Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The Year In Review

new_year_2010 I love the last day of the year, especially with all of the hope for the new, upcoming year. 

I also enjoy looking back at the year and boy has this been a year!!!!!

During 2010, we enjoyed two, 10 day trips to Kunming China, 7 wonderful weeks in Italy, 2 trips to Louisiana for my husband’s field work , the marriage of our son, Brian to a wonderful woman, Amber, and our daughter, Jenny,  moving to Atlanta to work on a Master’s degree…….WHEW!!!!!

My craft time has been limited this year, but it was fun to look back and realize that I did accomplish a few things.

….”Waves ala Particles”…..a contrast challenge

…..”Terra Cotta Flowers”…. using a rust dyed fabric

…..”As Blue Goes By” ……a blue challenge quilt

…..”Blew Two”……..the second blue challenge quilt.

…..”Hot Espresso, Cool Gelato” ……the Hot/Cold challenge

…..”Christmas Lap Quilt”…..finally finished after 15 years

…..”Read to Rover”…..the last quilt made for the year

…..thank goodness for challenges or I might not have finished anything!!!!

I worked to help prepare 5 quilts that will be hung at the local Senior Center, and worked on two other charity quilts.

I also made 5 covered books which were given as gifts in Italy, and made and mailed my first quilted postcard.

I attended workshops taught by Margaret Hunt and learned to use Water Soluble Pastels.  I put this technique into use in two mini, mini quilts.

I only taught two quilting workshops, but truly enjoyed the interactions with the ladies in my classes.

OK…..so maybe I did get quite a bit of quilting time!!!!

What are my plans for 2011……those are for another day…..today is just one for reflection……

SO, BRING ON THE NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Comfortable Doggie Tooshies

My friend Kris has two wonderful, well trained  Sheltie dogs.  They (and she) work with the local library in a program called “Read To Rover”.  She and her daughter take the dogs to the local library and various kids come in a read to the dog….how cute is that!!!!

Kris likes to put a quilt down for everyone to sit on while they read.    The problem arose that the only quilt she had was one with a lot of texture to it and the dogs couldn’t sit comfortably on it for a long period of time.  One in particular would continue to shake his leg and move around throughout the reading time.

The solution…..a new quilt designed just for this purpose…..

_C241139 I enjoyed picking the doggie fabrics and then combining them into a fun quilt. 

I used miscellaneous left-overs and other fabrics for the back…..

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The quilting is very utilitarian…..just enough to hold the layers together properly.

I am excited that this quilt can be a part of this great program….may it make for hundreds of hours of introducing kids to the fun of book reading and, of course,  comfortable doggie tooshies!!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

De-decorating

Today was the day to do the bad deed…..take down the Christmas tree and all of the decorations and put up the winter decorations…..and the name of the season is “Winter Blues”…..

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I made this quilt in 1994 and it was one of the first of my monthly quilts.  I bought the main fabric (with the deer and snow covered trees) at a little shop in Madison, Georgia and the quilt idea was born from there.  I love the mix of blues and grays and the name “Winter Blues” just seemed to fit. 

The rest of the house is decorated with lots of blue bottles and vases, as well as a few snowmen…..just perfect for the month of January!!!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

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May the peace and joy of the holidays stay

with you all thru the year!!!!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Preparing the Arnold Sleigh

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Many years ago our family began a tradition where we cook goodies and then go out on Christmas Eve and deliver them to our friends.  Over the years we have taken as many as 20 food parcels in any one year.  

Several years ago, Betsy (our daughter’s best friend) proclaimed that “Christmas doesn’t start until the Arnold Sleigh has arrived.”  Thus, the tradition now has a name…..the Arnold Sleigh.

SO, today (the day before Christmas Eve) has been a cooking day.  I started at 9:00 am and finished at 5:00 this afternoon.  In the interim I made 2 cookings of Peanut Brittle, 2 cookings of Fudge, Peppermint Bark, Poppycock, Rum Balls, Divinity, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies, and Pecan Sandies.  As I was cleaning up from the marathon session, I realized that I had forgotten the chocolate covered pretzels….Betsy’s favorite…… so I guess that I will finish them up in the morning.

Here is the photo of the finished products…..

