Saturday, December 31, 2011


There is nothing like New Year’s Eve. A time to reflect and a time to move on.

With the New Year just around the corner, I’ve decided it’s time for a few changes. For one, I’ll be more adventurous. Being complacent is one thing, but not living life due to fear or looking foolish is, well, silly. For that reason alone, and after talking to my sister-in-law who said I should definitely do it, I’m going to devote one blog a week to be a video blog. I have no idea how this will work or even what day of the week I should post it on, but I’m sure after a few trial and errors I will be able to figure out the kinks.

Speaking of kinks, the Jägerbombs I had last night with a bunch of my husband’s old classmates still feel like they are working their way through my system. It’s going to be an interesting day at work.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Something I Need

With Christmas just barely behind us, it’s time for what we really need. I really need a quilting hoop.

Okay, so perhaps there are NEEDs and WANTs and a quilt hoop would probably fall more into the WANT category. However, after trying yesterday during my lunch to make an old embroidery hoop pretend to be a quilt hoop, I’ve come to the conclusion that it most definitely should be in the NEED category. Embroidery hoops are generally rather thin and flimsy and this one I’ve had for more years than I can remember, or even recollect why I bought an eighteen inch embroidery hoop in the first place, and this one I’m curious how it hasn’t fallen apart since it is obviously a product of the early nineties. Let’s just say trying to use this thing with a seventy by ninety inch quilt was laughable at best.

And so it appears I will be needing to make a trip to the local quilt shop next week to try on some quilt hoops for size. Hopefully I will find one that works well. I don’t need anything fancy, just one that will not bend and bow as I’m trying to quilt. And preferably wood over plastic.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fall Quilt Sandwiched

Measuring is a good thing. But what if your measurements are exactly what you measured and they are still off?

After going through the steps I took to get the measurements I originally used, I figured out my mistake of making the top’s side borders twice the size the book, Material Obsessions, called for. Figures. Something simple I forgot to take into consideration when piecing the back. A quick fix was to simply add a few more inches to the sides of the backing, so that is what I did. I could’ve gone a couple different routes by either finding a completely different binding or only adding the extra backing to one side, but in the end I decided I really wanted the Sandy’s Solids Walnut for the border and binding.

Once the backing was properly sized, I taped it to the kitchen floor using painters tape, smoothing and adjusting as needed. I then put the batting, Warm and Natural one-hundred percent cotton, over that repeating the process of smoothing before topping it with the quilt top. After I got it right where I wanted it, I again taped it down to keep it in place. With safety pins, I basted the quilt in the center of each block and where each of the blocks meet to keep everything in place when I begin quilting it.

There is just one problem, which is I need to embroider my name and date onto the back first. Do I date it for 2011 since that is the year I finished the piecing, or go ahead and put 2012 since that is when I’ll be finished with the actual hand quilting of the project?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fresh Fabric Treats

One of the things on my Christmas wish list was Fresh Fabric Treats. I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.

I’ve been eyeing this book since I first heard it was coming out last spring. Fresh Fabric Treats combines the great tutorials from Moda Bake Shop with the professional look of a quilt book and the shortcuts people like you and me discover from trial and error. It doesn’t hurt that there are fantastic projects waiting inside its covers. Personally, I’m looking forward to making the Block Holder Books. I may have to add a few more flannel pages to hold more blocks, but the idea behind it is fantastic and a great way to keep your blocks not only all in one place but prevent them from getting distorted.

Of course, the main reason I wanted this book so badly was because of the featured quilt on the cover, Summer Sorbet Quilt. It hasn’t at all helped my obsession with finding just the right stars to use for my Christmas Quilt that has been in the find-me-a-pattern-and-make-me-already pile for way too long. However, now that I’ve seen it in the Fandango line, and I just happen to have a couple charm packs of those laying around, my mind is wandering to what that would look like if I changed up the accompanying nine patches, another of my favorites that will be utilized in my That 70s Quilt full of a random assortment of Alexander Henry’s In the Kitchen line and coordinating solids.

Alas, my brain is so full of ideas it’s about to burst! Perhaps I should instead focus on figuring out the dilemma of how my fuzzy math got in the way for The Fall Quilt before attempting to start yet another project. Stupid math. Besides, six unfinished projects is enough, right?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cruise Control

There are those in the ‘FOR’ cruise control category and those in the ‘AGAINST’. I’m definitely in the latter.

