Sunday, September 26, 2010

If it's Sunday, I must be packing again...

I'm off to the Mother Ship in Basel for work this week. Summer was so nice and quite travel-wise, and we had some REAL actual family vacation time this year - 2 weeks in Europe (yes, I had to work in Basel a few days in the middle, but it was a great time!), 1 week at the Lair, Tahoe swim meet, 2 different weekend camping trips. We've not been that busy having family fun trips in a few years!

So it is a bit of a shock coming back to this reality.  Last week I was in Tucson for a work meeting - we have a business there in tissue diagnostics, Ventana (now owned by the Mother Ship). Anyway, I really loved the landscape around Tucson, and our hosts were terrific. I wanted to move there and try something new after a couple of days!  Of course, we couldn't do that to Teen Wonder now that she's less than 2 years away from graduating. But it really is beautiful there. Mr. Wonderful claims we wouldn't survive a summer there. He may be right... We did a 6am hike in a local state park on Wednesday - the rain was coming and it was very humid. I just didn't expect that at all - but I've never been there before so what do I know?
a snapshot across a little creek in the park...I wish I'd gotten some good closeups of the saguaro. and next time I want to go to the Saguaro National Park which I hear is nearby and quite fantastic.  Maybe in the spring when all the wildflowers will be in bloom...
Anyway, crafty-wise it's important for me to pick out portable knitting projects for my travels. Teen Wonder's hoodie vest is no longer portable since I'm wrapping up the last panel and need to assemble to start the hood. I have another sweater project to frog and refashion, I think I have some socks somewhere that I started so I'd better find those today before I have to leave again.

I did take dear Megan's quilt top and back to the shop yesterday to commission the quilting. Although it will be 3 weeks before I get it back, I still think it's a better bet than trying to finish it myself. I'd be rushing and fitting it into small timeslots so it wouldn't be a fancy job even if I did have the skills (which I don't yet) - I'd just have to stitch straight lines in the ditch, or tack the quilt down...anyway, it's off and will be beautiful I am sure.

Monday, September 20, 2010

I like it!

Getting my big quilt machine quilted by someone else!  It looks really great, and the quilter even gave me compliments like "your piecing was good" and "everything was smooth and rolled onto the machine easily", and even "nice quilt"...

I had asked her to pick the quilt motif from a few choices - something "not too girly" since it's meant to go on our bed. Though it's a little too small, but oh well...

you can see I haven't done the binding yet. Not sure what fabric to use...I have some leftover prints, but they are pretty large print patterns for a binding. Does that matter? hmmm...
can you see the quilting?  She used a variegated thread, but pretty good match/complement to the different fabrics
This is the pieced back.  One time soon I will try a less fussy back.  The quilter did comment that you could "almost use the back as a top". Yes, that was the look I was going for.

Anyway, I am seriously considering getting Megan's quilt machine quilted professionally too. I am on my way to Tucson for a business trip and then again next week to Basel and Vienna. So I could finish piecing the back and drop it off next Saturday. Even with a 3 week turnaround, the odds are I wouldn't be any faster doing it myself (though I really wanted to try the circle quilting thing).  My days of extra time have come to an abrupt end! At least for a few weeks. November should be quiet again, but it will be holiday crafting time by then.

RE: Funky Monkey quilt - it was well received at the shower on Saturday for all it's cuteness factor (who can resist sock monkeys?). But WOW!  our church ladies include some extremely talented crafters - there were 3 other quilts that were much higher quality in terms of piecing and quilting...real knockouts!! I wish I'd taken photos of them all!  Made me pretty self conscious of my puckered minky that stretched out while I was quilting it...but I'll have to live with it now!  That is what I deserve for waiting until the last minute to finish it up!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

another one down!

Okay, another project to tick off my list! And in time for a baby shower that is coming up on Saturday for a couple who we are SOOOO happy for!  But I did have to be creative about picking something relatively simple that I could finish in the time constraint.  There are numerous imperfections...mostly due to using the minkee fabric for the backing. It stretches, and doesn't feed through well even with a walking the minimal quilting I did do resulted in some loose/puckered parts on the back and some uneven stitching.

BUT, the overall result is darn cute. And the minkee is very hopefully the overall result was worth the minkee.  In the future, I would reserve minkee to smaller baby quilt projects. And it will probably be easier the second time... so we will see.

cute Funky Monkey panel center...

dotty Minkee backing
final quilt - something like 40 x 50" give or take.
I used flannel for a batting to keep the weight lighter, and just sewed laters together and turned with a topstitch edge rather than binding. The borderlines are quilted, and concentric rectangles around the monkey headshot squares.

