Friday, December 14, 2012

What's happening to us?

This morning I'm sitting at the table, writing out the Christmas cards, wishing peace and joy to all our friends and family, when I heard my husband in the upstairs bedroom, groaning loudly. That's how I learned about the horrendous shooting today in the Connecticut school.

What's happening to us here in the US? How long will we continue to bow to the NRA and tolerate these senseless shootings and killings? How many children have to die before we get the courage to ban these assault weapons with their hundreds of rounds of ammunition?  I don't own a gun--never have and never will--and my husband says the last time he fired a gun was an M16 in Viet Nam and he'll never have a gun either.  We live very fulfilling lives without guns. We settle arguments without guns.  We feel safe in our home without a gun.  Why do so many Americans think they have to have guns in order to be safe?  It's warped thinking!  Crazy!

I managed to finish my Christmas cards but with such a heavy heart.  I'm literally weeping for the families of those people who were killed this morning, especially the children.  Christmas will never be the same for them--and it shouldn't be the same for us either.  This has got to stop.

Some holiday pix

This is my Christmas cactus in full bloom. Isn't it gorgeous?  From the top of the plant to the bottom of the longest frond measures about 36 inches.  I've had this plant for many years and sometimes I get nice blooms on it, but this year is the absolute best it's ever been. Maybe the fertilizer I gave it last summer had something to do with it???

I finished the Christmas tree skirt that I'd promised daughter Tessa 3 years ago and here it is.  I found the pattern for the ornament in another pattern and machine appliqued them against the cream on cream background fabric.

You can see that I simply outlined the appliques and then did a cross hatch for the background. I used gold metallic thread on the gold bow,m gold fastener thingy at the top of the ornament and on the gold back around the middle.  Looks nice, I think.

I found a video from All People here:  and that helped a lot.  Mabeth talks about outlining the applique and then stitching the straight lines up to the outline and stitching along the outline to move to the next straight line to be quilted. I bury all my threads in the batting as I go along, and not having to stop and cut the thread every time I ended up at the appliques saved me hours of time on this project.  On the back, it looks pretty good although I admit there are a few spots where I got off the outline, but only a few.

Speaking of the back, for this tree skirt I used an old cotton sheet for backing. Several bloggers that I follow routinely use sheets for backing and, even though my quilting teacher cautioned against doing so, I tried it for the first time. And it will be the last time, as well!  I suppose for people who stitch their bindings by machine it would be okay, but I hand sew my bindings and sewing through that sheet fabric was a b_ _ _ _ h!  My fingers were so sore by the time I was finished!  I'll stick with muslin for my backings, thank you very much.

Now I'm working on a tree skirt for myself. Tomorrow Don and Lily and I go to the tree farm to cut our tree and put it up, but the skirt won't be finished by then. Again, I'm machine appliqueing this project--holly leaves and berries--and I'll do the background in a meander so that will go fast. We don't have any gifts wrapped to put under the tree yet anyway so it'll be okay.

My Friday is packed full of things I need to do before I rest tonight, so I'll be busy all day.  With luck I'll have time to work on my tree skirt after the chores are done.   Tessa wants to go to Duluth on Sunday since we weren't able to go there last Sunday and we missed out on The Nutcracker.  We had too much snow--over a foot and maybe closer to a foot and a half--and travel was not advised.  Unfortunately, Ticketmaster refused to give us a refund or even a credit so I wasted a lot of money on that venture.  If we go on Sunday (there's some talk about freezing rain this weekend) we'll go to to lunch, the fresh water aquarium, and the Christmas lights display on Park Point before we come back home.  Should be a fun day for Lily--and us as well!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I always feel as though I'm required to have photos before I can write a blog entry. I love reading other people's blogs where there are lots of pictures, and of course, lots of great text as well.  For me, including pictures is a major production.

I've never been much for taking pictures (and consequently, have only a few of the kids when they were young) and I simply don't spend much time thinking about doing so with my quilting projects. I also don't like to take pix of projects before they're completed although I enjoy seeing what others are working on.  Since it takes me time to finish a quilt in it's entirety, pictures of my quilts seem to be few and far between.

I still want to post entries in this blog so that's what we'll have today--a post without pix. Forgive me if you're so inclined.

I've been working like a trooper trying to get things finished.  After Thanksgiving, I sold almost everything out of my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby, so I was very pleased with that. Lesson learned:  Next year, have more Christmas items ready to go.  However, this means I'm free to work on other things, like Christmas tree skirts. I promised one  to my daughter, Tessa, about 3 years ago and I'm determined to have it ready for her this year. I appliqued pieced tree ornaments on a creamy colored background, and accented the ornaments with a bit of gold metallic thread. I have the skirt all marked to quilt a 1" grid pattern in the background, and yesterday I pinned the sandwich together. If I'm not too worn out after work tonight I'll begin the quilting. Since it's almost all straight stitching, it should go rather quickly.  I told Tessa she would have the finished skirt by the end of the weekend, but I forgot about other obligations I made for this weekend.

