Friday, February 29, 2008

A Center

Last year, probably right when it came out, I fell in love with the Sunshine collection by April Cornell for Moda. I think a lot of people fell in love with that collection. It's a nice and cheerful one. I liked the line, but I did not know what to do with it. So I decided to buy a few of the charm packs and a little yardage to make a quick quilt. I figured when I saw the fabric in person, I would get inspired and whip up a little something.

No such luck. I got the fabric, looked through it, really liked it, drew a blank, and promptly shelved it. I have pulled it down quite a few times, but never has inspiration struck.

Not to say that 1000 designers haven't designed quilts for this line, because they have. There are tons of patterns out there featuring this line, and furthermore, featuring this line as a charm square quilt. How much easier could this have been made for me? Fabric... pattern... DONE. But none of the patterns grabbed me. So the fabric stayed on the shelf.

I have become ashamed of myself for letting it sit that long, and so I've pulled the fabric down and have started a quilt. I have no plan. This is a first for me, making it up as I go. It'll be an adventure, and I thought I'd take you with me.

This is part one:

The middle. OOOOOOOOHHHHHH!!! Middle-ish!

First thing I did was remove all the green squares from the charm packs because that green was icky. It just killed the whole flow. Really yuck. So there won't be any green in the quilt, other than what's accenting the flowers as stems and such. Once I removed the green, the quilt sort of opened up. I put the squares on point with a color arrangement that is random, but not that random (I actually have a hard time being random--it doesn't come easily for me). And now I will build it from there.

I don't know what I will do next. I have a bunch of charm squares left over to use, and a little yardage of two colors for the border. It needs punch, so that'll be the first thing. And it's really quite small right now (I think 37"), so I have to work on that too. I hope this experiment works. I'm really more of a planner than a "fly by the seat of my pants"-er, so this is going to be interesting. But you'll be able to see it every step of the way, whether it flops or not!

PS--The giveaway is still open, so please leave a comment and be entered!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Post #50 Giveaway!

I've reached post #50, and as promised, I'd like to hold a giveaway. Just a little something to say thank you for visiting with me for the past few months and listening to me ramble on. You've all made me feel welcome, and I thank you for that!

I made this pincushion out of a transferware cup. I used some of the things that came in those bags from Flights of Fancy to make it. There were some lovely things in those bags!

If you would like to participate in the giveaway, just leave a comment. This blog is currently open to anonymous comments, because I realize a number of visitors may be from WordPress or TypePad and couldn't comment otherwise. If you do not have a Blogger account and would like to enter, just be sure to leave your name in the comment, so I know who you are! Also, if you have a blog that's not a Blogger blog, it'd be great if you'd leave that addy, so I can come and visit.
The drawing will be Sunday, March 2nd. I wish you all the best of luck and thank you for participating!

Monday, February 25, 2008

That Other Hobby

As my husband would say "Which one is that??"

Ok, yeah, I have a few hobbies. Just a few. Not like a million or anything.

Here I mean cross-stitching. I haven't posted anything about it in a long time, though I have been working on a piece pretty constantly for the last month. I have to admit I was in a bit of a stitching slump at the end of the year last year, only working on small pieces with little commitment. But then the bug bit me again last month, and I picked up a piece I haven't worked on since maybe last summer. Maybe some of you are/have stitched it? It's called Floralie by Papillion Creations. This is mine so far:
This is a piece that feels like I'm either not making any progress on it at all, and then I step back and discover I actually have, or that I feel like I'm making lots of progress on it, and then I step back and discover I actually haven't. It's never one where I feel like "Oh, I'm making good progress", and I'm actually making good progress. It's odd that way.

