Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Another Small Quilt Retreat

This past weekend some of my Illinois friends from my Yahoo group organized a small quilt retreat near Chicago. Quilters from several states and Canada attended and we all had a lot of fun.

The retreat was held at Techny Towers, a conference center and former seminary in Northbrook Illinois.
The grounds were lovely.
Since it was not my retreat and I wasn't teaching a workshop, quilters were allowed to bring anything they wanted to work on. Many, of course, brought small quilt projects, some from the challenges we have been doing this year and last.
I gave a demo on making the Orange Peel quilt that's in Remembering Adelia.


Karen made us all special quilted name tags. So sweet!

We had a Show & Tell of small quilts  -
And a few large quilts too . . .

Keep this small quilt retreat in mind for later this year. Heather in our group is planning on organizing another one for the fall and perhaps we will see some of you there there. We'd love it if you joined us.

I don't want to hear any excuses that you live too far away. Helen and Linda drove all the way from Canada to sew with us here in Chicago . . .

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Miracles in the Spring Garden

I have several sentimental spring garden favorites. One is lilacs. We've always wanted a back yard filled with lilacs. My husband had many lilac bushes in his yard when he was growing up. Four or five years ago for Father's Day I bought him a lilac shrub (which he planted himself, LOL). Knowing that lilacs need several hours of sun each day and that our yard is pretty shady in spots, I still took the chance and bought it anyway and placed it in a spot near the back door where it would still get a little sun. It never bloomed. One year there was a teeny tiny flower but that was it and so year after year I resigned myself to the fact that we wouldn't be able to have lilacs in this Yard of Little Sun and would have to learn to love the hostas and perennial geraniums.
I've been so busy lately and have not had time (or energy) to do much in the yard but dream. Plus it's been so cold until recently. I did not even give a thought to the lilacs. I'd really given up hope. Then, a few days after Mother's Day, I let the dogs out into the back in the morning and as I followed them out I almost screamed. It bloomed, it bloomed! Seemingly overnight. I ran inside to text a picture of the lilacs to my husband at work.  How's that for a miracle in the garden?
Huge, lucious blooms!
I could not believe it. I do not have a green thumb and am clearly no master gardener. Lately, I just go with the flow every year, and so this was a shock to me. Why would it bloom this year and not the others? What was different about this spring? I have not fertilized any of the plants yet. It was not exactly puny when I planted it so it wasn't that it needed to grow. And it did bloom ever so slightly that one time but then just stopped. I think I'll simply call it my garden miracle and leave it at that. You just never know, do you? Perhaps all those prayers for my children to thrive spilled over into the garden, LOL.

I'm now giddy with springtime enthusiasm.
I've always had the same problem with bleeding hearts. I love bleeding heart plants and they do okay in shady gardens. But not mine. And for the life of me I have not been able to grow any for years. Of course, like an  idiot, I never gave up and still kept buying them over and over, even though they'd always die, hoping I'd get one that would thrive and bloom someday. Look - this year I have bleeding hearts too!
How sentimental is this? Pink hearts.
I did some research and my plan (a someday sentimental garden dream) is to have a perennial Cottage Garden filled with these plants:
  • Peony
  • Shrub roses
  • Geranium
  • Delphinium
  • Foxglove
  • Coneflower
  • Daisy
  • Poppy
  • Hollyhock
  • Lily
  • Phlox
  • Sweet pea climber
  • Butterfly weed
It will have to be in the front yard because that's the only place we get decent sun. Some of these are plants I already have. It's going to be a big job and I need a good couple of free weekends to work on it and then time to keep it up. If this summer is not as hot as last summer I will try to keep it going. I usually give up if it gets too hot. (I also know all about the poisonous plants on the list. The dogs do not go out in the front unsupervised, just so you know.) If you have a cottage garden yourself, show me your pictures!
Any chance I can turn this -
into this???
I think I'll need another miracle.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Belated Mother's Day