Saturday I have to take granddaughter Lily, shopping for new shoes and finish up buying things for daughter Johanna's Christmas box. I want that to be in the mail by the tenth so she'll get it in Bulgaria before Christmas. I also have to make some Christmas cookie/candie "balls" to include in the package so she can have some to share with her friends and her host Mom with whom she'll be spending Christmas.  On top of that, we have tickets to "The Nutcracker" in Duluth on Sunday so that's an entire day spent on that. 

Fortunately, I have Friday, Monday and Tuesday off work so I should be able to get all of this done. Wish me luck, okay?

Tuesday night was my quilt guild's annual holiday party. We had a potluck supper which was delicious (Have you ever noticed that quilters are great cooks as well?), and then a gift exchange. This year we were instructed to make a bag larger than 12".  I made one of very bright blue, yellow, orange and white fabrics that turned out very well, but then I began worrying. What if one of our quiet, retiring members got my bag?  It wouldn't suit her personality at all. Fortunately, it went to one of our most outgoing and vivacious members who said she loved the bright colors.  Whew!  I came home with a very large tote bag made of red and black fabrics--it's perfect for hauling around all sorts of things--at the beach, at the store, on a shop hop, etc.  I love the bag I got!

That's it for a pictureless post.  I'll work on taking a pix or two for the next time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We've had a week of extraordinary weather here--blue skies, sunshine, temps in the 50's. Amazing for the middle of November in Wisconsin. I took advantage of it twice, including today, and finished the last of the "must-do" gardening chores and even some of the "would-like-to-do" chores. I feel pretty good about getting the flower beds cleaned up much better than most years. We'll see if it makes any difference next summer. Had to get it done today since we're slated to go below freezing in the next few days. Brrr!

I didn't get much sewing done but that's okay. The other night at a meeting, I volunteered to make a quilt to donate to the local United Way for their silent auction fundraising event on December 4, I think. I had a top all pieced and thought I'd finish that up instead of starting from scratch but when I looked at it, I decided the border was wrong. I unsewed it last week while at the sale and decided to add a narrow inner border. I did that yesterday and now I'm satisfied. Today, after my visit with my favorite orthopedist, I got the batting I need and after dinner, I'll prepare the backing. With luck, I'll be able to get it pinned so I can begin the quilting over the weekend.  We'll see how that goes (she said wryly).

Yes, today I had my knee x-rayed and had a chat with the doc about, was it time for a new knee. He doesn't think so--not yet. He gave me lots of things I can do to keep it working a little longer which I'm very pleased to try. He told me I wouldn't hurt the knee any further if I started walking! I used to be a runner and then a walker and for the past 2 years a nothing. So getting back to walking will be great!  I think I'll get a pair of those walking sticks that hikers use--I think they'll take some of the pressure off my knee. And there are some other things I can do to keep the knee less painful, but the big one is to lose weight!  I did very well last summer when I was juicing and lost 35 pounds. As I began eating again, the pounds have crept back on. I'm determined to be successful at this again, and the plan is to begin the juicing on Saturday.  Thurs. of course is T day, Friday I'm in the Cities with a client, and Saturday will be the day.

If any of you are interested in what I mean by juicing, watch the documentary, "Fat,Sick, and Nearly Dead." (It's on Netflix, instant view.)  After I watched that movie I knew I had to try it. I juiced for 6 weeks, lost weight, and felt really great.  Now I'll just have to get in the right frame of mind to do it again.  Wish me luck.

Happy thanksgiving to everyone. Enjoy your turkey and pie, but especially, enjoy your time with family and friends.  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sew In day

Yesterday was a guild "Sew In" day that I've been so looking forward to.  I love to gather with the awesome ladies of my quilt guild and spend the day working on my projects, having an amazing pot luck lunch with them, visiting, laughing, and generally having a wonderful time.  Oh, and getting some sewing done as well.

I joined Over The Edge quilt guild in Menomonie WI a little over 2 years ago after searching for a guild for several years. I'd been a member of the guild in town here for 4 years when it dawned on me at one meeting that I felt just as much a stranger with these women as I had the first day I stepped in the room.  There would be a definite chill in the air whenever I spoke up at a meeting to offer a suggestion or whatever. I know now what had changed over the 4 years but I won't go into all that now.  I spent several years auditioning various guilds in my area and while all seemed nice enough, I just didn't feel welcome. One day it came to me that in small towns, these ladies have known each other for many years and have many shared experiences and history. They went to high school games together, dated the same boys, were in each other's weddings, shared the births of their children, helped out in the school throughout the years their kids were students, and so on. They have very solid friendships and have no need to accept a newcomer into their lives. As I'm the newcomer, I realized why I didn't feel welcome in these groups.

