Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I am ready to deliver this quilt back to Irene, the maker of the quilt.  She is a lovely and colorful lady, can you tell that she likes purple?!!  Thank you for giving me a healthy dose of pure purple in all of its shades and hues!
Field Greens by Madison Cottage Designs

Friday, December 27, 2013

the story of our holiday

And here's how it all went:

We had a very enjoyable holiday over the last few days.  We did do a little driving, but not terribly much.  It takes about 3 1/2 hrs. to drive to Jackson, MN, where we gather for the Hansen group.  We were there in plenty of time to help with the meal set-up for the ~25 people who could make it.  The food prep is all shared by the families, and sister-in-law Jean has a big open home that can accommodate all of us sitting down to eat at once.  We spend the afternoon visiting, playing card games, snacking, and then we have a little Christmas "service" that is our tradition.  Complete with reading the story of the birth of Jesus, candle lighting and singing of carols.  It is memorable and important for all of us.

After the hubbub of that gang, we spent the next day in relative quiet at the home of my parents.  They live about 30 miles away from Jackson.  My mom loves to cook a traditional meal, so we had ham and turkey and all the fixin's together with my brother and sister-in-law.  Ian, Ben and Brita were with us, but because Ian had been up the night before with a bad croupy cough, they decided not to risk staying overnight and took him home to his own bed.  Thank goodness, his cough improved and we were so glad for that.

On Christmas Eve day, Ian needed a babysitter since both mom and dad had to work.  So he came to visit us for an overnight!  How lucky can we get?!  We had such a good time playing, learning, exploring and entertaining each other.  Brita and Ben joined us Christmas morning, and we had a good lunch of several appetizers, salad and a tray of cookies and candy for dessert.  We tried to learn a new game, Farkle, during naptime.  I know it's a pretty popular game, but we found it a little hard to follow and none of us had ever played before.

Ian looks a little sad below, I think he was not happy because he knew he was leaving Grandpa and Grandma!  But he did get to go home and open up a bunch of other presents, so I'm pretty sure he forgot all about us quickly!

Yesterday I was putting away some of the Christmas wrapping supplies, and found a favorite old album on the shelf.  This was from about 1979 or 1980, a singer, Nicolette Larson,  that I really liked.  I would like to hear it again, especially her songs Just in the Nick of Time and Dancin' Jones.  This was music that I would put on the record player and turn it up when I was cleaning house, and it made the job much easier!  I wonder what happened to Nicolette?  She was partly responsible for my daughter's middle name, Nicole.

I finished some quilting on this quilt yesterday--

I don't remember the pattern but I will find out.  It is going to be a class at Bear Patch this winter.  I quilted it simply with a flower pantogram.  Here is how a pantogram works--

It is a stitching diagram printed repeatedly on a roll of paper, laid on the table that supports the longarm.  Normally, those white rollers would be holding the fabric of the quilt.  You can see the needle at the top of the picture.  On the bottom right, the little blue thing is a laser light clamped to the carriage of the machine.  You can just make out the little red light on the paper below it.  As I steer the machine to keep the laser light on the stitching line, the machine is running and the needle is stitching on the quilt fabric.  This is a good functional way to do some quilting that gets the job done faster than most freehand designs.

And that's the lesson for today!

P.S.--sorry for the weird picture placement and spacing, having a few issues with them not following my directions!  They are all supposed to be appearing in the center of the page, according to my formatting, but something is not lining up correctly!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

holiday time

Merry Christmas to All!

I always enjoy the opportunity to share my thoughts and happenings here with you, thank you for noticing!  2014 is coming on fast, so I had better get some projects organized to tell you about!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Some beauty in nature--

At the top is a big mound of snow peaked above the little birdhouse in the backyard.  The patio chair that remains outside looks like it has a real nice cushion of snow!  And that tabletop would be a great cooler for bottles of adult beverages.  The pic on the bottom left is interesting because it shows the layers that represent the individual snowfalls we have had. The sun was shining through the snow.  And the birdbath looks like too much bubblebath was added!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Merry Christmas

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

A Holiday Greeting to my faithful blog readers!

Best Wishes for the Holidays!

Whoa!  There has been some time lapse since the last posting here!  Sort of slipped onto the back burner for a couple weeks.  Actually, I was busy posting (and still am) over on the Bear Patch blog every day for our 12 Days of Christmas event.  So handy to use the wonders of the internet even when I am away from home.  The same magic happens in Arizona just like it does from my chair at home!