I don’t know why people, mainly my husband, are so adamant I use cruise control while driving. Yes, I know it saves (a miniscule amount of) gas. Yes, I know it makes for a smoother ride. Yes, I know the reasons why I don’t use it, too. For one, I’m a control freak. I can almost hear the audible gasp from the reading audience. (Please note, that was sarcasm.) I always have been. I don’t necessarily need to control the outcome of a situation but if I’m in charge, I need to be in control of what is going on. I also have a tendency to butt in while other people are working on something like, say, dinner.

Anyway, so to get back to the issue of cruise control, I don’t like it because I’m not in control. Yes, my hands are still on the steering wheel, but my feet aren’t controlling the gas pedal and that scares me. This isn’t to say that I’ve never used it, because I have. I didn’t care for it, nor the fact that my mind wandered away from driving while doing so. Not such a great thing to do, you know, while going seventy miles per hour.

I suppose I could equate cruise control to our coffee argument. While I am affirmatively in the most definitely ‘FOR’ category, my husband is certainly and without a doubt in the ‘AGAINST’ column. Perhaps I’ll bring this up next time he wants me to just use the damn cruise control. Or that he can drive if he wants it used.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Importance of Measuring

I’m a baker and a cook and I don’t usually measure very accurately while doing so. Apparently those mad skills I possess in the kitchen do not translate into quilting.

While showing the family my quilt top I just finished for The Fall Quilt, I decided to go ahead and pull out the backing too. It looked a little small, but I figured it was just an optical illusion. However, the question quelled my mind until I made certain that was indeed the case. It wasn’t. The backing is about six inches smaller all around than I wanted it to be. Damn.

And so now I have a few options. For one, I could rip the stitches around the entire thing and add more of the inside and border fabric, but that honestly sounds like too much work. Secondly I could add more of the border fabric only and have a couple seems around the edges. Or third, use a different fabric for the binding than I had originally had in mind. I’m leaning toward the latter.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

When I was little, I couldn’t wait for whatever Santa was going to bring me, be it a new bike or a bag of used toys. That magic of Christmas morning is still alive and well.

As I crawled out of bed this morning, I could hear the delightful giggles of my husband’s sister as she not-so-quietly scouted out what Santa had brought her. Dumping out her stocking she seemed just as ecstatic about the socks she’d been given as she was when she saw the new Painted Pony in front of the fireplace. Okay, so maybe not as excited, since she is absolutely in love with Painted Ponys.

I know this morning will be filled with hectic egg poaching (I’ve never poached eggs, so this should be an exciting adventure in and of itself) and hollandaise sauce making and this afternoon with whatever my husband’s dad and stepmom have in store for us, but in the end, the trip always seems worth it. Even if this year we have to vie for the attention of both his parents. Alas, it means I will not be able to visit my family for Christmas. But I have to say that it is nice to be away from home for the holidays. I just hope our cats haven’t terrorized our house sitter!

Merry Christmas, everyone! May Peace and Love fill this holiday season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Morn

Waking to darkness
Listening to quiet
Tiptoeing in silence
Making a cup of coffee 
  with the Keurig Coffee Maker in the guest bathroom.

Watching horizons brighten
Waiting for signs of life
Enjoying the calm
Hearing a burp 
  followed closely by an, “Excuse me.”

A device tossed
Onto the table
The light is on
Handheld solitaire 
  with a high score of 575. Nice, Greta.

Sky getting lighter
Sounds getting louder
Calm fading quickly
Craziness begins 
  but how sweet the sounds, sights and soon, smells.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Fall Quilt: Backing Complete

Instead of packing I decided to quilt. Go figure. This morning is going to be a mad rush!

Last night I decided I really wanted to finish the border and backing for The Fall Quilt in order to bring it with me on our vacation. I’m not really sure why I was so motivated, but I designed, measured and cut a backing that was pleasing to my eyes and sewed the whole thing up in a couple hours. Of course, those couple hours started at ten last night. All in all I’m happy with the results, utilizing all of the scrap ends from the Mix & Mingle jelly roll and deciding to use Sandy’s Solids Walnut for the outside border and binding for the back, as well as some muslin and a filler print I got for a dollar a yard back in 2006. I wanted the back to hold interest too, but at the same time tie into the theme of the front and I think I accomplished that. Hopefully I’ll have some down time this coming week (though sincerely doubt it) to start hand quilting! I’ve never attempted hand quilting a full-sized project and this being a 60 by 90 inch quilt should prove interesting.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Bake-a-thon may have been an exaggeration. Decorate-a-thon however… nope, still an exaggeration.

