Tuesday, January 28, 2014

In the bleak midwinter

When I was in church choir singing alto, I remember singing this song every January. I think of the song whenever January throws its bleak, cold shadows on my soul. The weather here swings back and forth from balmy 60s/70s to a frigid (for us) 9 degrees. No wonder so many around me are sick.

It also makes for a very depressing time--the sun is shining when I take Will to school and head to work (except for today when it was snowing), but it's almost dark by the time I get home in the evening. Go through all the chores necessary and it's almost 8:00 p.m. when I look up.

Can you tell so far that there has been no quality time in the studio for a few days?

AND, Photoshop Elements crashed on me two days ago. So no photos in this post. 

I need to get up earlier than usual in the morning, swig back the coffee, jump in the shower, get makeup on, hair dried and dressed, get Will moving, and get my miserable butt downstairs in the studio for some happy time. I want to have a good progress report for January.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January ... ugh.

After a beautiful weekend where I did no quilting until Monday, we are back to temperatures going down into the teens tonight. I need some Mexican Hot Cocoa:
Image from epicurious.com
I found this recipe in 2012 when I was planning my day of Christmas at the office. This stuff will warm you down to the tips of your toes, and for two good reasons--it has creme de cacao and chilies in it. Don't be put off by the chili--it adds a lovely kick that makes you feel nice inside.

Mexican Hot Cocoa

2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) evaporated milk
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup chocolate liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
10 cinnamon sticks
1 dried red chile
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Whisk evaporated milk, whole milk, liqueur, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and chili powder in a heavy saucepan. Add 2 of the cinnamon sticks and chile and cook gently over medium-low heat until warm. Add chocolate and cook, whisking until melted. Gently bring to a high simmer; reduce heat and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces slightly, whisking often, 10 minutes. Combine heavy cream with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat until peaks form. Ladle 1/3 cup hot cocoa into each of 8 teacups; top with 1 tablespoon whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Printable Recipe

Stay warm.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

More random thoughts

It is absolutely amazing to me how much better I feel when I spend as little as 30 minutes every day in my studio for a week! The hubster and I had a long talk Monday about my lack of time in the studio since Will moved in with us. Staying on top of him with his school work took all of our time and energy. DH and I talked about what I could do to get some time in the studio and we revisited a tactic I used a couple of summers ago--I got up earlier in the morning and immediately got ready for work, which allowed me at least an hour in the studio before heading out the door to work. Tuesday morning I got up early, got ready, got Will moving, and headed to the studio, and I've done it every morning since. Granted, that's only 3 days, but my attitude has greatly improved and I actually had a smile on my face for most of the day. Like I said; amazing.

What have I done this week? I have been cutting out the retirement quilt I'm making for my co-worker. I'm still waiting on a die and Go adapter tray from Accuquilt (scheduled to arrive tomorrow). I'm taking off tomorrow to spend the day in the studio and I would really like to wait to start piecing this one until I have that other die and adapter tray and can cut the remaining units, but our postal carrier won't be here until around 4:00 p.m. No worries; I'll find something else to work on. Maybe Swiss Mocha will get quilted.

So tomorrow begins my 4-day weekend thanks to the holiday on Monday. I won't spend the entire weekend quilting; I have some paperwork to organize and we still have to put up Christmas decorations. I may get back into the studio on Monday.

And 5 yards of this lovely stuff arrived yesterday! It's for a One Block Wonder quilt--apparently the repeat is fairly small so it might not work as well as I had hoped, but we'll see. Don't know when I'm going to start it, but I'll let you know when I do.

I've been looking at lots of quilts and other artwork online recently and getting loads of inspiration. When I think about the last couple of years, the projects I've worked on have been pretty dull. And working on old UFOs, while rewarding, is...well...boring! I need a little spark to get me revved up this year and I'm getting lots of ideas. I'm really excited about working on the special project (the Tattoo Quilt), but probably won't start it until next month.

Thanks for listening to me ramble. I hope you have a great weekend and get to quilt!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aaaaaahhhhh...that's better.

I spent some quality time in the Bottoms Up! Studio this weekend. I've been itching to start something new; it's been way too long since I started something (besides last year's Love Endures). I mentioned in a previous post the need to start on a retirement quilt, and that's what I did this weekend. I know I've mentioned I'm a process person and if I'm not using a purchased pattern, I like to plan everything out, down to what and how I'm going to cut and how much, and a lot of the joy in my quilting comes from all of that. I found a photo of this quilt and couldn't find out any information regarding a pattern for sale, so I drafted it in EQ7.

I'm using my Accuquilt Studio to do the cutting - it's so fabulous; cutting is the one thing I dread with quiltmaking because of my carpal tunnel syndrome. When I purchased the Studio it gave me license to think about doing quilts with many, many pieces again!
Shopping in my reds...
The retirement quilt - it's for a co-worker with whom I've worked for 19 years, but I've known him longer. We work for the federal government and he also served in the armed forces, so patriotic is the way to go and I think he'll like it. He has always appreciated my quilting and this will be a small gesture to thank him for his service to our agency and our country.

So today I cut the long stripes for the quilt. I'll cut the squares and half-square triangles this week, but I'm also waiting on two dies I've ordered--one from Accuquilt and one I purchased on eBay--to cut the quarter-square triangles.

While I pulled fabric for this project, I also pulled fabric for my third Blooming Nine Patch. I typically don't make the same quilt twice, but something about the Blooming Nine Patch always brings me back to it--I love it. It's always amazing to me that a simple nine patch and alternating square block can create such a dynamic design. The first one I made was full of bright fabrics and is now owned by my sister; the second was made in reproduction fabrics and is awaiting its turn on the longarm. It will go on our bed. This one will be just for fun, and I'll show the fabrics in another post.

