is going to love it.  And, we made the shipping deadline!  Yay!  Rob is sending this in one box and a box of goodies in another.  A few times a year, we send her a box of healthy edibles.  She's diabetic, so there's a lot she can't eat and she has trouble getting healthy fresh food that she can eat in the small town she lives in.  So, we send things and toss in a nice pound of coffee and some fresh apples wrapped in bubble wrap...and a tiny piece of chocolate because she loves it and shouldn't have it but everybody deserves a little bit of something they love, right?  Once, we bought a diabetic cookbook and picked a couple recipes that were simple and sounded tasty and sent all the ingredients except the fresh veggies and meat.  She truly enjoys it and it gives her new things that she can eat that are good for her.  And, it inspires her to focus more on eating things that are good for her without having to eat the same things over and over. 

The couple we gave the tree quilt to came by yesterday afternoon for a visit.  They wanted to give us a personal thanks for the gift and we had a very nice visit.  They're such a sweet young couple.  Like us, her tradition is setting up a tree the day after Thanksgiving.  The wedding meant she didn't have time for that this year, so a few days after the wedding, she came home from work and he had set a tree up in their living room for her to decorate so she wouldn't miss out.  When did the high school jock get so sweet?

Okay, that's it for me today.  I am not starting any more projects before Christmas.  Unless I do.  Because you can never tell with me, right? 

Everybody have a great week!  I have a dentist appointment to start the day.  Yay, me! 



I spent as much time as I could this weekend, quilting that little Christmas tree quilt.  I need to finish by next Sunday, so one week for a bit more quilting, binding, sewing on a ton of buttons, and then we can ship it in time for her to enjoy before the big day. 

I got the border added.  The pattern called for a narrow inside border, but in the name of expediency, I did just one red border. 

And, the back is a plaid that I had enough of to cut one long piece from.  That was another time saver.  I quilted a very loose "wind" pattern in the white background, and then quilted the tree in the ditch.  Whatever I do in the border is going to be quick and easy.  Maybe even straight lines.  I'd leave the borders unquilted but they make the edges of the quilt "wavy".  Three parallel lines of quilting would take care of that.  Or something lose and curvy. 

Or some pine trees.  I've thought of a ton of things I could do in one of these.  Snowflakes in the background.  Pine boughs in the tree.  But, I would have had to start in October to do all the things I could have done, like a loose zig-zag over a gold cord for a garland. The possibilities are endless, so I'd expect to see another one of these in the new year. 

We shopped most of the day on Saturday.  We shop early in the morning, before the crowds, while everybody else is having coffee and snuggling in during an infrequent cold morning.  The three of us managed to pick up several gifts.  In our family, we pick most of our own gifts.  Most of the gifts we unwrap on Christmas are things we need.  Clothes, socks, kitchen tools, shoes...lots and lots of shoes.  It means there are always a lot of packages to unwrap.  And, we also try to surprise one another with a little something every year.  We tend to forget what we picked out, so we get surprises when we see things again.  Lots of people say there's no fun in that.  We laugh at those people as we walk past them in the return lines.  Because if we pick it ourselves, it's always the right size and color and just what we wanted. 

I say I don't mind the crowds.  I hate waiting in line, but other than that, I don't think I mind being among the other shoppers, looking for just the right gift...although I think people should leave their damn dogs at home.  When we took Syd to work, we went into the store she works in and I got my fill of crowds.  It was afternoon, and we saw all the crowd I was ready to deal with for this year.  I'll go back to being the guy waiting around outside the door for somebody to come unlock it while everyone else enjoys their coffee.. 

Rob spent most of yesterday wrapping gifts.  I spent a big part of it in the kitchen, making this week's dinners; tortilla soup, a chicken casserole, meatloaf and a cinnamon coffeecake.  Then, he napped and I quilted and we complained about how bad our backs hurt and then it was dinner and TV and bedtime.  Another weekend worked through on our way to the upcoming workweek. 

Everybody have a great week!  Half the joy of the season is anticipating and preparing for the season.  I gotta keep reminding myself of that. 



Tree quilts

We went to our friend's wedding this weekend.  It was beautiful.  I gave them the tree quilt, but didn't take any pictures after it was bound and finished and washed.  Mostly because I had finished it the day before the wedding.  I said, when I started it in July that I would not finish until the last minute.  Well, I put the last stitch in on Thursday, washed it on Friday and wrapped it on Saturday. 

Then, I came home and worked on another tree quilt. 

I spent a lot of time working on Rob's Mom's quilt.

I got the center together, now I need to add borders.  She doesn't have room in her apartment for a real tree, so she can hang this on the wall and it will have buttons added that she can hang ornaments from and we are sending her several flat ornaments.  I knew I was going to be in a time crunch, so I cheated on the bottom and instead of making the tree skirt in the pattern, I used a fabric printed with holiday packages. 

Still not sure about that.  It's a great fabric to use there, but not sure it's the right shape.  Since I'm not doing the tree skirt, maybe the packages fabric should be more of a rectangle.  Still thinking. 

