Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Halloween Table Topper

I know it would be better to actually see this on a table, but it photographs better against my sofa. . . .
I finished this last week, just in time to give to my quilt guild for their annual craft show.
MyGirl wasn't happy with me. She wanted me to keep it for our own family. Right now I'm working on a Halloween quilt for our family. I guess I'll have to make a table topper for us after that, though the whole rounded corner binding. . . maybe not, though it was another good learning opportunity for me ;-)

 I added a little hand stitching around the pumpkin I appliqued.
 I just made up this design. Nothing fancy, but he's got a little personality, and that's the fun of designing your own pumpkin, right?

The side piecing was actually designed after one of my favorite scrapbook designs I've used many times on cards and on pages for backing one particular photo. Good design easily crosses over from one medium to another. I really liked these fabrics, though, and a couple of them will be used also on my quilt. . . more to come. When my mom asked me how I did it, I said, "Well I cut out a rectangle, and from there, I designed everything around that." And that's pretty much how it went. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Best Grilled Chicken

After years of grilling chicken I have finally found the way I want to make it for the rest of my life. I searched on the web for the ways others are doing it, then created my own version, and it was delicious!!!

I started by taking six breasts and putting each one between two pieces of parchment paper, then pounding them so that they were all about 2/3 of an inch (I did not measure, but was looking for a uniform size. )Then I put them all into a gallon sized zip top bag.
Next I zested a whole small lemon, minced a garlic clove, and measured 1 tsp of dried oregano, 1 tsp of dried parsley, 1/2 tsp. of  dried thyme,  1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. I sprinkled all of that into the bag. Then I poured in 1/4 cup of olive oil, closed up the bag, and mushed it all together to where it all looked pretty uniformly covered. I let that sit in the fridge for a little less than two hours. 
Then I came back, added 2 cups of cold water, 1/2 tsp. of sugar and 1/2 tsp. of salt and mushed it all back and forth inside the bag and let it sit in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Then I took out each individual breast, and patted it dry and put it on a large plate. 
Then I had my son grill them all on our gas grill on med-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side. 

They came out so juicy and flavorful!  
The pieces were so big when pounded, that all the women had half sized pieces and there are still two left. These will make the best lunch today with some sliced cob corn, romaine lettuce, and green onion. 
My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

 My brother and his son were in town this past week and twice we all went to our favorite local park. On this particular day LittleGuy was all about catching bugs so BigBuddy was a good cousin and caught a grasshopper for him. Here they made the exchange.
 Then he excitedly ran over to show the rest of us.
 And, as soon as he opened his hands it jumped away again.
LittleGuy and MyGirl continued to chase it while the rest of us sat on the picnic bench enjoying the beautiful day. Summer this year has been either gorgeous or wet. We try to get out and enjoy the gorgeous as often as we can. Having little ones close by makes that both necessary and special. It was fun to see he and his dad again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Babies, Puppies, and Dinosaur Bones

Last weekend (has it already been a week? Yikes!) we went to visit Cowgirl and meet up with our cousins. They have eight children in their family and seven were able to come, so that was fun. One of our activities was going to Dinosaur National Monument just out of Jensen, UT.  They have a wall where you can touch the bones, so everyone was excited to do that.

My favorite thing was seeing my older children find a younger cousin to just pal around with. I love that my children who have never lived by cousins, are always so excited to get to be with them. They get the importance of family - Horray! That's something I've been working hard to promote. In two of the cases there were 19 year age differences, and with Littlebuddy, he found a buddy just six years younger, and they were inseparable. Over dinner we were talking with Mike's brother, and they mentioned how important it is to make sure their children are just nice people. I readily agreed, and have been thinking about that ever since. In spite of their imperfect parents, I realized that somewhere along the way my children have all chosen to be nice people too, and I'm grateful for that.

