Monday, December 28, 2009

tiny stitches

Hard at work once again, in the film making studio! This time, I talked to my mom about the work she has in progress:

Friday, December 25, 2009

New Toy!

My wonderful kids sent me a new toy for Christmas! How nice to turn the tables, instead of shopping for toys for them, they now can return the favor! I had mentioned to them that I had been interested in the Flip Video camera, thinking that it would make a good tool for recording little lessons to share with you here. So today, while we are snowed in, and I'm not sewing but knitting instead, I recorded this little story for you. It's in 2 parts because I had to stop while my cameraman (Bob) fixed us some tea, and I don't know if or how to combine them into one. Still have some learning to do!

Winter wonderland

We are hunkered down in the comfortable warmth of my parents' home in NW Iowa, watching the snow blowing horizontally outside. These pictures were taken yesterday when it was still just accumulating and the wind was low. The trees along the lakeshore are beautiful and the colored lights were nearly buried. I had to go out and do a little shoveling and knocking the snow off some of the lighted shrubs. Then last night the snow started again and the wind came up, creating some beautiful snow drifts around the corners of the house. Haven't been outside yet today, the door is snowed shut, the interstate and many roads are closed with no travel advised, so we might be staying another night. The Hansen Christmas fest has been postponed to tomorrow so we will have to see how the driving goes to make it the 30 miles to another holiday gathering. Working on knitting a scarf that is a gift to myself and reading a new book from a box of James Patterson novels. I can smell chocolate cake in the oven and we have leftovers from our ham dinner yesterday so we are not going to starve! Enjoy your Christmas celebrations!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Greetings

Here's our family at one of our best moments of 2009. I hope that 2010 brings the same happiness and joy to all our friends and families. Safe travels and best wishes to all of you!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

odds & ends

I've been a little uninspired to post here lately, sometimes I just don't feel that I have much noteworthy to say! Also, I lost my tracking analytics for visits to this blog site over a month ago, and when I can't actually see that anyone is visiting I sort of don't feel like writing. Should take care of that problem, but it's something that I avoid because I'm not sure I understand what I need to do. Mind you, I did set it up the first time correctly, so I shouldn't be put off by the techno speak that I encounter when I go to google help, but I shy away from it.
I would much rather spend my time with my quilts, and the quilts of others who entrust their quilts to me. On Friday I actually delivered 3 quilt tops, relatively small, to 2 different women but I neglected to take pictures of them. Both were pleased with the results, which is always a relief to me. This morning I finished up this one for Nancy:
It's 2 1/2" strips of homespuns all sewn up in one continuous length.
Also spending some time in the kitchen, Bob and I baked Christmas goodies last Sunday and have been sampling them ever since! My new favorite is the very addicting pretzel rounds, sometimes called "Can my butt get any bigger cookies" but I think of them as the crack cocaine of cookies because all it takes is one to get hooked.
They are like the completely satisfying cookie/candy because they hardly take any time to prepare, only 3 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, and can be made with many variations. These are chocolate stars in the center with an M&M on top, but are equally as good with other things like rolos, kisses, mints, nuts, etc. I have also determined that the best way to eat them is simply to pop the whole thing in the mouth at once so you don't end up in that socially uncomfortable position of a partial crumbled pile of pieces in your hand. You know what I mean. Better to just take the whole hit at once and keep all the crumbles contained internally!
And now I have to tell you about this hairbrained idea (where did that phrase come from?) that is all Debbie's fault. She so graciously gave me a new book for Christmas that has me thinking it could be turned into a fun monthly group at the store as we make our way through the 100+ blocks included in this quilt.
Not so awfully unusual, except that it is written for HAND PIECING! And I have actually even made one!
When I first learned about quilting in 1980, the class I took included hand piecing so I kind of wanted to see if I could still remember what to do. The answer is Yes! The class was at The Cotton Shop in Richfield, MN, no longer there. We lived only a few blocks away, and I could pop my little baby Brita in the stroller and take her by there on our walks. Fast forward to Brita all grown up!
Anyway, it must be like riding a bike, because it seemed easy enough to put needle and thread, templates and fabric, all together once again. As far as whether or not this one block becomes a whole quilt, we shall have to wait and see. In the meantime, I am simmering cranberry juice, spices, and red wine for some mulled wine to be served this evening to our neighborhood friends on our progressive sort-of dinner. Two houses of appetizers and one of desserts! Yummo!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sun Dog Days

