Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Phoenix Mystery Quilt IV

(to get caught up, please read posts tagged "Mystery Quilt"

The "cobblestone" blocks were the ones I stubbed my toe on - the ones which flagged the error in the original pattern and caused my world to come crashing down, albeit temporarily.

But the stubbed toe has healed, and we are now off to make more "cobblestones"

So - today we are going to assemble the remaining 2" blocks into pairs, and then into four-patches. UPDATE: These can be as scrappy and random as you like, or more uniform if you have chosen fewer fabrics.

You should be working with 288 2" squares (you used 144 of your 432 in the Eyes)
You should end up with 72 4 patches.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We interrupt this program...

Dirty Tales from the Garden will not be seen this week. Instead we are pleased to present new programming, the product of a joint venture between Matt the Web Guy and The Queen Bee (otherwise known as Hubby and I)

We've decided to take our home cooking (and consuming) out of the home and into your computer - and have launched a new blog: Any Ideas for Dinner? where we will bring you recipes, ideas, techniques, banter, and lots of fun photos.

OK - I will admit here (and probably there eventually) that Hubby does MOST of the cooking around here. He likes to do it, he's good at it, and it works well in our division of labor in keeping this household running somewhat smoothly. That's not to say I don't like to cook - and from time to time I will get the inspiration and kick him out of the kitchen.

So you never know what will be on the menu.

Oh - and watch for some guest bloggers, too (once we talk them into it!)

So grab a fork, dig in, and ENJOY!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday bliss

This was a wonderful Saturday a few years back - Hubby on the porch, power and hand tools at the ready, flag flying, saw dust blowing.

Then we sat on the front step, drink and picnic lunch in hand, and watched the cars go by.

And then we both got back to work on the house.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Flashback Friday - Regina the Destructor

Hubby and I recently purchased a new laptop, and in preparation for transferring a lot of documents from our old computer to our new, I have "unearthed" a bunch of photos that had been stored on the old computer, and kind of pushed by the wayside after the rapid influx of Munchkin photos.

Little bit of backstory on these (because you will see more) - in 2001 Hubby and I purchased our first home - a 1929 modified American Four Square. It was an estate sale, and the home had been empty for a few months, and neglected a bit before that. It was livable, but there were a few projects we planned to do...over time.

And then Hubby let me into the bathroom to take off the shower doors and put up a rod... and then next thing we knew... this full gut of the bathroom was happening.

The renovation adventures are fodder for a whole other blog, - and I won't get into them in too much detail. Suffice it to say that I wield a mean crowbar and sledgehammer - and that this bathroom is now 'mostly' back together, new and improved.

Watch for more renovation flashbacks to come! You will soon see even more of my hidden talents!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Recipe Time - "sushi" sweets

So what's a gal to do when she wants to pull out her dish ware from her life in Japan and share a nice meal with her in-laws, but she knows they don't care for sushi?

Make it sweet!!

We had Hubby's family over for dinner one night - a few years back - and although I can't recall what the dinner menu was - Sweet Sushi was our dessert.

This glorious selection was made up of various cake rolls (Hostess/Little Debbie type stuff), a rice type granola bar (I think - don't remember exactly), and fruit gummies for garnish. Oh - and our "soy sauce" was actually chocolate syrup.

I just wandered through the grocery store looking at boxed food and thinking - "hmm - that looks 'sushi-ish'" and adding them to my cart. It was loads of fun.

I did find that it helped to freeze the cake rolls prior to slicing to keep them from squishing down and getting all deformed.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Phoenix Mystery Quilt III

(if you are needing to catch up - please read the posts tagged "Mystery Quilt")

The "Eye Blocks"

When I was at the deepest darkest moment of despair and realized none of my blocks could be used in the original pattern, my brain immediately started twisting and turning these big focal blocks around in my brain to figure out how else they could be combined into a pleasing design.

In the soap bubble sketches on the bathroom shower tiles, the "eye blocks" were born.

To assemble - stitch pairs of the blue blocks together, matching triangle corners.
NOTE: for a scrappier look, be sure that adjacent triangles are not of the same fabric.
You will make 36 pairs of these:

To make the "eye block" combine these blocks together, matching the center triangle, to form this:

You will end up with 18 of these blocks that measure 8.5" square.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Blog Fodder - Whose Is It???

Hubby and I joke around about things being "blogworthy" or "I am so going to blog this" when fun stuff happens around our house. I am the more frequent blogger, and take the majority of the photos - so when we do follow through on those "blogworthy" items, they usually end up here.

But as much as I blog about my crafting and hobbies, I need to let Hubby blog about his, even when it is something that we both enjoyed.