Yesterday we made cookies. Lots of cookies. Or so it seemed. After all was said and done it seemed like we’d hardly made even twelve dozen cookies. With only three varieties on the docket for the day, two of which needed to be decorated, it was bound to be an exciting adventure. Assuming, of course, exciting adventures include frosting on every surface the children came in contact with, flour “snow flurries” and Star Wars.

 I will have to say, we adults were all in agreement that next year we were definitely going to be doing our portion of the decorating using pastry bags because once we transferred the remaining frosting from the bowls after the kiddos were finished (and by finished, I mean showed no interest in decorating cookies anymore until we started doing it) the process seemed much more streamlined and much less messy. Honestly my favorite part was decorating the gingerbread people, some of which I cut out using my Star Wars Cookie Cutters from Williams Sonoma to make Yoda and Darth Vader gingerbread men. Something about the simplicity of just decorating using royal icing and a few embellishments was much more satisfying than trying to get the buttercream frosting on the sugar cookies to behave exactly like I wanted. Personally, I wish I’d made Storm Troopers and Boba Fetts as well instead of so many regular gingerbread people.

It seems like each year we make less and less in the way of cookie varieties, but it still takes us the same amount of time. Perhaps it is the whole trial-and-error approach that we go into these annual all day baking sessions with the kids and deciding to make each year better focused than the previous. Or perhaps it is because we love the company we’re with.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Do you ever have days you just want to crawl back into bed and stay there? Today is one of those days.

Today is the annual Bake-a-thon with our friends and their four girls. This year we’ve decided to tone it down a little by making the dough ahead of time and only doing the actual baking and decorating there. Of course, that would assume that we made the dough ahead of time, which we didn’t because I was busy making a NASCAR Number 48 Jimmy Johnson Birthday Cake for a coworker and we had friends over to watch It’s a Wonderful Life. I suppose that means we should get cracking on those doughs before heading over, huh?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Crappy Plumbing

Seriously, we moved out of a house that had horrific issues with the kitchen sink and into a much newer house with silly plumbing issues. Grrr… AARGH!!!

Okay, so perhaps the two simply cannot be compared. However, it is quite tiring to find a puddle under the sink because whoever installed the pipes didn’t take into account things like, say, measurements, before cutting and putting them together. Of course, we still have most of our extra PVC pipes from the old house and I’m sure I could fix the problem myself, the quarter after six in-the-morning time I usually find this problem hinders my motivation to do so. Alas, I suppose that if I want something done I’ve got to do it myself… especially since we already got the problem taken off our rent when we moved in because I thought I had remedied it back then.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sunday Sewing

Sometimes you just need to tell yourself you are going to do something no matter what. Especially if you have been unconsciously abstaining from it.

After church yesterday I had one goal, sewing. I didn’t get all that I set out to do, but got pretty far. Between plotting out a coworkers birthday cake and making butternut squash soup I sewed and sewed, finishing up the final three blocks for The Fall Quilt (I thought I only had two, but alas, there were three) and putting the border on the Frog and Fairy Baby Quilt. All in all I’m pretty happy with the results. That being said, I wish I had changed a few things.

The Fall Quilt I started using a jelly roll of Sandy Gervais’s Mix & Mingle from Moda Fabrics. I also mixed in some of Sandy’s Solids from various charm packs to create the four feature panels. While I’ve already sewed the rows together, part of me wants to rip the stitches out and frame them before adding them to the quilt using the Walnut solid I picked out for the sides of the quilt. The other part says screw it, just finish the damn thing already!

Now the Frog and Fairy Baby Quilt I was hoping to get the border, backing and batting all sandwiched together, but alas I only… please excuse my train of thought, the cat just decided to jump into the fish tank and knock out half the power in the kitchen… got so far as to put the border on and that’s it. Hopefully tonight between baking cake I’ll be able to finish this and figure out what I’m going to do with The Fall Quilt.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Backburner Projects

Like dust collecting on my sewing machine, so are the days of my not quilting. I’m about to go all serial killer if I don’t get a fix in soon.

