Saturday, December 24, 2011

Holiday spirit

Saw this on the way home from church tonight and laughed the rest of the way home.

Christmas Eve Prayer

Christmas Eve Prayer

Loving God, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.

Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.

May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus' sake.


Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fun stuff

I have this old wooden bowl that I love that we found when we closed up my in-laws' house a number of years ago (I know the number, I just don't want to admit how many years it has been!). I decided to make some Christmassy rag balls for a decoration on the organ bench that we use as a table in our foyer. I think that starting with styrofoam balls is cheating a bit but it serves two good purposes: it makes the balls really round and you need less fabric.

One of our deans gave me cookie cutters for Christmas, so I threw them in the bowl as well. Fun, cute, fast and cheap. Four of my favorite things

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Day four: Melissa's Delicate Mint Sandwich Cookies

I love these. They are very similar to a cookie my sister-in-law Darlene made by the hundreds for my wedding reception in 1986 - 25 years ago this year!

I love anything that includes buttercream as a major player. These will be popular around my office - we are icing people.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Paula's Loaded Oatmeal Cookies

These are delicious, but they're worth making just for the way they make the house smell!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cookies and collaboration

First, the cookies. These are Alton Brown's Gingersnaps and they are day two of the 12 Days of Cookies. They are very ginger-y! The recipe calls for ground ginger, fresh ginger and candied ginger. Next are loaded oatmeal cookies from Paula Deen. I may make them today.

And here's the collaboration. Grace and I were in Las Colchas one day this summer and they had a Charming Log Cabin by Threaded Pear made up with kits for sale. Grace asked Francine and me if that was something we thought she could make and of course we said yes. So, she pieced it this summer and I finally machine-quilted it this past week. The fabric is Tina Givens' Opal Owl line, plus some extras.

Machine quilting is not my strong suit, but she wanted only simple diamonds, so I plunged it with a lot of trepidation and false bravado. I really, really, really love hand-quilting, but I also really love having a quilt finished in a week's time!

The very best thing I did was to baste it a la Sharon Schamber. If you've never tried her technique I highly recommend it. I don't think I'll ever baste another way. The back stayed perfectly flat through the basting and the stitches were so secure. I have so many tops that stay that way because I hate dragging them, my batting the backing and supplies to church on a Saturday and setting up 6-ft tables and taping or clamping the back down, pinning the sandwich together and then bending over the quilt for hours basting. With Sharon's method, I basted the whole thing sitting at my dining room table.

See her Amy Butler gumdrop in the background? That was another fun collaboration.

Friday, December 2, 2011

12 Days of Cookies

Yesterday was day one of the 12 Days of Cookies from the Food Network website. You can sign up to receive a different cookie recipe by e-mail every day for 12 days. Last year Dave and I decided to make a double batch of each recipe each day and take them to our offices and that would be our Christmas gift for all our co-workers. It was a big hit, apparently. People in my office have been asking me when the cookies would start arriving since October! I wasn't sure I was going to do it again this year but I think it's become a tradition.

This recipe is Ina Garten's shortbread and it is delicious and so easy.

Today is also one of my biggest days of the year at work. Today is our holiday brunch for all employees - and we have about 800! We also invite recent retirees and donors to the college. I am in charge of this event and it used to have me in panic mode for weeks in advance. It gets easier every year.

After today is over I have a small convocation event to plan for January, but other than that it's two weeks of office cleaning and catch up before being closed for two weeks for the holiday. It's the only "down time" we have in our busy office.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Design wall October 31

Happy Halloween for those who celebrate it. We'll have a few trick-or-treaters tonight - fewer than 20. I bought our candy on Saturday. Yesterday my husband bought some more! I'm always afraid of running out.

On my design wall today is what was once a finished top. It's a Jo Morton pattern from her Jo's Little Women Club from a couple (several) years ago when Las Colchas had a club. I love it - but I decided I would love it even more if it were bed sized. So I'm going to use my new EQ7 to add "borders" to make it larger. I think it will be beautiful.

Go to Judy's blog to be inspired by more design walls.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

EQ 7

My birthday is a couple of weeks away and my family has been hounding me for hints. I mentioned a few things. Remember, I don't mind gifts with cords, so I suggested a stick blender. Not very romantic, but I'd really like to have one. I'd like a new camera, as well, but what I want is sort of off-budget for right now.

