Saturday, September 27, 2008

Introducing Lily Abigail

Born: Friday, September 26th
Weight: 6 lbs. 14 oz. - very tiny compared to Sophie, who was a whopping 9 lbs. 8 oz.
Length: 20 3/4"

Lily, Mom and Dad are all doing beautifully! Thank you so much for your thoughts, best wishes and prayers!

Friday, September 26, 2008

We interrupt this program . . .

Well, my plans for today and the weekend are out the window. We received a surprise call from our son yesterday - Chelsea's water broke about 9:00 a.m. and they were at the hospital waiting for real labor to start. This is early - Lily wasn't due until October 15th - but since it's past 37 weeks she is still considered full term. Guess she'll get here before her quilt is done! Labor started in earnest sometime during the night, and just about now they expect her to be able to start pushing. I just put Joseph down for a nap - we'll head right to the hospital as soon as he wakes up and has lunch. I guess Miss Lily isn't going to be an October baby after all!

Your prayers for a safe delivery and a healthy baby would be appreciated. I'll post another report - hopefully with pictures - as soon as I can.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Wednesday weigh-in

I had a good week, in spite of succumbing to some marvelous pizza Saturday night when we celebrated Rick's birthday. I earned 24 exercise points for the week - by far the most I've done since I started weight watchers - so I'm sure that helped. After last week's slight weight gain I was determined to do better.
I was thrilled this morning to post a 2.8 pound loss - which is a total loss of 20.8 pounds since July 2nd. With this I earned my WW key chain for losing 10% of my total body weight. Really felt great to reach this milestone. My friend Kim did great too - she lost 5 pounds her first week. We each brought shopping lists made from the menus we created for our weekly menu challenge, and had a great time shopping at a beautiful new store. They even carried Boar's Heads meats which haven't been available here before. Kim's been talking about them lately, and I've seen them advertised on the food network. I bought some lowfat basil Parmesan ham - oh my, it is yummy! Made myself a great 4 point sandwich for lunch! (It didn't look like that by any means - I stole this one off their website - it has at least three times as much meat as mine and would be WAY more points!)

1. A weight loss friend who can help support my efforts and allows me to help support hers
2. A renewed interest in cooking
3. Fall color starting to appear in trees around town
4. A great evening with my quilting friends

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trying to remember how

Hmmm . . . what is this mysterious object laying on my big board? It looks familiar - maybe something I've seen my husband wearing recently? Something from our back-to-school shopping trip?

He said it needed ironing. Ironing? What's that? Oh yes - a vague memory is gradually surfacing in my mind. I used to do that years and years ago. I can't remember the last time I did this. Seems like years ago it fit on the ironing board much better. Back in the days when my ironing board was much smaller.

I seem to remember that he used to iron his own shirts - the couple he had that actually needed it. I guess I can't complain - he really looks good in this shirt and it's the only one in his closet that needs ironing. Good thing I wasn't there when he bought this - if I'd read the label stating "washable linen" I would have told him not to buy it.

OK - I think I might remember how to do this!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nothing much quilty going on

Dare I say it? I seem to have fallen into a bit of a quilting slump. That doesn't happen very often, so when it does I just don't know how to act. Not a good thing when I have a baby quilt to finish and Finn's Challenge to work on. I've been managing to find lots to keep myself busy - of course! - lots and lots of non-quilty things.

In my last post I mentioned that I'd committed to a challenge to plan weekly menus. Yesterday I started the process - creating a spreadsheet in Excel where I could list everything, track points, make notes about items to remember (like taking things out of the freezer the night before!), etc. I added formulas to track the daily points so I could make sure that each day's menus stayed within my allotment. I kept at it today, and have finished five of the seven days. I'll finish the rest tomorrow. I know I'm going to be very happy once I've finished each week - gone will be the last minute quandary of what to fix for dinner.

Today I made a huge pot of vegetable beef soup - love it that a big bowl is only 3 points! I used up lots of three-quarters empty bags of frozen vegetables, plus celery and carrots and fresh green beans from Farmer's market. Because the main dish was so low in points I started a loaf of sourdough bread in the bread machine. Whoops - this packet of yeast must have been past its prime - talk about a deformed loaf of bread! Still tasted great however.