I used five different greens and cut from all the white on white prints I own (about 6...I don't quilt with much white fabric).  I transferred the tissue paper patterns to freezer paper, so I have a set of patterns if I want to make another.  I'll pack all that together with the instructions for next time.  I think we would like one.  They're very practical, only about 2' by 6'.  I'll attach a sleeve at the top and we'll send it with a dowel so it can be hung easily.

Friday night, Syd tried on her dress for the wedding.  As much as I wanted to shout about waiting til the last minute, I said let's go shopping tomorrow and hold that one for reserve, in case we don't find anything else.  It will work.  She said it wasn't uncomfortable, but it looked like she couldn't breathe.

So, we go shopping.  Here, nothing.  There, nothing.  That other place, a black dress with so many ruffles, it looked like Jethreen (Jethro Bodeen's sister...if you're too young to know who that is, well, you're young enough to google it.)  We got to the place Rob recommended first (she said they wouldn't have anything right off) and she went one way and we went the other, and she walked up with a dress.  And, instead of saying that's the butt-ugliest dress I've seen since the black ruffles, I said try it on.  And, then she put it on and sent a dressing room pic.  And, it looked good.  Surprisingly good.  Very plain, with only a couple zippered pockets in the front.  All I saw was zippers on the hanger, but on her, I hardly noticed the zippers at all. 

So, we paid and got to the car and asked about her shoes.  Welllllllll, haven't found her shoes yet.  Doesn't know where they are...in the closet somewhere.  And, instead of shouting about waiting till the last minute, I said why don't we try a shoe store.  That's a big thing for me because I don't think it's physically possible for me to enter a shoe store and leave empty handed...and I DON'T need more shoes (I grew up with 3 pair of shoes at a time.  I'm clearly trying to make up for lost time).  Anyway, first store, don't carry anything her size.  So, we went to the place Rob recommended first (she said they wouldn't have anything right off) and found not just one, but two pair of shoes for her.  One pair she liked, one pair I liked.  When we got home and dressed and she was trying shoes, turned out I liked the pair she liked best with the dress. 

We were Groom's family at the wedding.  I assumed it would be a little more casual than it was and wish I'd dressed up more, but my family looked great!

It was a sweet ceremony.  The groom cried.  The officiate cried, the bride cried, and everybody in the audience cried.  All the bridesmaids cried.  Most of the groomsmen cried.  You'd think it was sad in some way, but it was really because this couple has dated off and on for 13 years and half the people were moved by the constancy of their love that just couldn't be separated.  The rest were moved because, like, finally!  We were moved because we've known the groom all his life and had talked to him and we knew how he felt.  And, the level of his love for his bride was moving. 

The kind of couple we all hope will meet and share a life.

Everybody have a great Monday!  Lane


can't hardly finish one with starting another one.

That's how the holidays are.  The last of the Thanksgiving dishes aren't even put away (don't judge) and we've already put most of the Christmas decorations up. 

This was our Turkey day table. 

The whole "all new recipes" thing worked out perfectly.  It truly was one of the best meals I've ever made.  Yams, bacon parmesan stuffing, green bean casserole, copper penny carrots, a green salad, roasted potatoes.  All the old favorites, but with different (and welcome) new flavors.  The only thing that went truly wrong was the pie.  So, I made a second one on Friday...it was much the same.  But, I figured out what I'm doing wrong.  It's a quirk of the new stove.  Something I wouldn't have thought of, but two pies with doughy bottom crusts and I was able to figure out that I need to bake them in the bottom oven, where the gas jets are, not the top one that only gets convection heat. 

 But, we're enjoying the pie filling!

The trees all turned and lost their leaves at one time.  We had a freeze a couple weeks ago and that started it, but then it was windy all weekend, and that ended the fall color on most of the trees.  But, this is the Bradford Pear in front of the house, with the husband standing under it.  This was the first tree we planted in the yard together.  Well, I say together.  I think I picked it...and he dug the hole.  That's together, right?

And, at the same time, this Parlor Maple, or Chinese Lantern is blooming many flowers in the greenhouse.  

Next, it was time to start decorating for Christmas.  Well, on Friday, I spent most of the morning on my behind "resting" while Rob started to decorate.  Hey, I deserved to let my feet rest a little.  But, then I got up and decorated the swag and hung it.  This is the post Rob did on facebook with pictures I didn't even know he was taking. 

And, on Saturday, he assembled the tree and I decorated it.  Sydney is taking this year off.  She very conveniently has to work...retail, right?  I'm actually hoping that she misses it because I'd be fine if she wanted to decorate the tree next year. 

It's a lot of work. 

While I was cooking on Thanksgiving, Rob was putting lights on the house.  But, every year, it's doing just one more thing, so this year, he hung lights on my greenhouse.  Overkill?  Maybe, but it sure is cute!

Today, it's back to work...where I can get some rest.  Like every holiday, we were busy and this time of year, we are especially thankful for the abundance we enjoy.  It may not seem like much to many, but to us, it is more than enough and we are grateful that we can share some of it with others.

Everybody have a great Monday and a great week!  I started a new project, of course.  A Christmas tree quilt for Rob's Mom...because I'm almost certain I can squeeze in just one more project this year.  Almost certain. 