We had a very busy weekend at my house and so I did not get a chance to write a post and wish you all a Happy Mother's Day.
My best Mother's Day gift came a day early. My son received his master's degree on Saturday and so it was kind of a sentimental weekend for us.  He's been working very hard for 2 years and I was so proud of him. I try not to bore you too much with my kids' successes but sometimes I just have to let that go and share or I'll burst. I'm so proud and happy for him.
My "brilliant" son can't figure out how to wear the master's hood before the graduation ceremony . . . .
The graduation and reception was downtown at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. My son was obsessed with dinosaurs as a child and I found it amusing that the graduation reception was held at one of his favorite childhood museums that has a wonderful dinosaur exhibit. I was hoping to be able to get a good shot of him with one just for old times' sake. They would not let us leave the reception area to vist the exhibits, however. I was able to find a small glass display case with some bones and fossils and pushed him and his girlfriend in front of it to get some photos, LOL.
Isn't he adorable? He's my shining star and we all love him to pieces.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed he gets a job. He has a couple of interviews lined up but I know it's tough out there. He enjoys teasing me often that when he gets his first real job he'll be making more money than I do. Ha ha. That doesn't make me feel bad. That's what it's all about, isn't it? I feel I did my job very well and raising my kids to become  independent adults was always a high priority. We both helped prepare him for a life in which he could eventually support himself in doing something he loved and also  - take care of me and my husband someday when we are old, LOL . . . . Just kidding, son.
He wants to teach impoverished students and he doesn't seem to care that it's probably not going to be a very financially "lucrative" career. It's where his heart is and that's what matters. For several years he has been working in and interning at Head Start programs and schools in economically disadvantaged areas and hopes to find a position for fall teaching at  an urban school, helping to make a difference in young lives, working with families that are living below the poverty level. Some of the stories he tells about his teaching experiences with the kids almost break my heart.  He knows he is blessed to have had many advantages and opportunities that so many children in this country may not have had and he is able to connect so well with many of the kids and motivate them to learn. We could not be more proud of him and his goals and wish him the best of luck in achieving them.
                                                                      ~  ~  ~

“What is more powerful than the love of a mother? What possesses more strength than her humbly whispered prayers? Perhaps only God's hand in answering those earnest pleadings on your behalf.”     -Richelle E. Goodrich



Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Springtime Quilt

Have I mentioned -  it's finally spring around here and it feels so good! I'm sitting outside dreaming about my garden this year and trying to figure out if I should move some things around. Last year it was so hot that I gave up on gardening after  awhile and hoped this year would be much more fun.  
Speaking of  spring and all things springlike, look what I found -
Isn't it darling?
I've never really been drawn to yellow in quilts but this one was so cheerful it called out to me and so I bought it purely for it's simple sweetness. I cannot resist a classic nine-patch design either. Technically, it's a baby quilt, not a doll quilt, but it's still small and hey - who knows? If I am lucky enough to be a grandma in the future I may get to use it someday. 
However, this "baby" seems to have taken it over for now . . . . .

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Challenge Quilt for May

Happy May! Spring has finally sprung. It was a whopping 80 degrees here yesterday. It won't last I hear but it sure is nice to see the sun and some of the plants coming up. For me, it's always time to bring out some of my lighter fabrics too . . . .
If you are still following along and making one quilt a month (or perhaps one quilt every 2 or 3 months) here's the quilt we're making for May.
"Sweet Pea"
You can find the pattern here.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Little Quilts and Blue

I'm still making things with blue fabric. I was looking for something yesterday and found something else.  For some reason, as soon as I saw the bag of squares I remembered the quilt I started long ago and instantly became inspired to try to finish it.  Does that ever happen to you?

I don't know what it is about this antique doll quilt but I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it. The blues and the dots pulled me in, I think.

I had cut out the pieces but must have gotten busy, packed it away and never had the urge to finish. So I immediately put down the other project I had been working on, took some of the already cut pieces from the bag then updated them with some newer blues and pinks and background squares and started to sew, with CNN on in the background. What a day.

I can't remember exactly when I started cutting the squares for this little quilt but I know I fell in love with the quilt years ago. It's in a book by the Little Quilts ladies and was one of the first quilting books I bought when I first entertained the idea of quilting in 2000. See, I had to buy a whole bunch of books first to inspire me - then I took the leap. There were not a lot of books on small quilts out then.

The very first quilt I made was also from a pattern in a Little Quilts book. Who knew that a few years later I'd become addicted to making small quilts and would be designing my own and getting them published? That's the beauty of quilting -  you never know exactly where it will take you.