Like his cooking!!!
So here is your drool alert - and here is the link to Hubby's blog.

Turtle of the Day - Kame

"Kame" is the Japanese word for turtle, and turtles and cranes are common symbols in Japanese folk art and mythology.

A few weeks ago I posted about my garden and the Alien Seed Pods, and I finally got my seeds sent out to people who wanted them. One great friend swapped some cilantro seeds back to me - and included this wonderful fat quarter of fabric in the package with the seeds.

It's a lovely shade of burgundy, and has the look of silk in a wonderfully soft cotton. I've suddenly grown this wonderful collection of turtle fabrics through the generosity of some very special people - I am going to have to start including a turtle somewhere in each quilt I make or something fun like that. None of them really match so I can't really do a turtle fabric only project, unless I issue sunglasses with it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - Making a flower "bed"

So what do YOU do with an air mattress that has developed a leak? Especially a flocked mattress that has developed a leak in the flocked side?

I choose to use it to turn my grassy areas into flower beds.

I had hubby cut it all apart for me (cutting through the interior baffles was an interesting challenge) and then just lay it down over the grass with some rocks. This is the third location these have been used in - the first area I let it overwinter, and when I pulled it up in the spring the grass beneath was dead and decomposing, so I just tilled up the area, and then mulched and planted as I wished. In another area it did not die back as much, but was easy to de-sod and plant. This spot I will probably leave all winter and then prep in the spring for some rose bushes.

So it's not the comfiest air mattress anymore -but it's probably getting more use than the one we use for guests!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Giveaway Alert

Higgins Design Studio is having a greeting card giveaway on her blog. I've known this artist my entire life (she's my Sister Cindy) - and have quite a collection of her handiwork - it's all very beautiful!!! (this is the same sister who made my Lucky Turtle pendant)

She's taking entries through Saturday, September 20th. Just stop on over to her blog and leave your comments to be entered.

I'm going to keep myself out of this one - to increase the odds for the rest of you.

Good luck!

Dirty Tales from the Garden - Pea Buckets

When people drive past our house, it is probably obvious that we are cat owners. Not because our cats are outside - because they are strictly indoor cats - but because kitty litter buckets are a fixture around our yard.

Prior to the construction of my planting beds, I had 12 kitty litter buckets that were drilled in the bottom for drainage that I used for my vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, even a batch of chives - all planted in white buckets and lined up in the back yard.

This year I decided to use the buckets for the peas, and set them up on blocks along the picket fence - giving the peas something to climb on, and preventing some of the critters (bunnies) from nibbling tender leaves and pods.

The rest of these buckets get used for weeding, tool buckets for gardening tools and in Hubby's workshop, and to seal up the bags of birdseed in the garage so that Chippy does not gorge himself too much on it. I had to retire a few when the plastic handle cracked on them, but there are always plenty more in the queue, as their load of cat litter cycles through the box, and the empty ones are cleaned and put to use elsewhere.

They do sell kitty litter in cardboard boxes -but what fun is that?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Phoenix Mystery Quilt II

And now we come to step 2. (Go here if you missed step 1 and the back-story)

Since the original pattern from allpeoplequilt.com is what got me into this trouble in the first place, I am 'borrowing' their illustration for the first stage of the sewing.

Sew 2" squares to opposite corners of your blue 4.5" blocks, trimming off the excess and pressing to form 4.5" blocks.

You will have a total of 72 of these blocks.

Choose scraps with a high contrast to your main block color, and that are relatively close in value to each other. For mine I used a mix of all my tans for these corner triangles.

Next week - Eye Blocks.

(yes -I know this quilt is progressing in "baby steps" but I am trying to stretch it out so I can keep one step ahead of you and still get a ton of other things done this fall - don't despair, the Phoenix should fly by Christmas)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Turtle of the Day - All Buttoned Up

Looky what I found in the clearance bin at JoAnn's???

The crazy thing is that I never noticed these when they were somewhere else in the store at full price - but found them as I was pawing around a big basket of clearance items.

There was a wonderful selection of Americana buttons - all painted ceramic like these - chickens, pigs, cows, schoolhouses - but I really did not have a use for them so I did not get any. I kept digging past those and found these in the bottom of the basket (sometimes it pays to be persistent.)

I was able to get 2 cards of the turtles (yes - LSS I got some for YOU!), one BIG one that is a lion (same soft colors), and one card of the dolphins.

Why dolphins? Well, I've got a friend who really really really likes dolphins, and I thought she needed these - so they are now in an envelope on their way to her mailbox. She will probably see this post before they get to her - so SURPRISE!!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A family who walks to help...and one who blogs...