The search...

I worked a lot this weekend.  We also did a shopping spree where I bought some shoes and some tropical fish and some specialty groceries and some Christmas presents and some kitchen tools.  Now, how's that for a variety?  I knew I had a lot of stops to make so I was in and out of every stop in a flash.  It's been several weeks since we ran errands like that, so I had a lot of them saved up.

I also finished the "fixes" on the tree quilt and I did manage to get that pucker out.  It's not perfect, but you really have to know what you're looking for to find it.  And, I made two dozen cinnamon rolls because I was in the mood for cinnamon, and I made some cold food for Thanksgiving and meals like strew and chicken korma for the rest of the week because we're going to need food that is not roast turkey.  And, I got the diamond shaped pillow blocked into a square.  The camera angle is weird, but I swear, it's almost a perfect square.  As much as I can get needlework to be anyway. 

But, the real job for this weekend was looking for a 20 year old document.  Wherever I hid it.  The last time we remember seeing it was almost 10 years ago.  And, my fabric stash has taken over my home office since then so there's been lots of shuffling.  It was dusty.  It meant digging.  And, I still haven't found what I was looking for.  But, I did fill a trash can with things that were important at one time and are not anymore, so I guess that's something, right?  Something, but not quite what I was hoping for. 

Wish me luck.  I'm still going to be digging, because I'm sure I didn't throw it away.  Surely!

We had a hard freeze while I was in Cleveland.  My poor garden.  It will look bit back until February.  It's so much nicer when the first freeze is in January and we get to enjoy the garden through the holidays.  Now, I have to get out there and start cutting it back.  It's always something, right?  Something,  but still not what I was hoping for. 

Everybody have a great week.  May your turkey be juicy and your stuffing be moist.  We are using all new recipes this year.  New variations of the classics.  I've done the same Thanksgiving for 20 years.  It's time for something different.  And, this is the year.  A different way to cook a turkey, a new stuffing recipe, with bacon and parmesan cheese.  Even a new recipe for green bean casserole and rolls.  I'm enjoying doing new things, including doing old things in new ways.  Now, if this totally bombs, I guess we're back to the same old for next year.  Because tradition is tradition, right?  And, the big meal is part of my family's tradition. 



Busy, with nothing to show

I am returned from the north, and just in time!  I was coming home as the weather was getting bad and flights were being delayed and cancelled.  I was lucky.  I was only delayed by a few minutes, and the pilot made them up in the air, so I got home about 5 minutes after I expected.  This is a really bad picture of Dallas, and I only put it here because I didn't want you to see the main picture until I explain it.  Remember that Dallas is only half.  I couldn't get a pic that had both Dallas and Fort Worth in it.  Even at 30k feet, it's a really big place. 

It was the usual business trip to a conference.  Lots of speakers, food, booze.  I split a presentation to a breakout group.  My co-worker presented how to follow a process and I presented how to make changes to the documents we work with.  It was not my smoothest presentation, but everyone I asked said it was fine.  The hotel was nice, the food was good, I slept well and I got to see all the people I work with from around the country and met several new people that have joined the group since the last meeting. 

I guess I never thought my life would work out this way.  Business trips, conferences, presenting.  Who'da thunk it for a small town boy without a degree?  But, it's the life I've made.  And, my peers speak highly of me.  Guess I can't ask more than that out of a career.

Of course, meetings have to have icebreakers.  They truly are my least favorite part.  But, over the years I've embraced them and found that the more I participate, the more I get out of meetings.  We played rock/paper/scissors until only one person was left of the 65 of us.  There was a trophy made from a pair of scissors.  Think about the last time you played.  And, there were so many sets of rules in the room.  It made for a lot of laughs and a lot of discussion about something as basic as that. 

Another one, we played a version of the gossip or telephone game where a word starts at one end of a line of people and it gets whispered down the line and you see what the word turns into at the end.  Except we did it with pictures.  Each person chose a word and drew a picture of it.  Passed it to the right and the next person took a guess, wrote the guess on one page and drew a picture of their guess on the next page.  The next person guesses and draws a picture of their guess until the pad goes around the table and then you compare the first page with the word to the last guess.  That one was fun, too.

The tables were randomly assigned, so it gave a good mix of people to visit with and to meet.  People you might not know so well.  That made the headbandz game much more fun.  In headbandz, you put a card on your forehead and play a 20 questions variation to try to guess what it's a picture of.  I drew the unicorn card right out of the box and put it on my forehead, and everyone at the table started to laugh.  That seemed ominous. 

It's only fun if you laugh as a group, which is the purpose of an icebreaker. 

Unicorns and glitter, y'all!

This time, instead of taking a bulky book, I downloaded a book to the Surface and used it as a tablet.  It worked really well, so that's probably what I'm going to be doing from now on.  I can listen to music on my phone and read a book and relax during my flights.  It makes all the difference.  My co-traveler and I had a long layover, so we spent it having a steak dinner in Atlanta, then got on a plane for 2.5 hours.  MISTAKE and lesson learned.  I definitely enjoy traveling more when I eat light.