I sure hope I can finish it this time. I think it'll be really cute when I'm done. And it will probably turn out much better because I waited.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires

Some of you who are in my Yahoo group Small Quilt Talk participated with me in our recent 6"  x  6"  charm fabric swap. My charms arrived yesterday and Oh WOW, take a look -

Receiving a package of fabric in the mail is enough to make me swoon. How about you?
Question: Do our husbands know this?? I don't really crave diamonds, rubies or sapphires. Fabric in beautiful colors is gem enough for me sometimes. My husband "persuaded" me to fall in love with him on our first Valentine's Day together by sending me at least 50 different funny valentines he arranged to have delivered throughout the day at my office. It drove the mail department nuts . . . I think he paid them to send someone to run upstairs with a few every 15 minutes. So sweet and romantic. He knew I'd love that more than flowers or candy. Oh, okay, sure, I'll be your girlfriend. I think I'd fall in love all over again if I got pretty fabric in the mail on a regular basis. (Hint, hint . . . I'm also partial to silver now, Hon. )

I signed up for 2 sets of 40 and so received 80 squares of assorted reproduction fabrics.
Gorgeous, no?
I love the variety. As you can imagine, I played with my squares for a very long time.  So pretty and many I had never seen before. No uglies! Lovely prints in so many different colors.
I am going to look at them for a little while longer before I actually have the heart to cut into them . . . .

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Getting Healthy from Lack of Sleep

I go through phases where I don't always sleep well at night. Every woman I know has had this problem at one time or another too and for some it's chronic. I'm a very light sleeper and I'm usually fine until something wakes me up, whether it's snoring or the dog whining to go out. Just about anything will wake me and once I am awake I often have a hard time falling back asleep. One night, a few weeks ago,  I woke up at 3:00 a.m. for no reason and could not get back to sleep. Instead of tossing and turning I went downstairs to make a cup of weak tea and watch TV, thinking it might help me to relax and eventually fall back asleep. It usually does the trick.
All that's on TV at 3:00 a.m. is infomercials. I got caught up in this one for the Nutribullet.  Have you seen it?

Transform ordinary foods into Superfoods and add years to your life!

It's not a blender! Not a juicer! The Nutribullet PULVERIZES your fruits and vegetables to make smoothies that are healthy and easier to digest (one of my weak points) so your body can absorb the nutrients better.  Juicers remove all the fiber (I need fiber) and blenders don't actually blend fruits and vegetables to a smooth consistency that well. Trust me, I've tried it.
Could this be for real? I was too tired to question it.  I remembered my son's energetic fifth-grade teacher telling me years ago that "juicing" changed his life. But did I listen? One woman in the infomercial said she finally had a good night's sleep the SAME night she started drinking the Nutriblast smoothies. Oh my gosh, that did it, LOL. (This must be why they put these commercials on at 3:00 a.m. when no one can sleep.) Who doesn't want to be healthy and sleep well too? If it sounds like a gimmick you're probably right. But, tired as I was at 3 a.m. it was one I could not resist. Hey, it could have been worse - I could have been taken in by that 40-ft flexible garden hose that's being advertised all over (sorry, Judy) or wound up with 8 fake suede jackets in all the colors of the rainbow.

I did not immediately rush to buy it over the phone in 3 easy installments, give me some credit. I resisted, did some research and then took my 20 %  off coupon and headed over to Bed, Bath & Beyond the next day.

Laugh if you will but I have to say, I haven't had so much fun with a new kitchen appliance since I bought my percolator . . . which is still working by the way.
This is a lot of fun. Easy to use, very easy to clean up. I should start feeling great and looking younger any day now . . . .
The recipe book calls for spinach or some other healthy greens as a base, then you add your fruit and water. Add nuts for protein if you like. I added a dollop of yogurt and a tiny bit of apple juice. I am thinking of buying some protein powder and adding that too. Frozen fruit gives it a nice cool texture.
My son the Nutrition Expert thought it was good and said - "Add more spinach to mine next time, I can't even taste it!"  When was the last time you heard your child say THAT?
I love this thing. The smoothie tasted great. I won't lie though - if you put in too much spinach it will be green. But I could not taste the spinach at all -  the whole thing was very, very fruity and smooth. Last evening after dinner, instead of bringing out the chips bag, I caught my husband grabbing the vanilla yogurt and cutting up some strawberries, bananas and frozen peaches and heading over to the Kitchen Smoothie Counter (from now on the KSC, if you will). Definitely the first time I have ever seen this happen.
This chip clip OINKS when you open the package. Someone bought it for someone else at my house. (No names.)
Vote now -  am I the only crazy one out there who was sucked into this??


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