Then I heard about OTE guild in Menomonie and Oh, what a difference! We have over 30 members in the guild and while some of them were born and raised in Menomonie, most of us have lived in a variety of other places. Some moved here because of connections with the University. We have a few military wives who settled here for various reasons. Some people have moved here to retire in the North Woods.  I moved here because of my husband's career.

I think this makes the group very special and welcoming to newcomers since we were newcomers here ourselves not so long ago. These Saturday Sew Ins as well as our annual retreat help create a shared history with us. I love the ladies in this guild and hope to be a member for many, many years to come--until my fingers fall off and I can't quilt any more!

So, yesterday was our Fall Sew In. I stayed home with Lily in the morning but arrived at the Sew In around 1 pm.  I had a project to work on and I busily began cutting pieces and, after getting advice on color placement, began to sew the blocks together.  Screeching Halt!  I didn't have enough focus fabric to make the throw I wanted, so change of plans.  I'll have to cut alternate plain blocks and large borders to make it up properly.  So I spent the second half of the afternoon unstitching what I had just finished stitching!

Oh well, in the company of these women, even the unstitching was fun!

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Successful Sale

I survived the angst of yesterday!  The sale went well, even though I didn't sell all the items as I unrealistically wanted.  At the end of the day, I had sold several of my Matryoska doll ornaments.  I made 20 of these over the winter to sell and I'll offer the rest of them on my Etsy store and see if they sell that way.

I also sold a table runner that I'd made last summer. I can't find the picture of it right now but it coordinated with this table quilt--pale green and white pinwheels in the center with a dark green first border and appliqued bright flowers in each end and in the center.

I also sold a set of place mats that I'd finished the night before the sale and didn't take a picture of to show. They were made with a cartoon-ish Christmas print in the center and bands of either red and white or green and white around the center.

I also sold all three pin cushions that I had made and threw into the mix as a last minute thought.  They were the last things I thought would sell!  Go figure.

I'm all calm today and happy that I can make a very nice deposit to my fund.  (Whoever sacrificed that goat on their back yard altar, thank you very much!)  

I spent some time talking with other vendors at the sale about local craft fairs they go to and I think I'll be doing this next summer.  If I do even 3 or 4 fairs and make comparable sales, it'll be good.  There's also a winter farmers' market in the next town and I'm going to see if there's room there for me as well. 

Now I have to get things taken care of at the Etsy store, Jolly Ruby, and see if I can find any buyers out there for my wares.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sale Day

Today is the Employees' Craft Sale day. This is the first year I have items in the sale and I'm so nervous!

I worked really hard yesterday--8 hours in the office, a quick 20 minute tutoring session with the 4th grader I'm trying to help with reading and math, volunteer services board meeting until 6:30 pm, arrive home at 7 to fix a quick sandwich for dinner and then settle down to finish sewing the binding on a set of place mats I wanted to have ready for the sale. When that was done, I had to gather all my items and put price tags on them, pack them up, etc. etc.  Finished about 10:30 and sat down to watch The Colbert Report. Love that show!

I didn't sleep last night. I woke up several times and had a very hard time returning to sleep. I ground my teeth a lot--a sure sign of being anxious.  I've been awake since around 3 AM and just drifted back into sleep around 5:30 when the alarm went off. I hit the snooze button as many times as I could and still have time to shower and get to work in time to set up my display.  Needless to say, I didn't have as much coffee as my poor brain is needing!

Managed to get everything set up and then realized I'd forgotten the box to hold the slips for my door prize drawing. What to do!  Well, there was an extra coffee cup in the break room that didn't look too nasty after I cleaned it out and it will do very well.  It's just not as cute as the box I'd left at home.

How does one decide what price to put on handmade items?  I don't even think of including minimum wage for my labor--the price would be through the roof if I did! I just think about how much I'd be willing to pay for an item if I was at a craft fair--and then I add $5 or $10 because I'm really cheap thrifty and don't like to pay a whole lot.  But what if I've priced my items too high for these customers?  What if nothing sells?  I'd be so embarrassed if all the other tables are pretty much empty at the end of the day except my table, still covered with all my unsold items!  Aaarrrrrgghh!  I've already priced everything but if anybody has advice for future sales, please let me know.