Yesterday was about catching up on all the stuff I didn't get done while I was gone.  It was a very busy day and I was very tired doing it.  Today should be a little bit easier (knock wood).  But, first, I need to unpack and get my dirty clothes in the laundry.  Everybody have a great weekend!  It's the last weekend before Thanksgiving, so time to be thinking about pies, green beans, yams, and salmonella.  Just kidding...sort of.  But I bet the sales of meat thermometers is up this year. 



These are a few of my favorite things...

Didn't realize how much it was going to make me channel my inner Julie Andrews when I started typing that. 

The hills are alive, with the sound of music.  With songs they have sung for a thousand years... 

That is the only theater movie that I ever knew my Father's Mother to go to.  She went with my Mom, my Sister and me.  I remember that my Grandmother got dressed up to go to the movies and how that seemed so foreign.  Of course, we all dressed better than most movie goers today, who look like they just got out of bed, or are looking for a dark place to sleep...or both.  I was very young, but I remember paying rapt attention and even though it was at least 45 years ago, there are parts of that evening that I remember well.  And, I tell this story to whoever is watching with me, every time I see the movie. 

You are sixteen going on seventeen, fellows will fall in line...
Totally unprepared are you, to face a world of men.  Timid and shy and scared are you, of things beyond your kin...

I mentioned last week that I had picked up a piece of needlepoint to finish when I was feeling bad.  And, I finished it Saturday night while we watched Crazy Rich Asians.  This is what happens when a quilter wants to learn to needlepoint, but doesn't want to give up quilting to do so. 

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad...I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don't feel so bad.

These are six inch quilt blocks, set up as a sampler, and intended to be pillows for my quilting studio.  The one on the left is one of my first needlepoint pieces and it's not square because I didn't use a frame as I worked.  I've learned better and the one on the right was done on a frame and is much "squarer".  The first one will square up, but it will be a lot more work. 

Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start...when you read you begin with A-B-C, when you sing you begin with doe-ray-me.  The first three notes just happen to be do-ray-me...

I designed these blocks and drew them out and bought cheap leftover collections of yarn on ebay and when I had the yarn, I colored the blocks and assigned yarn color numbers.  I knew that it takes me a yard of yarn to fill a one inch square, so was able to estimate how much yarn each block would take, then figure out which color numbers I had enough of to do it. 

Climb ev'ry mountain.  Ford ev'ry stream.  Follow ev'ry rainbow...Til you find your dream.  I sang that song as a solo in elementary school and still remember most of the words. 

Today, I'm headed to Cleveland for a conference.  Yippee!  It's cold enough for me here and it's much colder there.  I have two layers of outerwear and two hats and a scarf and gloves and thick soled shoes...yeah, I know how to deal with the cold...I just don't like it. 

What will this day be like...what will my future be?  Oh, what's the matter with me? 

Okay, Lane, get a grip.

Austin is going to have our first freeze this week, too.  Just a little one and it likely won't get all the way to freezing in our yard at the bottom of the hill, but it meant it was time to get ready.  This is one greenhouse.  There's a second one that's plastic and collapsible that sits behind this one and is full of large pots of hibiscus and citrus trees.  Some of the things in here are annuals that I've overwintered for three or four years now, so they're substantial plants now.  The job isn't done.  There's still plenty of clearing up to do.  But it is started and the tenderest plants won't be in any danger and it will do until next weekend when I can do a little more.  Not everything has to be done at once.

Okay, that's it for me.  I'm writing this Sunday afternoon so I just need to hit the button to post it on Monday before I leave for the airport.  It will be a full day of travel that ends in a group dinner.  Tuesday, a full day of meetings, and another group dinner event.  And, Wednesday, a half day of meetings and then I'm headed back home.  Where it will be warmer at least.  Remember when that kind of stuff used ot bother me?  I've gotten much better at group things now. 

Everybody have a great week! 

So long, farewell, I bid you sweet adieu, good bye, good bye....good bye!

A song and a memory for when 'have a great week' just isn't enough.



Practically finished

I am practically finished with the tree quilt and with nearly a month to go until the wedding.  It took longer than I thought to finish it.  I had some time off work and decided to devote the day to it and see if I could get it done.  It took longer than I expected, probably because I was also trying to binge watch a series on TV and kept running over my line and having to stop, pick out a half dozen stitches and make a new start. 

There are a few errors.  Yesterday, I noticed that I picked up a fabric scrap off the table and it got quilted into the back.  I carefully cut it along the stitching and picked it out, but broke one quilting thread and will have to pick out a few inches and replace it, but that's easy work.  There is only one pucker in the back and I haven't looked into whether I can fix it...or whether I will just stitch it down so it's harder to see. 

Becky said she would probably use this "wind" pattern a lot and that stuck with me and when I was quilting, I realized just how often I have used it.  I use it all the time.  I've used it in two large quilts this year.  It's so easy once I built up a rhythm and a pattern in my head.  In my early quilting, I had made a plastic template of it and would mark quilts to use it.  Now, it's all free motion and a lot more loopy and round, but very effective in a quilt with a nature theme.

Now, it's just squaring and binding and giving it away.

We took Syd out for her first legal margarita on Monday night. 