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Now I have a question to pose…..how did I ever bake cookies without one of these baking mats?????

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It keeps things from burning, is easy to clean between batches and has GREATLY improved the success of my cookies!!!!     It also works great for biscuits!!

So here I sit at the end of the day with my body tired from standing all day and my teeth on edge from being around so much sugar, but happy in the expectation of a fun sleigh trip on the morrow.

I hope that your Christmas Eve Eve has been wonderful too!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Lap Quilt…..only 15+ years in the making!!!!

Yesterday, I had an entire day in my studio and my goal was to finish a UFO that I started about 15 or so years ago.  I posted about this on 12/29 of LAST year, and here is a recap from that post…..

It started out as a full size Christmas quilt for my bed.  It was in the days where I hadn’t done a lot of machine quilting and had never tried quilting anything as large as this one, so I decided to hand quilt it…..GULP!!   I used a “quilt-as-you-go”  technique where you put sets of blocks together, baste and quilt them and then put all of the sets together to form the final quilt.

I had made the first two strips, each consisting of three blocks.  Life then got in the way,  and I lost interest in the project.  It was relegated to the top shelf of my bedroom closet….in my mind, it didn’t even qualify for placement in my studio.  I had even thought several times about throwing it away.

In 2009, I made a list of my UFO’s and suddenly remembered this one so I added it to the list.  This was how it looked at that time……

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As I looked at it, I decided to turn it into a lap quilt of three rows of 2 blocks each.   I have thought about this project over the last few days and kept trying to come up with a grand plan for doing this, but finally decided to just START the project and let it take me where it would. 

It has taken several “finagles” to make the design work, but I am pleased with the overall results.  There is still some quilting to be done on it (by machine) and a bit of hand quilting to be taken out, but that can happen later when I am looking for a quick project to fill a few hours.

OK…fast forward for almost a year and you will see that my “few hours” never materialized.  I REALLY wanted to get some use out of it in the few days before Christmas, so I pulled it out and finished the quilting.    I even put the binding on by machine….that is how badly I wanted to get it finished today!!!!

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As I said in the previous post, technically it is not a great quilt, but I LOVED being able to snuggle under while watching “Muppet Christmas Carol”.

AND….I can mark it off that I completed ONE ufo in 2010!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hot Threads, Cool Quilts Challenge results

On Tuesday night our quilt guild presented the results of the Hot Threads, Cool Quilts challenge.  We were so excited to have 19 entries in this contest and we could tell that the challenged piqued the interest and imagination of many of our members.

Here are a two photos that show most of the quilts.   There were a few that came in later and didn’t make it into this photo journal….

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What a fun group of quilts……cant wait for the show!!!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A finished quilt and an anniversary!!!

First of all, today marks my 2 year anniversary of blogging.  As I said on this day last year, I have truly enjoyed the people that I have met along the way, as well as the wonderful art that I have seen.  Thank you all for adding so much richness to my life!!!!

A special thanks to Anita  for her encouragement to try to write a blog and to my husband, Michael, for his continuing support of my art and my online journal!!!

Now, to celebrate this anniversary, I am getting to tell you about a completed project….the first that I have had in quite a while!!!

I am co-chair of our Guild’s upcoming show entitled “Hot Threads, Cool Quilts” and we had issued a challenge to our group to make a quilt that was 24x30, designed to hang vertically, with an “off-the-surface” embellishment of some sort, that somehow referenced our show theme.

WOW…..how many different ideas did I come up with!!!!  We set the challenge about 2 weeks before my husband and I left for our epic 7 weeks in Italy so the theme was much in my mind as I wandered thru the beautiful Italian country and cities.   Basically everything that I saw could be somehow combined into a Hot/Cool combination.  I think that I about drove my husband crazy!!!!

But then it happened…….. while in Rome we developed two daily habits.  My husband would always stop each morning for a cup of hot espresso and we would  go down the street to the local Gelateria every night to have our cup of cold, heavenly delight.    And look at those cute spoons that they serve it with!!!!_B190935

So, my mind started planning…..my friends and myself started collecting spoons and the quilt was in progress!!!!!