And then I saw it. The Quilt in a Day store posted on Facebook that they were having a smoking hot deal on EQ7! I hopped over to their website and found out what the price was and texted my spouse and child immediately, "I know exactly what I want for my birthday." Hubby complied (such a sweetie!)

I can't wait until it arrives. By the time I saw the deal and he called to order, it was already on backorder, so it will not arrive until close to my birthday. I love having something to look forward to!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Design wall 10-10-11

Here's a quilt "revival" I'm working on. A number of years ago (ok, about 15) I bought this top at an antique store that was going out of business in Tyler, Texas. It was half price - I think I paid something like $40 or so. I don't know anything about its history. It looks like authentic 30's-40's fabric, but they're in absolute pristeen condition - the colors are so sharp and the fabric is like-new feeling. But I don't think they're reproductions. Any way, as you can see, it's unfinished. There's not enough of the border to go all the way around.

So my next project is to take the border off the two sides it's on, cut in in half lengthwise, put it on as a narrow border and then put a wider border on. I'm determined to use something from stash as I'm still on my quest to use what I have before buying more.

When I get this complete I'll have to count the number of tops needing quilting and then get serious about which are going to the longarmer and which get hand-quilted.

Days of the week

I purchased a set of stamped dish towels to embroider at a recent quilt show. I finished the last one this morning while sitting on the sofa listening to the rain and watching Friday Night Lights on Netflix. I love to embroider. I started embroidering when I was about 7-years-old. Someday I'll post the very first hand-work I ever did (hilarious!), which I'm amazed I still have.

I love these. I wonder how something like this would do on Etsy. Are there enough vintage-lovers out there?

I'm about to make some white bean soup with gremolata. I didn't know what gremolata was until I read the recipe. It's lemon rind, parsely and garlic. Isn't that sort of like chimichuri?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Evolution of a design wall

Like I said in my post this morning, I have been busy since spring. I've been on a mission to complete UFOs and use up fabric I already own. I really believe I could sew for the rest of my life with what I have in stash and scraps. Did I say that out loud?

So first, I saw a quilt on the cover of American Patchwork and Quilting a few issues ago and had one of those "I have to make that" moments. Kathie Holland designed the wonderful scrappy rail fence on the cover of the August, 2011 issue. (Note added 10/7: Funnily enough, I found her blog just recently, but didn't realize I had made one of her designs until she posted a comment on this post!) I went scrap hunting in every closet and plastic tub in my house and turned this:

into this:

which became this:

There are some truly ancient scraps in this quilt. It's really a fabric album. There are pieces of fabric from dresses my mom Grace sewed for me and from dresses that I sewed for my daughter Grace.

I also worked on the leader-ender double 4 patch that's been hanging around for a while (on the right in this pic):

I'm strictly leader-ender-ing that one, though, so it might be around for a while.

Finally, as I was digging in one plastic bucket I found a kit I bought in about 1999-ish and since it was a quick-to-finish kind of a thing I put it together a couple of weekends ago.

I think I'll spend the winter quilting.

Check out other design walls here, thanks to Judy.

Well, hello again

Ok - it's now customary for me to go months without posting. I'm not even going to say I'm going to try and do better. We'll just see how it goes.

I have been busy since spring. I finished the restoration of a church member's grandmother's flower garden. All the flowers looked like this:

And now the whole quilt looks like this:

I was nervous to return it to her, but she loved it. I had previously replaced the binding on another antique quilt she has, a North Carolina Lily, and she was thrilled with that job, but this one's so much bigger. And this is her favorite quilt because her grandmother made it and she remembers sleeping under it as a child.

I did have to go a bit lighter on the gold fabric - but it's still in character, I think.