I need to make some aprons like the one I made for Chelsea's birthday - two for gifts and one for a door prize for October's guild meeting. I've cut them all out but haven't started sewing yet. I finished putting sleeves on the last two quilts for the quilt show at The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. I was glad to get those last two quilts over to Rick's and Rebecca's and out of my living room. I went through the stack of quilt magazines that I've gotten over the last few months - tore out a few patterns, filed the two or three "keepers" with like magazines, and recycled the rest.

Lucky me had three Joseph days last week instead of the usual two - delightful time spent with someone who must be the most even tempered, happiest, grandson a grandma ever had. He and I took a LONG stroller ride on Friday, walking to the Starbucks in the shopping center that's at least a couple miles away. I kept a very brisk pace, pushing the stroller and talking about the sights with Joseph. We had a great time - we will do it again this week weather allowing - but it sure didn't seem to help the weight loss much. All that brisk walking was worth only 3 exercise points as far as I can tell!

Now that school has started I'm trying to get back into a routine. I set my alarm for 6:30 so I could get up in time to watch the morning news - both local and national - while I put in my time on the exercise bicycle. I like to do that in the morning - by the time I'm really awake my exercising is over for the day LOL! Now - if I can just do that 21 days in a row I'll have created a new habit - at least that's what the experts tell us.

I've now had the tubs of fall decorations in the living room for almost two weeks. Maybe, just maybe, I'll actually get them put out sometime this week!

1. Wonderfully cooler days
2. A sweet, juicy fresh peach
3. The smell of bread baking
4. Squirrels on the patio coming to say "Hello!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday report

What should come first - the good news or the bad news?

I'll start with the bad news so I can end on a positive note. This is the first week at Weight Watchers that I didn't lose weight - I gained .8 of a pound. This wasn't a surprise at all, because I knew I'd fallen off plan and stopped journaling my food intake since last Friday. I also hadn't exercised since then - except for chasing Sophie.

The good news is I now have a friend who is going with me. Tangled Thread Kim has been to WW before, and has lost weight before, but always seems to hit a plateau and then backslides. We are going to help hold each other accountable. Part of our problem is that neither of us are good at meal planning ahead of time so we just throw together what's there. We've decided that by next Wednesday's meeting we will each have a weeks menu planned with a shopping list, and will go shopping when the meeting ends about 8:30 a.m.

We went shopping today after the meeting and Kim helped me discover a bunch of new things I didn't know about. We started at Whole Foods because I was sure I could find the lowfat Monterrey Jack cheese there that I couldn't find anywhere else. Also bought some great looking fresh vegetables and a couple other things. Then we went on to Walmart. I hate Walmart - I hate so much about the way they do business - and I've always felt uncomfortable the two times I've been in their stores. This time we went to the newest super Walmart east of town where I'd not been before. What a difference! The other two stores in town are crowded, with unappealing displays. This is a beautiful, clean store with wide aisles and lovely displays, including gorgeous produce. The selection of food for people watching their food intake was huge compared to every other store I've ever been in. And of course - since it's Walmart - the prices are lower than elsewhere. I think I'm going to do my best to forget their business practices long enough to grocery shop there once a month or so. If any other stores in the area had that kind of variety I'd shop there and pay more, but they don't. So Walmart, I'll be back.

In the meantime I've pulled out my Weight Watcher cookbooks and started planning some meals. Gaining this week has renewed my resolve - I really want to hit that 10% goal when I weigh in next Wednesday.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Random ramblings

I had such plans for this week. So many things I wanted to get done. So how have I been spending my morning? Mostly sitting in a chair at the computer. Didn't even shower and dress until almost noon. You see one of my goals was catching up on my blog reading - you've heard that song and dance before - right? It always takes longer than I think it will - even if I skim posts that aren't really quilty. I'm trying to comment - I had not commenting! In the meantime little guilty feelings keep nagging at the back of my brain. I have put away the clean laundry and washed sheets - that's something, right? And now the Bloglines website seems to be having problems so I can't even move on with my reading. Maybe someone is trying to tell me something?