I think the reason for the slow and not so slow progress is the fact that I'm working it in linen thread on linen fabric. Has anyone else tried this? This is a first for me. Usually I like either DMC (or some other cotton)on linen or silk on linen. Both are strong and smooth and even and I know what the tension is to get the right stitch. For this piece, though, I wanted it to look old, and though the hand-dyed cottons are nice, they are usually pretty vibrant and shiny. So I first thought about linen threads, and DMC. Their threads are nice, but the color pallet is limited in their linens, and I wasn't loving their greens, though I liked the blues. Then I discovered Olde Willow Threads, and they have lots of beautiful hand-dyed colors. I picked a blue, a green and a brown, and ordered some of each.
As it turns out, the blue was too light for the linen, and just got lost. So I still needed to use the DMC blue, which was fine, because I liked it. But I still liked the Olde Willow blue too, so I decided to use primarily the DMC blue, and to "throw in" the Olde Willow blue randomly here and there. That, coupled with the hand dyed green that changes color from light to dark, gave it a nice aged look.

Then there was a hinky in the works. I only ordered a little bit of the green and blue from Olde Willow. I was going to be ok with the amount of blue, but not the green. So I ordered more. Guess what?? They changed their color. The old green is a sagey-mossy green. The new green is a greeny-blue. Ugh. It's my own fault though, I didn't expect them to change the color that drastically. But since the whole thing is all different shades because of the hand-dyes, I just went through and picked out some of the "old" green sections and re-stitched them with the new green so they will blend.

That's taken a bit of time. Add to that the fact that linen rubbing on linen causes the linen (thread) to break, and I wind up working with very short lengths at a time, and not being able to use the tension I normally would. But it's coming along. I am sticking with it and I'm hoping to make a lot more progress and either finish it, or at least do a lot more before I put it away again. Really, I'm hoping to finish. When I make more progress, I'll definitely show you!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I've Got Mail

I've been so busy, I forgot to tell you about some nice things I received in the mail recently. On Saturday, I received a book from Oh Sew Cozy. She had a giveaway in January, and I won! I received the book, "Simple Things, Small Joys".

It's a lovely book. Nice and simple quilts, bright and pretty. Thank you very much, Kris! I still wish I were close enough to visit your shop!

Also, I recieved on Tuesday my order from Flights of Fancy Boutique. It was a fluke that I found this site, but they had such lovely things, I know I'll be back again. I was looking for embellishments, and they popped up. Not knowing exactly what I wanted (it was hard to decide), I went for their scrap bags--they call them their Bags of Elegance. Normally, I like to know exactly what I'm buying, but this time I didn't know where to start. I ordered the lace bag, the ribbons bag, and the "Ultimate Bag of Embellishments". I wasn't disappointed. Look at all the pretty things!

The bag of lace. I love that tatted doily!

The ribbon bag

The "Ultimate Bag of Embellishments"

They are all so pretty, I looked through it all quite a few times. I can definitely recommend this site, if you're looking for some pretty little things.

So, ok, I've talked about embellishments and a giveaway I won. What's it leading to? A giveaway of my own!! In 2 posts, I'll be up to 50, and I'd love to have a giveaway then. So, stay tuned!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Quick Post

Well, the little boy is much better. I am relieved to say that he had his stitches out on Monday, and again he was a trooper. After doctor removed his stitches, and he got up and asked for a sticker. So, all is well. His boo-boo is healing up nicely, and his black eye is going away. I am very happy.

On the other fronts, the bathroom reno is going along very well. I have to put in some time with it today, but it's down to just the detail work at this point. Hopefully this weekend my husband and I will get some time to do the shopping for the accessories--like hand towels and waste paper baskets and such. The bathroom is coming out so well, it deserves new fancy things.

I thought I would share some pictures with you of how it looks so far:

We put up crown moulding

New sink, faucet, and mirror

New towel holders (but no new towels yet)

New light fixture

Brand new (beautiful) floor

This is one of the times I really wish you could come into the room to see it up close. There is just no way to really take a great picture of it. For example, I can't get a great picture of the wall color. It's a soft grey-brown with a finish that looks like old plaster. The room itself looks like something you'd find in an old 1800's brownstone. The transformation is really amazing. It went from a hideous 1970's throwback to a really elegant space--and it's not even done yet!! It really is beautiful. I am very, very pleased with it. I will definitely post again with more pictures when it is all completed and accessorized. For now, I've got to get to work!

Have a great day.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Trip to the Hospital

Hello everyone!