Earlier this spring, my sister walked for the American Cancer Society. Now Hubby's sister is walking for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Her walk is September 26th. Her team, formed of a group of co-workers, is walking in honor of a few co-workers who are dealing with cancer in various stages. I am not walking with them, but blogging to help share the word. The information below is from the Light the Night website.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Light The Night Walk is an annual event to raise funds for cures. It’s the nation’s night to pay tribute and bring hope to thousands of patients and their families.

Funds raised through Light The Night Walk support the work of hundreds of the world’s best and brightest researchers in their search for better therapies and cures for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma.

Anyone can take part—children, adults and seniors are all welcome. This is a casual Walk with no fitness requirements. Not only will you be helping find cures, but there are incentives that can be earned for different fundraising levels. Learn more about Walk incentives.

Now in it's 10th year, Light The Night is celebrating a Decade of Difference. During this time:

  • Nearly half a million patients and their caretakers have called the LLS Information Resource Center and received critical information about blood cancers, therapy options and issues surrounding treatment and survival.
  • Nearly $40 million was disbursed to patients through the LLS Patient Assistance program to help them get the treatment they needed to fight their cancer.
  • Over 100,000 patients and family members found comfort and hope through LLS First Connection and Family Support Groups.
  • LLS granted $425 million to more than 400 scientists searching for cures and improved treatments for patients.
  • LLS funding contributed to the development of a host of new drugs that are affecting patient survival and quality of life.
  • LLS-funded researchers began working in novel areas that hold great promise for finding cures and better treatments including new, less toxic stem cell transplants, immunotherapies and other targeted therapies.
  • Our Advocacy Network has successfully supported pro-patient legislation that will:
    • Help advance blood cancer research
    • Extend Medicare coverage to include oral anti-cancer drugs
    • Help fund efforts to reach underserved blood cancer patients

Please bring help and hope to thousands of people battling cancer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Flashback Friday - The Little Munchkin

I've got this great little "widget" on my computer that goes through my photo folders and pulls up random images all day long. Other than the old old slides that I blackmail my siblings with, and a few of crafty projects and other such things, the majority of these pictures are of The Munchkin. It is amazing to go from 3 days old in one photo, to 3 years old in the next.

For this week's Flashback Friday I decided to go find this image of him from September 12, 2005.

There were so many remarkable things about this photo.
1. He was so little.
2. Most of his toys fit in that basket.
3. The coffee table/trunk was still in the living room, and not relegated to the bedroom to allow more living room rug space for trains.
4. The magazines were actually neatly sorted and not all mushed in a pile. We must of either had company coming or they had just been there.
5. He was so little.

Then I got carried away and pulled images from as close to this date as I could in 2006 and 2007. In the 2nd image we were starting to have to corral him in - although the "play yard" encompassed most of the living room. He was starting to pull himself onto the couch a lot, and so the wrapped cushions with slipcover underneath were to keep the slipcover ON the sofa (those cushions now have fun funky striped covers on them).

We were outside for the bubble photo - unfortunately dino the bubble maker only lasted one season. We did get a new one for this year, but have yet to pull him out. He's still wearing both that hat and that shirt, a full year later, although they fit a bit more snugly.

The last picture is from our visit to the zoo just a few days ago.
Thanks for indulging a mommy in a short walk down memory lane.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Toshi and 9/11

(I will need to add a photo to this post later - all my pics of Toshi are at home)

Hubby and I moved from SC to NY December of 1999 (Christmas Day in fact). Shortly after we arrived here, my former employer in SC asked me if I would do some freelance work here arranging a program for a language immersion/home stay for an individual from Japan as part of a corporate training program.

And so Toshi came into our lives. Toshi was my client, and my student, but various circumstances also led him to become my little brother and my co-worker, as he lived with my in-laws and did volunteer work at my office. Toshi helped us move after we bought our new house, learned how to strip woodwork, helped us down a can of Reddi Whip one evening, and became a Survivor addict (first season, I think).

Toshi's stay here was only 6 months long - and on September 10th, 2001 we celebrated Toshi's birthday and got ready to say goodbye, as he was flying to Detroit on the 16th for a final group session as part of the program, and then returning to Japan.

I don't remember if Toshi was at work with me on September 11th or if he was at home. I remember hearing from our receptionist something about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, and calling my husband, who works for a TV station, for more information. "I can't talk now," he said. "A second plane just hit." I found out from him later that not only were they seeing things a bit before the rest of us, as the raw feed came in and then was sent back out again, but that he also saw much much more on that raw feed than was ever broadcast. He still does not like to talk about it.