A little too dramatic? Maybe. But since this whole Christmas Season thing has started, many of my quilting projects have been put on hold. However, I’m wondering if perhaps I should start working on them again this afternoon when we get back from church. I mean, with everything we planned on getting for Christmas out of the way, the only thing we need to do still is bake cookies. Lots and lots and lots of cookies.

I’ve got two projects currently that I would really like to see done shortly, The Fall Quilt (and yes, I’m quite aware that we’re only a few short days from winter here in the Pacific Northwest) and the Frog and Fairy Baby Quilt which, honestly, should have been done ages ago. Not that I’m anticipating that much downtime during our Christmas vacation, but just in case, I’d like to have a project to start hand quilting should there be any. With only two more blocks on The Fall Quilt and a simple border and backing and binding for the Frog and Fairy Baby Quilt, I probably could have had both of these done yesterday after work. Alas, my mind was elsewhere… as in The Vampire Diaries and The Smurfs movie. Let’s try not to repeat that pattern again today.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

One Week

While there are presents under the tree, and perhaps I should simply leave it at that, part of me wants to do more this Christmas. Then again, why stress?

With only one week until Christmas, it is only natural to feel the pressure to finish up those projects or grand plans before the day arrives. For us professional procrastinators, however, the one week mark is typically the starting point. Part of me is wondering just how far I can push this out while another part of me is freaking out that there are indeed only seven days left. I suppose I wouldn’t freak out so much if I had any clue just what I was going to do. Maybe this quilty… I mean guilty… feeling will go away after we have our annual Bake-a-thon next Wednesday with our good friends.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Alarm Clocks

Oh sleep, how I have missed thee!
On a cold winter’s morn nothing is better
Than awaking to a cock’s crow.
As long as it is at a reasonable hour.

In my case, however, the cock’s crow is actually the alarm clock. Evil, dastardly machines hell-bent on destroying any slumber that crosses its path. We got rid of our accidental roosters years ago, but the alarm clock for some reason still has a presence. I guess it has its reasons. While it would be great to live in a world without them, alas, their need is great. Without them a whole world wouldn’t be on time to work or events. Still, that is no excuse to so rudely awaken me at six-in-the-morning to announce the beginning of the day. Wait? It’s only six? Hooray! I’ve got fifteen more minutes of “quality” sleep time. My husband on the other hand, not so much.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Laziness Versus Resource Conservation

It’s one thing to be lazy and not do something because you don’t want to. It’s another when doing it out of conserving precious resources, right?

I haven’t been shaving lately. I mean, well, not since Sunday anyway. Yes, I know, it’s bad. The problem is that I only have one razor left and those things are expensive. My husband is actually using his last one so he’ll need me to get those replacements a short while before I need mine. My question to propose is this: Is it simply me being lazy because, well, I dislike shaving, or am I being resource savvy by not doing so when it isn’t required? Perhaps there is a little bit of truth in both.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Gift Giving

This morning I started contemplating the origins of gift giving. With so much cerebral research about to be had, I figured doubling my normal amount of morning coffee would be in order.

Giving gifts for special occasions is nothing new. It predates written history and has continued throughout, continuously evolving while at the same time remaining quite traditional. People have given gifts to celebrate the birth of children, coming of age, marriages and everything in between. However, who decided what events to give gifts for and what events in life are just not considered gift-worthy? It seems this is also something that varies culturally as well as religiously. But I’m not here to raise a philosophical debate over which religion or culture is the right one because, honestly, I don’t think there is any one way to live life. I am, however, going to try to attempt to explain why we give gifts.

It depresses me to no end when I see pictures or video of people trampling each other the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, just so they can get the latest toy or gimmick the store has on a super sale. Especially when, chances are, that same toy or gimmick will end up in the trash before the following Christmas. I don’t understand if it is some kind of challenge or bragging rights these people get out of it or if the underlying factor is a sense to feel like you are one of the Joneses, even though you are barely getting by. Another part of me feels bad for these people, knowing the societal pressure to spend hordes of money on presents so their kids don’t feel left out or worse, picked on by their fellow classmates.

I grew up poor and yes, was made fun of for not having the latest fashionable clothes or the newest Transformer or He-Man action figure, but never had a sense that I was somehow not loved enough for receiving second hand Christmas presents and clothes. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that some of my friends indeed had more than we did, but also had friends who had considerably less. The point is not how much you have, but the thought behind such gifts and the recipient understanding the reason for getting it. Instilling these values in our kids seems to have gone by the wayside as I see more and more of them growing up with a sense of entitlement and very little in the way of gratitude. This is a general assessment, mind you, and I know that it doesn’t speak to everyone, but it does seem to be a growing epidemic.