On my drive to work this morning, I was fighting with the glaring sun in my eyes. As I'm squinting and bobbing my head around to use the visor or mirror to block the light, I realized that there were 2 brilliant sun dogs on each side of the sun. These were much bigger than I have seen before, so I found a spot to pull over and shoot a picture. Fun to see something special like that to remind me that no day is routine unless I make it that way! There's always something special to behold if I just pause to appreciate it. Yesterday I was home and busy with all sorts of tasks, when I caught a glimpse of some bright red cardinals flitting around the yard and trees. Looking very pretty with the fresh white snow in the background, just like a Christmas card!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

a friendly challenge

As promised, I am ready to reveal the outcome of the Great 2009 Posse Pass! Let me explain:
Along with my good friends, Nancy, Maggie and Leisl, we were once dubbed the Posse, I think it has something to do with the fact that we have a habit of traveling in a pack and taking charge when given the chance! We even have star badges! For several years, we have had a little Christmas party and exchanged gifts with each other. This year someone came up with a bright idea as a substitute for the usual gift exchange. In the spring, we each constructed a large applique block using the design and fabric and colors of our own choosing. We aimed for something like 16"-18" in size. Then we each tucked our center block into a bag along with some coordinating fabrics, and so the Pass began. Every 2 months or so (sometimes the deadlines got a little stretched) we moved the bags along to the next taker, and each one of us was responsible to add some kind of a border onto the ever-growing center blocks. And the rightful owner didn't get it back until last night, when we gathered for dinner and dessert and the Big Reveal! What fun to get the bag back and peek into what had been created along the way! Here are all 4:
And now for the details--Nancy's style is sort of primitive and her quaint house and darker colors reflected that. Leisl added the little triangle border, Maggie the wide applique border, and I put on the finishing touch with a stripe all around the outside. Maggie's applique includes "Big Swan Lake" because Nancy's home is there.
Next, Maggie created a large "M" with flowers and vines intertwined. Nancy sewed on the 9-patches, I added the scallops, and Leisl finished it up with pinwheels.
Here is Leisl's project, starting with some 3-dimensional flowers sort-of cherry blossoms. I added the shaded strips in border #1 (really dug into my batik stash for those), then flying geese by Nancy and finally Maggie added corner applique flowers like those in the center.
Then last, but not least, is my own. I made an applique basket of flowers for the center. Maggie heeded my request to make it into a rectangle instead of a square and figured out the right combination of square-in-a-square blocks. Then Leisl added an applique border, reducing the flower shapes that were in my basket (and I heard she nearly broke the bank buying just the right fabric which is perfect, by the way) and to wrap it all up Nancy added 2 skinny borders with tiny triangles. It is all FABULOUS!
It was a very interesting challenge, involving a lot of thought and consideration as to what would be just the right touch to enhance the overall look. It helps that we know each other very well and can trust our instincts. I know we were all very pleased with the results, and now the challenge is on to get the quilting and binding finished! And what shall we do for 2010?

Turkey Day report

I have the Thanksgiving report for you today, and then the much-anticipated big reveal of my Posse Pass. What's that, you ask? Well, you just wait and see!
Bob and I drove over the river and through the woods (sort of) on Thanksgiving, heading south towards Lake Park (IA) with a stop in Jackson(MN) along the way. Have you ever driven anywhere on Thanksgiving or Christmas? It's really hard to find something to eat on the way! All we wanted was a snack of some kind to tide us over to the real food, but we found fast food places closed at 11 so we ended up getting a cookie and a muffin and coffee at a gas station! We had not thought that we would be able to join the Hansen dinner but when the Herbert dinner got moved till later, we decided to swing by Jean's house to say hi to the family there. Arrived just as the turkey was being passed and Jean had saved 2 seats for us, how lucky can we get!? I think there were 14 people there, and we ate rather conservatively (well, at least I did!) and had a good, although brief visit. Then it was another 30 or so miles to Lake Park to my parents house where the turkey was roasting on the grill and the table was set. Jarry, my brother, likes to grill the turkey over charcoal, so he was in charge of that and my mom had prepared the rest. We are a smaller group, there were 8 of us around the table. It was a delicious dinner.
My mom likes to work on hand quilting during the winter, so she has started on this project.
It is an old quilt top of unknown origin, probably something a great grandma might have pieced together. It is feedsack fabrics and just randomly placed squares and rectangles of great variety. I did a little bit of cleaning and patching on it and now she has it on the frame. We decided to just use a muslin backing and will probably bind it with a solid color.
And the lovely day ended with this colorful sunset over Silver Lake.
The fun continued throughout the weekend with special attention for my mom's 80th birthday the day after Thanksgiving!
She really doesn't look 80 at all! She's not sure when this was taken, but she looks lovely in her good dress (which I am sure she sewed for herself). This looks like the yard at our farmhouse, complete with the fuel oil barrel in the background. We drove out to the farmhouse on Friday, it is not habitable anymore so stands empty and sad.
So it was a busy and fun weekend, catching up on a lot of family news and happenings. And just a few weeks until we get to do it again for Christmas! We are lucky that we are within driving distance of our family homes and that many of the relatives still live in the area. They are a good bunch!