Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: I-4

Dear Jane block I-4Block number/name: I-4 “Stability”

Date completed: December 30, 2008

Number of pieces: 25

Notes on block: Being random is starting to take a lot of effort. The fabric I initially cut for this block ended up being the exact same shade/tone of green as J-4. Fortunately, I realized this before I started sewing. But I still had to re-cut. And though this fabric was not my first choice, I do like the bright and happy results.

Keith has been playing a video game lately that I’ve really been enjoying. It is a strategy game called Valkyria Chronicles. Though it is taking place in a fictional universe, its storyline seems to echo events of World War II Europe, including the German invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Holocaust, and more. The story is really well-written, includes great characters, and offers many positive messages regarding peace, tolerance, teamwork, and more. The animation is beautiful. It really is like watching a movie. I’m loving it (though it is quite distracting while stitching). I can't really say much about the game aspect since I've only been watching and not playing, but Keith seems to be enjoying it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More gifty goodness!

Yesterday I got to hang out with my best friend (henceforth, she shall be called Duck). Woo hoo! I only get to see Duck once or twice a year as she is currently living in California. So it's a big deal to be able to spend time with her in person. We had lunch with some of her other Seattle-area friends, and then dinner with our college roommate (it was such fun to see her, too!). And, of course, we also did some exchanging of gifts.

My gift to her was a little collection of comfy stuff. It included a pair of pajama pants using McCall's 5010.

pajama pants
This is the same pattern I used earlier this year to make a pair for myself. I made a couple of changes this time around though. I made a size Large, left the length as is, and then used about 15" of elastic in the waistband instead of the 23" called for. The fit at the waist-area (the pants sit just below the natural waist) is much better now—not nearly so loosey-goosey. Hopefully, she'll be happy with the fit too.

I also bought a t-shirt and then used my machine embroidery attachment and some leftover fabric to customize it:

embroidered t-shirt
I'm really happy with the final result. I was not so happy with the 2.5 hours it took me to do get there. But, as I've not used my embroidery attachment for nearly a year, I kind of had a learning curve to get back into the swing of things. It also took me three practice runs before I was happy with my adjustments to the size and colors.

embroidery detail
The embroidery is from Designs by JuJu. This design is included in the set, More Fun Patches Applique.

Another component of the gift was a mix CD.

CD sleeve
I didn't have any jewel cases, so I created a protective sleeve using some more leftover pajama pants fabric.

Finally, I included a pair of purchased slipper socks (because keeping toes warm is always important in the quest for comfort). Overall, she seemed really happy with the gift. Yay!

Then I opened my gift from her...

knitted blanket
...a fabulous knitted blanket! She said she used 5 strands of yarn and size 50(!) needles. It is super thick and snuggly and I love it (as do my cats!). Thank you, Duck!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Festive feasting

Today we had our family holiday feast. The roads were such that my parents weren't able to make it, but my in-laws were able to brave the slushy ick (their car did get stuck, but we were able to dig them out). A good time was had by all! The menu:

Herbed Rib Roast with au Jus
Gratin Dauphinois
Quick Glazed Carrots
Green Beans with Toasted Hazelnut-Lemon Butter
Buttermilk Biscuits
Rosemary Dinner Rolls
New England Cranberry Duff
Vanilla Ice Cream

I failed to take any pictures of the spread (by the time it's all ready, all I'm thinking about is eating!), but I did manage to snap a picture of the dessert:

cranberry duff
The cranberry duff was very simple to make, and very tasty—a wonderful blend of sweet and tart (and excellent with ice cream). However, the star of the meal was the prime rib. It was gigantic and, despite its tasty goodness, we barely made a dent in it. But that's okay. I was able to send a couple of ribs home with my in-laws, and we will be having some seriously awesome leftovers over the next few days. The gratin potatoes were also delicious. Truly decadent, but every bite just melted in our mouths. Yum!