A large part of our conversation was about alcohol.  Some of it, she had heard like never leave your drink unattended and then pick it back up; get a fresh one.  Don't mix alcohols, don't lose control, don't be a weepy drunk or an angry one.  Mixers and shots and alcohol contents and what to do if the situation ever gets out of control.  (CALL HOME!  On the landline because our cell phone ringers are off at night.) 

She joked that we made it sound like she was going to become a sudden alcoholic.  We replied that we've always shown her responsible drinking (never drive, never excess).  This was just an extension of that to give her more knowledge about alcohol.  Tuesday night, her friends took her to dinner and out dancing.  She got home the next morning and told me about it.  And, amazingly, she wasn't hung over.  And, while she'll never admit out loud that she listens to us, the way she described the evening and her experimentation with different types of alcohol and tasting other people's drinks was told in the same way and using some of the same terms that we had used Monday night when we were talking to her about it.  That seems like a good thing. 

Everybody have a great weekend.  I'm off to Cleveland next week for a few days, so I'll be prepping for that and trying to finish the tree quilt.  I was sick a few days last week and didn't feel like moving around and quilting, so I picked up a needlepoint UFO...I was so bored with daytime TV and election commercials.  Quilting takes my whole body and I didn't want to move off the couch.  But needlepoint is just moving one arm.  (that's a rationalization in case you're unsure.)  I didn't realize how close I was to completing that project, so hopefully, that will be another finish to show off soon. 

Be well!  Lane   


MIssion accomplished

This one is not going to be about me.  This one is about Sydney.  Today, Sydney is legally an adult. 

I'm not quite sure how we got here, and I'm not quite sure what it means yet.  When she was 9 and came to live with us, we thought what a good idea this was.  When she was 11, we wondered if we could give her back.  When she was 13, we thought we wouldn't survive it.  When she was 16, we thought she wouldn't survive it.  By 18, we started to have real conversations with her.  At 20, she was pleasant...mostly.  And, we survived.  What will adulthood hold for her and for us? 

We knew what Syd was coming from.  We set some simple goals.  Keep her out of jail, off drugs, and without making us grandparents until she was an adult, and make sure she graduated high school.  We did that.  And, despite the fact that the other night I found out she was turning her two year degree into a three year degree through a muleheaded need to do the absolute very least in every situation, I'm pretty sure she's going to graduate with at least an Associate's Degree.  And, I already know she'll always be able to hold a job (loves money!).  That's just gravy on the pork chop as far as we are concerned.  And, if she goes on to get her bachelors, then we will have far exceeded the expectations of just about everybody that warned us about what we were getting into when we got into it. 

It has changed who I am, for the better.  It has changed what I expect of people.  And, it's taught me to hold other people responsible for their choices...and hold me responsible for my feelings about their choices.  And, to practice that, most of the time. 

And, somehow, we survived.  And, we made a family.  And, we learned to live together.  Unconventional.  Proud.  And, trailblazing for the next generation of gay parents.  And, trying to show her how to be a good parent. 

I wouldn't trade it for the world.  Or do it again for all the tea in China.

Happy Birthday, Syd.  May all your dreams come true. 


First dance.  She was so high on sugar!!

She made me learn most of the rules of basketball. 

Have a great Monday!  Lane


Clean one mess, make one mess.

This weekend, I wanted to spend a good bit of time quilting and sewing.  And, I did.  I'm about half done with the wedding gift quilt.  I spent about four hours on it Saturday and I think I'm half done.  It's so hard to estimate when it's puddled up under the machine.  I think I thought I was a lot further along last week than I turned out to be.  But, that's okay.  It's a very special couple.  And, not being able to estimate how far along I am means I'll get a big surprise when, one day, it's suddenly done.   
And, I finished more arc blocks.  I found myself yesterday powering through four blocks so I could take a picture.  Sometimes, it's the little things that motivate me. 

Twelve blocks.  Halfway there!  But, then there's a border that's just as intense.  You can imagine that it takes a lot of scraps.  And, next step is more cutting.  All my color stacks are missing steps in the gradations that are becoming obvious.  The scraps have to be tone on tone and I make two stacks when I cut; one for 2"x6" bricks and one for smaller pieces.  The ends of the arcs take smaller pieces, so it's important there are lights and darks, not so much mediums.  But, I have plenty of scraps and if it I run out, I can cut from stash just as easy.  I might have to do that with my purples.  Tip:  Making these blocks is messy.  It leaves threads and scraps and tiny pieces all over.  When I'm done, I run a lint brush over the carpet before the vacuum. 

My cleaning project was the grill.  I spent several hours cleaning and repairing the grill.  Our grill wasn't very old, but it had gotten messy...so messy that I didn't want to cook on it.  I dreaded lifting the lid.  I used most of a bottle of degreaser and a roll of paper towels and a steel wool pad.  But, it was worth it.  It's all sparkly clean and I can't wait to take a steak out there and make a mess on it.  The only thing I couldn't get to work was the replacement spark lighter.  Oh, well.  That's what matches are for, right?

