Friday, December 25, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Yuletide to all!

Here we are in the final week  before Christmas!  At my house, all the preparations have been made and we're having a relaxing few days before the holiday. It's the time of the Winter Solstice, one of my favorite holidays. Why, you ask, would my favorite holiday be in the depths of the Wisconsin winter and the shortest day of the year?  Well, I'll tell you the story of how this came about. Settle into your favorite chair with a mug of something warm and fragrant and listen to (or read about) how it all happened.

Many years ago, in a long distant time, my husband took a new job in a city far from where we had been living. Seventy-five miles to be exact.  I had a wonderful job that I loved very much (and which paid quite well to boot!) in that city where we'd been living and I was loathe to leave that job and commence on a search for one that would be even close to comparable.  My decision was to drive back and forth every day, and that's how I know it was 75 miles exactly from my house to the office.

I began this commuting odyssey in the Autumn of the year and before long, the dark, cold winter nights had crept up on us. I found myself leaving home before dawn and driving home after dusk.  As we passed Thanksgiving, I began to see Christmas lights coming on in the houses, farms, and log cabins along my route to and from work. Mostly, I would see them during my evening commute.  I realized one evening that I was using these lights as guideposts as I traveled through the dark winter night, going home to loving children and husband and a hot supper on the table for me.  I would mark my travel as I passed the lit up large front yard pine tree, the house with the Christmas star in blue lights, and the blinking Budweiser sign in the window of the Silver Lake Tavern.

The coming of the Solstice as a very big deal to me that winter!  It meant that the days of darkness would begin to lessen. I would be driving in daylight (or at least dawn and dusk) before I knew it, and winter's grip would be loosening.  I decided to have a Winter Solstice celebration that year to rejoice at the coming of light.  For my family, I decided to have a dinner composed of white food!  I wanted to have light everywhere!  We had baked chicken, mashed potatoes, cauliflower with white cheese sauce, and lemon cheesecake for dessert.  We loved it and I've been making a Winter Solstice almost every year since.  But not always with white food. Sometime we'll have a green or orange vegetable--just for variety!

A Walk in the Woods (2015) Poster

This year, Don and I did not have a Solstice dinner. Instead, we went to the movies yesterday and saw A Walk in the Woods starring Nick Nolte and Robert Redford.  I'd read the book by Bill Bryson a few years ago and when I learned of the movie, well, I had to see it.  And I would recommend it to everyone who doesn't mind a great deal of salty language and a glimpse of Nick's be-hind!  After the movie, we had dinner at a new-to-us Thai restaurant which was very good.

In the quilting area, I'm working on the next step of  Bonnie' Hunter's 2015 mystery quilt.  Got most of the pieces cut out but none are sewn yet.  Maybe today.

I finished my 3rd embroidered Santa table runner and it's in a new home. Whew!  It took some very diligent embroidering to finish all three of them before Christmas! 

 Next is to make up the napkin quilt for a customer. I'd promised her it would be done by the middle of January, so today is the day I begin the stitching on it.  I've been sending her pics of layouts and so forth so I think she's going to be quite pleased with the finished project.  Actually, I'm not looking forward to making it up so I have to force myself to get going on it so it can be done and out of my house!  It's not the quilt itself, it's the fact that the napkins are made of a synthetic fabric which just feels so foreign in my hands after all the years of working with cottons.   

So, the next couple of days at my house will consist of a little housework and a little sewing and a lot of relaxing before Jo comes home for the holiday.  I hope your days are peaceful and wonderful as well.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stitching and baking day

I know it's Sunday and supposed to be a day of rest, but I have things that have to get done, and today's the day to do them. For me, baking and sewing are fun things to do so I'm looking forward to making a bunch of these loaves of quick bread,  Cranberry-Orange Glazed Bread

Cranberry-Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze Recipe

Barbara posted this on her blog, Cat Patches, which you can see here.  I've not tried this recipe but it looks very good, and I know that Barbara is a terrific cook and baker so I'm going ahead with making 8 loaves of this.  I've decided to give a loaf to each of our near neighbors as well as one for us and one for my friend in Duluth with whom I'm visiting tomorrow. So the baking has to begin today!

Yesterday, I had a delightful visit with my youngest daughter. I'd packed up a tin of Christmas cookies (think "Schweddy Balls") that I took over to her. We met for lunch in a restaurant and were joined by her friend as well.  Jo absolutely loves everything Christmas and it was so good to spend time with her this year.  After lunch, I finished my Christmas shopping and managed a trip to a quilt shop I'd not been to in ages and found a few pieces of fabric I can use in my Civil War Jubilee quilt.

And that's the sewing that will happen this afternoon, after the baking is done.  This month, we are to make 7 or 8 blocks out of greens and I think I'm a little short on that color, so the new green fabrics will be just what I need to make it work. This is the block we're making for the quilt--so simple and easy!

I'm making a couple extra blocks in each color, as are some of the others who are participating in this quilt along, to be made up into a charity quilt for future use.  In fact, I love making these blocks so much that I've pretty much decided to use them to make up an additional charity quilt that I've committed to donating for a group in Bemidji MN next spring.

After I get those blocks done, it's on to making 4 patches of gold and neutrals for Step 3 of

Bonnie Hunter's current mystery quilt. I'm all ready to begin cutting and stitching but haven't had the time to get to the sewing room yet. Today's the day.