This project has really made me want to do quilt restoration as a side career. I would love that. I'd love to go to the workshops Nancy Kirk holds. Or at least purchase her dvds. But I think the next step is to find another quilt that needs restoration and restore half of it so I can have something to show people. Sounds like a good reason to go antique hunting!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bloggers' Quilt Festival

Here is my entry for the Bloggers' Quilt Festival that Amy at Amy's Creative Side is hosting. It's a Santa sampler from Bird Brain Designs. Las Colchas started it as a block of the month in, maybe 2008? The only thing is, I did everything completely different than was included in the block of the month. I used different fabric to embroider the Santas on, used a different embroidery stitch, and used a different color perl cotton than came with the kits. One day when I was in the shop picking up my kit for the month, I saw a fat quarter stack of these Sturbridge Village scarlets and knew I had to have them to set the Santas, so I did a completely different setting than the one that came with the pattern. So, I'm not sure I can call this a block of the month anymore.
The picture above was taken when the top was finished I finally finished hand quilting it last fall. I'm really happy with it and I'm thinking about entering it in the San Antonio Quilt Show this year. I've been quilting for many, many years but have never entered a quilt in a judged show. I would love to get a ribbon of any kind - "honorable mention" would thrill me to death.
Yesterday was graduation at the college I work at. More than 870 students crossed the stage (and more than that graduated, but chose not to be in the ceremony). It was chaos right up until the time of the processional, but after that it was perfect! My part of graduation is to help organize the "VIPs" on the stage party - our administrators, board of trustees, the speakers, soloist, etc., making sure they have their academic regalia on right, get lined up for the processional like they're supposed to be and get to the right place at the right time, etc. It's a wonderful ceremony and the students are so happy and excited, but I'm always so glad when it's over!

Monday, May 9, 2011

On my design wall today

These 14.5 inch 30's reproduction blocks are on my design wall today - but they'll probably come down today, too. When I finished Southern Stars I started looking for another UFO to finish and these came out. I'm just not into them right now, though. I have no idea how to set them, for one thing. Also, I have somewhere in my stash muslin purchased at the same time to use in setting them, and I can't find it. I just have to wait until it shows up, I guess.

So, I think I'll put the double four-patches, which were a leader-ender-use-up-leftovers project on the front burner and see what happens.

Here are some more design walls to look at, thanks to Judy.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lucky me!

Mother's Day has been great so far and it just started! I'm that weird kind of woman who actually likes gifts with cords, so I'm loving this panini press. I'm thinking we're going to have paninis every night this week.
And who wouldn't love the gift of original artwork from their favorite and future famous artist who just happens to be my daughter!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Orange Dessert

I like recipe blogs almost as much as I like quilt blogs, so I thought I might try to throw in some recipes every so often. I made this dish today which goes by the very unimaginative name of "Orange Dessert." I usually make it in one big dish, but two smaller ones fit in my freezer better. And as it turned out, it was a sort of serendipity that I made it in two dishes. Dave decided this morning to go visit a neighbor who cares for her husband who has Alzheimer's (who happens to be a retired pastor in our conference) and as he was leaving I handed him one of these to take with him. He also took her some Mother's Day flowers. He can be a pretty good guy when he wants to!

I got this recipe from Southern Living magazine a few years ago, so you know it's going to be good. I make it as low fat and low sugar as I can, as you will see.

Orange Dessert

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
60 Ritz crackers, crushed (I use the low sodium ones)
1/4 cup sugar (I use Splenda)
1 (14-oz) can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (I use the fat-free Eagle Brand)
1 6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 8-oz container Cool Whip, thawed (I use sugar-free)
2 11-oz cans mandarin oranges, drained (I use the no-sugar-added ones)

Combine first three ingredients. Set aside 3/4 cup. Press remaining crumb mixture into a 13x9x2 baking dish and set aside.

Combine Eagle Brand and orange juice. Fold in Cool Whip and oranges. Spoon mixture over crust and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Cover and freeze until firm.

I set it out a little while before I serve it. Just long enough so that the mandarin oranges thaw a little, otherwise they're like chunks of orange ice.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Design wall - a bit late this week

I took my own advice, sort of. After making a total of 450 3-inch four-patches, I decided to put them aside and finish the last two blocks of the Southern Stars quilt. I was so close to getting the next to the last block finished Monday morning in time to post at Judy's blog, but had sewn two of the half square triangles in backwards! I hate unsewing. I took the block to work with me and unsewed during my lunch hour.

And here's the very last block, ready to be put together. Then it's on to the sashing.