Yay!  Now, Megan's quilt next, and then another baby quilt, and then the Christmas quilt, and then also I need to figure out how to hang our Kaz Dream Quilts (one for Wild Thing and one for us - I had totally forgotten about those, but Mr. Wonderful reminded me about that tonight...), and then also the cute Japanese fabric for Teen Wonder - still haven't figured out the best pattern for those. Worst thing is that I went to Beverly's and browsed through fabric but couldn't figure out the best accent fabrics to use. It's sort of a chicken and egg thing with the quilt design since that would make a big difference in the choices.

Also have some knitting projects to attend to - still progressing on Teen Wonder's hoodie vest, but haven't been spending much time knitting (obviously).

Anyway, it feels good to finish a project no matter how large or small!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

experiment with music...

So, if you hate the music thing, just turn it off (player in the sidebar) and leave me a comment. If there were people reading my blog, and they hated the music, then I'll take it off. I'm not sure how much this matters so far. I mean, I do have a follower now (yay!), but not much traffic so far.  

Why the music? Well, I mentioned I've been checking out other blogs...and also adding links to them (also see sidebar). There is a cool one "A La Mode Fabric" where you get music when you go there, and I really like her playlist and also wondered how and where the music was being generated. Which led me to "", which led me to create a playlist (stealing liberally from the alamode playlist which you can do with the push of a button) and figure out how to post it here. It's free! And if you like it you can pop out the player and keep listening while you navigate away from my site in a few seconds from now.

it's an experiment, and hey! I am a scientist...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Teen Wonder is having a birthday!!

But at the moment, I'm the one with the new present to open!  What is it?
(duh. there are limited choices: fabric, yarn, craft porn, or a real be-lated birthday present)

ta-da!! FABRIC!
(First off, I need to start taking photos with a real camera instead of my blackberry. But it's the fastest path to a post, so for now this is what I've got...)

This is only my second time buying the MODA pre-cuts. I have a Layer Cake of holiday fabric to make a quilt for the sofa during that season (which is by the way a very wierd concept for me, and we certainly don't have any storage space to accomodate a seasonal rotation of throw quilts!).  And these, the charm square "Tweet Tweet" pack, and the Candy Bar pack (wow!) stemmed from the list of baby quilt projects I had. But really I only needed enough to make a specific quilt that needed one+ charm pack plus the muslin and backing (the red and orange floral there). How did I end up with the extra candy bar pack?!

I'm so weak.

Anyway, it really is the Teen Wonder's 16th birthday, so I'm off to get her ice cream cake and wrap presents, because yes I did get her some presents of her own.  Can you imagine my end of that dialog? "hey, happy birthday honey! look what came in the mail for ME?" "oh, make you a quilt?" "yeah, I'll get to that at some point"..."soon, I promise."  But I got her a Flip camera instead. And her stepdad got her some cool t-shirts from some site she loves online (can't remember at the moment), and her brother got her something we'll have a little party later.  Saturday was spent taking Teen Wonder and her friends to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. That was really fun (though exhausting!)  It has been more years than I can even think since I've been on so many rides in one day. They have THE BEST roller coaster in the world there too. I always have to ride it at least twice.  I had to buy Teen Wonder a new sweatshirt because the fog rolled in and she forgot to bring one (I'm sure this was a trick to get a memento from her birthday party!). It was really cold! But the girls soldiered on (one of them had to buy some jeans!). 

party on!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dear Monkey Mind - Please quiet down!

Closing out another workweek and the second week of school for Wild Thing and Teen Wonder. For some reason I have been feeling a little down past couple of days...which usually makes me aware of obsessive and/or racing strings of thought.  Since I'm back early from a visit to a lovely collaborator at UCSF, I am taking a few minutes to breathe deeply at the computer and write a little...

As this blog is more about creative endeavors, I won't bore anyone with the details of my worklife. I really enjoy my job, and work with many talented and fun people. But you know, a job is still a job. Otherwise it wouldn't be called work, would it?  Anyway, I'm also refraining in this blog from sharing too much gory detail about my personal life (my ruminations of which could easily fill it's own blog) - that's what my notebook is for.

So...what crafty obsessions and worries do I have? I shouldn't be worrying about crafty things at all. duh.  But since I am working on and planning projects that are going to loved ones, I have some internal pressure and some external "due dates" (in the literal sense). And I think I am juggling too many...but as I write this I realize it's like everything else in my life. Just break it down into smaller pieces to stave off the paralysis that comes from overwhelming yourself, and get to work!

First - I've been obsessing that I never took a photo of my little flag/serger project to post. So, that's an easy one to check off:
You can see that it's nothing too fancy - next time I'll plan out some patchwork pieced  super cute theme or something like that.  But like I said, I now feel like I can use my new toy and look forward to spending more time with it!