Actually, I sold one thing when the sale first opened up so I know the day won't be a total loss. But still--I want to sell everything!!!!  Any money made from this sale goes into the Jolly Ruby fund to help adults with disabilities lead fuller and more productive lives, so I really want to sell everything!

Please wish me luck, say a prayer, offer up some animal as some kind of sacrifice, or whatever suits you, to help me this day.  I'm avoiding going into the sale room this morning, but at 12:30 I go in to do my shift of being cashier and I'll be able to see all the unsold items on my table.  Why did I do this?  I just want to go home and cry. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Road Trip with my girls

Sunday I took a road trip with Tessa and Lily to Duluth MN and it was a fantastic day!  It was a brilliantly sunny day with a clear blue sky, a little chill in the wind, and a great day to be on the beach.  The first shot is of Wisconsin Point, a huge long sand bar that's totally undeveloped except for the buildings and walls that are needed to maintain the Superior entry for the big ships that come and go from the port. Tessa makes really nice jewelry and is having a sale in early December so she wanted to get some interesting drift wood to use for displaying her earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.  

After we had a very nice lunch at Sara's Table ( I had a yummy tofu and veggie scramble), we headed to Kitchi Gummi Beach or what I like to call by it's old name, Brighton Beach.  You can see how different to two beaches are. The first one is on the "South Shore" of the lake on the Wisconsin side and is all beautiful sand and grasses--and poison ivy!  And the other beach is on the "North Shore" in Minnesota and is all rocks and, off the beach, trees instead of grasses--no poison ivy here!  On this beach, we gathered some nice rounded stones for Tessa's display and some larger ones for me to stack up as a garden accent.  Lily found an agate so she was happy and we looked for sea glass but it was too cold and wet to really search very hard. 

 It was a little more windy on this beach and the waves were crashing with a bit of vigor.  (Understatement here)  I got sprayed more than once even though I stayed well away from the water. That water is very cold this time of year!

After we got all the rocks we could carry, we took a drive down Park Point, a 5 mile long sand bar which has been extensively developed into a residential area--some of the best locations in town are on Park Point if you like living right on Lake Superior, which I would love but will never have the $ to do so.  At the very end of the Point is a huge recreational area of ball fields, boat launches, running and biking paths, and it's also a landing field for sea gulls, apparently.

We came across this huge flock of gulls (the picture shows only about a third of them--we didn't have a wide angle lens!) They were simply standing around, not moving or making any noise at all which is very odd for sea gulls, just standing there with their feathers all fluffed out.  Until I decided to drive through them!  Even as the car approached the birds, they still didn't move. I had to slow down to barely a crawl!  We all started laughing at these poor birds!  I think they should have been flying south instead of thinking they would winter in Duluth!

It was such a great day with my daughter and granddaughter.  Even without the pictures, I'll remember it for a long long time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pay It Froward 2012

Last September (2011, I mean) I did a "Pay it Forward" thing and I procrastinated so long, I was a month late in sending the packages.  I finally decided what to make and I sent one package out on Monday, so Bernie should be getting it any day now.  Hope you like what I made for you!  

The problem is that I made two sets of things to send out and now I can't find the other person who responded to my Pay it Forward post last year.  Her blog is/was "NinePatchMama." and I haven't seen her post for a long time. If any of you follow her blog, please ask her to contact me so I can send her some things.

I decided to try the Pay it Forward thing again and here are the rules:

 Pay It Forward is simple: For the first 3 people who comment on this entry, I promise to send them something handmade within the next year. Here are the rules: 
1. I will make a little something for the first 3 people that comment on this post. It will be a surprise and may arrive at any time in the next 365 days (yes, a year).
2. To sign up to receive a gift from me you must play along too. Share the giving love on your blog by promising to send a handmade goodie to the first three people that comment on your blog post.
3. You must have a blog.
4. After commenting on my post, you have to post this (or similar) on your blog to spread the love.

I already have things made up and ready to put in the mail.  This time, the responders won't have to wait a year for me to get going!  I'm so sorry it took me so long this time.  :-(  I promise:  The first 3 people to comment on this post will get something in the mail within a week (or maybe 10 days) of posting.  Pinkie swear!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brussels Sprouts

Yep.  Brussels Sprouts.  I picked the last of them from the garden yesterday, cleaned 'em up and cooked some for lunch.  I like this vegetable but couldn't say it's one of my favorites--until yesterday.

I tried "Carmelized Brussels Sprouts" and OMG!, they were soooo good! Even Don tried one and declared it was "not bad."  (That's saying a lot for him about this veggie.)  Here's what I did in case you want to try them.  I sliced each sprout and set it cut side down in a little hot oil in a frying pan for a couple of minutes.  Then I added a little water and covered it so the sprouts would steam.  I like my sprouts softened so I steamed them about 4 or 5 minutes, but you can do more steaming or less, depending.  After they were cooked the way I like them, I took the lid off, added maybe a tsp of butter, and let the cut sides finish browning (AKA carmelizing).  Then a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and Voila!  A delightful dish!