Sophie and I scored big when we visited the Farmer's Market on Saturday morning. I've been telling myself I need to do that at least a couple times a month. Why not have wonderful fresh vegetables and fruits right off the farms when they are available? So I have a stir fry planned for dinner - can hardly wait. The first picture shows our bounty - can't figure out what the flash bounced on to make that glare. I also couldn't resist the marvelous flowers. I'm not at all talented at flower arranging but I don't care - this looks great in the corner of the dining room!

As you all know, I'm focusing on UFO's again this year, and finally making good progress. Unfortunately, I'm getting really tired of UFO's. As I told Finn a couple days ago, I was really missing playing with my scraps. Just seeing what she and some of the rest of you are doing has be aching to dip my hands in that big string box or open that box of hour glass blocks. But I'm going to be good - at least for awhile longer.

So I got out a season-appropriate UFO that I've not touched for years and years. According to my UFO spreadsheet I received these Halloween blocks in a round robin in 1993. This was a round robin where I made the "inspiration block"(the first picture), tacked it to a 4" grid, assigned the appropriate number of squares for each participant and then started passing it around. As each person covered their assigned number of squares with one or more blocks - tacking them onto the grid also - it becomes more and more of a challenge to the next people in the robin. I love all these blocks - some are so very creative! (Click to enlarge for a good look) What I'd forgotten is how dark, gray and black they all are! Very little orange in them at all. I took them off the grid years ago, and now have no idea of the original arrangement. No matter - I've decided I need to add a bunch more blocks - with lots more orange - to brighten this quilt-to-be. I even have dark gray, brown and black fabrics chosen for sashings and borders! So once Lily's quilt is finished I think I'll start looking for more block ideas for this quilt. It would be nice to have it finished for this Halloween don't you think - only 15 years after I made the first center block!

Tangled Threads is meeting here tomorrow night. Today and tomorrow we are supposed to hit 95 degrees - really unusual for this time of year! I'm ready to email my pals and suggest we meet somewhere else tomorrow night - somewhere with air conditioning! Another Thread is taking care of dessert - I sure hope it's something having to do with ice cream! In the meantime four giant tubs of fall decorations are sitting in my living room. I've taken off the tops - does that count as starting? I just can't seem to find the motivation to actually work at anything. Maybe that's because I spent the last three days chasing after a 19-month-old?

1. Nature's seasonal bounty
2. Precious grandchildren
3. A safe trip home for Jeremy

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Grandma Camp

No sewing is getting done this weekend, as Sophie came on Friday morning to spend the weekend with us. We've all been having a marvelous time. Unlike her first visit, she could hardly take time to say goodbye to her mom as she was already so busy exploring. Sure beats the crying and sobbing of last May. We've been very busy - going to the park to swing and play, running around the yard and rolling in the grass, visiting Joseph, investigating Grandma's kitchen cabinets and drawers, reading with Grandpa, visiting the farmers market Saturday morning, and doing just about everything else a very energetic 19 month old can do. Her daddy is spending a weekend with the guys, and her momma is spending some great quiet time at home by herself getting ready for her new baby sister Lily.

I've not had any time to ride my exercise bike, but Sophie is a ready-made exercise program all on her own. I've hardly sat down since she arrived, and she moves faster than lightning! I'm thrilled we've all had such a marvelous time - but also thrilled we will be taking her back to her mommy and daddy this afternoon!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Progress of another kind

It's been awhile since I mentioned my efforts to lose weight. I was catching up on my blog reading, and read Mary's report on her efforts. That reminded me that I'd joined Mary in pledging to report once a week. So here is my current progress, expressed in "Weight Watcher Shorthand".
206.2 : 187.8 : 164

The first number is my starting weight, the second number my current weight, and the third number my goal weight. I'm only 1.8 pounds away from my first big goal - loss of 10% of my original body weight. I've been going to meetings for 10 weeks now - that's an average of 1.87 pounds lost per week. I can certainly tell the difference in the way my clothes are fitting. I'm really enjoying the meetings also - our leader is wonderfully motivating. This time attending meetings has made all the difference in the world. If you need to lose weight and you've never tried Weight Watchers then I encourage you to do so.