I also rewired a vintage floor lamp.  It was my Grandmother's lamp and I had rewired it many years ago, but it was never "right".  It reflected what I knew about electrical wiring and repair at the time, but I know more now.  It's been in Syd's room for years and I had kind of forgotten about it.  I don't think she ever used it.  I put some new fixtures on it and an extension to raise one of the fixtures and put it all back together.  I only had a vague idea of the improvements I wanted to make and it took me a few tries to raise that fixture and get it the way I wanted it, but it's all done now and the lamp looks better and works better. 
So, that's what my weekend was like.  Remember when I used to quilt the whole weekend and could show you a completed top on Monday?  I do.  And, I miss part of that.  But, I'm also enjoying more variety in my projects.  Variety is a good thing and I'm glad to be coming out of the studio and experiencing other things.  Even if the other things are cleaning and repairing. 
Everybody have a great week!  It's been very busy at my desk, but this is last week of the month, so it should be slower.  I hope. 


Boiled or bottled?

I've never been under a boil water alert before.  The city of Austin has been under one all week.  That means all water for drinking or cooking needs to be boiled.  But, it also means dishwater, the water you rinse your mouth with after brushing, water for the dogs, and ice. 

Ice has been the thing I've had the hardest time with.  Rob works in a different city that takes its water from a different source and he has been bringing water and ice home for us.  But, it means being conservative with those things.  If there's a little ice left in a glass, you add to it rather than toss it into the sink and start fresh.  Rather than bring my lunch box to my desk with lunch, it stays in the office refrigerator with a bottle of water in it so there's cold water for the afternoon. 

And, something I didn't think of, all the leafy produce in the grocery stores had to be thrown away because it had been sprayed with city water after the boil notice became effective.  It took stores a couple days to restock their shelves with produce. 

I'll be very glad when this is over.  I know there are places where people have to do this all the time.  I have a new appreciation for the effort that goes into living in a remote place like that.  Sure, it's beautiful, but it's a lot of extra work. 

I voted early yesterday.  I stopped at the polling place every morning and measured the line.  I went on cloudy warm days, and cool rainy days, and the only thing that happened was the line got longer on days I thought people would stay home, proving again that I am no judge of human nature.  Yesterday, I just bit the bullet and scheduled out of office for a couple hours and did it.  And, it took 32 minutes from parking to leaving and I was only a few minutes late to work.  The line looked long, but it moved quick.  So, vote!  Whoever you're voting for, just vote.  Like my Civics teachers always preached, the only way to lose the right to vote is to not exercise it. 

Rob voted the day before I did.  He posted a cute post about how all the cool kids are voting early, so if you want to be as cool as him, you need to vote.
So, of course, I had to imitate him.  Not quite as cool, tho. 

Couldn't resist. 

Had lunch with a friend on Wednesday.  We laughed for an hour and a half.  I completely lost track of what was going on in the restaurant around us.  It felt good.

In the mornings, I've continued to quilt "wind" in the tree quilt.  I'm about 40% done.  Hopefully I'll get most of that done this week.  But, it's going to be sunny and it's been so long since we had sunny days that I plan to spend part of the weekend doing more cleanup in the yard.  We haven't had significant rain in three days and the ground is starting to turn into a solid again.  And, I need some sunshine to recharge me.   

Have a great weekend!  Do something you enjoy.  Keep the pleasure and the work in balance! 



The vacatiion that didn't

Well, about 15 minutes before Rob's sister was going to pick up their Mom to take her to the airport, the airline cancelled the flight due to maintenance issues.  Which is good because there wasn't a crash.  But, disappointing, too.  But also probably good because we spent the week feeling poorly from something germish/viral/contagious that Retail Sydney brought home.  Also disappointing. 

So, I spent the week eating through our disappointment with high calorie, protein rich foods that were supposed to feed four people three times a day...but Rob and Sydney weren't eating at home.  Thank goodness I didn't cook the roast!  And, I managed to eat or feed them almost all of it.  We lost some rice and some mac&cheese and a little hummus and baked beans.  But, boy, it was hard work eating my own best cooking.  Terrible hard work.  (NOT!)  But, I did kind of feel like a rolling lump by Friday. 

Anyway, we spent the weekend resting.  And, trying to take care of the yard which, if you hadn't heard, have been subjected to some mighty rainfall that's flooding the lakes and rivers around here as it makes its way to the coast.  That left limbs and leaves and extreme growth and plants that have started to drown in the mud.  There wasn't a lot we could do because the ground is still soggy, but it was a sunny day, so we did what we could. 

And, I did some sewing. 

I got some of the arcs made into blocks.  Here are 8 laid out as they will be in the final quilt. 

This is when I figured out that I was making the pattern's mirror image, which is weird because I spent a lot of time trying to make sure I didn't do that.  I found out when I attached the first print "comma" shaped piece and looked at it.  This is how that comma should look.  See how it leads into the small arc from the center?  

This is how the first one looked.  I saved it just to show you.  The black pieces I cut are reusable, upside down, but I'd only cut three or four commas when I found the mistake, so that was good. 