Cowgirl, in fact, was sandbagging on her day off the day we were to arrive. She has always had a very compassionate, giving heart. I love that about her. She was good to hang out with everyone - adults, little ones, teenagers, and shared her darling puppy, Maple, and her spare room with MyGirl while we all crashed into her life for a short 48 hours. Her store is Packed with fabric, and we found some good deals too. Its beautiful where she lives, and it was great fun to see her life, and help her to see a little more of it than she has in the past six months.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dance Festival

 My baby boy is now a sophomore. I just keep getting closer and closer to the empty nest which I'm in no hurry to reach. I wish I could slow down time. His first day of school was yesterday. This was his photo when he got home. There was no time in the morning for pictures, with early morning seminary starting the first day also.
 School so far is hard. AP classes, hard classes, lots of homework. Yesterday he wasn't super happy about it all. I just listened with sympathy. I don't wish I was back in high school At ALL.

However, today was a new day. Its still hard. He still has lots of homework, but already he's starting to enjoy what he's learning. He's like this. In particular he was like this about the dance festival for two stakes in our area. They started practices in April. By June he hated it. By July he was complaining bitterly and didn't know why he was the only one in our ward doing it. Then he found out three other boys were doing it. As it turned out, there were really eight youth in our ward participating, but not many out of all the boys and girls. I don't always insist my children participate in things, but this time I just really felt I should insist he finish this. So, the last two weeks there were intense practices - four hour long kinds - eat dinner before you come. He realized he didn't know the swing dance very well, so he'd come home and use me as his partner. Clearing the chairs out of my bedroom, we put on you tube with the directions and music and learned his part. I was sweating after a half hour of "dance practice." He wanted to do it every day. I could tell he was starting to like it. Then the day of the festival came. He was at the event center by 9am even though the shows weren't until 4pm or 8pm. We attended the last one of the evening. And it was WONDERFUL! The theme was Come Unto Christ, and they expressed it through song, videos of the youth, and their dances. The Spirit was strong, and best of all, My son LOVED it. He was so glad he'd participated. He realized he really does like to dance. Hopefully you can spot him in the photos below. He's the tall one, usually in the back. In the couples dance he's wearing a turquoise T-shirt. I love his smile I was able to capture on film.

 The Western Dance of just young men.
 The Swing dance to "Happy." It was so fun as four different groups came on and off stage doing different types of swing dancing.
The all young men light dance. The lights later went out, and their glow sticks were all you could see. It was very cool but didn't photograph very well.
At the every end, they all sang together with all their hearts. It was moving and beautiful to see the youth unified and glowing with the Spirit. These are the memories of growing up he will always remember. The big events really are big events, and I'm glad he got to participate. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sweet Love Baby Girl Quilt + Free Pattern

Now this is a quilt I have wanted to make for a couple of years. I've had the fabric since early 2012 when I bought two charm squares of Bonnie & Camille's Ruby fabric. (I'm using the other one to make a dresden table runner . . . more fun to come!!) Then it all sat in a bag just percolating in my mind. I looked online, on Pinterest, at books, at quilt stores for the pattern I wanted to make and just couldn't find the exact one I had in my mind, so I got out graph paper and created a pattern and I'll share it with you if you're interested. I always appreciate when people post things online that everyone can use. Its easy, you know, because I could do it, and it turned out sweet and lovely like I wanted, thus I'm calling it the Sweet Love Baby Quilt. You could just as easily switch the charm squares to make it for a baby boy also.

Sweet Love Baby Quilt - finished size 42" x 47"

Fabric Requirements:
1 charm pack of any patterned fabric line or 41 5" x 5" pieces
1 charm pack of white fabric, making sure there are at least 41 pieces
1 1/2 yards coordinating white fabric - Out of this cut the following:
     Rotary cut a folded 5-1/2" strip of this fabric
          Cut this into (8)  5-1/2" x 5-1/2" squares
     Cut (4) 2-1/2" strips  - Each of these will need to be 35" long
     Cut (5) 3-1/2" strips  -Two of these will need to be 35" long
             With the other Three, make Two 47" long strips
1 1/2 yards of backing ( I bought 2 but there was plenty of left overs)
1/2 yard of binding, cut into 2-1/2" strips
Notions Needed:
Embroidery thread, check to make sure it doesn't bleed
Embroidery needle

Instructions: (Read all directions before you begin)
1. Top each of the charm squares with a solid white charm square, right sides together.  Sew 1/4" around all four edges. Then slice across the squares on the diagonal with your rotary cutter.