And suddenly, I have only a few days until Christmas!  Since we are having some family gatherings on Saturday and Sunday, I have only today plus 2 more days to organize what's going to whom!  I have some handmades to gift, along with some other goodies, but the shopping has been minimal so far.  Have made good use of the availability of items via the internet, plus the shipping is fast and when done via Amazon it's FREE due to the fact that I paid for a Prime membership.  That has proven to be totally worth it for 2 reasons:  the free shipping plus the free video availability for movies and programs on TV.

Decorating has been low-key around this house, we chose not to put up our big tree for a change.  So we are using this little fella instead and I like the pretty simplicity--

The stockings are hung by the chimney with care--

and gathering little lumps in them gradually.  Next year there will be one more stocking for the new little grandson, and I think I might have to get a bigger mantle!  Got a big box shipped off to Dan in Montana, he won't be with us this year and I just hope the box gets there in time.  Wish I could have Amazon ship all of my things, because they sure get it to happen fast!  Sort of like the Jimmy John's of the shipping world!  The package arrives a few minutes after the order is placed!

Bob and I bought presents for each other already so that eliminates some planning and shopping--

we really needed to retire our good old couch and recliner, they had become less comfortable for sitting without extra pillows for back support.  Not sure whether it was a result of aging bodies or aging cushions, but we are loving the comfort of these new pieces!  We got extra firm seat cushions on the couch, and they are just right!  The only downfall I have encountered is that this couch has exposed space underneath so the floor has to be kept clean down there!

From our couch to yours, Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Homeward bound

In spite of the fact that I almost always allow at least an extra hour before flight time, I still usually don't relax until I am in my seat. Always so many little things to remember--where's my ID, boarding pass, book, knitting, M&M's and last but not least, Bob. Luckily, we have it all together so far!

Yesterday was cold enough in the morning that we found some ice crystals on water beside the trail. That turned out to be a short hike, but later in the day we warmed up and walked the Girdner Trail. Great trail system around the Sedona area. 

Now it's time for a little reading and knitting and anticipating the single digit temps that await us!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Vacation fun

We are still down in AZ, enjoying the fact that it is snowing back at home and we aren't there (for once!).
Today we are over in the little town of Clarkdale to take a scenic ride on this train. 

Yesterday it was much sunnier and we hiked to a place called Devil's Bridge. We'll, actually I sort of chickened out and stopped below this rock formation while Bob continued a little farther. I am not a big fan of heights!

And when back at our cozy little spot, I have a little time with needle and thread to work on an applecore sample. 

Time to sign off--all aboard!

Monday, December 2, 2013

time out

 Squeezed in between our Thanksgiving holiday and commencing the Christmas season, we (Bob and I) have snuck away for a little vacation.  Someplace warm!  We are visiting Sedona, AZ, for a week of basically doing whatever we choose to do!  It's not very often that we get the chance to do that, so I have been trying to take a bunch of pictures so I can always remember what it feels like!

So far we have had temperate weather and mostly sunny skies.  Just right for some great short hikes in the surrounding areas.  There is a plethora of trails around here, so there is no shortage of outings.  Yesterday we took a trail that crossed back and forth over a creek bed--

It is dry at the moment, but only about 1 week ago they had a heavy rain and this would have been full of water then.  The effects of the erosion were easy to see.  Glad we could get around without waders!

We haven't really seen very much wildlife here, other than ravens and this little guy--

He seems to have staked out his territory near the entrance to our unit, and just watches us go around him!  He's really little and helpless, so we are fine with sharing our roomy space with him!  

Here's a scene from another hiking area--

These colorful cliffs and landscapes are such a contrast to our usual surroundings in MN, so they really catch our attention.

Today we drove up to the Grand Canyon, and witnessed a unique phenomenon.  The area has been experiencing an "inversion" which creates thick fog in the canyons, resulting in this--

It was like the whole canyon was full of fluffy cotton candy!  We didn't realize just how special this experience was until tonight when I was looking at headlines on the Yahoo homepage, and saw a picture and story about it!

By lunchtime, the fog was mostly lifted, and we had the usual magnificent views of this wonderful National Park.  I think I am adding 2 more things to my "bucket list"--an overnight at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon, and a Colorado River raft trip.  I would love to see the view of the canyon from way down there at the bottom!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

one turkey bit the dust

 We had a lovely drive down to "home" in Iowa last Saturday, and a Thanksgiving dinner with my parents, brother and sister-in-law on Sunday.  It was a very good dinner and afternoon.  Mom cooked a turkey roast instead of the whole bird, and that was just the right size.  Plus, she cooked it in the crockpot so the oven was free for the side dishes.  We (Bob and I) will celebrate the actual Turkey Day at our place so Bob can be handy to his computer and troubleshoot problems that might arise at work.  Somebody's gotta' do it, and this time it's Bob's turn.