And now the veggie garden is finished and ready for winter--except we have to go to our neighbor's house and get a load of goat poop to spread on the beds. Oh Joy!

I finished a Christmas table runner for my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby.  I really like it so if it doesn't sell, I'll be happy to use it myself.

Today I have to bake a cranberry-pumpkin-pecan upside down cake for a Halloween pot luck at work tomorrow.  We're supposed to dress up in costume for the day, but I won't. I'm the grumpy old lady who thinks that Halloween costumes don't belong in the work place, but I guess I'm in the minority where I work. Oh well, I'm still not putting on a costume.  It's all I can do to get washed and dressed in ordinary clothes on a work day!

After cake baking, I'll be back in my sewing room, working on more Etsy projects before I go into town to man the phone banks, encouraging folks to be sure to vote next week.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Calling ninepatchmama

Please contact me through my email address. I know I'm terribly late with this but I'm finally ready to "pay it Forward and need your address so I can mail you a little package.

I hope you're okay since you've not posted for quite awhile. At any rate, please contact me, okay?


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Since I came home from my trip, I've been to a 3 day quilting retreat, and what a treat it was!  My guild sponsors this event every October and this is the second time I've gone.  We have capacity for 24 quilters and this year 3 of those slots were taken by guests.  Only one lives close enough to consider joining the guild but I wish all 3 did because each one would be a great addition to the group.

I haven't laughed so hard in I don't know how long!  Everyone would be industriously sewing away and suddenly, one corner of the room would burst into giggles.  After they settled down, more quiet sewing time and then another corner would erupt in laughter.. It was like this all three days! And into the night as well! One woman was working with 2.5" strips, sewing them together end to end.  She laid them out the length of the room in order to figure out where to cut them.  Someone in my corner asked her what she was making and she replied, a baby quilt.  I burst out laughing and said, must be a pretty thin baby!  She cracked back that she could add WIDE borders!  I laughed so hard during the day that I had a hard time falling asleep, thinking over all the funny things that were said and done.

I even got some things done at retreat.  I quilted this harvest table runner which is for my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby.

I also quilted this Halloween table runner. The Friendship Star blocks were part of the 60+ blocks I won in Block Lotto last fall. The others went into quilts that I took to Bulgaria but I saved these 3 for myself. I couldn't find the same fabric for the border but I did find this black with autumn leaves, etc fabric which I think works pretty well. Anyway, it's for me and I like it this way!

I also made 5 Christmas table runners but haven't finished them up yet. Out of scraps, I made this little pretty pad which is finished and is listed at Jolly Ruby.

I'm on the guild charity projects committee and we decided to make a queen sized quilt and donate it to a local music group to raffle off as a fundraiser for themselves.  We've planned out the design of the quilt and will be going to a "fabric warehouse" in the Cities on Tuesday to shop for fabric.  I've never been there but the others say there are bolts of fabric floor to ceiling! I hope I don't get a heart attack looking at it all!

Tomorrow, I have to spend outside finishing up the last of the gardening. I have a little weeding that needs to be finished before the snow flies and I have a lot of pruning of old growth off the day lilies, hostas, irises, etc. If I get it all done tomorrow, I can spend hours in my quilting room, guilt free. Yea!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I made another table runner for my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby.  This picture is rotated correctly in the file where I saved it but for some reason, it shows up here sideways. Go figure. Must be the computer gremlins I fight with every now and then. :-)  Anyway, I guess we'll have to rotate our heads to see it correctly.

I simply cut a piece of the floral fabric for the center and put a piano key border on.  Easy and cute, I think.  

 And here's a look at the quilting on the back.  It doesn't show up much on the front, but I really like how it looks on the back.

I used my Pounce for the first time. I got it over a year ago and never had an opportunity to use it until now. Boy, do I like it!  Unlike chalk, the marks stayed on the fabric.  Unlike Golden Threads, there were no papers to pick out of the stitches, and unlike FMQ, the design was more symmetrical and even.  I think I'll have to use it on more projects.  I also used my sliding thingy that I bought from Amazon awhile ago. I can't say I noticed much difference compared to just sliding the quilt around on my machine bed.  Well, I'm sure there will come an opportunity where I'll be very glad that I have it.