We also exchanged gifts, so now I can show off one of my handmade presents:

passport cover
This is a passport cover I made for my sister-in-law. She just graduated from the University of Washington and is taking off in January to travel the world and work on organic farms for a year (through the organization, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). Giving her "stuff" wasn't really an option this year. But something portable, practical, and cute? Ideal! I made it using the simple, wonderful passport sleeve tutorial by bunnybum. The outside is onasburg cotton, and it's lined with a Michael Miller black and white pindot. I added the applique on the outside to liven it up. A U.S. passport fits perfectly inside. She really seemed thrilled with it.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas... slightly delayed

Christmas Day was a very laid-back affair for us this year. It was just Keith, the Boy, and I. The snow prevented anyone else from joining us. Not only that, but (procrastinators that we are) it also prevented us from completing holiday shopping for each other. Fortunately, we thought ahead for the Boy:

a boy and his train set
He really seems to love his new Thomas the Tank Engine train set. We gave him the basic figure-8 set. His favorite thing to do is sit in the center and push Thomas up, over, and back down the bridge. It's a lot of fun to watch him at work.

Since we couldn't gather the families together on the actual day, we're going to be getting together tomorrow for belated holiday feasting, gift-giving, and fun. This means I haven't actually given any of my handmade gifts as of yet and so I can't really share pictures (I don't think any of them read this blog, but I'm just not sure).

Also, I did manage to get my much-coveted Santa picture:

Santa picture 2008
And he's even smiling! Yay!

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: L-8

This was one of the three blocks I completed back in 2004 when I first began my Dear Jane quilt (the others were D-13 and E-10). This is what I wrote about it back then...

Dear Jane block L-8Block number/name: L-8 "Box Kite"

Date completed: September 29, 2004

Number of pieces: 15

Notes on block: Tonight has been very productive! Not only did I finish my very first block, I finished my second! I prepped it before dinner, and pieced it together as we watched the new Star Wars Return of the Jedi DVD (and right now, Keith is none too pleased with some of the changes—most notably, Anakin's ghost and the Sarlac). Once again, it's not perfect, but it's pretty close. Just a smidge smaller than D-13. Hopefully, I'll start getting the hang of it soon. But, dude, 15 pieces... that's pretty decent, I think. I wonder what block I should try next...?

Dear Baby Jane: K-4

Dear Jane block K-4Block number/name: K-4 “Thea’s Turn”

Date completed: December 21, 2008

Number of pieces: 21

Notes on block: I went a little crazy on this one. Not only did I fussy cut all of the green pieces, but I also took the time to do a bit of re-drafting and added the white bars onto the outside edges of the inner green triangles, just as Jane Stickle did in her block. I really liked how that looked so I felt the need to replicate it. This may be one of my favorite blocks thus far.

Snow continues to fall outside. At this point, we’ve got probably about 10”-12” of accumulation. My poor little car is buried! On the bright side, the Boy did get a little time outside in the snow the other day (but not too long, since we don’t really have any winter snow clothes).

Boy in snow

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: K-13

Dear Jane block K-13Block number/name: K-13 “Brandon’s Star”

Date completed: December 20, 2008

Number of pieces: 25

Notes on block: My seams were a little narrow on this one, so it’s a little bigger than 5”. Other than that, all worked out pretty well on this one. I started it last night, and then finished this afternoon as the boy and his papa played together. Lots of smiles and fun.

Snow is in the air around here lately. I can definitely appreciate the beauty of it and love to look at it, but really, I’m kind of a snow-hater. It’s cold, wet, and horrible to drive in, thus trapping me in my house. Bah-humbug! We did get out today to the mall in hopes of getting a Santa picture with the boy. After 40 minutes in our car getting there, we stood in the massive line for about 3 minutes before deciding waiting for hours with a hungry, sleepy toddler was just not worth it. We didn’t even do any shopping. We left the insanity. Our hope is that the weather and roads will be clear enough on Monday or Tuesday so that we can make a trip first thing in the morning, and maybe beat some of the Santa picture crowds. I must have a Santa picture!!! (Note to self: next year, do it around Thanksgiving instead of the week of Christmas.)

Some brighter news: I’m now caught up on my Dear Jane blocks! Yay! In celebration, here is a progress update:

Dear Jane progress 12-20-2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: L-7

Dear Jane block L-7Block number/name: L-7 “Town Square”

Date completed: December 19, 2008

Number of pieces: 17

Notes on block: I feel like such a cheater! I couldn’t help myself though. I had to skip ahead and do this block, despite the fact that it has not been posted on the Dear Baby Jane blog. I had this little square of fabric, about 4 inches square, that I just loved. But I was also very scared that I would accidentally lose it (if you saw my quilting room, you would understand why I was worried). For a long time, I kept it safe in the pages of my Dear Jane book. But then it fell out. Thankfully, I found the little piece, but decided then and there that I needed to use it now. Having such a small amount of fabric really limited my block choices. This one worked out perfectly, virtually using about every scrap of this piece of fabric.

