Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Essentials

 My family will tell you  that at Christmas, I am all about the music.  The more traditional the better.  I'm sorry, but it just isn't Christmas to me until I have broken out the Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis and Carpenter's CDs.  However, I am always on the look out for new music to add to my collection, so over the years a few others have become traditions as well.  Now I'm no iTunes, but I guess you could say these are my own "Essentials"

For my boys, this is the quintessential Christmas album.  This album is to them, what Johnny Mathis is to me.  And, it isn't just them.  My Christmas would not be the same without Animal screaming, "WON'T GO!"

Next is this album. Over the years, this plucky little album earned "classic" status.

 And of course, Mannheim Steamroller.  Nobody does a better version of Still, Still Still.

I don't think the rest of the family feels this way, but this is the latest keeper for me.  It combines my love for James Taylor with my favorite holiday, so this is a no brainer for me.  I think his version of Baby, It's Cold Outside is a delight.

Love her, too.  Plus, the fact that her voice is right in my range makes it doubly fun to sing along with.

Then of course, there is this fellow.  That velvet voice...dreamy...sigh...  Oh sorry, where was I again?  
Oh yeah, okay.
So I thought I would share with you three new inductees to my favorites list.  Listening to them makes me smile.  I hope they do you, too.  Enjoy.
(Disclaimer: Sorry about the quality of some of the videos.  The last two a pretty amateurish.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Giving thanks

As I was sorting through some old photos the other day, I ran across this little gem. This is me in 6th grade, working on a sewing project for my Jr. High Home Ec. class.  I was sewing an elephant pillow as a decoration for my room.  We had already done straight line sewing by constructing a chef's apron.  Now we were working on sewing curves.  What would be a fast, easy project for me now, was quite challenging for me then.
As I recall, I got quite familiar with my seam ripper because I had a huge problem keeping the 5/8" seam allowance going around the curves of the little trunk. We were graded on accuracy and my teacher was quite a stickler, so I wanted to get it just right.  The memory makes me smile.
I had no idea then what learning that skill would lead to now...

And, these few photos don't even begin to cover the clothes, toys and items for my home I have churned out over the years. 
So, since this time of year is a time to show our gratitude, I wanted to say thank-you.

Thank you, Mrs. Highfield.  
Thanks for your skill and dedication as you introduced a silly, giggling, home-economically-challenged, pre-teen girl to a skill that has rewarded me so much through the years.  
I know it was your job, but I appreciate that while you were firm in your demand for attention to detail and accuracy, you were patient and compassionate as I learned the ropes.  Because of you, I have a talent that continues to bring me great satisfaction to this day.  
My only regret is that I cannot speak these words to you in person.  Not that I think you would remember me or anything.  I am sure you helped many, many young girls in your career.  It's just that if I were able to speak to you personally, I would know my words actually reached you.  I've never been a teacher, but I imagine that I would be very happy to know that something I taught someone actually changed their life for the better.  
You did that for me, Mrs. Highfield.  If you ever do stumble across this blog, I hope you approve of the fruit of your labors.

Remember this quilt?  Wow, it's hard to believe I finished that top a year ago.  Well, the week before we left for Thanksgiving, I finally got it quilted.  

I love the way it turned out.  

It is a little hard to see in the photos but I did something different with my stipple stitch.  I used the zig-zag stitch on my machine and I am thrilled with the results.  The quilting really goes with the Halloween theme of the fabric.  The multi-directional zig-zags remind me of the arched back of a cat and for that reason I have named this quilt "Scaredy-Cat".  It just seems to fit.

Here is a picture of the back.  Although the fabric is busy, it does show off the quilting more than the front.  The smokey blue thread I used just sort of blends in on the front. 
You might recognize the pattern of this quilt as the same one I used for the quilt I made for my father-in-law's 95th birthday.

Well, I was finally able to give it to him at the big family celebration on the 27th.  I am happy to report it was a big hit. 

Here is another quilt top I whipped up before we left for Utah.  
I have had this fabric in my stash for a while but was unsure of what to do with it.  I didn't want to chop up the design, so I finally just decided to use the entire yard as the center and run a couple of borders around it.  I think it made a fun, bright toddler quilt.
Here is the backing and binding fabric I have chosen.  The multi-colored dots will be the back and the grey houndstooth will be the binding.  

Of course, I can't use something from my stash without finding something to replace it.  Here are a few fabrics I just couldn't resist.  Lucky for me, they were all on sale!

With the holidays coming up and my training certification looming in December, I probably won't be able to spend too much time quilting.  The first part of the month will be spent cramming for the test.  After that I will be frantically getting the house ready for the kids Christmas visit.  However, here is a sneak peek of what I am planning for my next project.  

I can't wait to get started!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The big five-oh

This week, I turned 50.  I've never had a problem with milestone birthdays. I didn't bat an eye when I turned thirty or forty.  But, turning fifty has made me stop and think a bit.  If I am true to the life spans of both sides of my family, I am over half way through my life.  Wow, it really makes me want to make the most of every day.  Carpe diem, an all.
So, I wanted to mark the occasion with something special. What better than a trip back to Maui?

I'm here for the week, basking in the sun and warming my toes in the sand. 

I marked the actual day with something totally out of character for me.  I took a motorcycle ride into Lahaina.  I'm not a huge fan of motorcycles, but there is something about turning fifty that brought out the daredevil in me.  
The day was also filled with a wonderful reflexology massage and pedicure at the Pedi Care Center and then delicious sushi at Sansei.  But of all the gifts and indulgences I received that day this one was the best...