2. Press each of these four pieces so the bulk of the seam is behind the colored piece, not the white. Place into a pinwheel design and sew them together. (Be careful to make sure that each of the pinwheels is facing the same direction or you will become more familiar with your seam ripper as I quickly learned.)

3. Using a six inch ruler, square up these pinwheels so that they are all 5-1/2" each.

4. Randomly arrange four rows of seven pinwheels in ieach row. Save thirteen for the second section. Two rows for section one, two rows for section three, and we'll get to Section three later where you'll need to arrange these also so that they appear to be random but in keeping with what you're doing in the other rows.

Side Note:
           Using a 7 x 7 grid, with eight spaces left solid white, where you'll do the embroidery, I like to take colored pencils or even crayons of the colors I'm using - here it was red, grey, green, and blue, to make sure the colors are evenly distributed and just put a bit of that color down on each square of the grid. I check to make sure there aren't too many of the same colors in the same row or on top of each other this way. In this charm pack variety there were many more reds/pinks than the other colors. There were the fewest of green, so had I just pulled from my stash randomly, this might not have worked out as nicely.

5. Section One:
Starting with the top row, sew seven pinwheels in a row horizontally. Sew one of the 2-1/2" x 35 pieces to the bottom. Repeat this again. Now sew the two together; pinwheel, strip, pinwheel, strip

6. Section Two:
Take your (8) 5-1/2" squares and embroider a red heart in the center of them. I created my own pattern using a piece of cardboard that I lightly traced with a pencil.  My heart measures 2-3/4" from top to bottom and a little less than 2-1/2" side to side. Then I went over it with two pieces of red embroidery thread, that I had checked to make sure wouldn't bleed. Center your hearts. Use any stitch you want. I used a back stitch for the embroidery here.

7. Starting with a pinwheel square, sew an embroidered square to its right side, then repeat, creating the pattern - pinwheel, heart, pinwheel, heart, pinwheel, heart, pinwheel

8. For the next row, sew two pinwheels together, then sew an embroidered square next to it on its right. Next comes a pinwheel, then an embroidered square, then two more pinwheels. The pattern is - pinwheel, pinwheel, heart, pinwheel, heart, pinwheel, pinwheel. Now that this row is done, sew it to the bottom of the first row you made with embroidered heart squares.

9. Repeat Step 7 exactly. Then sew it to the bottom of the row you created with only two embroidered hearts. This time add a 2-1/2" x 35" strip to the bottom, and now your middle section is done.

10. Section Three:
The next section is another seven pinwheels in a row, with a 2-1/2" x 35" white strip on the bottom, then another row of seven pinwheels is sewn together and attached to the bottom of your white strip.

Sewing on the Borders:
11. Next you'll sew the (2) 3-1/2" x 35" strips to the top and the bottom of the quilt. Both of these will be pinwheel rows.

12. Then you take your (2) 3-1/2" x 47" strips and sew them to the sides.

13. Now its time to put a batting and a back on the quilt. I used basting spray and that worked well for this small quilt, but you can baste it together however you'd like.

14. Quilt as you'd like next. I quilted 1/4" both inside and outside my embroidered hearts. The rest I free-motioned large stipples everywhere, but tried to leave some space around the hearts to let them stand out more. I also used a light pink thread for the quilting, so it didn't all fade to white, but it looks really pale still. Most people probably couldn't tell its pink unless you hold it close and look hard, but I like that pink thread is everywhere, as I wanted this to be mostly a red/pink quilt.

15. Last, sew on a folded 2-1/2" binding all the way around using whichever binding method you prefer then hand tack into place.