Now I really need to get focused and catch up with the Dear Baby Jane blog. Only one block behind now!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: TR-5

Dear Jane block TR-5Block number/name: TR-5 “Michigan Dunes”

Date completed: December 17, 2008

Number of pieces: 21

Notes on block: What is it about the triangles? Lately, I’ve been having motivation problems whenever I’m working on them. I start and then just kind of let it lie for awhile. With the square blocks, I’m always compelled to finish them as soon as I start stitching. In any case, it is finished now. I’m really hoping I can get caught back up this weekend.

There has been some distressing news from Anina about the Dear Baby Jane blog. Apparently, Brenda Papadakis has contacted her, requesting a discussion about the blog name. As a result, Anina is feeling as if maybe she should delete the blog altogether. Eeep! This would be so sad, as Anina has truly been my inspiration in making this journey. She has put so much time and effort and care in building this amazing quilting resource. Her guidance has been invaluable not only to me, but to numerous other quilters.

At first, I was incensed to read about the email. I could just feel Anina’s frustration and hurt. Then I started talking about the issue with my husband, and reading through the comments left on that post. Trademark/copyright are tricky issues. My husband (who is in the software industry, and who has strong feelings on the subject himself) put it in an “imagine if…” situation for me, and I feel like I can better understand where Ms. Papadakis is coming from. Hopefully, with some discussion and maybe a name change to the blog, all will be well again.

Ooo! I just checked the Dear Baby Jane blog, and it looks like there is positive news. I’m crossing my fingers.

Gettin' my craft on!

I can't believe it's already been a week since my last post. Time really seems to fly by this time of year! I spent most of the last week though recovering from the same cold I was struggling with the previous week. Thankfully, I'm finally feeling more-or-less myself again. Yay! I think after getting through the holiday family party last Saturday (which was a lot of fun!), my body decided to kind of decompress and relapsed back into illness for a bit.

Anyway, last night was my Bunko group's annual holiday gathering. We played a couple of rounds and then did a gift exchange. This year, I went a more handcrafted route and made a basket (à la Pink Penguin):

bunko basket
The basket came together so quickly and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.

Of course, then I had to fill it up with some stuff, including this cute little bird ornament from Last Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts by Joelle Hoverson:

bunko blue bird
I put a penny in this picture to give some scale. I didn't realize when I decided to make it exactly how tiny this little birdie is. So cute! And it took me about an hour to make. It was really a quick and simple project (which is good since I truly did make it at the last minute!). I'm definitely going to be trying some of the other projects from this book.

Also in the basket was a mix CD (I even made the label), a pretty glass votive candle holder (with a simple, unscented candle), and a beautiful bar of handmade soap I found at local market.

gift basket components

And then all assembled:

assembled gift basket
The recipient seemed to be very happy when she opened it. Yay!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: G-3

Dear Jane block G-3Block number/name: G-3 “Four Leaf Clover”

Date completed: December 11, 2008

Number of pieces: 3

Notes on block: Reverse appliqué works so well for me. I love it. Inspired by a version I saw in the flickr pool, I used a striped green for this block (though it’s pretty subtle).

The preschool holiday party was last night. And even though my son wasn’t able to attend, I ended up having a pretty good time hanging out in the cookie room all evening. It was so fascinating seeing how each child went about decorating the cookies. Not to mention that the preschoolers were just so darned cute, there was nothing one could do but smile.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: F-6 & A-8

Dear Jane block F-6Block number/name: F-6 “Deanie’s Daisies”

Date completed: December 9, 2008

Number of pieces: 34

Notes on block: I’m a little behind still. But I’m working on it. I’ve had a nasty cold the last few days, and have pretty much spent my evenings laying on the couch doing nothing. But I’m happy I’m finally feeling well enough to do a little stitching in the evening now. But I stayed up way too late in order to finish this block. I suffered for it the next day. I’m going to blame my funky appliqué melons on sickness. Really though, I probably ought to have tried the freezer paper on bottom method for this one. I guess I thought that they were so small, and I have so little experience with that method, that they would probably end up looking better if I did needleturn. What I found, however, is that it was difficult to accurately place the pieces, and so now I have a funky center. Live and learn.

Since from a galloping horse it would probably look alright, I’m keeping it. (Though I admit, I did re-do one of the melons. It was just bad.)