I apologize for not wishing everyone a happy Valentine's Day yesterday. Wednesday night we took my son to the hospital. He was running and playing, and tripped and fell and put a gash in his beautiful face. My poor little sunshine. He required 4 stitches. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time this has happened. It's actually the third. The first time he got 7 stitches in his chin because he had a fork and was bouncing up and down on his chair, and then he fell off, and the fork went... well, I think you can put two and two together. He was about 2 years old. Last year, he fell out of his bed in the middle of the night and cut open his forehead. The doctors chose not to stitch it, but they did glue it, and we did have to go to the hospital. He was 3. This time, he's about 4, and fell down and required stitches again. Adding to these three trips to the hospital to the time he was hospitalized for a medical condition at 5 months, my beautiful little boy has been to the hospital one time for every year of his life.

I hate to say it, but he's started to look at it like it's old hat. He got the cut, cried and cried, and we told him we'd have to take him to the hospital. At first he said no (not that he was going to have a choice in this matter), and then I told him he'd been there before, when he fell off his bed. Then he remembered and was ok with it. When we pulled up to the hospital, he recognized it and said "Oh, THIS hospital? I LIKE this hospital!! We went here when I fell out of my bed yesterday!".

Well, not exactly yesterday, little love, but it sort of feels that way.

He was a brave soldier. We waited a little while, and then a kind nurse took us in and looked him over. He hadn't lost conciousness (thank goodness!), so they just checked out his eyes to make sure he had no head trauma and then cleaned his wound. When the nice doctor came in and looked him over and stitched him up (well, there's a little more to it, but it's a long story), he was so good. He yelled, but he didn't move. Not an inch. When it was over I hugged him and hugged him and hugged him.

As we left the hospital, my husband and I asked him if he could be more careful so we didn't have to come back to the hospital again. He told us "No, we HAVE to come back. I LIKE it! They give me stickers!"

We asked him if it could not be soon. He told us "No, we'll come back tomorrow".

Let's hope not.

I love you, my little sunshine boy, get better soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Voiceless But Busy

Well, this is a first for me--I have laryngitis. My voice is a hoarse whisper which goes away at will. Sunday I had a very hoarse voice. Yesterday I woke up and couldn't talk. Today is no different. Would it be wrong for me to say I am enjoying it? I am. There is something very peaceful about not being able to talk. There are so many extraneous things we say that don't really need to be said, and not having much of a voice, I'm not saying them. It's bliss. Equally nice is the fact that yesterday, when I was first voiceless and whispering on and off, my children mirrored me and whispered too. It was so quiet here. Today the effect is not the same; though I can't talk, they are. Plenty. Oh well. At least I can't yell. That really is nice.

Anyway, enough about me. I thought I'd share with you where I've been the past few days. You might recall, back when I started this blog, I told you that my husband and I bought this house and it needed a bit of fixing up. Mainly, a lot of it was stuck in the 70's, which is when it was built. Well, slowly and surely, since we bought it a couple of years ago, we've been working on it. The first year we did some things, last year we did some things, and this year, same.

Our first project for this year is the "holdout bath". There are 3 bathrooms in this house. Two on the second floor (one common, one master), and one on the first, for guests. The two on the second floor were updated somewhat. The floors were replaced, the tiles in the showers/bathtubs were redone. Last year we replaced the toilets (because 1970s toilets use a ludicrous amount of water) and the countertop in one, and painted them and fixed them up. They didn't need too much work. We ignored the "holdout bath" on the first floor--the one that hadn't been updated since the 70's. The bath is/was ugly. Dingy "white" walls. Hideous linoleum, dark walnut-stained trim, lovely yellow toilet and towel bar, huge, dark 1970's sink cabinet with faux marble counter and matching lovely yellow sink. It is/was really bad. But it requires the most work/money, so we just ignored it, because there was so much else to do.

But not this year. It's the first thing to work on now. So these past few days we've been gutting it, and then I was working on painting the trim and filling in the holes in the walls. Yesterday my husband did the plumbing. Today I think I may be able to do a final sanding and then paint the walls, which I am really looking forward to.