I admit I've fallen off the wagon a time or two - it certainly doesn't help when the weekly hostess for our Tangled Threads serves a dessert like she did on Tuesday evening. Of course, no one was standing over me making me eat it LOL! I have no will power at all when it comes to things like this - the only solution is to not put the temptation in front of me. Did I eat it? You're darned right LOL!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ready for hand stitching

Everything is fused to the quilt and ready to go. I know I could do the blanket stitching very quickly on my machine, but I so enjoy the hand stitching. I also love the texture created by using embroidery floss. There are also some stem stitched details to do - stripes and a face for the bumble bee, definition lines for the bear's arms, a happy mouth and eye highlights for his face among other things. I slit some stitching in the blocks so I could tuck the flower stems through to the back - those spots will need to be resewn also once the stems are tacked down.

I love how this looks! I gave it a fall tone for this precious October girl - it was so much fun choosing the leaf fabrics. Of course the flowers had to be purple, as that's the color of the room Lily will share with big sister Sophie.

1. Successful exercise in will power at Momma Made It this morning - no extra fabric came home!
2. Pumpkin Spice Lattes
3. A morning spent with a quilty friend

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Another challenge

This time it's our dear Finn who has issued the challenge. I'm a little behind the times - she actually issued the challenge on August 26 in this post. Finn has challenged herself to finish five UFO's by New Year's Eve and has invited any of us who are so inclined to join her. Apparently 38 quilters have picked up the baton and started running, with the goal of finishing a total of 172 quilts. I have challenged myself to finish 6 of those - should be doable. I was tempted to raise that number, but decided I wanted to enjoy the process and not kill myself working. So as soon as Lily's quilt is finished, and sleeves are sewn on all the quilt show quilts for the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, I'll be starting another marathon finishing run.

All the participating quilters are listed on Finn's site, along with links to their blogs (where applicable) and the number they are trying to finish. Why don't you join us and take care of some of the UFO's in your closet?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I like it!

Most of the household tasks were finished without too much trouble. I rolled the first antique quilt onto the dining room table and realized I needed an empty cutting table in order to cut muslin for sleeves. So what was I to do? No choice but to put the borders onto the teddy so I could clear off the table.

The resulting border is wider than called for because I have a 5" stencil of oak leaves and acorns that I want to use on the border. I really love how it turned out! I have traced all the appliqué shapes onto Heat 'n Bond Light - I use the "donut method" so the appliqués are soft instead of stiff. Tomorrow I'll choose fabrics and get all the bonding done. I'll hand stitch the blanket stitches around the appliqué and the rest of the embroidered details as the week progresses - perfect handwork for nap time and watching baseball!

A border quandry

I'm not supposed to be quilting today. I have loads of clean laundry all over the living-dining room waiting to be put away. I have ten of my newly finished UFO's waiting to be put away - I took them to guild Thursday night for the "what I did this summer" show and tell program. Once again I have antique quilts from the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to sew sleeves onto in preparation for their October quilt show. I have five days of junk mail to go through. The list goes on.

So what did I do when I got up this morning? I tried choosing borders for Lily's quilt. If you look at the picture of the original you'll see that Crystal Carter used a border stripe for her border. She designed this quilt right after Jinny Beyer burst onto the quilting fabric scene in the early 80's with her collections of border stripes. At that time I had yards and yards of them. Most all of them have been used and what I have left is either not suitable or too little. I have lots and lots of beautiful florals with brown backgrounds - perfect, except that the prints are so large they overwhelm the little bear. I have some cool fall colored striped fabrics, but they are so bright they also overwhelm our teddy. I've lost track of how many fabrics and fabric combinations I've tried. I think I've finally found it, however. I like how this looks. I'm going to let it hang until tomorrow, looking at it many times today while I go about my chores. If it still looks good to me by tomorrow then I'll start cutting. The appliqué laps onto the border so it must be finished before I start embellishing.