As a kid I used to spend months making Christmas presents for my aunts, uncles and cousins, as well as siblings and parents. I didn’t do this out of an expectation of getting something in return, but because I simply wanted to give. I continued this to an extent as I got older, making annual Christmas ornaments, even taking time off work to accomplish everything I wanted to do. For me, the act of giving means a lot, especially when money is at its tightest. It definitely means a very lean January and February to make up for it, but in the end the sacrifices are worth it. So perhaps I shouldn’t condemn the people fighting over the last twenty dollar DVD player or pushing their way through the crowd to grab this year’s Elmo craze because maybe, just maybe, they get the same satisfaction of seeing the smile on the recipients face as I do.

So while we may not get the same gifts the baby Jesus received from the Magi of gold, frankincense and myrrh, may we continue to live a life of giving of ourselves for others without expectation of anything in return. You may surprise yourself by how much more meaningful it is to give than to receive.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Twelve Days and Counting

Only twelve days until Christmas. Let the Freak-Out-Mode officially commence.

Okay, so perhaps I’m not the only procrastinator in the world, but the closer it gets to Christmas and the lack of presents under the tree tell me someone has been slacking off. I won’t name names, but I’ve got a pretty good clue of who it is… me. I guess that means I should be on Santa’s Naughty List.

One way to remedy absent presents is to simply go get some. But me being me, I’d rather make what I can and only buy when necessary. This isn’t always an available option, and the closer it gets to Christmas without anything really finished (or started for that matter) the more I resign myself to thinking store-bought is what will end up getting done anyway. I suppose if I wasn’t me, this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but alas, my procrastination sometimes gets the best of me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Less Parties and More Crafting, Please!

With all the partying, how is one to work of Christmas gifts too? Perhaps some creative thinking is required.

This time of year is filled with Christmas Parties and get-togethers almost to the point that there isn’t much time for anything else, especially if you are working. However, a few strategically planned craft times can still be managed. For instance, if I really wanted to, I could’ve worked on making presents before our own Christmas Party on Saturday, but felt more like trying to figure out how the hell to use my new phone. Or Sunday after church I could’ve used the time to work on presents, but instead spent it trying to figure out how the hell to use my new phone. I hate getting a new cell phone, especially since my previous one was so perfect for me but was, well, showing signs it was on its way out after four years of continuous use. Let’s just say after following the instructions listed on the website for changing folder names and whatnots on my memory card, I decided to ignore them all and do it how I was originally going to do it. Sure enough, it worked. I suppose that is my fault for trying to follow directions for once in my life.

Anyway, part of the craziness of Christmas is the last-minute crafter’s ability to whip out presents like magic. Oh, sure, we could have been planning and making stuff all year long, but what fun would that be? Where is the challenge? For as long as I can remember I’ve sworn that I’ll start making stuff sooner for the following year, but it never happens. Alas, it looks like carving out niche times to sew will need to be during what I’d normally use as after dinner down time, also known as television zombie mode. Considering most broadcast shows are on hiatus until after the new year, however, is perfect for using that time for craft projects instead. With any luck, I’ll be halfway done with my Christmas presents by Christmas.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Picture Lacking

Lately I’ve been slacking off in the picture taking of events as well as the every day. I need to change that.

It was apparent last night that I wasn’t in the picture taking mood when I looked at the camera on a side table in the living room while we had friends over for a small Christmas party, mostly of my husband’s teaching cohort, and I decided not to take pictures but instead just enjoy the company. I’m kicking myself for not picking up the damn camera and snapping a few shots at least.

I believe part of the problem is that we haven’t had pictures printed in five years, and with no physical photo album to casually glance through my mind must simply think there aren’t pictures to be viewed. I need to get this mentality out of my head and get back to recording these memories again and not just when I get a few complaints suggestions that my blog is lacking in pictures.