I will be finishing up this quilt while Bob is tuned into whatever football marathon he can find!  This is for Laurel, who will be teaching a class on it at the store.  An update on the traditional Dresden Fan blocks.

I have been intending to share some books with you, since I know many of you like to read something new.  And we are coming up on a good season for giving and receiving books, so maybe this will give you some ideas:

Brita suggested this one to me--
It is a murder mystery by an Irish author, Tana French.  It is set in Dublin, and the reader that I am listening to while driving and quilting is British, so the accent really gets me into the story.  And it is a good mystery, not something I can figure out yet and I am on disc 13 of 18.  Plus, she has written 3 more books that I believe are all about the same police detectives.  This is the first in the series, so you should start with this one.

Here's a book that my sister-in-law, Jean, recommended:

Secret Daughter by June Cross.  This is a memoir of a bi-racial woman who grew up in a divided world.  I'm not very far into it, but am curious about how it plays out.

Then, a reliable writer that always comes up with some good lawyerly story:
I am about halfway through The Litigators, and am continually amazed at the treachery and trouble that lawyers can get involved in!
So, between recorded books, actual paper books, and Kindle books, I have a good assortment.  Plus, there's a stack that have made the cut and moved from the basement bookshelf to my suitcase for my upcoming vacation reading!  What are you reading???

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

knit notes

I am suddenly in the process of knitting 3 things at once, after a dry spell with yarn.  This is partly due to the fact that I am looking forward to some vacation and holiday time over the next few weeks, and it is so easy to take along some easy knitting.  For the most part, these projects are mobile and do not demand constant attention, so I can even talk and knit at the same time!

First, a winter scarf (one can never have too many in MN!) much like some I have made before but with a different yarn.  So far, this yarn is working.  I really do prefer to buy my yarn at an actual yarn shop when I can, because the selection is great and the service is helpful.  But it's not always so convenient to do that, so sometimes I find myself wandering the yarn aisles at someplace like JoAnn's, and wondering if one of their yarns will serve the purpose I have in mind.  This pattern calls for 2 colors of variegated yarn to get the effect, and I am trying this yarn from Red Heart.  I have had a couple bad experiences with yarn that I thought was a good deal, but turned out to be a nasty texture to work on.  So let's hope this time I have it right!

I made a sweater for Ian last spring, and liked the result enough that I decided to do it again in a bigger size.  It's the letter sweater in this Debbie Bliss book--

The first sweater has a big "I" on the front.  With another little grandson coming along, Brita had the bright idea to just but a "B" on this sweater (B for Burke) and then both boys will one day wear it.  I changed to a different yarn this time, since I wasn't too happy with the amount of pilling that has sprung up all over Ian's sweater.  This time I am using Paton's Classic Wool in the DK weight.  It is washable and seems durable, both good qualities for little dude clothes!
This one will be a dark red body with gray trim on the edges and for the letter.

 And then last night over a delicious dinner with Debbie at Ingredients, our favorite spot in White Bear Lake, she showed me a cute little baby hat that she had made for her granddaughter.  As luck would have it, I happened to have the exact yarn needed here at home.  Plus the right size of needles!  So I did a test knit this morning, and have started the ribbing for this little project.  Now that I know that I have what is needed, I can zip this project into a travel bag and have it ready for a trip!  The yarn is Knitcol Trends by Adriafil.

A sure sign of winter at our house--

Bob keeps a bowl of walnuts ready to crack during a movie or tv show.  We have been working our way through the Friday Night Lights series, free on our Amazon channel via Roku.  We are now on season 5, the final season, so wondering how they are going to wrap it up with these interesting characters.  I just want to see Tim end successfully, and that McCoy kid and his dad get a comeuppance!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

one more time for these blocks

While cleaning off some shelves in my "resource room", otherwise known as the sewing room overflow area, I re-discovered a little bag of antique quilt blocks.  I think these came from a garage sale, but I am not at all sure of their origin.  There weren't enough to make a whole quilt, so I don't know if the maker had stopped before completion of a larger project, or maybe had these as left-overs?  I have no idea who made them, where they were made, or for what purpose.  But I do know that the fabrics look very much like those of the 1930's-40's, and were intriguing to me.  But they weren't made with a lot of care nor attention to detail, probably more of a utilitarian approach.  Well, I decided to see what I could make of them.

I carefully took them apart, removing all those little teeny hand stitches.  I decided that all of the white fabric was pretty decrepit, so chose not to keep it.  I am not going for museum quality here, so adding some 21st century fabric is not a deal-breaker.  