Guess I'd better get to work!
1. Fall - my favorite season!
2. Resumption of a regular routine
3. Yummy weight watchers recipes
4. Fiber 1 bars - a cross between a granola and a candy bar and only 2 points!
5. Digital cameras

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Are you listening?

Do you listen to your machine when you sew? I was hearing what can only be described as a "popping" sound as I was stitching this morning. I immediately realized that it's been awhile since I changed the needle on the machine. Every new quilt deserves a new needle - they aren't that expensive! You should also change your needle after eight to ten hours of sewing. Dull needles can damage fabric. If you can't remember the last time you changed the needle, then be sure to do it now before you sew another seam.

And since I'm talking about machine care - when did you last remove the throat plate to clean out all the lint? I'll never forget the time a student asked me where she could buy another little felt pad for under the throat plate. Her machine had gone so long without cleaning that she thought all that stuff was a felt pad that was supposed to be there!
Don't forget to treat your machine to a "spa day" once a year also if you sew regularly - that is several times a week. She deserves a good cleaning, oiling and a check of her tension and timing. She will be so much happier and so will you. Don't wait until she breaks down before getting her serviced - you need to care for your machine at least as well as you care for your car!

And now for the picture - I can see a bear staring to emerge , can't you?

Yesterday's efforts

Doesn't look much like a bear yet, does it? These are the blocks I finished yesterday - all of the traditional log cabin blocks in this quilt. They are parts of foot pads, bear and bear tummy, and bear and background.

Making these little 3 1/2" finished blocks is really fun, and not difficult at all. The key is having a good seam allowance marker on your machine - one you can feel with your fingers in addition to seeing with your eyes. Even if you have a 1/4" foot it's not enough for complete accuracy. To set up your machine for truly accurate piecing see my tutorial here and here. Quiltville's Bonnie Hunter - the queen of piecing in my book - recommends this also. If you've never tried it before you'll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Piecing log cabin blocks is fun and goes quickly. I know may people "speed piece" them by sewing the blocks onto a long strip and then trimming after stitching. I've found that this isn't all that accurate unless you use an even feed foot. If you don't the blocks tend to get bigger as you add rounds because the feed dogs pull more of the lower fabric into the block than the upper fabric. This results in blocks that are slightly rounded instead of perfectly square. I find that it's just as fast to precut my strips to the desired length, which helps keep the block square and to size. If you have a good work surface it's easy to lay out all your different strips as you are working, cutting them to size as needed. The picture shows the way I organize mine. This also makes it easier to make truly scrappy blocks. Try it - I think you'll like it!

Now back to task - I'd love to finish lots more blocks today!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

It's about time!

Our new granddaughter, Lily Abigail, is due on October 15th. About time I started her quilt, don't you think? Chelsea and Jeremy chose a design from an old That Patchwork Place book I've had for years and years. There isn't a copyright date on the book - how odd! - but I think it's from the early 1990's. I've always loved the quilts in this book; I'm thrilled to finally be making one of them. They chose this very cute teddy bear. A couple minor changes were requested - nothing major.

This is made of log cabin blocks - both traditional and courthouse steps blocks. The unfinished 4" blocks are made from tiny 1" strips, and are not paper pieced! I've pulled lots of golden browns, dark browns, and tans from my stash and have started cutting strips. It's a good think I like making tiny blocks!

Visit with a far away friend

Cathy from Ireland - Celtic Knots - and her daughters have spent the summer in Bend, Oregon with her parents. She and her girls spent their last day here in the states with me - we had a great time! At least Cathy and I did - not too sure about the girls! We started at Starbucks - of course! Then I took her to a couple of local quilt shops, and she took me to lunch. It was the day of my Golden Age Random Sampler class at Primitive Thimble, so we finished at that shop so she could share her Dear Jane with Eileen and my class mates. We were all so impressed - it's an incredible quilt! Of course Cathy found some goodies to take home with her - as did each of the girls. Thanks, Cathy, for spending some of your precious time with me!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Utility quilting and other ways of finishing quilts

I love to make quilts with a folk art or primitive look. There is just something about the simple designs that appeal to me. These quilts lend themselves nicely to utility - or "big stitch"- quilting and other ways of finishing quilts other than traditional quilting. I especially love utility quilting because it is so relaxing to do - no hoop and no worry about getting tiny stitches. This can be done with pearl cotton, but I prefer to use DMC Cébélia #10, a cotton crochet thread, because it has no shine. It comes in a nice variety of colors, though I do wish they included a darker warm brown.