Just in case you enjoy home remodel like we do, or if you just enjoy before and after pictures of home remodels, I thought I would show you what the room looked like "before", or at least when the demolition had only just begun. Be prepared! This room is/was not pretty. :)

The infamous ugly linoleum floor. As bad as it is, it's actually covering a floor that was even uglier. Scary, right? That loveliness used to be in the kitchen too, but we got rid of it last year. Shudder!!

Lovely yellow towel bar and toilet paper holder. The toilet in the picture is the new one--we put it in place late last year when the bathroom started to be used (previously it really wasn't) and we were unhappy about the old one's water consumption. The toilet is coming back, so you'll see it again when the room's done.

Dingy white walls and lovely dark brown trim around the window. This room also has the honor of being the laundry room, so this has been a challenge, to say the least.

1970's "faux bois" cabinet. Immensely big and dark and way in the way.

Faux marble top and lovely yellow sink with fairly no frills faucet that no longer turns properly.

So that's what was. The light fixture had been removed already, or I would have taken a picture of it for you. My daughter called it the "scary light". It was basically a fixture that had one light that stuck out from the wall and had an outlet in it. I don't know why it was the "scary light". I always thought it would look perfectly at home in a campground bathroom somewhere.

All of this lovely stuff was taken out, and the room is in a shambles. And what's going back in? Well, that's the fun part, right? First, the toilet comes back and a pedestal sink is added in lieu of that cabinet. The "scary light" is being replaced with a two-light fixture in an oil-rubbed bronze finish (sorry--I looked for a pic, but can't find one). The faucet is oil-rubbed bronze. The towel rings and paper holder are same. Wide white dentil crown moulding is going up, wide white baseboard is going down. The trim around the window and door is white. The walls will be painted a soft grey. And the floor? Dark. Nice and dark. I won't tell you about that just yet, you'll have to wait and see. I'm very excited about it.

We are making progress. I will definitely show you the "after" photos, which I'm hoping will be next week. We have found that this bathroom is hard to live without, so we're trying not to live without it for too long, especially because it has the washer/dryer, and we have kids. :) So, stay tuned!! There will be more!

PS--As I am a dutiful scientist, I should also update you on the chocolate covered cherry experiment. I have been faithfully sampling one every so often (and sometimes too often), and I can tell you, that yes, they really do liquify nicely. For a while not much happened, but now they're really doing whatever they do, and they're doing it well. I think that by Valentine's Day they will be really nice, and if I had had the time to keep them longer, they'd be fabulous. So far so good! I'll let you know the final outcome!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thanks, Kids!!

So the fish quilt has a new home. I donated it to Project Linus yesterday, because not only have I heard of the charity before and like what they do, they also have a chapter in Orange County, and fortuitously, their drop-off point is right where I was going to be. It was kismet. I hope that someone will enjoy the quilt. Surprisingly, I felt a slight twinge of regret when I laid it out to take this picture. I thought for a moment that maybe I should keep it, because of all the work and the fabrics were somewhat expensive and.......then I snapped out of it. I feel it's more important to donate it to someone who will (hopefully) love it rather than just keep it around "because". I think I made the right decision.

But that's not my story. My story is about my kids, whom I love and adore. While photographing this quilt, my daughter, who is 6 and very good at it, looks at it and says, "Why are you giving it away?".

I say, "Because I don't like it. It doesn't fit in the house well". And it doesn't fit me, and I think I made it because I was just following the fabric to it's logical conclusion, instead of really thinking whether or not I'd want the thing around afterward. (But I don't say that, obviously.)

So she says, "Can I have it?".

I think about that for a second, because I was having the twinging little doubts about donation, and I'm flattered that she wants something I have made, but then I remember she's 6 and her normal thing is to want something, get something, take care of it for a few days, and then forget about it under the bed or in the closet or something like that(this does not hold true for My Little Ponies, but quilts, yeah, that's the case). Then most likely I'll take possession of the thing again. She's 6. That's what kids do. And since that'll leave me in the same predicament of wanting to give it away, only several days later, I say "No".