I have one more autumn themed runner to make today and then it's all about Christmas things for the store. I also have 2 sales coming up that I need to have items for as well. I'll be busy working on Christmas things when I leave for a 3 day quilt retreat on the 11th with my guild, the greatest group of women ever.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Recent quilts

I've been busy making quilted things for the table. I have a sale coming up in mid-November and another sale in Mid December, so I'm trying to build up a stock of runners and place mats.  I just posted a couple of new items in my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby, which you can find here:  Here are some pix of the new items:

 A golden floral table runner--I love using yellow in my quilts!

A closeup of the flying geese units. . .

And of the straight line quilting on the point.

This is a set of place mats that I made to coordinate with the Autumn Leaves table runner I made earlier.

And another close up of the quilting.  I varied the placement of the colored bars in the center of each mat and did ditch stitching along the edges of the bars and a meander in the side panels of leaf fabric.

On Thursday I'm going to a 3 day quilting retreat and will be working on a couple more autumn themed table runners and a bunch of Christmas themed runners and place mats.  I also want to make a couple of Christmas tree skirts at the retreat.

I made this really nice skirt for my tree a few years ago and I'll be darned ( PC terminology) if I can find it anywhere!  I've looked for several years now and I think I must have included it in a box of decorations I gave to Goodwill a couple of years ago.  Well, I'll make an even better one this year, and Tessa wants me to make one for her as well. She's been asking for several years now and I only remember it when we're decorating the tree and it's too late then.  And I may make one to list at Jolly Ruby as well--we'll see how bored I get. I can't wait to get on the road with all my quilting supplies packed in the car and spend time quilting with wonderful ladies from the guild!  With luck, I'll have finished things to show when I return.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I'm a travelin' woman

Don and I've been traveling most of September on our first trip together to Europe.  Returned on the 25th but only now have I been able to organize some of the photos.  

Don and I flew to Sophia, Bulgaria on the 10th and were met by Jo, our Peace Corps daughter, at the airport.  I didn't realize how much I'd missed her until I saw her there and then the tears came and I couldn't stop hugging  her.  Wow!  I never expected that kind of reaction from me!   We spent 6 days in Bulgaria--a very beautiful country, BTW, with lots of mountains.  We met a lot of the Bulgarian people she knows and works with, even spending 2 nights in the rural village with the host family she lived with while she was in training.  Such warm and welcoming people to open their homes to us.  

Then the 3 of us flew to Munich to begin an adventure that had been arranged for us by ToEurope.  They arranged our transportation while in Germany as well as hotels for every night of the 6 or 7 days we spent in that country.  I could write a book about the trip, but I'll spare you and refrain.  I'll let these few pix serve the purpose, okay?

This is one of several medieval villages we stayed in--very charming.  I believe our hotel in this village was built as a home in 1536.  Everything in Europe is so much older than in the Midwest of the US--amazing!

 This is a pix of the Rila Monastery outside of Sophia, Bulgaria, one of 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites that we were fortunate to visit.  Amazing murals covering every inch of surface.

This fantastic building is in Wurzburg Germany.  All of that "frosting" is stucco applied by hand three to four hundred years ago. Now it's a public library.

Everywhere in both Bulgaria and Germany were beautiful flowers in the window boxes as well as the gardens.  This building is in Munich.

Had to take a pix of the vineyards along the middle Rhein River, another UNESCO site.  And one of many castles along that stretch of the river.

We developed a very good habit on our trip--a daily coffee and cake stop!  I can't tell you how delectable the cakes and pastries were.  Melt in you mouth, truly!  I usually just sampled the cakes that Don and Jo bought and it was really hard to not scarf up the entire piece!  But I held myself back.  :-)

And of course, Don and I had to sample German beer.  Soooo good.  Lots of flavor but not so much alcohol as here in the States so we could drink the entire stein and not get wasted.  The German wine, however, is a different story!  Again, very flavorful but a higher alcohol content than I'm used to, so half a glass pretty much put me under the table. Yikes!

In this pix I look like I've drank more than my share of the beer and Don looks like he's fed up with this picture taking and wants to get back to drinking!

I had a wonderful time on the trip and what made it so good, I think, was that we were with our daughter after 18 months separation.  She'll be home in another 6 months and we'll all be happy to have her back. 

The trip was especially good since we never took the wrong train and got lost, had great hotels and found wonderful restaurants, and didn't lose any of our luggage on the flights!  Pretty good for the first time, huh?   Best of all, Don (the reluctant traveler) wants to go back in a couple of years.  Yea!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New table runner and more!

I can't believe how busy my life has become over the summer!  I never seem to have a minute where I can simply sit without thinking of the next task that has to be done. I thought life would slow down when I retired--all the time in the world to do what I like.  Hah!  That's a myth!