When I finally had a few minutes to work on the quilt, I began by planning the borders of the project as those had to be big enough to hold the spoons.  Once I had determined the interior size, I started drawing boxes and rectangles that would fit within the piece.  This is how the original version looked, although I made changes to the size of the pieces in later versions…..

PB190937-1I then started looking thru photos of Rome and started selecting ones that I would like to use in the piece.  This was almost the hardest part as I had 1,510 photos of this beautiful city.

Once selected, I would open a copy in Photoshop, crop it to the size that it needed to be, use a contrast layer to deepen the photo and then apply a color mask to change the colors of the photos.  I tried to keep the photos in the cool range of colors….mostly blues, greens and purples.

I printed the photos onto paper, cut them out and taped them to the pattern to see how it was going to look……

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After adjusting a few color combinations, I printed the photos on fabric and started the tedious job of piecing it together.  I tried to find groups that could be pieced together with only straight seams, but ended up with a few seams that had to be partially sewn first and then finished when other parts were added.

At this point I realized that somewhere between the original design and the 2 other versions, I had managed to mess up the dimensions of the piece so that it was going to be about 1-1/2 inches too long!!!! 

OK…don’t panic….this is just a design opportunity!!!  So I played with the borders until I came to an arrangement that I liked.

I had decided to quilt small spoons in three of the borders and hang the actual spoons like a fringe on the bottom.  I was having trouble evenly spacing the designs on the border, so I got a  length of adding machine tape (remember, I am an Accountant, so I have LOTS of the stuff), cut it the length of the border and then folded it again and again until I had a good spacing for the spoons.  It was then VERY easy to draw the properly spaced quilting patterns…..

_C131089 After quilting the piece, the final step was to attach the spoon fringe to the bottom of the piece.  I found a large safety pin, heated the point in a flame and used it to burn a hole in each of the spoons.  To attach them, I first added a seed bead, the spoon and topped it off with another seed bead. 

Here is the finished product…..

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I am very pleased with this piece that fulfills the challenge as well as provides my husband and I of a fun reminder of our wonderful month in Rome!!!!!

As important, it marks a return to the studio for me…..an event that I hope continues into the upcoming year!!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Creative Ennui

Well, it has been THREE weeks since I have posted anything here!!!! There are many reasons for the delay……

…..family visiting for Thanksgiving  (I am on the far right)……

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….decorating the house for the holidays……..

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…..raking all of the leaves that have fallen and are still falling……

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….scanning boxes and boxes and boxes of CPA files that will now be kept as digital copies rather than paper.   This wonderful Fujitsu scanner has been instrumental in this task (it will scan 20 pages per minute, front and back)……

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BUT, the one thing that I WANT to do is to be creative and that is where the ennui comes in…

The dictionary defines ennui as “ a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom”  and that is where I am at the moment.   It has been good that I have had lots of tasks to keep me accomplishing things, but I am truly ready for the creative excitement to return!!!!

Well, enough complaining…….on to the next task!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More info about Turkey Pops

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Maggi asked whether the turkeys were sweet or savory so thought I would give a bit more info.

The are DEFINITELY sweet!!!!  Crumbled cake is mixed with icing, formed into balls and then dipped into chocolate before decorating.

I searched the internet and came across this book…..

51Sqmx0K oL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_which gives lots of information about making cake pops for all occasions.   Looks like fun!!!! 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kicking up your quilt to the next level

On Tuesday night I attended my local guild meeting where one of my best friends was the speaker.

IMG_0053  Deb presented a wonderful talk about ways to kick your quilt up to the next level.

Her excellent points were…..

  -  Audition your fabrics before you start

  -  Feature an on-point design

  -  Think outside the box for your borders

  -  Change up your blocks so that they are not all the same

  -  Use negative space effectively

  -  Use large scale prints

  -  Choose a fun binding

All great things to put into play in my next quilt!!!!

 

I am always amazed by the creativity of quilters and it came into play with the refreshments.  Linda made these oh-so-cute turkeys for us to enjoy……

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They were the talk of the night!!!!

Thanks Ladies for inspiring me once again!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It’s finished….whew!!

Our house is now back to normal again, except for the DVD cabinet that arrived today and has to be constructed.  Michael and I worked hard this weekend and got everything cleaned, painted and the furniture back in place.  Here is how it looks…..