This one is taking all my skills and my patience.  Each block has to be blocked because they don't come off the machine the right shape.  The fabric is there, but it takes some spritzing/pinning/ironing to turn that fabric into the right sized square.  Fortunately, Sally Collins taught me that secret and I use it a lot when complex blocks don't come out just like I thought they would.  (If you're tracking my progress on the reusable freezer paper templates, 12 large arcs from three templates, and still going strong!)
I also spent a couple hours yesterday starting to quilt the tree quilt.  This is a wedding gift for a couple that's marrying on 12/1, so there's a deadline and I wanted to make sure I get well ahead of it.  Can't let myself get distracted.  There is a LOT happening between now and then. 
I'm quilting the wind pattern into it.   I wanted something that would be loose and comfortable that they would enjoy and use, so no over-quilting.  Even though my nature is over-quilting with dense background shapes.  As I was pin basting it, I thought of all kind of things I could do that would compliment the pattern.  And, I refrained.  Thank goodness.. 
Everybody have a great week!  The city just issued a citywide boil water notice.  I've been here 34 years and I've never seen that.  The flooding has sent dirty water into the system and it's taking longer to filter than normal, so yesterday, they asked us to use water sparingly so we didn't overtax the system.  I guess maybe not everyone did that, so now we have this.  Yay!  Fortunately, Rob had bought a case of bottled water yesterday to take to his office, so I'll just need to boil a little. 



Arc maker

This weekend, we were finalizing prep for our houseguest.  Tonight's dinner is ready.  The dishes are all washed.  The house is as clean as we are going to get it.  I baked three loaves of pumpkin bread.  And, we even had a little time for shopping. 

Yesterday, we picked up new rugs for the kitchen floor and the 6.5 yards of black fabric that the arc quilt calls for.  I didn't get it surged and washed, but it is here.  I even found some time to make a few more arcs. 

I've started sewing the arcs together into their final shape.  I'm having to be very careful because none of the edges are straight of the fabric grain and they want to stretch.  It would probably be safer if I were leaving the paper attached as I sew them together, but I'm using the freezer paper method and pulling the paper off to reuse it.  I might not make all the arcs this way because of that stretching.  I might needle punch some regular paper and give that a try, but before I decide, I'm going to turn some of these arcs into blocks with their attached pieces, just to see how it works out. 

Several of you asked about re-using the freezer paper templates.  I've made all these arcs and have another set of two large and two small in process, and I'm still using the original set of three large and two small templates.  You can see some mistakes were made in the gradations.  There are going to be 24 arc pairs so I don't think my mistakes will be noticeable, but I have pulled out my red viewer that takes the color out of everything and lets me verify the graded shading is correct. 

The arcs on the left are sewn together.  That took multiple tries to get them right.  They don't go together like I would have expected and the instructions for joining them are "sparse".  There are no match points or anything, so it took multiple tries to get them to go together correctly and form a 45* angle.  They're a little stretched, but I've been careful and don't think I will have any trouble attaching the next pieces.  And, if I lose a couple as I'm learning, that's okay, too. 

They're laid out on my new huge ironing board that we picked up at the quilt show.  Loving that.  I pulled it out to iron the kitchen curtains yesterday and it is the perfect size for laying things out to really give them a good stretching to square and steam iron. 

I really am enjoying making this quilt.  I figured out that I needed to sort my fabrics (again) to go from dark to light.  That way, I can pull out the pieces I need without having to dig through the stack, looking for just that right one that will bridge from one fabric to the next.  I build my piles and can sew four arcs in a go as long as I'm very organized about which pile I pull my fabrics from.  I couldn't do two that were identical (like two blue/yellow), but I can do two that are similar (blue/yellow and blue/orange) and still keep them straight because the arc tells me which color pile to pull from. 

Sydney will be in my studio for the week so I've set up a sewing sweatshop in the garage.  I oiled and cleaned Linda's sewing machine and am using it out there.  This would normally be my machine repair station.  Her machine is nice.  It sews a good straight stitch and has good tension and is powerful.  The pedal gives me good control.  It won't make a single stitch like the Bernina does, but that's useful in quilting more than in piecing. 

To the right, I have a small ironing board on a TV tray.  I add a fabric, press it to the freezer paper and move it to the bottom of my pile of working arcs and let it rest.  That lets the freezer paper cool to the fabric, which makes it adhere better.  Then, I use the blue piece of cardstock to fold the freezer paper back, trim the edge using my add-a-quarter ruler and I'm ready to sew on the next piece of fabric.  I use my scissors to keep the top and bottom edges close to the paper.  Floppy edges will let the fabric pull from the paper and they get hung on things, so after I've trimmed it to a quarter on the sewing edge, I use the scissors to trim the top and bottom.  I can comfortably work four arcs at a time.  There are 31 pieces of fabric in a large arc and 17 in a small arc, so the small ones are finished long before the large ones are. 

Tomorrow is my boss's big presentation where he explains his results for the year.  He gets so nervous.  Way more than most people I've worked for.  And, he practices and reviews and practices and reviews until he's taken all the mystery out of it and turned it into a staged production.   I think he's even timing how long to spend on each slide.  I don't know about you, but a fluid presentation always works better for me.  One where I can improv for the things the audience responds to the most and downplay the things that make them yawn.  Everybody's got their own way, tho, right? 