Next on the list: A quilt for my dear stepsister Megan who is fighting (and likely winning) a battle against the C word. The thing I like about making something for someone is that it is a tangible way to meditate and pray on that person and your hopes or dreams for her or him with a physical output.  I guess that's why people call projects like this a labor of love, but it's more than that. I hope that she will feel wrapped in a prayer when she throws it on while lounging in her new LaZBoy and healing. Here are a couple WIP shots:

This isn't the entire top - just a part. I used the "Yellow Brick Road" quilt pattern by Atkinson Designs which is quite clever and easy and keeps large enough pieces of the fabric that you can really see the prints. These are pretty much all Heather Bailey. They are so charming!

The back is pieced from other fabrics I had stashed (in keeping with a fabric diet plan that has only been partially successful so far). I need to finish piecing it and figure out how I should quilt it.

I am not an experienced free-motion quilter, but would love to try it. This may be a little ambitious/large for a first try. I haven't decided.  Straight lines seem too angular for the feeling I want to have in the quilt. I'm thinking about circles. I saw a yellow brick road quilt on Flickr where the quilter (blogged on kittykittycrafts)used various size plates, bowls, etc. to trace circles all over the quilt and then stitch them - it was a really nice look.

When I finish the quilt, I'll post a full picture with better lighting.

Other obsessions: 2 baby quilts for couples at church, something to do with the Japanes fabric I bought for Teen Wonder, also Teen Wonder's T-shirt quilt, Wild Child is asking why don't I make him a quilt, the hoodie vest I'm knitting for Teen Wonder, and the sweater that I'll finish for my mom but haven't decided whether to frog it back and make the sizing better (she's getting skinny, it's too big in bust and too small in hips, etc.) I'm thinking frog.

and it's time to start holiday handmade projects...

Monday, September 6, 2010

successful whip-up evening...

Don't you love it when you conceive of a little project idea and then it goes off without a hitch?

I do.

I got a serger for my birthday (such a surprise!!).  It is the Brother 1034D; much beloved on the internet by hundreds of reviewers, and at the very bottom entry-level pricepoint:

So, my birthday was nearly a week ago, but it was on a Tuesday, so no time during the week to do more than read the users manual and steel myself against my fear of a complex machine that I'll have to teach myself to use.

Then we went camping over Labor Day weekend - great fun, and BTW, the Vegetarian Chili from my last post turned out to be extremely tasty - I will make it again despite the required vegetable prep time involved.

So today we get home, unpack, rest a little, buy a whoopie cushion for Wild Thing (don't ask), do some laundry and grocery shopping, and at last I had a chance to fire this baby up.

I just used the pre-threaded spools which are color coded and useful for practice. Practiced a few times with a 4-thread overlock, then hauled out the rest of my scrapbag. I made a new flag for our little flag holder "welcome" thingie in the front flower bed - you know, it sticks in the ground and you change the flags with the seasons. Only I never do, and am chronically 2 seasons behind... So there's some rather unattractive weathered rag greeting me each day for months and I keep thinking "Hey - I could probably whip up a little patchwork flag to hang there"

But I never did.  Until tonight that is!  I pieced some strips together using the 4 thread overlock, then finished the edges with the 3 thread overlock - and finally made the loop in the top using the Blind stitch foot and 3 thread overlock stitch (having never done this I had to battle minor dislexia to the the folding right, but it worked!

The 4-thread overlock piecing

3-thread overlock finishing edge
Blind stitch hem for making a loop at the top of the flag
I will have to post a completed photo of the flag hanging in the yard tomorrow because it is pitch black outside at the moment.  It isn't fancy, but it is colorful - and the main point is that I no longer fear the serger! What a cool new toy!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Help wanted: Sous Chef

We are going camping.
With a vegetarian, so I wanted to make a yummy vegetarian chili for a camp dinner. I've made vegetarian chili using my standard from my head recipe just without meat. Once or twice I've used TVP (texturized vegetable protein) with some success, but this time I thought I'd find a new recipe.

I love the internet.

The recipe has many reviews, all raving, and it uses portobello mushrooms to give a meaty (chewy) feel. It has corn (which I don't like in soup or stew or chili), but I figure I am maybe being unfair and should give it a try. I found his Vegetarian Chili by Emeril Lagasse on the Food Network using google. It has over 200 reviews, mostly 5 stars. I am sure it will be delicious (it's cooking as I write), but there is one LIE in the recipe. It says 25 minutes prep time.

maybe if you have your own Sous Chef!

There are chopped onions and red peppers, minced garlic and serrano chiles, diced zucchini, 2 pounds of cubed portobello mushrooms, and 3 cups of fresh corn kernels cut from the cob.  I did 1.5X the recipe to make more for a crowd, but still!  And this does not count the 6 fresh large tomatoes that I should have peeled and cubed. At that point I resorted to canned diced tomatoes.

I still need to chop cilantro and avocados for the garnish and cook some brown rice to serve it over. But it does smell delicious!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Good for a laugh

Whether or not you have children of your own, you will hopefully get a chuckle out of this sign posted at the gate of Lake Chabot campground:

I guess it pays to read the fine print in any situation.