IMG_0048IMG_0049  We are thrilled with how the floors look and Michael dropped a hammer on it yesterday and it didn’t dent so that is a good omen!!!

I have been really busy with a huge accounting deadline of November 15th, but that particular project is finished so MAYBE I can get into my studio sometime in the near future!!!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

End of day update

Well, it is 7:45pm and the workers are still here laying the flooring….they certainly have a good work ethic!!!!

The living room is finished and looks great……IMG_0030

The kitchen is well underway…..look at the wonderful linoleum layer that they found.  Guess it matched the autumn gold appliances that were in the house when we moved in…..IMG_0033  This was our bedroom picnic dinner…..

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And unfortunately, this is the state of one of our bathrooms……

IMG_0037 Apparently the toilet has been leaking at the seal and has rotted out a portion of the floor.  Not exactly what we wanted to hear, but I guess it beats finding out when the floor caves in under you!!!!

So, on to tomorrow…….

Monday, November 1, 2010

House remodeling means no sewing!!

We are in the process of putting wood laminate floors into part of our home and it is causing much turmoil.

Here is a current photo of my studio…..

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When I look at this, I realize that we have WAY too many DVD’s and books!!!

Mine is not the only room in tatters….her is Michael’s office……

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And this is the current state of our living room, with fresh paint on the walls…..

IMG_0027The trim in the kitchen has been primed too and I will throw a coat of paint on it in the morning before the floor layers get here.

Hopefully all will look much nicer tomorrow evening!!!!   BUT, then comes the pain of moving everything back into place!!!!

I wait in anticipation…….

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mini Quilt Fun

Today, I decided that I had caught up enough from our trip and that I could play some in my studio.

Just before I left for Italy, I had purchased the book “Inspired to Quilt” by Melanie Testa …..61IzVmZ1HoL._SS400_ I loved her ideas about using paints and different layers to create the quilt top and then I REALLY loved the way that she quilted her pieces!!!  One of the tutorials was about using freezer paper as a mask when painting with thickened dye.  Well, I didn’t have any dye to thicken, so I decided to use the Water Soluble Oil Pastels that I had learned to use in a Margaret Hunt workshop back in May  (here is the post about that workshop).

The brand that she suggested were Portfolio Brand _A230917 I began the process by picking out a floral design that I liked and then I transferred it to freezer paper and then carefully cut out the design.

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I ironed it onto a piece of PFD (prepared for dyeing) fabric and then ironed a larger piece of freezer paper onto the back of the PFD.  The purpose of this was to stabilize the fabric better and to also remove the worry that the colors might soak thru the fabric…..

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I then picked my palette of colors and scribbled swatches of each color on the shiny side of another piece of freezer paper….

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I dipped a brush in water and used it to liquefy the colors and then apply them to the fabric……

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When the piece was completely colored, I took the pastels and used them directly on the fabric to add some extra highlights…..

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In each case, I would draw a few lines and then use the brush to “scrub” the color into the fabric.

I removed the freezer paper resist…..

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….let it dry, added a border fabric and then sandwiched it in preparation for quilting.     Then the really fun part started….  I first quilted around the design and then started using various threads to add more interest to the piece.

I finished the edge by simply folding the border over to the back and stitching it in place.

Here is the one of the finished pieces……

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and here is the second…..

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They were SO much fun to make and I am looking forward to playing with this technique lots more!!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Leaving Italy…..

We got up at 4:30 this morning (Sunday) to start our trip back to Watkinsville.  The trip progressed something like this…..

- Taxi ride to Naples Train Station

- Train ride to Rome

- Another train ride to the Rome Airport

- Bus ride to Terminal Five

- Go thru passport security line

- Go thru line to check bags and get boarding passes

- Go thru security

-  Take bus to Gates

- Take bus from gate to plane

- Fly in plane to Atlanta

- Drive in car to Watkinsville

Total travel time, door to door……  20 hours

We have had a WONDERFUL seven weeks.  Michael got a chance to talk to several groups of researchers, teach a series of classes to Graduate students, complete a scientific manuscript for submission and collaborate with MANY scientists.

