Friday, May 20, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

So, the other day my 3 year old son discovered my old dollhouse in the basement: 

Well, that's actually not completely true.  My husband had taken in down from a high shelf in the basement a while back and put it on the floor one day for our son to play with while he was working out.  The house didn't have any of its accessories with it.  Those were packed away separately.  Until a few days ago, our son was just using some of his Fisher Price Little People to play with it whenever he happened to be down there with one of us.  Our basement isn't really finished, but we do have a carpet on the floor and our exercise equipment.  He is typically only down there when one of us wants to exercise and keep an eye on him at the same time.  Our 2 year old daughter is rarely down there, as she isn't quite old enough to keep herself out of trouble yet.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Caroline's Animal Quilt

Here is the quilt I made for my daughter's arrival.  As with our first, we did not know ahead of time whether she was going to be a boy or a girl, so I had to design something that was gender-neutral.

I drafted this up on graph paper first (I still didn't have Electric Quilt at this time). I started it in the spring 2008 and finished it, like James' quilt, a day or two before she was born. I machine pieced all the squares, triangles, and borders. The animals are all hand appliqued, and I did hand quilting on this as well.

To do the animals, I first made a list of ideas, then I started searching through all my quilting books and magazines. For animals I couldn't find a good pattern for, I used the Internet to find pictures that I could make work. I used my copier to get the animals to the correct size for the quilt.
I'm pretty sure I didn't purchase any fabric specifically for this quilt either. I just made do with what I already had. I DID purchase the solid red and the backing fabric.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My "Horrible" Grocery Bags

Several weeks ago now my husband and I watched a program on PBS called "Bag It."  It was basically a documentary about the use of plastic shopping bags and in one part they demonstrated the devastating affects that plastic bags (and plastics, in general) have on the environment.  If you're interested in the movie you can visit the web site and watch the trailer here:

After watching the show, I really felt ashamed that I STILL haven't gotten on the re-usable bag band wagon.  We DO recycle all the plastic bags we use by returning them to the store, but I know that's not enough.  And sometimes I have to admit that it has crossed my mind (more than once) that there is a distinct possibility those bags are not actually getting recycled.  I mean, what guarantee do we have regarding where those bags are ending up?

The better solution would be to just use less of these bags to begin with.  So, I finally decided to change that.  And because I like to sew, I decided I would make our re-usable bags myself.  I also decided that I would do my best to make these bags without purchasing any new fabric to do it.  That would mean digging through my large fabric stash and putting some of it to use -- especially some of the not-so-pretty, outdated fabrics that I know, truthfully, I am probably never going to use in a future quilt.

The first thing I did was go online to look for some kind of pattern or idea on how to best construct the bags.  I found what appeared to be a great tutorial on making your own re-usable grocery bags.  I printed the directions and got to work soon after.  I say it "appeared" to be a great tutorial because once I started trying to follow the directions, I found several flaws with it.  Because of my sewing experience I was able to work through it and still complete the first bag, though a lot of swearing ensued during the process and I swore once I finished the first one, there wasn't going to be a second!  So, consider yourself warned if you decide you want to give these bags a try.  There are just some very basic steps missing and a couple of the descriptions of what to do are not totally clear.  Maybe one day, if I find time, I'll try and write my own bag-making procedure in a future post.  The tutorial isn't terrible, but it would be very difficult for someone with very little sewing experience to follow correctly.

These are some of the bags I have made so far:

 Now to prove to you that these bags are the same size as a typical plastic grocery bag, take a look at this:

And, actually, you may have noticed that my bags are a little larger than the plastic bag.

So, you may be wondering why the title of this post is My "Horrible" Grocery Bags.  My husband typically does our weekly grocery shopping.  Last weekend the cashier who checked him out was (and typically is, from what he tells me) very rude to him.  When he handed over the cloth bags, the cashier began scrutinizing one of them.  She looked at him and asked, "Did you make this?"  To which he replied, "No.  My wife did."  Her next response?  "Well, these bags are HORRIBLE.  You can't even fit anything in them."  Now, she said this before having even tried to put anything in them.  My husband pointed this out by saying, "You haven't put anything in them yet."  In a huff, she began bagging the items.  All the while complaining about reusable bags and what a bad idea they are and how the person who invented them (reusable bags, that is) should have to come down to the store and try to fill them with groceries and see how HE likes it.  Ya, that's what she said.

