Sunday, August 31, 2014

Getting More Accomplished

I didn't start yet on the quilt that got put aside yesterday. Instead I put a binding on this big one which I recently got back from the machine quilter. I had it quilted at Quilted Treasures in Rogers, MN:

Then I finished a final row and borders on this top. I am going to send this to Wrap Them in Love along with backing fabric and binding. (Second photo below shows the backing fabric.) I don't do as much for WTIL as I did in the past, so I figure sending an occasional unfinished top is OK... I know the owner of WTIL has her own long arm. Hopefully this is not a burden for her. I decided to also send that finished small-size quilt that I finished yesterday. One finished, one un-finished. I don't think that's such a bad deal.

Our crate of peaches distracted me, and I made this. Had to have a piece last night, while it was still warm. Yummmmmmmm.

Finally, I got a copy of Quilt Life in the mail on Saturday and noticed this article. On page 32 it shows (upper left corner) a quilt made by Wanda at Exuberant Colors. Coincidentally, the quilt is called "Exuberance." You can see a link to her blog in my sidebar. I love her exuberant quilts!

A year or so ago Wanda inspired me to make this quilt:

On to more sewing! I still have another day to the weekend! Yippee!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

First Finish of the Weekend

I set out to quilt a top other than this one, but the backing fabric was a little too short, so I changed plans and quilted this instead. It is the third quilt made out of our new 2014 community service block for my local guild, Dakota County Star Quilters. Where this quilt will be delivered is still TBD. It was fun to quilt this little gem, and now I'm going to try to quilt the other one that I thought I had started this morning. Wish me luck finding appropriate backing fabric!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Books: Interstate Trucking

This week's book is In the Driver's Seat: Interstate Trucking - A Journey by Marc Mayfield. This is a self-published memoir. Mayfield had admired 18-wheelers ever since he was a kid, but he didn't take up trucking as a career until he was 45. He instantly loved it and stuck with it for many years. He loved the solitude and the opportunity to see sights all around the U.S. and Canada, and he was good at the job.

I found the inside look at trucking to be pretty interesting. One hears of the lack of sleep, the poor condition trucks may or may not be in, the hazards of the job... so it was interesting to learn about those from the driver's perspective. I'll be looking at trucks and truckers in a new light as I travel along our highways.

The story, however, isn't successful at what Mayfield attempts - showing how through his trucking years he "met someone he didn't know he'd been looking for: himself." (Quote is from the back cover.) I waited for the introspection, the self-discovery, the life-altering awakening, but didn't find it. He constantly wonders whether or not he wants to stay married or should he be a lonely trucker for the rest of his days. His poor wife, waiting for his infrequent stops at home, claims she loves him, but I never felt that he reciprocated that love. His final decision is made by default, or inertia; certainly not by any self-discovery.

Not a well-resolved story, IMO. It's a little bit interesting, but needs the help of a good editor and publisher.

I don't even know where I came across this book. I must have received it free somehow; I'm guessing either as a give-away at Goodreads or as a free book from the Little Free Library warehouse when I purchased the LFL box. In any case, I'm glad I didn't pay for this book. It was a little interesting, but I don't recommend it if you're looking for a well-written piece of literature.

Heath Ledger reading... now he can do as much of this as he likes up in Heaven (I found the photo, via Google image search, in a collection called "awesome people reading").

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

More Sewing as One Quilt Travels to Uganda

I have been making quilts for Wrap a Smile (WAS) for many years. WAS gives quilts to kids around the world who are having cleft lip surgery. The Rotary chapter which sponsors WAS has announced that they are looking into working with an orphanage in Uganda. They are hoping to send 260 quilts to the orphanage. Someone is going to Uganda soon and will be discussing the plans with the orphanage; she is taking along a quilt to show them an example of what would be coming... and the quilt she is carrying as the sample is one I made!! Pretty exciting, eh? All because I have been donating to WAS over the years, the connections happened just right so that my quilt is taking an exciting journey. This is the one on its way to Uganda:

Some of the fabric in this quilt is from Kenya. It's truly an international quilt!

Amazingly, WAS already has enough quilts on hand so that they won't have to do a special appeal for orphanage quilts. It'll just be the logistics they'll have to figure out.

Of course, we'll continue making quilts for WAS's coffers so that the kids in surgery don't miss out on quilts.

I have been churning out tops for WAS, and I hope my quilting bug returns so that I can finish them soon.

And in other sewing, I have done these small projects:

1) I finished the table runner made from French fabrics. Well... fabrics purchased in France, anyway. Apparently they are technically not French fabrics. But, I'm pretty sure they speak French, so I'll be parlez-vous-ing with them regularly.

2) Someone gave me scraps.. maybe ML? ... and among them were these little squares. Just the right number to make a little doll blankie. Ta-da!