So perhaps this should be my goal for 2012. Of course, I’m debating over whether to continue writing a daily blog about random happenstances and the occasional what I’m up to in the craft world come next year. At the same time, however, it has become so engrained in my morning routine that I don’t know if I’d even want to. Maybe a day of the week devoted to pictures? Maybe I should focus on goals and track my progress through photos? Maybe I should drink more coffee and enjoy another cinnamon roll my husband decided to make (from scratch, mind you) yesterday. Alas, I suppose I’ll find out just how ambitious my plans are for next year, uh, next year. In the mean time I’ll leave you with the remnants of last night’s party…

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Of Coyotes and Chickens

This morning when I woke up (quite late I might add) I looked out to see a coyote in the yard next to the chicken coop. At first I was like, Oh look! A coyote in the yard! But then I was like, What the hell?! There’s a coyote in the yard! Looking at the chickens in the coop! And the chickens are just standing there staring back as if to say, Top O’ the mornin’ to ya! Crazy birds. They weren’t even fazed. The coyote noticed me and stepped back slightly but didn’t start running away until I opened the door to let Lucy, our Great Dane, out to chase her.

All of this got me wondering just what coyotes do for food during the winter. I mean, I know that we don’t have horribly freezing weather (contrary to what we’ve had over the last couple weeks and at least for a few more days) during the winter, but it does seem that most of the wildlife we normally see during the rest of the year is in hiding. It kind of makes me feel bad for the poor coyote just looking for her next meal. At the same time I’m wondering if it is time to predator proof our chicken coop.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Department 56 North Pole Village

Collecting a collections is one thing. Knowing when to stop is another.

When I met my husband he had three pieces of Department 56’s North Pole Village. Within ten years that number was ten times larger. It has been quite a few years since we’ve purchased any new items from the collection, but this isn’t very surprising considering the quality reduction, mass production attitude the company acquired. However, the older pieces still retain their original hand painted charm. Although, I will admit, we do have a few pieces that I would consider hybrid pieces with a little commercialism. I decided to set them up in an area that shows Santa’s expansion into the commercial market.

Today, sadly, the pieces are mostly plastic and mechanically painted instead of hand painted ceramic and the offshoot villages, Elf Land and North Pole Woods, just aren’t up to par with their predecessor. We do have a few pieces from these villages, but only one that we purchased, Rudolph Ring Toss.

The hardest part about putting up the village was trying to put out everything I wanted to put out. I kept trying to find a way to put a shelf between the two towers in our living room and when that was obviously not going to work I simply put a shelf on top of them. Duh. There are still a couple pieces I would have liked to display, but ran out of room. Oh well, maybe another year.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Losing a grandparent is difficult. Losing them long before they actually pass away is harder.

I remember the first time we went to Lewiston, Idaho to have Thanksgiving with Papa and Grandma K.. It was a long drive, it was cold when we got there, and we had to rake leaves. Yes, rake leaves… in the cold. My brother and I would have froze to death, but we had just gotten hand knitted gloves and hats from them. How convenient. What I wasn’t expecting was getting paid to do it. It was the first time I had gotten money for doing chores and the first time I realized that hard work pays off… literally. I used that money for Christmas presents, or candy, I’m not really sure.

What I remember most is thinking it was absolutely awesome knowing somebody in the entertainment industry. Okay, so Papa worked for a local radio station, but we got to tour the station before he took my brother and I to the toy store to pick out stuff for us and our sisters and had goulash for dinner. And he knew Santa. Mall Santa. A mall Santa who arrived at the mall in a helicopter. It was amazing to my nine year old self. Papa also loved to tell war stories from when he was in Korea. Lots and lots of stories. And he could watch television in his sleep as was apparent when I changed the channel while he was obviously sleeping and he said, “I was watching that.” I still have no idea how he’d know I even changed the channel, but he did. He always did.

So a few years ago when we were told that Papa’s mind wasn’t as sharp as it once was and he had to constantly be reminded of who people were, I was saddened. I wondered if he would still be the same person I knew. And for the most part, he was. But over time it was quite apparent that he was remembering less and less and becoming more paranoid that something was going to happen to his dog who practically never left his side. On one hand this slow degradation somewhat prepares you for the inevitable, but on the other it just seems cruel.

When I got the call that he had passed away, or more accurately text message (don’t mock, between texting and Facebook is how my family communicates) I wasn’t surprised by anything except actually breaking down and crying over the loss. Even though I knew it was coming and have been preparing for it over the last couple days, I still couldn’t stop falling to the ground as the tears began flowing. And then I started laughing as a story he told me about my stepdad popped into my head. Losing someone is difficult and painful, but as long as we remember them, their spirit will live on.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Productivity Versus Laziness

It has been said that choosing the lesser of two evils is better. I beg to diff… Damn cat! Get out of my coffee!