We went to Bayfield WI a couple of weeks ago to spend time with Don's old school mates. I made an Autumn themed table runner as a hostess gift and it looked so good, I decided to make a couple more to put in my Etsy shop which you can find here:  

I designed this simple little thing and I really like the clean lines.  Makes the colors stand out more, I think.  

I stitched in the ditch in the center panel and did a cross hatch in the border.  If you want to see more of it, take a look at Jolly Ruby.

This afternoon, I have to do a bit of quilting to finish a gift for one of our hosts while we're in Bulgaria.  Yikes!  We leave Monday morning and I have a ton of things yet to do, including canning tomatoes, the most time-intensive job I know!  We'll be gone for 2 weeks, one in Bulgaria and one in Germany. Jo's taking us around Bulgaria and then we're all going to Germany together. I can't wait to see Jo-she's been gone for a year and a half and before that she spent a year in Texas. So I hardly know her anymore.

For now, I have lists of things that have to get done, so I'm going to get busy.  As soon as I get on the plane I'll start to relax.  Ciao!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quilts for Bulgaria

September means summer has ended, in a way.  We still have warm days--Indian Summer if you will--and it still feels like summer but there's a chill in the air in the early morning and there's a dryness in the air that comes with Autumn, unlike the extreme humidity we have in the summer.  I love Autumn!  I suffer through the hot and humid days of summer, and daily give thanks for the swimming pool that feels soooo refreshing at the end of a hot day of doing house and garden chores.  When the air changes to the cool and dry air of Autumn, I know that, once again, I've survived another summer. To celebrate September, I even baked today--fresh peach crisp. Yummy!

Autumn means I get more excited about quilting again. I have been working on quilts all summer, but not as much as I do in the rest of the year. Somehow, it's hard to sit under a quilt sewing on binding when it's 95 degrees out and the humidity is nearly that high as well.  Know what I mean?  

Last Fall, my guild began a block exchange. The first block was Friendship Star done in Autumn colors.  I love making that star block and I must have made about 20 or so to enter in the exchange.  The way it works is that you get 1 chance to win for each block you contribute. Well,one of my 20 or so chances won the whole kit and caboodle! About 60 blocks all together!  And in my favorite Fall colors.  Jo had asked if I could make a couple of quilts to bring as gifts for people she works with in Bulgaria and I decided to use the Friendship Stars to make 2 quilted throws and here they are:  

This one has light stars on dark backgrounds so I used light fabric for sashing and borders and the other quilt has dark stars on light backgrounds and I used dark fabric for the sashings and borders.

I machine quilted them in similar freehand designs that look pretty good close up but I couldn't get a good picture of them with my camera, so just take my word for it.  :)

This table quilt is one I made to coordinate with a set of place mats. I used fabric that was printed with a variety of fruits--oranges, blueberries, grapes, cherries, and so forth--with a white on white contrast.  I just did a meander over the entire quilt  and I like how it turned out. EXCEPT. . . When I looked at the picture in my camera, I found my "humility block!"  Way too late to correct it!   I don't know how I missed it--must have been that the heat and humidity addled my brain and eyesight as well.

If you don't know about the humility block, it comes from the Amish, I believe, who deliberately make an error in their projects, so it's not perfect. Only God, they believe, is perfect. In my quilting, I never have to deliberately add a mistake--I make enough of them accidentally to keep me very humble!

Don and I will be leaving for Bulgaria and Germany in 9 days and the Friendship Star quilts will be going with us, along with all sorts of other things Jo wants us to bring.  I'm getting really excited to go on this trip!  I haven't seen Jo for 17 months except on Skype, and before that she was in Texas for nearly a year. She's my youngest child and I'd like to think that she's my baby, but she's the most independent of the 3 children.  After a week in Bulgaria, which Jo is arranging, the 3 of us will spend a week in Germany, traveling between Munich (Oktoberfest!!!!) and Frankfurt.  I can't wait! I'll try to take pictures but being in Germany during Oktoberfest may mean some more-than-usual out of focus pix!  But we'll be having a good time! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

I can't believe June and July are nearly gone! This summer has been really crazy!  But good crazy.  I've been super busy working, weeding the garden, camping with Lily, weeding, canning and freezing, working, weeding, visiting friends, weeding, and trying to find a minute here and there to relax and enjoy.

We don't have the terrible drought that much of the Midwest is having, but it's been super hot this summer. I usually run the AC between one and three days per summer, but we've already exceeded that goal this year.  And August is yet to begin.  

I have managed to sneak in some quilting projects on afternoons when it's too hot to be outside pulling weeds.  I made a set of fruity place mats for my Etsy store, Jolly Ruby, as well as a table runner similar to the table quilt I made earlier this summer. I love the bright colors of the fruits against the pure white in these place mats and I've begun a table quilt with the same fabrics.