We are having GORGEOUS weather.. not too hot or humid, just perfectly gorgeous. I read for a while outside; now I am sewing with my windows open. Heavenly!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back to Normal, if You Can Call Me Normal

Back to normal for me means I am sewing quilt tops rather than quilting them. My desire to quilt left me as suddenly and mysteriously as it had appeared. Now I just want to play, which for me means create tops using blocks other people have sent me or using all my own fabrics and ideas. I love this the best!

First photo below is a top I made from blocks my sister sent. This will go to Wrap a Smile
Second photo, above, is some batiks I won when I participated in the Hands 2 Help Challenge this spring. I just sewed them together in the order they were stacked in the pile... wanted to see how that would look, and it was fun to be "daring" like that. This will also go to Wrap a Smile.

Third photo is made using my local guild's community service blocks. We are busy making these for quilts that will go to various places. We have a list of charities and will send the quilts to whichever suits our fancy at the time.

Here is a quilt that is in progress on my design wall, made from blocks that other people have given me:

Then I needed a change of pace. This fabric was a gift to me from my friend, S., who bought it in Paris, France. I have had it for over a year and decided to finally use it. I made and quilted this table runner, but ran out of fabric appropriate for the binding. I am hoping I can find a good color match somewhere around here. I'm looking for the dark green which is kind of a bluish green.
I bet you are wondering what colors this table runner really contains! The fabrics look so different in these two photos, and it's the same piece, photographed about 30 seconds apart in time. Funny.

I also worked on some crumb blocks last night and have a pile of 45 of them. I have a plan in mind for these but am not revealing what it is. It's just a minor secret for a brief amount of time.

Now is the time to confess that I have had all this sewing time to myself because I didn't have to work for a couple days, and my volunteer stint was cancelled this week. Also, hubby was out of town, so I could keep whatever hours I wanted. I usually stayed up until about 2:00 AM each night. Crazy, I know, but blame my circadian pattern (that little birdie that lives inside me, telling me when to sleep and when to wake up). Hubby is back home today.

I had this plan to clean the house from top to bottom while he was away, but I didn't do it. Why would I clean when I had all that uninterrupted sewing time at my disposal??

Cleaning is overrated.

I'm glad to have hubby back home.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friday Books: Through Black Spruce

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden (same author of the 5-star book I read two weeks ago, The Orenda) - The first half of this book was excellent. It was captivating, and I was eager to keep reading. Each chapter is the story as seen from three or four different people's perspectives. It intertwines more as the story goes on. I like this style. It was well-written and off to an excellent start. I liked the characters; the story had a bit of intrigue.

The second half was disappointing. It started to drag; I really wanted the resolution to hurry up and happen. Certain actions taken by the characters (e.g., Annie spending time in the cities) I did not enjoy at all. It took too long to wrap things up. By the end of the book, I was relieved it was over and I could go on to another book.

Too bad, after an excellent start. I'm giving it three stars for the redeeming qualities of the first half.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Mood Continues...

It's true! I'm still in the mood to do my own quilting! Since posting Monday's photo I have quilted two more tops. One is made using some of the fabric from Kenya that Terry distributed for some unique Wrap-a-Smile quilts. This one was made a while ago, but I finally got it quilted just this week.

I forgot to photograph the backing fabric. It is a cute animal fabric and is very soft.

Last Monday's squares quilt and this next squares quilt were made after I rummaged around and found some piles of donated squares. One pile was 6.5" squares (Monday's quilt) and another pile was 6" squares (today's quilt). They're not exciting, but I hope some kids will find them interesting. There are some cute novelty prints for them to look at... and at least they're warm which is one important aspect of quilts!

Both of these quilts are going to Wrap a Smile along with Monday's quilt... kids undergoing cleft lip/cleft palate surgery will get these quilts.

The biggest miracle is that my mood to quilt is still going strong! I have a couple more simple quilts on the design wall and hope to get them completely done in the next few days! I'm just going to keep going while the mood is with me, and not ask any questions!

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Rare Quilting Mood Strikes Again

Yep. It happened. I had that rare urge to quilt my own top. So I did! Here it is:

Nothing fancy, but that's how I roll. I was so excited that the mood struck; I hope it carries on into today so I can do another one when I get the chance to sit down.

This one is for Wrap-a-Smile.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Summer is Winding Down

We went out to ... guess where? Red Lobster! to celebrate birthday of my husband, our nephew, and my BIL (hubby's bro). Good times. When their birthdays roll around, it's a sign that summer is coming to an end.

I realized that I had not shown the finished quilt top of this scrappy endeavor.

Had a sewing day for my local guild today. No one showed up, and I decided to leave if no one came by noon. One person came at 11:45, and we agreed to call it a day. Better luck next time! Maybe everyone was on vacation.

Time to squeeze in those last-minute vacays before school starts up again. (I know, some of you have already started.) Hubby and I are now free to take days off whenever we want. Funny thing, though. The calendar fills up anyway, and I can't see any vacation days coming up in the near future.

Happy end of summer, everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Friday Books: Please Rise!