Dear Jane block A-8Block number/name: A-8 “Florence Nightengale”

Date completed: December 10, 2008

Number of pieces: 11

Notes on block: Easy peasy. And I didn’t stay up too late doing it. I was in bed by 11:30. Yay! Now if only my poor sick boy could manage to keep from rolling out of bed 3 times a night… I’m very tired today.

sugar cookie bonanza(Don't pay any attention to that funky one... it was the last of the dough, and I couldn't very well let such tastiness go to waste!)

Tonight is the preschool holiday party. I’m in charge of the cookie room, wherein hordes of preschoolers gather to decorate sugar cookies. So I’ve been baking. Rather, I should say that my husband has done much of the baking (as I didn’t want to disease the cookies while still recovering from my cold). Fortunately, I made the dough last week (pre-sickness), so he was able focus on rolling, cutting, and baking. I’m a little sad though, because I don’t think the boy will get to go since he’s still sick. But, being the cookie maven and all, at least I can decorate and bring a cookie home for him.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Guild Night

Last Thursday was guild night. It was a special holiday meeting with a potluck dinner and some rousing games of Quilto! For the occasion, I finally managed to make myself a nametag:

my guild nametag
At the last meeting, the guild president threatened to institute a fine for members who don't wear nametags to the meeting. She was joking (I think), but it helped motivate me to make one for myself, albeit a simple one whipped together during naptime the day of the meeting. But I'm actually pretty pleased with it. And I have to say, it actually felt really good to wear it and have people talk to me using my name.

On the Quilto front (think "Bingo", but quilt-oriented), I didn't win the grand prize of tons of fat quarters (every member "bought" their game cards by paying a fat quarter, and all of those went on to become the ultimate prize). But I did manage to be a winner in one of the early rounds and got to pick a prize:

Quilto prize
How cute are they? These are little fat eighths from Benartex fabrics. I'm thinking I might use them to make a holiday gift basket, ala Pink Penguin (and the lovely one I received on Thanksgiving!).

Oh—and if you haven't already heard, Freda's Hive has a whole week of blog-o-versary fun and giveaways planned. Nanette and her daughters make wonderful things and it is always a joy to see what they're up to. You should definitely pay their blog a visit!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dear Baby Jane: RS-1

Dear Jane block RS-1Block number/name: RS-1 “Tennessee Valley”

Date completed: December 6, 2008

Number of pieces: 26

Notes on block: For whatever reason, this block took me a long time to finish. I started it the Monday before Thanksgiving, and just didn’t get around to completing it until last night. Most of my seams match up pretty well, so I’m rather pleased with it.

Today was pretty eventful. We went out this morning and purchased a Christmas tree and got it standing up in our family room. We plan to decorate it tomorrow evening. This is quite a feat given that we generally don’t put up a tree until the weekend before Christmas (last year the decorations didn’t even get put up until Christmas Eve!). Notable event number two: during naptime, The Boy managed to jump himself out of his crib. Fortunately, the only injury was a cut lip. But it was still super scary. Now he’s sleeping in a toddler bed. He made it pretty clear that he’s against the change, evidenced by a huge fuss at bedtime. But I checked later on and he had crawled into his bed and fallen asleep. He’s getting to be such a big boy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Crafting away...

I know I haven't been posting much in the way of crafty progress lately, but its not for lack of doing. I have been stitching away at stuff, including Dear Jane, Prairie Pinwheels (which I've given up hope on completing before Christmas, but I'm working on it nonetheless—15 of 48 blocks done so far!), and some holiday gifty things. Also, I've nearly completed another block for my Grandma's Country Album II:

This one is called "Tethered Twigs." The trickiest part was the little bow. Those pieces were narrow! I completed most of it using needleturn applique with freezer paper on top. The only bits left to do are the embroidered stems for all the little buds. But my big discovery in this block: Roxanne's Basting Glue. That stuff is awesome!!! I used it to set the stems in place, and I am just so excited about how well it worked. I'm thinking that my next block, I might try the freezer paper on bottom method where you prep all the pieces and turn under the seams before stitching down, thus giving me the chance to really try the basting glue out. But there are a lot of pieces in the next block (ergo, a lot of prep work), so I'm not sure if I'll have the patience for that or not. We'll see.

Meanwhile, I'm stitching up gifts for our toddler friends in my son's PEPS group. Hopefully, I'll have some pictures to share soon!