I've also joined a Stashbusters group where each member has set a goal to use up a certain amount of their fabric stash. I've committed to using 36 yards (averaging 3 per month) which should be fairly easy to attain--provided I don't buy too much this year. I bought so little last year--about 5 yards--but I know this year won't be that light. I've already ordered 5 yards to make a One Block Wonder, but I have no plans to purchase more soon, unless it's for the other secret project I haven't started.

This weekend in the studio was just what the doctor ordered. I'd love a full week, but that won't be happening until this summer. I'll spend a couple of evenings in the studio this week and hopefully at least one full day next weekend.

What are you working on?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

More on organization...

My mantra for 2014: "Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results." - Dennis Wholey (with thanks to Nichole Webb Rivera for sharing it).

A new year always makes me stop and ponder the organization of my life...my studio, home, thoughts.... I spent a lot of time reorganizing my studio earlier in the year, but I'm rethinking it -- again. The longarm room needs a new layout and it definitely needs more lighting (especially in winter).

But everything else needs organization, too--I'm the keeper of the paper in this household, and I've been lax in keeping that part of our lives in order. I did do a big paper shove this year but it could be better. Also, the hubster is basically in the dark about where all the Important Papers reside, and he needs to know where things are. We've lost more family members and friends than normal this year and each time I've told him we need to have The Talk, and let our kids know where everything is. When one of my co-workers passed away unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago, the hubster agreed he needed to know what's going on. 

2014 will be Mission: Organized for me. I'm going to focus on paper, photos (combined with genealogy), college plans for Will, and finished quilts. I need to define exactly what I want to accomplish in all of those areas instead of just saying that I want it organized.
Photo of a corner of the Bottoms Up! Studio - yes, it's bad
I welcome any and all suggestions.

I will make a list of the quilts I want to complete this year and determine what is necessary to complete them. I created a spreadsheet of all of my UFOs 2 years ago and each one has a priority level (with 67 UFOs, you have to break it down somehow).

What do you want to accomplish in 2014? Besides the organization, life continues to speed along--and while we are shepherding our ward, the hubster and I are realizing he needs more time and attention than we originally anticipated. It will be interesting to see if we can strike a good balance.

Here's to accomplishing our goals for 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Year-End Review: Progress, Changes, Loss, Gain


I started this blog a year ago today with the hopes of tracking my progress in making quilts, but to also share bits and pieces of my life. My goal was to complete 12 quilts in 2013; I completed 8. While short of my goal, I'm very happy with the progress made because I typically get one quilt completed each year; this year has been my most productive. I was hoping to complete the 9th quilt by yesterday, but due to illness this week I couldn't make that happen.
7 of the quilts completed this year
The year was also marked with loss--my friend Sharon, my Aunt Bettye, and our beloved dog Buck. Just under two weeks ago one of my co-workers passed away. Sharon's passing is what really spurred me on to get more quilts completed (life is short); Aunt Bettye was the last of my Women of Great Influence of whom I have thought of a lot since her passing in October. Her passing also made me the new matriarch of our family. At 55, I feel I'm way too young to have that title and told my family members so--but they said I had been in training for it my entire life and I was ready.

And changes--we gained a new family member, Will. He's been with us for 3 months and it's been an adjustment. We're still finding our way but things are okay.

I have also noticed that I am turning inward and wanting to spend more time alone in the Bottoms Up! Studio. I have always been a social quilter and love quilting with the girlfriends, but I believe my quest to complete several quilts forced me to spend more time on my own getting the projects done instead of gabbing our time away. Please don't misunderstand me--I LOVE my Girlfriends and I will always want to stitch with them...but it seems I am no longer the person who says, "Oh, I'd love to teach you how to quilt!" Nope. I'm getting pretty selfish with my time these days.

As far as my fabric stash is concerned, I didn't add much to it last year, but definitely dipped into it. I purchased fabrics for another secret project (probably a total of 2 yards) and a few pieces in August for Love Endures (about 3 yards, all used in the quilt). That's all the shopping I did this year in the way of fabric; the lightest fabric year ever, I believe.

So what's on tap for 2014? More quilts, of course! But instead of a goal of 12 quilts, I'll tone it down to 6. I have one quilt I had planned to enter in a show (the secret project mentioned above), but don't believe I'll be able to devote the time I need to complete it by the show due date. I'll still make the quilt, but without the pressure of the deadline. I also will be making a retirement quilt for a co-worker--those are the two have-to-make quilts this year. I also decided this week that I want a Christmas quilt on each bed by next Christmas, and I have several quilts already pieced and waiting their turn on the longarm.

The hubster and I will also be doing a lot more shepherding for our ward, Will. We're getting him registered for the ACT and SAT exams, and will soon be checking out colleges. I expect this to take up a lot of our time this year.

My sister and I will be helping our uncle clean out my grandparents' house. My cousin was living in it until Aunt Bettye passed away and he will be moving into her house soon, and we'll then put the house on the market. I have mixed emotions about selling the house--many of my happiest memories are from time spent in that house, but I can take those with me. As much as I love the house, it's time to let it go.

I started quilting 21 years ago today. My tastes in quilting have evolved through the years and I find myself entering a bright and saturated color phase. We'll see where this takes me.

I wish you a year filled with joy and happiness, and more quilting!

Happy quilting,