Everybody have a great week!  I work today and half of tomorrow and then don't work again until Friday afternoon.  Rob will be spending the day here, anticipating his Mom's arrival.  Squeezing in that one last project or bit of cleaning.  His dog will be a nervous wreck trying to keep up with him.  I am done.  If it didn't get done, it won't get done.  I made Tikka Masala and Kheema, three loaves of pumpkin bread, roasted sweet potatoes in honey, hummus, and pimiento and cheese, and a ham and broccoli quiche yesterday.  The first person that say's they're hungry is going to get kicked in the shin. 



Let the good times roll?

Let's just say that this trip wasn't quite the mardi gras that last week was.  Last week, I traveled mostly alone and the out of office hours got to be about me.  This week, I traveled as "team" and it had nothing to do with me.  I got to make some of the decisions about where we'd go and what we'd do in the planning stage, but we didn't do those things.  My co-worker made different choices and told me what we would be doing. 

I did NOT fight back.  She does not have that filter that most people have and arguing with someone like that is pointless.  Her choices were not as tasty as mine.  And, there was no walking and enjoying the sights.  It was me, white-knuckled and wide-eyed, with my bosses boss in the backseat. 

So, let's look at some quilts instead.  I love this pattern and a friend made this quilt and I love it.  Most I've seen are in cool colors.  I love the hot color choices she made. 

I have a thing for quilts that weave.  This one caught my eye. 

A little applique.  I love this kind of work, but I don't have that kind of patience. 

NO comments to add to this one.  It says everything, even the light border that is there, but not distracting.

A hosta in cool colors. 

Love paper piecing.  There were at least two quilts that used the lozenge shaped hexagons that are elongated. 

And, how about a little whimsy!

Everybody have a great weekend.  Next week, we have Rob's Mom.  She is the best houseguest ever.  That's what all the cleaning has been about.  Good food will be served.  Rob has already asked me to make Indian and Thai because she is flavor adventurous.  I'll squeeze in a melt in your mouth pot roast that will give us sandwiches.  And, some cookies because she has a sweet tooth.  Something without too much sugar tho.  And a big bowl of hummus. 

I guess I better get thinking about that.  Or we gonna have PB&J. 



Nothing exciting

I wish I was about to tell you an exciting story about how I spent hours and hours at my sewing machine and made the next show's best of show quilt from beginning to end and had a picture of it hanging in my living room.  Wouldn't that be nice?

But, that's not real life...and best of show quilts don't happen in a weekend and I was busy doing the stuff that makes up a life outside of being a quilter. 

I can start with one bit of exciting news.  I heard from Edyta Sitar, and she says she appreciates my pattern feedback and that my suggestions are on point.  That made me feel good.  I was a little afraid that I was off the mark, or maybe she thought I was being a little too picky, and I needed a little confirmation that my work was adding value and she gave me that.  And, another 10 page pattern to review.  The first pattern I reviewed has been released.  I saw it on her website the other day.  It's called Alaska, and you can check it out at Laundry Basket Quilts.  It's a lovely!

On Saturday, we steamed the carpets again and on Sunday, we washed windows.  What a huge difference that made.  So delightful to be able to actually see the outside again.  Dirt builds up so slow that I didn't realize how bad it needed to be done.  Now it's done, I just want to stand and look outside. 

But, despite the chores to catch up on, there has to be some time for fun.  And, I spent my fun time making more of those paper pieced arcs.  Let's just say that mistakes were made.  And, they took forever.  But, with practice they're getting easier and I hope that will make them a little faster.  This quilt is going to be a riot of color on a black background. 

It took a while to cut enough scraps to have a really good start.  It won't be enough, but it's a good start.  I have large pieces and smaller pieces for the tiny points.  It takes a lot of time to lay out the gradations and then to sew all those paper pieced seams.  And, I kept making errors where I would pick a piece of fabric that was too small, then I'd be digging through my scraps, looking for a larger piece of the same fabric, or having to choose a new fabric and make sure it wouldn't mess up the gradation.  Some errors were made, but I don't think they'll be obvious in the end.  A lot of picking out had to be done, but that was my fault for trying to make things fit instead of measuring them against the paper they needed to cover.

I'm using the freezer paper method that I learned from Judy Mathieson's books.  It's so much easier and faster than making all those traditional paper patterns.  These are re-usable at least three times, so I only need a third as many patterns as I would normally need, and they're needle punched so there is no drawing or printing on multiple pieces of paper that get taped together.  Make an arc, peel the paper off it and then use the paper to make another arc.

I also got my packing done for this week's trip to New Orleans.  We were a little worried that there would be a tropical storm while we are there, but it looks like that's moved east.  Good for us, bad for places that are still saturated from the last hurricane.  Another chance to wear my new clothes.  And, they're all ironed and folded and ready to go.

Tonight is guild and I am going to do my best to make it.  I haven't been to a guild meeting since Linda went into hospice and I miss them.  I miss being around the other quilters.  And, I have show and tell to take. 

Everybody have a great Monday.  I hope you get more time to sew than I did and that you enjoy it at least as much as I did.  Needles away!!