So, here's just how roomy my "horrible" bags are:

And here are all the items that are inside that bag:

 Now it's true all of that stuff would also fit inside the plastic bag:

BUT, would YOU want to carry that bag out to your car?  Probably not.  I think we all know there is a very good chance that bag would stretch and probably rip.

All I can say is, it's a good thing I made such horrible bags for my family.  I think we'll just going to go right on using them!  No matter what other people think of them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Confusion in the Beauty Aisle

So, this evening, while I should have been rehearsing my tap routine at dance class, I was instead browsing the makeup section in Walgreens.  It's been three years since I have purchased new makeup for myself, and I have been thinking about buying some for a while now.  There have been many times lately that I have ventured into the makeup section of various stores -- Walmart, Target, CVS and the like -- but I just haven't been able to make any purchases.  There are several reasons for this.  Money and time both come to mind immediately, but I think it's been about a little more than that.  It's really been about my confusion about what to buy and well, the feeling that I'm not really so young anymore.

For the past several years now, whenever I encounter the beauty department, I first feel a sense of excitement.  This excitement, however, is quickly pushed aside by confusion at the shear number of items available.  And it just seems to get worse over time.  It seems like only yesterday I was in high school, and there were but two or three major brands to choose from.  Now there are dozens.  And within each brand there seem to be a hundred products -- some familiar, like foundation, blush, and mascara -- others completely foreign, like bronzer, packed powder, and the new buzz word "minerals."  Maybe a 22 year old can walk in the store and know exactly what she wants, but at 39, I just feel lost and confused.  Looking at the ridiculous number of products on the shelves and attempting to choose the "right" ones makes me feel old -- like at my age I should be an old pro at this, but I simply am not.  It's just been way too long since my appearance has been a priority, and now I am totally out of touch with this realm.  There were a couple of moments that I felt close to tears while in the store tonight because I felt so clueless.  I mean, how am I suppose to know if Ellen knows something Drew doesn't?  Does Beyonce know where it's at?  Maybe Andi McDowell knows more than all of them.  She IS older.

Anyway, I know that I could just take myself on over to some glitzy department store like Macy's and have a "professional" makeup artist tell me exactly what I should get, but I simply cannot afford to pay twice as much for the products just to get that service along with it.  For the folks like me that must go the economical route, we're pretty much left to our own devices when it comes down to it.  As it is, I spent just under $50 tonight for eight products.  That was my final price after factoring in the buy one get one half-off sale AND $9 in coupons!  Everything I bought was buy one, get one half price.  So, I paid 1/2 price for four of the eight products I purchased.  Here's what I came home with:  liquid foundation, powder blush (that I realized after I came home didn't have a brush with it), an eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, a lip pencil, lipstick, and lip gloss.  Now, if I had bought all of that at Origins (which is where I shopped when I was in my 20's) that probably would have cost about $200.  I feel guilty enough as it is spending $50 on makeup, but I'm not going to dwell on it.  After all, it's been three years, and I know I deserve it!

Yesterday I colored my hair using a do-it-yourself kit.  I'm really happy with the results, and it only cost me about $5!  I really do think I'm too young to have so much gray hair.  Maybe this is why I still don't know what my mother's actual hair color is (I think she has been dying it my entire life).  Tomorrow I am getting my hair cut.  It's been over two months now.

I think after all this "improvement" it might be time to schedule a hot date with my beloved!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

View from the Cabin

View from the Cabin, 2006

This hangs in our living room and I love this quilt!   I made this in 2006 as a wedding gift to my husband, Brandon (although I didn't actually finish it until Nov. that year -- we were married in July).  This is my own design, depicting the view from our cabin at Jack's Lake in Canada.  That is me and Brandon kayaking in the sunset.  The quilt is hand appliqued.  The trees, figures, paddles, and loon are all hand embroidered.  The clouds and water are hand quilted.  The only machine work was attaching the borders and part of the binding.  This quilt is approximately 23" x 22".

Pink & Green Stars

Pink & Green Stars, 2005

For a long time before making this quilt, I had wanted to make a pink and green quilt -- so here is what I created -- the Pink & Green Stars quilt!