This is the quilt I finished these last few days while I was laid up with this head cold. I used Camel #437 for this one, a medium golden brown. I covered the surface with large Baptist Fans using Magic Chalk and a stencil for marking. I love how it turned out! I started this quilt in 2004. A shop about an hour away had started a Country Threads club, and since I've always loved Country Threads patterns I decided to attend. The only way to get the patterns at that time was to attend. I finished the house during class - it is invisible machine appliquéd - and started on the stars. Well, that was the only club meeting I attended, and this project sat neglected until I finished the top last spring. I'm so glad to have it done just in time to hang in the entry for this fall.

I finished this plaid quilt- started in a class with Roberta Horton - years ago, but am showing it here as another example of how quilts can be finished. I used Pearl Cotton #5 on this quilt and used crow footing to tack it together instead of quilting it. There are several different tack stitches for fastening quilts which I think are a nicer alternative than tying. I learned to do this in an old Patchwork Place book by Judy Hopkins and Nancy Martin called Rotary Riot, published in 1991. Other stitches include cross stitch, buttonhole stitch, Mennonite tack and Methodist knot. I'd forgotten all about finishing quilts this way until I dug this one out for the picture. I think I'll use this method on at least one of my primitive Jan Patek tops that is waiting to be finished.

Show and Tell

It was so much fun to take all my newly finished quilts to Tangled Threads after my quilting marathon. I didn't bother to take the finished mystery quilt that is going to charity - just too boring to show off - but I took the rest. Don't you just love getting kudos from all your friends for a job well done?

I'm back!

I guess I took a bit of a blogging break. Didn't plan to, but that's just how things worked out. Now September is here, Fred is back to school, and hopefully I can get back into a regular routine. I have been busy - doing what I'm not sure - I just know that time is flying as usual.

After I ran the UFO marathon I had to do a bit of cleaning and organizing to make room for all the finished quilts. Storage of finished quilts hasn't been a problem before, but it's starting to be one now. First I cleaned off a shelf in the upstairs bathroom by organizing pieces of leftover batting. Looks like I have enough for at least six more quilts! I pieced battings for a couple of the quilts I finished, stitching them together on the machine for the first time. (I've always done it by hand before.) Worked great so it will do it that way from now on.

Once the shelf was clear I rolled up all my little quilts and put them together onto the shelf. Would you believe there are 20 little quilts stored here? This prevents wrinkles from setting in permanently, and each quilt is still easily identifiable.

I also refolded all the big quilts for the armoire in the living room. In my classes with Eileen Trestain I've learned never to fold a quilt in half - nothing is more noticeable than a permanent crease right down the center. So all were folded first in thirds, and then over and over crosswise. The fit into the shelves much better this way. I've added a couple more since I took this picture, and unfortunately there is no more room for large quilts. Small table runners can be rolled and tucked in the ends - that's about it. Will that stop me from making more quilts? Hah - that's not possible! I guess I'll just have to give more away.

Once all the new quilts were either stored safely or on display on a quilt rack I went back to the longarm room and started tackling customer quilts. I had three to quilt - one pantograph and two custom - and two large tops to baste for hand quilting. I spent most of the next week getting those done. Not sure which is better - having them all out of the house or having money in my bank account again. I think I'll go for having money - there are some new pantographs I want to buy and more new threads to order.

All my energy came to a screeching halt and literally disappeared come last Wednesday night when I came down with a head cold. This is the first I've had in awhile and it's knocked me for a bit of a loop. I've spent the last few days sitting in a chair reading or hand quilting. I think I'm finally on the mend, I'm happy to say. I did finish the quilting on one small top which I'll show you in the next post.