But before any of that can happen, Don and I will put the dining room back together. He's been painting the house, getting rid of the dark, dark grayish green that has covered the entire interior of the house and replacing it with light, bright paint. So far I have a yellowy gold in the kitchen and an off white in the dining room and TV room. With the dark oak wainscoting and crown molding and the oak floors, it's looking very good.  He's taking a break from painting for a few days before he tackles the foyer and the bedroom hallway--can't overwork the old man, now can I?

A busy Sunday facing me--how about you?  I hope you have fun things planned on this day as well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Allietare progress

I've been working on Bonnie Hunter's Allietare mystery quilt for 2015 which you can learn about here if you haven't heard about it already.  She's issued the first 2 instructions and, miracle of all miracles, I've managed to complete all the pieces for each step!  That's never happened before for me in a mystery quilt!

The first step was to choose fabrics. Bonnie suggests gold, reds, blacks and neutrals with a gray constant fabric. I had all of these in my stash but had to purchase 1.5 yards of gray and I added in a couple more golds for fun.

The first instruction was to make 2" half square triangles.   Love, love, love the Easy Angle method of making HSTs!  I made about 290 of these little buggers using my gray constant and a variety of neutrals including some Dr. Seuss fabric I picked up somewhere.

Step 2 was to make 20 sets of what we're calling "Santa Hats."  There are 4 units in each set--matching reds and neutrals in each set along with the constant gray.  I included some reindeer fabric (lower right corner) as well as some little blue birdie fabric (second row, left side) in with my neutrals. Bonnie suggests using the Companion Angle ruler which I don't have so I did it the old fashioned way.  Bonnie's tip in making the red and gray part of the "hat" is to draw a line diagonally on the gray fabric and stitch just inside the line, making the drawn line the fold line and not the stitching line. I had to unstitch very few of these pieces compared to up to half of them when I've actually stitched right on the line. I made all 20 sets but only show a few of them.

As always, with Bonnie's instructions, the pieces are fitting together perfectly!

I love these colors but I know others are using their own color combinations and they will be just as beautiful.  I'm really anxious to get working on step 3!  Can't wait to see this quilt all put together. Then it can join the multitude several other tops waiting in my closet to be quilted up.  :-)

I also finished making 8 of these little quilted gift tags/ornaments for family members.  Now I have to find time to go out there and get the gifts purchased and wrapped.  And for Lily and Tessa, mailed too.  I think I may be running out of time here if I don't get a move on!

Today, I'll be putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house while Don does some painting in our dining room.  Tomorrow, with luck, I'll get ingredients and make up a few batches of Christmas cookies to send off to the kids.  Hurry, hurry, Barb--not much time left!

I hope your holiday preparations are more on schedule than mine are, but no matter, Enjoy the season!

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Couple of Finishes

I've had a busy and happy Thanksgiving weekend with a couple of adult children at home to help with cooking and eating turkey, of course.  Now that it's over and I haven't begun the Christmas activities, I've been able to spend some time in the sewing room.

First of all, I finished this long table runner--it's 65 1/2" long!  I found the free pattern somewhere on the Internet several years ago, and bought the multicolored fabric at that time as well. The fabric is many hued glass Christmas ornament balls jumbled together and I thought it would bring a lot of color to this piece.  Believe me, it did!

It's five 12.5 inch Courthouse Steps blocks with a rather narrow border of three colors of fabric.

 For the quilting, I followed the illustration in the pattern and did a simple buttonhole stitch in gold metallic thread.  The gold/yellow fabric in the centers of the blocks and in the border also has a bit of gold glitz so I think the buttonhole thread worked out well.

This will be in my Etsy shop, Jolly Ruby before noon today.  I just looked at the site and realize I still have the Halloween things in the shop so if you want to get something for next year, it's still available. :)

I also finished the second of the Santa embroideries and am ready for it to be picked up by it's buyer. Again, this is a sale for the Jolly Ruby fund which helps with unexpected expenses of adults with disabilities.  I have a third order for this table runner and I have 2.5 Santas finished and hope to get the rest of them finished before the end of next week. When I was finishing off the one above, I cut the trim and binding and sewed the checkerboard border for the third one, so it should finish up quickly once the embroidery is finished.  This third sale is also for Jolly Ruby.  It won't go into the Etsy shop since I don't have enough time to make another one before the holiday.  But there's always next year!

Lastly, I made up this little quilted Christmas tag/ornament.  It measures about 4.5 inches squarish without the ribbon.  I want to make one for everyone on the gift list and will use a variety of fabrics--some traditional and some modern. Who says a quilted Christmas tree can't be pink and purple? Remember the aluminum trees we had in the 60s?

I've been collecting free ornament patterns on the Internet to make for the shop we'll be having next November at the Quilt Tour event that my guild participates in every other year.  This is a big fundraiser for the domestic abuse shelter in town.  Five or six of the area quilting guilds and groups each have a show, each at a different location. My guild is the largest of them and we hold ours at the largest church and have a craft shop and offer a lunch as well.  It's a lot of fun and not too much work since there are a lot of helping hands to make it all happen.  

I'm also going to make some card wallets, pin cushions, and clothes for 18" dolls.  Hopefully, they will all sell and the guild will fatten up its treasury. :)

I'd better get onto Jolly Ruby and get that table runner listed.  I also want to begin making HST for Bonnie Hunter's current mystery quilt. I've neglected this for the past few years. but I'm excited to participate in it this year.  So, I have nearly 300 2" half square triangles to get done before tomorrow. Yeah, like that's really going to happen!