The TV at work was instantly moved into a conference room, and although we all tried to work you would see people frequently wandering down the hall, and then back again. I stood in a darkened empty conference room, alone, and watched the second tower collapse. And all I wanted to do at that point was go home.

Although my thoughts were on the victims and the families, I was also instantly wondering what this meant for Toshi, and for his travel to Detroit, and then on to Japan. So many things were uncertain, airports were closed, and I was concerned for his safety. I was responsible for his safety.

As more information came out, and things started to become clearer, we began to receive communication from Toshi's employer, and the coordinating company for the immersion program, on what we should do. At first we were told to stay put, and then once the airports began to open again we were told to send them on to Detroit if their flights were running.

Ultimately, Toshi's flight did fly that day - but without him on it. He and I talked it over, and although he said that he felt confident enough to fly, I realized that he was listening and watching all this coverage that was not in his native language and although his grasp of English had improved immensely, I wanted to be sure he was fully informed. We spoke about it in Japanese for a while, and he ultimately said it was my decision.

And I could not put him on a plane.
I knew the risk was pretty much past, and that he would be on a little plane from a small non-hub airport, but I still could not do it.

Luckily the family that he was to stay with in Detroit was very understanding. They offered to drive and meet us halfway. So my SIL, Toshi and I piled into my car on a sunny September day and road-tripped to Cleveland, to a Bob Evans just south of the city, where we met up with his next hosts. Nearly four hours there, and four hours back.

Four hours to say goodbye.
Airports are easier. This was like peeling a bandage off - really really slowly.

Every 9/11 I think of Toshi. He has not been back to visit since then, and I have not been over to Japan. Letters are sporadic and short, and I often wonder how his memories of 9/11 affect his memories of his entire stay here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mommy's Handmade Goodness

When Hubby and I were anticipating the birth of the Munchkin, we were on a tight budget, and I spent a lot of time doing price comparisons and quality checks on different baby items before we made any purchases.

We were very very fortunate to have friends and family who were very generous with hand-me-downs and shower gifts, but I also realized I could save some money by making some things myself. Online resources gave me patterns for baby sheets (which I made by cutting down a double bed flat flannel sheet), and I kind of made up the dust ruffle and curtains as I went along. A quilt, duvet cover and pillowcases soon followed.

I did not make a lot of his clothes, but fleece hats, mittens and jackets were easy patterns to find and make, and my little guy was cozy and warm. I even did about half of his baby food from scratch, made his bibs from towels, and made big fabric baskets to hold his toys.

My resources were varied and many - most of them from websites or mommy forums I belonged to, some made up as I went along.

Yesterday I found this website that groups a lot of these resources in one place: Handmade baby stuff. I even entered the Munchkin's baby quilt in their current contest (Raiding the Dwarves' Closet)

I don't make as many things for the Munchkin anymore - he is eating what we eat, and we have even more hand me downs for him now so I am not doing so much clothing for him. He does need a new pair of mittens for this winter, and soon we will be moving up and out of the toddler bed and into a twin bed, so perhaps a new quilt is in order.

I get the biggest kick out of him though - he knows what I have made, and last winter every time we put on his mittens he said "Mommy made these..."

Yes, buddy - and lots of love went into every single stitch!!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - The Phoenix Mystery Quilt

As you recall, a few months back I was making this when this happened.

At the time I did not go into much detail about the issue, but basically some initial cutting measurements were wrong in the copy of the directions I had downloaded, and none of my blocks were able to be used.

Or I should say, none of my blocks were able to be used in THAT project.

Never fear though -the Phoenix is rising from the ashes as I re purpose those blocks into something new - and something all my own.

In the spirit of sharing - and a bit of fun - I thought I would bring you all along for the ride and create a little "mystery quilt" project. Please bear with me -I have not done this before and am creating this as we go along.

This is a scrappy quilt - I will attempt to give you yardages on the borders and bindings and backings when we get to that point, but for now be ready to raid your scrap bin.

So today is step one - fabric choice and cutting.
(I am giving the directions in the colors I used - feel free to substitute as you like.)

Materials for blocks:
1-1/4 yards mottled blue (blocks) - cut into 72@4.5" squares (this all needs to be from the same fabric)
2-3/4 yards total assorted tan, brown, white, and light blue prints (blocks) cut into 432@2" squares.

Measurements include 1/4" seam allowances.

Stay tuned for Step 2 - when the sewing will commence.

Time Warped

Do you ever go through an entire day, or couple of days, not really sure what the date is? Or what day of the week it is?

That happened to me this weekend, and because I am off on Mondays it carried over longer. I came into work today thinking it was the 8th of September - and about 45 minutes into my day I realized it was the 9th.