As much as I’d love to make today productive, I’ve got a feeling I’ll be fighting the urge to simply be lazy. However, considering I did nothing after work yesterday perhaps I should reconsider. After all, with so little time before Christmas and so much going on between now and then, it might be a good idea to take advantage of a little free time.

Address Christmas cards; plan a menu for Saturday; figure out what to bring for the work Christmas party Sunday; decorate the house some more; clean, clean, clean! Drinking coffee and watching The Vampire Diaries sounds better. And easier. And my head is stuffy, nose is runny and throat is sore so I don’t want to do anything right now. Alas, priorities must be taken and this time of year doesn’t allow for much downtime. Ugh.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


When faced with a dilemma of multiple appearances with gifts and food items in tow, a lack of funds can be a hindrance. A little creativity might be just what the doctor ordered.

I work for an extremely generous boss. The guy puts in as much volunteering time as he does work. Before working at the veterinary clinic I knew that he did a lot of volunteer work with the homeless and Heifer International, but I didn’t realize just how many hours or how much money he donated to these various organizations he’s involved with. We also go to the same church and he seems to always be busy with something there as well.

So you can imagine the dilemma we at work are facing this Sunday for our Christmas Party on exactly what to get him. However, we have a plan and figured if we all go in together on something it would have a better impact. Group gifts make a lot of sense when you don’t have enough money on your own to get something meaningful. If a group gift is not an option, something homemade might be in order. Don’t try to overdo it with something ultra fancy that will consume your every waking hour, just make something that makes sense for the recipient. A couple potholders for a cook, a coffee cozy for a latte lover or an ornament for just about anyone else you can’t come up with a personalized gift are all simple yet personal gifts that you can make.

As for food, apply the same rules. With all the busyness of the holiday season it is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of get-togethers you may be invited to or having yourself. Make ahead side dishes and finger foods are the easiest route to take. That way when you have a little free time you can assemble the dishes so they are ready when you need them. Take the stress out of the holiday season and don’t let your perception of somebody else’s expectations drive you. We can’t all be Martha Stewart, but we can take a cue from Sandra Lee. As long as it isn’t a Kwanzaa Cake!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Festival

With all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in full swing, sometimes you just need to take a little time out of your day and make a gingerbread house. Or thirty-five of them.

After weeks of planning and stressing over the Advent Festival, it, as usual, went off well anyway. Honestly I don’t know if anybody had doubts, but still, these things take careful preparation. Most of the preparations were done two hours before the event started, which of course meant lots of down time. We apparently all assumed that since we put the youth group in charge it would take longer, but the opposite seems true. The adults in the group kept the kids occupied by having them grab this or that every now and then.

As for the gingerbread houses, or more accurately graham cracker houses, the final count was thirty-five. Due to the abundance of children either eating an average two pieces for every one they’d place on their house we ran out of candy before houses. I had to tell the last few people, “Check the cookie station. They have sprinkles.” Oh well. Of course, this should have become apparent that if you wanted a gingerbread house you need to be there first thing since my table was overflowing with architects while the other four were empty for the first half-an-hour. Alas, at the end, a lone house stood naked and unadorned. I left it in the kitchen for someone just in case.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Graham Cracker Houses

To make or not to make? That is the question.

Today is our church’s annual Advent Festival. That means I’m in charge of Gingerbread Houses or, more accurately, Graham Cracker Houses. In the past I’ve premade the houses themselves since they require accurate cutting and construction skills the average five year old does not possess. That and I would prefer to only have to make six batches of royal icing for the event. Add into account people making their own houses and I’d have to double that figure. That’s a lot of egg whites and powdered sugar. Not to mention I would also have to double the amount of graham crackers due to breakage and eating losses.

And so it appears I’m going to be constructing them once again this year. As fun as it would be to watch those not-so-nimble fingers attempt to make freestanding walls and attach a roof, the fact of the matter is I just don’t think we’re there yet or ever will be. Alas, it looks like another exciting adventure in house building will begin after church this morning. Four hours to construct about fifty houses? Bring it on.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Disaster Areas

Sometimes when projects are plentiful the house can get into a bit of disarray. Sorry folks, there’s just no way around that.