16. Make sure to label it on the back, especially if its going to a sweet baby that you love :-)

I'm off to share it with my quilt guild tonight.
If you have any questions or problems, leave me a comment, and I'll hopefully be able to help you.
 Happy Quilting

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Replenishing Ones Soul

There's just nothing like getting into nature that restores one's soul. Mike and I took our two boys and did just that last week, and it was wonderful. Three days of kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, and fishing with a little mini-golfing and go-karting to boot.There was even time to read a couple of chapters from my current book and watch a movie. I can't say these were all relaxing activities - hiking to four mountain lakes, mostly uphill, kayaking and horseback riding, introducing you to muscles you forgot you had, but it was all so beautiful that I kept going. And seeing the wild animals up close, so amazing. We loved it, and I was reminded that I need to get out in nature more often, breathe deep in that clean mountain air, and enjoy!

 There is a bald eagle up at the top of the leafless tree.
 We rode for two hours up and down the mountains of Rocky Mtn. National Park - breathtaking views everywhere.
 This photo was taken about 11,500 feet high. . . note we're looking down on the neighboring mountains. This photo was take on our big drive in the park.
 Just twenty feet from the side of the road, two rams chilling in the sun.
 Driving through town we spotted several elk. This one had the largest rack of antlers.
 Dream Lake - probably my favorite lake of the five we experienced or hiked to.
 The boys were good to wait for me to catch up to them. They could probably have cut our hike in half but were good sports, As for me, but I'm proud to say I did it all. I'm not your outdoor-every-weekend-woman, but I do love being there.

Nymph Lake - certainly looks like something that could be found in Midsummer Night's Dream

 Then there were the magnificent rocks and trees and mountains. Seeing the Lord's handiwork is inspiring. The Master Creator certainly appreciates beauty.
 My boys loved being here. Sadly, I didn't get any photos of BigBuddy with his waders on in the Big Thompson River flyfishing. He's gung ho to do this again next year, but we can go fishing ten minutes from home so he'll be doing a lot more of that on his days off.
 We didn't get there the first day until 5 that evening, (after spending a lot of time at the outdoor store and eating a late lunch) so we stopped for some fun and games first before we set out for the nature experiences in the coming days.

 Proof I was there- a selfie on a kayak. . . who'd a thunk?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Cupcake Quilt

Back when we had a local quilt shop, small though it was, it held a lot of fabulous fabric. One day I came across the aqua and pink cake and cupcake fabric and I fell in love! Over the next year whenever I was at a quilt shop I'd look for reds, pinks, and aquas to go with it. I also had some grey that was perfect, and in the last couple of weeks I've cut and sewed and created a big cupcake to applique on top, officially giving it the title of "Cupcake Quilt."  The back is Riley Blake Chevron fabric, as well as the cupcake print, and the polka dot is Michael Miller.

I learned a few things about myself making this:
1) I need more challenge. There was no surprise in how it was all going to turn it, as it was just sewing rows, and that was very boring for me.  Even though it was only 90 minutes to put it all together, it was so tedious just to sew long rows, I couldn't wait to be finished.  I don't think I can do row quilts again.
2) I can do the blanket stitch applique on my machine, but I prefer hand stitching. It looks better, it feels more creative and its a lot less stressful for me mentally. Yes, its also slower, but that's okay for me. My appliques will be hand stitched from now on.
3) My borders should always be hand stitched also. I machine stitched this one, and realized I feel very disconnected from this quilt. Its not the labor of love my other quilts have been. 

Lessons learned about my preferences and style. . . noted.

 And a Very Happy 22nd Birthday to BigBuddy today! We celebrated with everyone on Sunday. Then yesterday he and I got up before 6 to go fishing out at our favorite local lake. We saw a beaver, a deer, and two heron all up that early too and watched a beautiful day emerge from the fog. . . it really was stunning! Today we went out to lunch and he's off to work soon. Sure am glad for all the time we've been able to spend together. He's a great son!