This little runner I like because of the appliqued floral motifs.  I hope someone else likes it too.

I also have put together the two lap quilts I'll be taking to Bulgaria in September when Don and I visit our daughter. They are gifts for her host Mom and her language tutor. I"ll post pix when I get the quilting finished.

I HAVE been spending money on fabric. Don't tell Don how much--he wouldn't be happy if he knew.  I have enough fabric and patterns to keep me busy all winter and then some.  I can't wait to begin working on some of the new things I have, but I have to finish the Bulgarian tops first.

That's it.  See ya.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ah, summer vacations

I've been at the lake in N MN for the past week, having a wonderful, relaxing time with the family. (For once, the "kids"--they're both in their 30's-- didn't get into a big fight. Yea!)  Now that we're home, the weeds in the garden are overwhelming!

Before we left, I finished a little table quilt, shown here.  I designed it myself and I think it looks pretty nice.

I listed it in my Etsy store (Jolly Ruby) tonight and I hope someone loves it as much as I do.

Speaking of Etsy, I made my first sale before we left and I was thrilled!  All proceeds go to the Jolly Ruby Fund, to assist low income disabled adults with unexpected expenses.

I also attended the school auction fundraiser where my queen sized quilt was auctioned off. I know that once an item is donated,the giver has no control over what happens, but I was seriously disappointed.  The auctioneer forgot to put it up for bid until he was reminded at the end of the evening.  Half the people had left and the rest had already spent a lot of money, so my quilt went for only $275.  I know it's for a good cause, but my heart just broke when I thought of the 60 some hours of work I put into this quilt.  Next year, I'll make something less intensive.  All in all, the auction brought in about $30,000, all of which goes to the school, and I'm very happy about that.

Now to get on to weeding and hopefully, some quilting as well.  Ah, summer!  Love it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Favorite Things Friday

I've had a very leisurely morning since this is a day off for me.  My FTF for this week?  It's hard to pin it down. I think it's the feeling of time that I have today.  I had a great chat with my husband before he left for golfing. Read a couple of chapters in my latest novel and took time to do the crossword puzzle in yesterday's paper. I'm dressed and doing my blog work before I head for the garden to do some planting. After that I head to the garden center to spend a gift certificate Don got from his last school, and I'm going to get all the flowers needed for my pots and to fill in my perennial beds. Don't think I'll be doing any quilting today since we're leaving this evening to go to a symphony concert in Minneapolis this evening.

Both daughters called me this morning. Jo in Bulgaria to say she's had a great week and she got a great package from me today. For once, she liked all the things I put in the package, especially the pink and black headphones to wear while she's running at the gym. Tessa called to say she's finished the second interview for a job she really, really, really wants and she thinks she did well.  Fingers crossed she get an offer this afternoon.

I think my favorite thing is the sense of time I have today--time to do the things I need to do as well as the things I want to do. And no pressure to finish anything!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I've worn out my gloves!

I don't use quilt shop gloves when I'm machine quilting. Instead I bought a pair of cheap cotton gardening gloves that have black sticky dots on them.  I got them more than 7 years ago, I guess, and paid a buck for them.  About 2 years ago I wore holes in the thumbs and index fingers when I'd finished a big quilting project, so I stitched them up as best as I could. I mean, the rest of the glove was fine, so I couldn't throw them out! They cost money, doncha know?

Well, now I've really done it.  By the time I finished the last queen sized quilt I quilted, I'd worn holes in the patches on my gloves! I wasn't going to patch the patches!  After all, there's a limit to my frugality! I went to the same place, "Bargain Bill's," and of all the luck, they had more of my kind of glove and here's my brand new pair.  Don't you think they look "snazzy", as my 97 year old aunt used to say.

Because I'm so thrifty with my gloves, I indulged myself when I stopped at a quilt shop in a neighboring town the other day.  I got these bundles of fat quarters, one to make some patriotic place mats for the Fourth and other times, and the other to make something Christmasy with next fall.

The shop had a huge sale the day before I got there and they'd not had time to clear away all the sale things, so of course, I had to dig through them. I got a bunch of fat quarters for $1 each and two 1 yard cuts of the blue and yellow fabric for $5 each. Don't know what I'll do with these fabrics, but they'll look good in my stash until I need them.

And lastly, I bought yardage of chicken and egg fabrics!  I've never seen egg fabric before and the clerk said they'd had chicken wire fabric but it was sold out. :-(  These will go into a table runner and place mats either for me or for the Etsy store.  

So, with new gloves and more nice fabrics, I'm set to sew up a storm!  Gotta get downstairs to my sewing room and make some progress on my latest project.