Currently our kitchen table is flooded with cardstock, rubber stamps, ink pads and felt tip markers surrounded mostly done Christmas cards. If there was a way to take up less space I’d have figured it out by now. With so many different supplies needed at your fingertips, it is near impossible to reduce the required square footage. Trust me, I’ve tried. Even when I had the craft room at the old house with a specific scrapbooking/card making station, it still looked like a tornado had come through and tossed everything onto the desk.

Now that we share the office space and craft room, it is less likely to simply see a closed door concealing the contents inside. Of course, I have half the room set up just for sewing currently. My cutting table, otherwise known as a foldable card table with a cutting mat on it, currently has fabric stashes for at least four different projects I’m working on. Seriously I have yardage, bits and pieces of batiks for The Desperate Housewife’s Quilt, various sized pieces and scraps from the Auction Quilt I just finished, the backing and border fabrics, along with the remainder for the Green and Brown Baby Quilt I’m working on, and piles of fabric strips ready to be cut and pieced for final blocks on The Fall Quilt. They are just all over the place on that small table making it a wonder I can use it to cut anything at all!

The obvious thing to do would be to organize it all, but then I’d end up taking everything out again and the process would start all over. So instead I will simply put the fabrics away that I’ve already used and are finished with and fold them into columns onto the bookcase I have in the room to hold it all. That way, should I need to come back to any of those projects, the pile used will still all be together. As for the stamps and cardstock, I just need to finish the damn Christmas cards already!

Addendum: I just walked into the craft room/office because I was trying to upload this onto my blog and lo and behold I remembered I had fabric for a fifth project piled up on top that I scrapped because it was, well, far too uninspiring to even start. Oy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Another Busy Weekend

This time of year busyness abounds. Don’t forget to breathe.

I know that I’ve got another busy weekend. Finishing up the Christmas cards to get them sent out, making between forty-five and fifty gingerbread houses for the Advent Festival at church along with setting up for said festival and accompanying silent auction. Alas, it also means no time for sewing or Christmas presents or anything fun. Boo. However, there are a few things I can do to make it easier on myself.

Typically with the gingerbread houses I make a variety of styles. Perhaps instead I should just make one. Never mind, forget I said that. Part of the fun of making the houses in the first place is that I make a few different types to keep me from going crazy. Maybe I should focus my restraint on the candy side of the equation? You know, instead of getting a little of a lot of different kinds of candies just get a lot of a few. Hmmm… this could work and would result in less chances of everyone’s favorite running out. Of course, it would also help if half of the candy would end up on the gingerbread houses themselves instead of in the kids’s tummies.

As for the silent auction and the set up of the whole Advent Festival event, maybe I should leave that up to the teenagers running the show. But, I know me, and I know that I won’t be able to simply let them have at it and not be involved. True, this would be perfect for them to do alone, but, well, it probably isn’t going to happen. Unless, of course, I don’t get all of the gingerbread houses done tomorrow after work and have to make them there. Then I won’t give a crap how they set everything up because I’ll be too busy to care.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Operation Auction Quilt: Complete

Sometimes I look at a project and say to myself, “Damn, I’m good.” This is one of those projects.

With only days to spare until the actual silent auction at church, I finally finished the baby quilt I set out to donate. I say finally, but I made the top on Saturday and bought and cut the backing, sandwiched it with some Warm and Natural cotton batting and safety pinned it every six inches before quilting and binding it yesterday. I’m still new to machine quilting so I decided to utilize a simple technique I did when I made my niece’s diaper bag, which is loose wavy lines over the seams. It’s like quilting in the ditch but for those of us who aren’t so great at perfectly straight lines.

I have to say the backing I found (on sale for less than three dollars a yard at JoAnn’s) works out perfectly. It was a stroke of luck I even found it since I had already picked up my number for the cutting table and was wasting time wandering around until my number was called when I spotted this gem. Within just a few seconds of seeing it, I heard my number, snatched it up and rushed to the table to have a couple yards of it cut. I only needed one yard, but wanted to have extra for my stash. I’m awful like that.

Because I was so ready to finish this project, it completely slipped my mind to embroider my name onto the backing before quilting it, so I opted instead to make a label. Using some of the selvage from the center panel and a permanent fabric pen, I wrote my name and the year, ironed on some fusible webbing, ironed it onto the back of a section I was about to quilt and did a quick zigzag stitch around it before quilting my last line. It isn’t perfect, but it works.