Nothing can top a little bit of Mason.
Next week it's back to real life.  I'll have more quilting photos to post.  Until then, aloha!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

I have been feeling very swamped lately.  Truthfully, it's not just lately.  For the last year, I have felt like I was barely keeping my head above water.  Mind you, it's not that I haven't been happy.  I am happy and I feel very blessed.  But along with that, I have felt this sense of being out of control and a bit desperate because of everything that pulls at me: work, family responsibilities, church/temple commitments, along with service I want to give, classes I am taking and the creative pursuits that I need, in order to keep my sanity.
So for the last few weeks, I have been taking a step back.  I have been asking myself a few basic questions.  How did I get this busy?  How did every day become a rush to the finish line? How can I get more joy out of everything I am doing?  Are there things I need to let go?
I sat down and made a list:

  • What must I do?
  • What do I want to do?
  • What do I merely like the idea of?

Keeping up this blog is one of the things I have really had to mull over.  On the one hand, it does put an added stress on me.  Even though I don't always make it, I feel that I should blog at least once a week.  When I don't meet that goal, I feel the weight of it.  It sits in the back of my mind as one more of the myriad of things that I'm not getting done.  On the other hand, this blog is the most success I have had at journaling since I became an adult.
To make a long story short, taking a break from it to see how it felt, I decided that while there are things in my life I need to let go of, the blog won't be one of them.  I may not be able to blog as often as I would like, but whatever I can do is better than nothing.

During my little break, I did manage to get quite a bit done.  I finished my father-in-laws birthday quilt. I am very pleased with the way it turned out.

The colors worked together wonderfully.  The subdued tones keep are masculine, but the dusty blue and gray sashing keeps it from being too dark.

Again, to keep it masculine, I chose to go with organic, straight line quilting.

I adore the border fabric! Probably because my own father said those very things to me when I was going up.

Here is the back.  You can't see it from this far away but the center fabrics repeats the word "Fix".

This closeup gives a much clearer view.
I hope Grandpa likes it.  On Thanksgiving Day, he will turn the big 9-5.  I hope I am still going as strong as he is when (if guess I should say "if") I get to that age.

My friend Jen, is hosting a charity craft fair in November.  I already donated a quilt but I wanted to do something more, so I decided to whip up some Christmas aprons for her to sell.  I used this tutorial.
This is the go-to pattern I use when I need to quickly make a cute apron.  The pattern is true to it's title.  It really does take under an hour to put it together.
My plan is to make ten aprons for her, but with my new goal not to over-schedule myself, I will see how many I can get done.

I've also worked on a couple more small projects around the house. I added some flowers to the spice tin magnets I made a couple of weeks ago.

While cleaning out my linen closet, I rediscovered these beach themed "day of the week" tea towels purchased while we lived on Maui.

They really add some flare to my guest bathroom.  Again, small changes, but they make me smile.

I've had these old skeleton keys for quite a while now. Aunt Twila and I used to like to go to the yard sale held at her retirement community annually.  She purchased these for me at the last one she was well enough to go to.
I haven't quite known what to do with them, but I finally decided to just wrap them with some ribbon I had on hand and add a couple of beads.
I was in a hurry when I took this photo and you can't see them very well.  I will take some better close ups and post them in my next blog.
This simple saucer of keys makes me happy every time I see it.  It makes me remember Aunt Twila and the fun we used to have.  Geeez, I miss her.

If you're interested, I posted another recipe for you.  Check it out on the What's cookin' page.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hearth and home

Maybe it is the cool, cozy feeling in the air, but something about The Fall puts me in full-on nesting mode.  Every year I get the urge to redo and redecorate and this year is no different. So, armed with plenty of inspiration from Pinterest and several of my new favorite blogs, I have been making some subtle changes.

The hutch in my sitting room has been bothering me lately.  More and more, I found myself disliking the bold colored plates that I had there.  (Sorry, but for the life of me, I could not find a before picture.)  So, I removed the offending dinnerware, pulled out some starfish, sand dollars and  every neutral serving piece I own and here is what I came up with.

I lived with it a couple of days and then decided it needed a little more punch...

so, I took an aqua plate I had in my guest bath and used it as the center focal point.  I'm still not crazy about the floral dessert plates, but it is a work in progress.

I also changed the container for my shell collection to this lovely apothecary jar with an added bit of twill tape ribbon.

I have had these vintage spice tins just sitting in a box in a closet so I decided to see what I could do with them.

When I say vintage, I mean it.  Look at the price!

Anyway, with the help of a couple of magnets attached to the back, here they are now on the front of my fridge.

I love them.  I'm going to find some little flowers for the other two.

And finally, I collected several of these tiny bubble shells while I lived on Maui.  They have been languishing on a shelf in my hutch since we moved to California, but I decided I needed to do something a bit special with them.

So, I cut a piece of cardboard to fit inside a frame I had lying around, covered it with some linen fabric from my stash, pulled out my glue gun...

and, voila!  This now sits on my night stand.  
These are small changes I know, but they make me happy.  

Along with all of that, I am working on a quilt for my father-in-law.  He will celebrate his 95th birthday this November and we will be attending the big family party in his honor.  This quilty-poo is our gift to him.  I'll be sure a post picture of the finished quilt.
All in all, a very crafty, contented week for me.
I also made one of my very favorite, go-to dinners.  Check it out on the "What's cookin" page.