All of our hosts have gone out of their way to provide us with a fun and exciting Italian experience and we have appreciated that so much. 

We have found both good and bad things about the Italian way of life.

The most important thing is that they KNOW how to relax and enjoy their lives.  Meals are an event, not a quick bite in between work projects.  Waiters will not rush you and will not bring you the check until you ask for it!!!! 

Espresso is all important and will be drunk at all hours of the day and night.  Normally, it is drunk while standing up at a cafe counter.

Unfortunately, as a whole, Italians are not well standardized.  Things seem to change from  day to day, including one way streets, train schedules, prices, and the basic processes used to perform simple tasks.  This tends to lead to some confusion!!!

Italians know how to drive and how to park!!!!  They are able to park, double park and merge lanes without blinking an eye and they don’t flinch when a motorcycle or scooter pulls around them.   Some cars are equipped with side mirrors that can be remotely folded all the way in.   We even saw one small car that had doors that slid back like a van’s doors rather than opening out into traffic…..what a great idea!!!!

The countryside varies greatly from North to South as does the temperament of the people.  The Northerners are much quieter and reserved, while the people in Naples are raucous and loud.

But whatever their temperament, they were friendly, helpful and wonderful and we are so thankful for the time that we have had here with them!!!!

This has probably been the nicest long-term trip that we have ever been on and we will forever remember our 7 weeks in Italy.

Thank you for traveling with us!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ischia

On Saturday we ended up with a free day so we decided to take a ferry to the Island of Ischia.  The trip took about 35 minutes by a very fast boat and we spent a wonderful few hours wandering around the island.

As with most of our trip, we ended up on a different boat from the one we originally wanted and pulled into port at a different place on the island.  That just proved to be an opportunity for us to learn how to catch the bus to get to the next port.

The Island is the result of a Volcanic eruption many years ago and it now contains many hot springs and spas and is a a gorgeous area.  Although there is a lot of tourism on the island, it is not nearly as overwhelming as it was on Capri.  We had a slow stroll down one of the pedestrian only streets and enjoyed shopping and looking at a gorgeous park.

We eventually made our way to the Castello Aragonesse d’Ischia, an old structure that dominates one end of the island.  We spent about an hour wandering around the castle, finding ourselves in some of the most interesting cubbyholes…..

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_A090822 _A090828 _A090870There was a Cathedral that was built in 1301 but destroyed by an earthquake in  1809.  It was interesting to see the crumbling concrete statues…..

_A090833 _A090835 The views of the harbor and of the town of Ischia were magnificent…..

_A090812 _A090829 _A090839We met a lady from Munich who offered to take this photo for us…..

_A090802After coming down out of the Castle, we had a nice lunch at a sea side cafe.  The Bruschetta had fresh Tuna on it and was wonderful……

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We laughed at the music playing at the restaurant…..it was all stereotypical Italian music with “O Sole Mio” and “Santa Lucia” on the play list.  We decided that we needed to watch for a limousine to drive by for an “attempted whacking”. 

While we were eating, we enjoyed watching a couple taking wedding pictures on the pier.  I particularly liked how the photographers threw themselves into their work….

_A090880We returned to Naples and tried to finish up the packing…..it is NOT looking hopeful and we have already added another soft sided bag full of stuff that we bought!!!

In the evening, Salvatore picked us up and took us to an Italian Steak House.  As usual, the meal began with a huge collection of “Starters”.  They included a  ball of Mozzarella  (ping-pong size for EACH of us), slices of Proscuitto, a slice of Chengale sausage, another unknown meat slice, roast pork slice with a spicy sauce, plates of sautéed mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers,  potatoes, a slice of Eggplant casserole,  and 2 others that I cant remember right now.   Happily, we skipped the Pasta course and went straight to the Meat course.  We all had a grilled steak, expecting it to be wafer thin, but were served a HUGE Sirloin Steak that was grilled to perfection.  We drove to a Gelato shop to finish out our last meal in Italy.  As we ate it we strolled around a park, watching all of the teenagers gathered in groups.  The drive back to the hotel took about an hour as the roads were totally clogged with people enjoying the evening….remember that at this point it was 11:30 pm!!! 

When we got up at 4:30am to leave for our return journey, there were still people outside!!

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