Then my son chimes in and says "Why you don't like it?" (he's 3--we're still working on grammar)

And I say "It just doesn't really fit. I guess I just don't like it too much."

He says "It's ugly?"

"No," I sigh, "it's not ugly. I guess I just don't like the way it came out. That's all".

But the notion that the quilt is ugly is now implanted in his little boy brain, and it'll come back to bite me later.

We head to Middletown, which is where we were going for several reasons, and do our errands. Then we head to the AC Moore, which is the dropoff point for Project Linus here in Orange County. I get to the counter, and show the package to the cashier and ask her if they take the donations at the counter, or if I need a manager.

"I can take it", she tells me. And she looks at it, all wrapped up and says "Oh, it's all wrapped and everything".

It was wrapped because I didn't have a bag big enough to stuff it in. Plus, I felt bad just shoving it into a bag. But of course, it's wrapped, so you can't see it. So you can't tell what it looks like. Which is fine, except that now my daughter speaks up and says, "My mom doesn't like it".

I mumble something about how it wasn't what I was expecting when it turned out, and it just doesn't fit in, or whatever, and then my daughter speaks up and says "So we're getting rid of it."

Thank you, kiddo! Now the woman looks at me like I'm dumping toxic waste on her, and giving the charity something ugly and horrid. So I mumble something else about how we're not getting rid of it, it just doesn't fit and blah blah blah, I don't even know what I said, but the whole time I'm fighting the urge to grab the package back and rip it open and show her it really is a nice quilt, and my son, my lovely, lovely son, whom I adore, opens his sweet little innocent mouth and says, "It's ugly".

Ah, there it is. The final nail in the coffin. I was waiting.

Of course, now the woman is positive that I've dumped some horrid thing on her to give to someone. I can't reach the package to open it and show her that's not the case (nor should I--let's try to be mature adults here, right?), and I can't say anything to dissuade her thinking, so I just slink away. And once outside, thank my children for being wonderful and honest, but perhaps next time if they could just not be quite SO honest all the time, I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Sweet Experiment

I'm trying something a little different this year. I'm making my own Valentine treats. It's a bit of an experiment, because I don't know how it's going to work out, but I figured I'd give it a try.

I got the recipe from my Gooseberry Patch calendar. I've used their recipes before with good result, so I thought I'd try this one and see. This is a recipe for chocolate covered cherries. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out for you. I'll let you know how it goes for me!

Chocolate Covered Cherries
You need:
3 10 oz jars maraschino cherries with stems, drained
3 T margarine
3 T light corn syrup
2 c. powdered sugar
1 lb melting chocolate, chopped.

1. Drain cherries on paper towels for several hours.

2. Combine margarine and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Stir in powdered sugar.

3. Shape 1/2 teaspoon mixture around each cherry.
**To do this, I took a little of the mixture in my hand, rolled it into a ball to warm it up, then flattened it, and wrapped it around the cherry. Then I smoothed it out. It was time consuming, but kind of relaxing, once I got the hang of it.

4. Chill for one hour, or until firm.
**Put them on something non-stick, because they will stick. Here I used a Silpat. Buttering or spraying the pan will work too, I think.

5. Melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Dip cherries in chocolate and chill. Store in an airtight container. Allow candy to ripen 2 weeks to develop liquid centers. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

I have a couple of notes to add to this recipe. First, I bought 2 16 oz jars of maraschino cherries. Since 3 10 oz are 30 oz, and 2 16 oz are 32 oz, and that was more cost effective, that's what I went with. I don't know if that 2 oz are just a billion more cherries or whatever, but I wound up with at least 7 dozen cherries, instead of the 4 or 5 dozen they were saying. Also, I couldn't find cherries with stems. Maybe that's why I had so many more? Anyway, because I did have so many more, I had to make the corn syrup/powdered sugar mixture twice. And I found that you need 4 to 5 tbs of corn syrup, not the 3. 3 tbs. leaves the mixture too crumbly to shape.

Right now, I have 80 some-odd little balls of chocolate sitting in the fridge. I made them on Sunday, so they won't have 2 weeks even to "ripen", but I'm still hoping for the best. I will let you know!