I made this quilt for myself -- my own design.  It is machine pieced and hand quilted.  Each of the star blocks are 12" x 12". The overall size is 76 1/2" x 102" (approximately queen size).  This is pre-Electric Quilt era, so I painstakingly drafted this entire thing on graph paper -- made the first sketches during a faculty meeting at school (tsk, tsk)!  At the time I started this quilt, it was good "therapy" for me.  I think I started this in the summer of '03.   I remember working on the quilting at the lake my first year up there ('05).  So, I must have finished this in 2005 or 2006.  Of course, like most quilts in my house, I didn't make a label when I finished it.  I keep saying I'm going to go back and do that one of these days....but I never seem to get around to it!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Crazy Cats Quilt

This was a kit that I bought at a quilt show. It came with the pattern and all the fabric to make the quilt. These are hand-dyed fabrics. This quilt is approximately 29" x 24" and hangs in our upstairs hallway. I started this quilt in late 2001 or early 2002. I believe I finished it in 2003.

I used hand applique and embroidery, machine piecing, and hand quilting techniques as I made this quilt.

I just love the expressions on these cats' faces!

With the exception of the noses, anything you see here that is black is embroidery. The noses are made of black fabric and then appliqued on the cats' faces. I pretty much followed the pattern when making this quilt and didn't really alter anything about the cats or their expressions.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"The Wedding" vs. the Marriage

There is a big difference between a Wedding and a Marriage.

Why is it that so many people (women, really) get so caught up in the Wedding that they lose sight of the more important thing -- the relationship and the Marriage?  Is it something in our culture?  I wonder if women in other countries spend the time and effort planning the "perfect" wedding that American women do.  And I would love to know how much money women in other countries spend on their weddings, when compared to what women spend here.  Personally, I could never justify spending even half of what the average American bride spends on her wedding.  And notice I said, "her" wedding.  Unfortunately, that seems to be what it's all about -- the bride.  It's HER day.  Well, I say, what about the groom?  Doesn't he have a role other than just to show up and do what he's told?  Doesn't he realize that when he steps aside and allows his bride to take complete control that he is setting a precedent for how things are going to be in the future?  For so many men, this is, indeed, the direction things go.

The Wedding is just one day.  The Marriage is (supposed to be) for a lifetime.  Wouldn't it make sense to focus at least as much, if not more, time and energy on the partnership rather than on the planning of a "perfect" wedding?  In the end, when all the excitement of the very special day wears off, what will a couple be left with?  Where will they find themselves?  If the relationship was strong to begin with, they may do alright.  If it wasn't, however, keeping up the "appearance" will become increasingly difficult.

A Marriage is supposed to be a partnership.  When one person in the relationship is making all the decisions, when one person is slowly severing the other from his/her family, friends, and what were once favorite past-times, when you see them changing into someone you don't even recognize, what are you supposed to do?  What if you are expected to stand by this couple on their wedding day in support of the union, but in your heart, you have some concerns.......what then?

When it seems as if one person is controlling and manipulating the other, and the other person is allowing him/herself to be controlled and manipulated, it IS concerning.  A relationship that's built on solid ground does not look like this.  It is true that grown adults are capable of making their own decisions.  They are also capable of making their own mistakes.  But I think it's important for couples to realize that you set some very important precedents at the beginning of a relationship -- ones that can remain well into the future.  In a healthy and fulfilling relationship, I think it's very important that BOTH people have an equal share in the decision-making.  If, as a couple, you aren't able to be flexible, to communicate, to negotiate, and to compromise while planning the Wedding, then how in the world are you going to be able to have flexibility, communication, and the ability to compromise in the Marriage?

When you see all of this happening to someone you have known and loved for their entire life -- when you see him/her behaving like a stranger -- someone you don't even know anymore, it is painful and heartbreaking to stand by and watch.  And the all-to-difficult question comes to the forefront......At what point is it acceptable to step in and speak your mind?  Is it ever acceptable?

And if you do, will there be a price to pay?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Blossoms

The tree in the front of our house is in full bloom!  Knowing how short-lived this beauty is, I made some time this past Sunday to take a few pictures.

I think this is called a weeping cherry tree, but I'm not positive.