The 9th of September, 2008
The day AFTER Sister Terri's 50th Birthday.

So - Happy Belated Birthday, Terri!

I will share with you with this 37ish year old photo, and me looking as glum today as I was then - wonder what that was all about?

Sorry I missed it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Turtle of the Day - Secret Shopper

Lazy Sister Sue went to the AQS quilt show in Nashville a few weeks ago, and before she left she kept asking if I had a wish list of stuff I wanted her to get for me down there. I really did not have much, but she said it was more fun to shop with a purpose in a big show like that, so I rattled off a few ideas for her to keep an eye out for.

It turns out she was actually on a mission for someone else, and doing some Secret Shopping. I got a fun surprise package in the mail a few days after she got home, which included these turtles, and this whole other pile of goodies.

The chenille cutter is one thing I mentioned I needed, since I bought a pattern for a chenille jacket on my one woman five shop hop in July. And I had been looking for the Java House Just in Cases pattern for a while, since I wanted to make the turtle case for LSS and I. I just was trying to avoid exorbitant shipping fees.

The rest was a great surprise! When I first opened the package I saw an envelope with my name on it - I set that aside to read later and dove right into the Pajama Quilter book. As I lifted that out, there was another envelope with my name on it - different hand writing. Hmmm - strange... so I sat down and opened the cards before digging further into the box. The secret was then revealed and explained - what fun!!!

These kinds of secrets are fun... which is why I am going to keep the identity of Secret Buddy between SB, LSS and I. Although the two of them conspiring on things could be dangerous.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - Critters

My garden is not protected by a fence.

It is in the middle of a yard that is freely shared by a busy family of squirrels, bunnies big and small, a wandering neighborhood cat, the occasional deer, and birds of all shapes and sizes.

Last year I had a real challenge with something eating my peppers and tomatoes before I had a chance to get to them. I would find them laying in the yard with a big bite taken out of them.

I also noticed large swatches of the early leaves of my Black Eyed Susans that would be nibbled to the ground.

But this year I have not had any problems. The Black Eyed Susans were unmolested, the volunteer sunflowers grew big and strong and un-nibbled, and my carrot patch has even escaped the tummies of the hungry bunnies.

Only ONE item has come up missing...
One jalapeƱo pepper.
The first one to ripen - it went missing the day before I was planning to harvest it.
And I did not find it laying in the yard.

My guess is someone went home with a burning mouth and tummyache and spread the word to all the other critters... "hey, that lady's garden is dangerous - you better stay away"

Better than any fence. And much tastier!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

"Friday" Flashback - S A T U R D A Y Night

I heard one of those songs on the radio the other day that took me back in time, to a childhood in rural Western NY, where one of my favorite activities was the monthly roller skating party that took place in our high school gym. (NOTE - this is NOT a personal photo here - I googled to find this one.)

There was a roller skating company that had a big truck with racks and racks of brown roller skates in various sizes, and a sound system. They would come and set up, and we would be there, all eager to get our skates and get out on the floor. We really envied those kids who had their own skates, but since I had a gravel driveway and lived on a gravel and tarred road with no sidewalks, owning my own skates really was not practical.

There was an additional aura of excitement - for we were mere elementary schoolers and here we were doing something in the big gym (of course the school was K-12 in one building, so we're talking the other end of a long hall here).

I can nearly recreate the atmosphere in my head. The smell of the skates and of the popcorn that one of the clubs sold out of the equipment closet next to the gym. The sound of kids bumping into the metal gates that the school used to close us off from the areas we were not allowed to be in. The feeling of being taller. The hysterical antics of rolling down to the bathroom and trying to be graceful. The overflowing pile of coats, hats and gloves on one dinky little coat rack in the entryway of school. The long line of cars of parents waiting to pick us up when it was over.

My neighbor and best buddy S. and I would go to these skating parties together. Limbo, Hokey Pokey, Reverse Skate, Pairs Skate, Crack the Whip -we would do it all. The DJ got to where he recognized us, and knowing S's affinity for the Bay City Rollers, would always play S A T U R D A Y Night for us.

And then there was the Moonlight Skate - very romantic for 4th graders "in love".

I went to a commercial roller skating rink once when I was in high school - but it was just not the same. Skating with strangers was not as fun as seeing your friends, neighbors, classmates and schoolmates roll, tumble, show off and laugh. Seeing the little kindergarten kids just learning to skate and their older siblings helping them. Seeing just how low 6 foot tall R could go in the limbo (he was amazing!). Seeing who would skate with who for that last Moonlight Skate.

Hokey Pokey anyone?