Then I gave all the little pieces a spa treatment!  A soak in a bubble bath and rinsed clean, then laying out on a nice soft towel to catch some rays.  Followed by a quick steam with the iron, and finally a little haircut to remove all the frayed edges.

 Next, I will use some little diamond paper pieces and English Paper Piecing to make them all fit together neatly again.

These are 1" on each edge, and probably just the right size for the little bits of fabric that I have to work with.  Some of those little bits are actually made of even bittier bits, seamed together to make a piece big enough for the pattern.
I am thinking I might also try to expand them by mixing in more solids in coordinating colors in additional stars, and/or using a solid in every other star point.  That would make twice as many blocks right off the bat, and get me much further towards a size that would be worth working on.
Stay tuned for the suspenseful outcome of this one!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

on the path

I have been learning a little bit about photo effects that can be used to enhance or alter the look of an everyday digital picture.  This picture was popped into Instagram and one of the filters really made the highlights of the blocks and stitching pop into view.

This was a quilt made by a customer, using the traditional "Drunkard's Path" block.  Each block is made of 2 pieces, one is a quarter of a circle and the other is the arc that matches up to that circle edge and completes the square.  This quilter used all blue and white, making a very distinctive design.  She told me she likes a more traditional style, so I thought feathers in the blocks were called for.  I tried to find a little more history about this quilt block to share with you, and didn't turn up many facts.  But I did learn this:  Legend has it that some quilters believed that it was bad luck to piece a Drunkard's Path quilt-the person who slept under it might develop a thirst for drink and wander far from home.
Let's hope that wasn't true for this quilt maker!  Probably the biggest challenge with this quilt (besides staying sober!) was determining how to do the design with the fewest stops and starts.  Those pesky stops and starts always mean securing the stitches and thread ends so they won't come apart, and can be hard to do and make as neat as possible so as to not detract from the design.  Once I figured that out, it was smooth sailing!

I finished up another very important project--

ready for stuffing!  I have written before that I made a set of 4 of these quite awhile back, where there were just 4 in our little family.  Then along came a super son-in-law, so I dusted off the old pattern and made one more.  Now, we have a need for stocking #6 plus one more on the way!  So I actually put together 3 new stockings, repeating some of the same fabrics or similar ones.  Now we have Ian's name on one, and another is reserved for his baby-brother-to-be, plus I am ahead a stocking "just in case"!
This is the trusty old pattern--
probably now only to be purchased at an antique store!  The leaves and the berry on the cuff detail are sewn on using fusible web and the blanket stitch on my machine.  I used to use this technique a lot, back in my early days of quilting, but now not so much.  It was a good jog for my memory to do it again.

I have also been dabbling with some wool pieces lately, working on some possibilities for classes at the store.  We sell quite a bit of wool and often have customers looking for instruction or just a group to join that shares the love of wool applique.
These hexagons are just the beginning of a set of pieces that would make an entire quilt.  They come from Under the Garden Moon.  There are many cute designs and include not only the applique process, but embellishment with stitching, too. 

Also in the works is a set of 12 little quiltlets that include a traditional quilt block with a wool applique design to coordinate.  These come from Buttermilk Basin, and I am working up some kits for them.

Here's my little Ian, showing off his "fish face" much to the delight of his grownups!  Just when I think he can't be any more lovable, he finds one more way to tug at my heartstrings!

Monday, November 4, 2013

fall colors

A beautiful sample of the fall colors here--

But after our very windy weather yesterday, there might not be as many leaves on that tree!

Luckily, we didn't have stormy weather last Thursday, so our favorite little treat could don his Pizza Man costume and work his way down his block.  After he got home, he got to snack on a mini Snickers bar, which seemed like a fun new experience for him!  He really didn't know what the fuss was all about with gathering candy in his bag, but I bet by next year he will have a better understanding.  Brita made his little costume, just an easy plan with felt and glue to make a crust and toppings.  It served the purpose and he didn't mind wearing it, especially when he could pick off some of the pieces!

My quilting last week was a little bit on the wild side--

Carol made this jungle quilt from a panel print.  I quilted an outline around the biggest animals and then just did a little bit of design in the background.  She chose this wonderful soft sculpted fabric for the back.

And, some quilting for Leisl that I had a little part in making.  This was a couple years ago when myself and 3 friends did a "Round Robin".  Each of us created a center square applique design.  Then it was passed on to another person in the group to add the next border.  This continued until we each got our quilt back with work done by all of the group.

This is the end result of Leisl's quilt.  Mine is still waiting for the quilter!