Anyone watching the royal wedding Friday? We plan to get up early to watch and make "wedding waffles" for breakfast.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the fabric on the ironing board is for the border of the quilt.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

What was Easter like when you were a child? I remember every woman and girl always had a new Easter dress, and usually hat, shoes and purse to go with it. I remember the excitement of hunting the Easter eggs first thing in the morning. If it was raining, the Easter Bunny hid them in the living room. My Easter "basket" was usually a new sand pail, for playing in my sandbox, one of my favorite activities. I would love to have one or two of those pails now! I think I need to check out eBay and see if I can find any.

Then came Sunday School, where we'd do a crafty gift for our parents like a new Bible bookmark, or something. My mom's Bible was stuffed with those bookmarks - typically a length of satin ribbon with a sticker at the top. Then home to family and a feast. My grandmother would bring me a shoebox full of flower transplants from her flower beds. To this day, the smell of stock takes me instantly to my grandmother's side.

My mom was born in 1915, and her childhood Easter egg experience was a bit different than the standard egg hunt. On the day before Easter each child (with my grandmother watching closely so she could "direct" the Easter Bunny later) found a secluded spot near the house and built a "nest" with leaves, twigs, grass, etc. Then on Easter morning they would go to their nests and find the colored eggs left by the Easter Bunny in the nest. Seems like this would confuse little ones - did the bunny lay the eggs? Did he bring a hen friend along? Oh well, these were country kids, they probably knew exactly where eggs came from from an early age.

Being a clergy family, my husband has always been out the door by 6 a.m. on Sunday (or earlier) for the sunrise service at church. We had to be creative if he was going to experience the fun of watching our daughter hunt Easter eggs. For the first couple of years we had Grace convinced that the Easter Bunny came to our house on Saturday evening (he has to start somewhere, right?). We'd also have our big meal then. If you don't know, Easter, and all of Holy Week, are exhausting for church staff. Joyful and emotional and stressful, but most of all exhausting.

When she was in about the 2nd grade, we were getting her Easter basket ready for the next day when Grace wrote a note for the Easter Bunny. At the end of the note she drew an "x" and line and wrote, "Sign here if you are real." So after she went to bed I sort of messily signed "Hippity" with my left hand. When she woke up the next morning she looked at the note and said, "Just what I thought, Dad's handwriting."

Hope you have a wonderful Easter Sunday, confident of God's sacrifice for you.

Monday, April 18, 2011

On my design wall

Hello again! I can't believe I've gone so long without posting. Life is just so daily, as Mary Engelbreit says! I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things. Nothing major happened in these last few months. Work has been tough, but it always is. We're dealing with the same budget cuts every one else is. But as my boss (the college president) says, we can't control what the economy and the state government are doing, we can only control how we react to our circumstances. And one of my best ways to deal with stress is to sew!! (The others are pray and cook!)

And on that note, here is my design wall today. There are 10 blocks of Southern Stars by Pacific Patchwork and a bunch of double four-patches in a setting I love from a book called Triangle-Free Quilts by Judy Hopkins. Las Colchas did the Southern Stars as a bom a couple of years ago. (Hi Francine!). I started making the double four-patches a couple of weeks ago when I had a bunch of leftover 1 1/2 inch brown and beige blocks and strip sets from my sister's choice quilt. I needed a fairly mindless activity to occupy my hands and free my brain from too much junk, so I just kept making and making and making 3-inch four-patches. I thought I'd use up all my brown and beige fabric, then hunt for a block that incorporated the four patches and then I remembered the Judy Hopkins quilt. I did buy some new fabric for the bigger squares in the four patches. My small four patches are so incredibly scrappy I wanted some consistency in the large ones.

Please don't point out that in much less than the time it took to make the 200 3-inch four-patches I've made so far I could easily have made the other two Southern Stars blocks and put them together and had a finished top to show for it! That makes way too much sense!

Two great things that are happening this week: it's Sylvester's day to clean my house today (he comes every other Monday) and it's our second four-day work week in a row! So today is really my Tuesday! And I'm really busy at work, so time will fly by.

Time for Bible study/devotion with my pastor spouse. We try for every morning over coffee. It doesn't always work out, but most of the time it does.