We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride -- This is a great book! There are several characters whose stories overlap a lot or a little. Mostly it is about an 8 year-old boy, the son of Albanian immigrants. His eye-witness account of his life is poignant: sweet and very perceptive. He and his family have suffered some crises and escaped from political persecution. Their lives are not easy.

We follow the events happening to this family along with parallel stories of two different soldiers who returned from Iraq with physical and/or mental-emotional injuries.

The book is asking us to think about atrocities and how people react to and/or recover from the trauma. Can life still be seen as beautiful and worth living?

While it's a sad book, I completely loved it and loved how the story wrestles with the question of bad vs good and trauma vs the beauty of life. A 5-star book, engaging and easy to read even though it grapples with a Big Question.

Reminds me of a Little Free Library.. except big. So cool!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Six Tops for QBB

I now have six quilt tops ready to send to Quilts Beyond Borders. I am so thankful that they will accept tops, as finishing a quilt is what takes me and is stressful. I'm pretty sure you've seen all the quilts, except this one you only saw as a top-in-progress. Here it is, a completed top:

and here are all six, almost ready to go. Now I need to find the perfect box for shipping.

Today I started some volunteer work at my favorite non-profit, Ampersand Families. I have talked about them before. They help place older kids and teens in permanent adoptive homes. They are fabulous. I am doing simple office stuff to help out... scanning, and database updates. They're too busy to do it all themselves. Since I can't give them a gigantic financial contribution, at least I can help ease the paperwork burden a little bit.

I love being retired and having the freedom to do this. Have I mentioned that before? Retirement rocks!

Saturday, August 09, 2014

I'm Sewing Again!

After an interest slump and also being busy with summer travels and Mom-in-hospital bouts, I am finally back to sewing. It is fun being prolific again. I'll show you some things that are not even done yet, because I have so much fun at the design and create stage.

blocks for Sunshine... a Get Well card...

another block for Sunshine.. a couple blocks for Halloween... a small doggy or kitty bed (upholstery fabric filled with sewing scraps)

two tops for Quilts Beyond Borders... the first one, made of 4-patches, still needs borders... the second one is made from the community service block pattern that my guild is making during the rest of 2014.

a small quilt (12" x 16") for the bathroom at church... the previous one I made was stolen!

still on the design wall.. I'm deciding which rows to sew snugly together and which places will have a neutral stripe for resting of eyes. This is also destined for Quilts Beyond Borders

I'm doing a Quilts Beyond Borders push right now, because they are calling for quilts for kids who are refugees from the war in Syria. If you want to join in the donations to QBB (they do a variety of drives, mostly for under-served children outside of the USA), check their blog here:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Friday Books: Two!

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, a Canada Reads 2014 selection, is a powerful book. It takes place in Canada, in the early 1600-1700s when white fur traders and Jesuit priests first started arriving in First Nations territory. The interactions between the natives and the white Europeans is fascinating and complicated. Also complicated is the relationships between tribes, competing for territory, trade routes, and access to power and wealth. Sound familiar? It's a very typical human story, our tendencies and abilities to become violent and render harm on others. And to also love and be generous and tender. Humans are complicated beings!

I found this book sometimes hard to read due to the violent nature of the interactions between tribe and tribe and between tribes and whites. At the same time it was fascinating to be immersed in the First Nations cultures, and to try to piece together how and why things happened as they did. The story is told from the perspective of three people, a young native girl who is captured by the Wendat tribe, a Jesuit priest, and an adult man whose family was killed and wants the captive girl to become his new daughter.

They tell the stories as they would tell stories, not as they would explain a culture, which is why sometimes I had to puzzle and try to figure out how their culture felt or why they did certain things. A fascinating inside look, which the reader also gets (with a different twist) from the perspective of the Jesuit priest.

This is a dynamic book, giving the reader much to ponder. Fascinating, powerful, difficult, lovely... a 5-star, marvelous creation.

a reader in Vancouver

Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall
This is a memoir that is only slightly about gardening. It's more about the transformation of a scared and scarred woman through the friendship of a most amazing person, her gardener. This is a book that makes you fall in love with humanity. We have such potential to be great human beings. We could all do so much more to help each other through life's turmoil. This book soothed my soul.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Life: Aging and Death

I know my post title is very somber today. Well, sometimes life is difficult and one must sit back and ponder. Last week my mom went back into the hospital. She was in awful shape. She has congestive heart failure and was experiencing a bad bout - lots of fluid build-up and extreme weakness/fatigue along with shortness of breath. In the hospital they were able to help her get back to pretty good condition. She was pink-cheeked and spunky again by the time she was released. Now her challenge is to maintain this level of health so that she doesn't have another scary time like that one.

This little scare reminded me that she is mortal. Sounds crazy, but it was a jolt to be reminded that she won't be with us forever. At one point I looked at her in her hospital bed, and she looked so vulnerable. My mom is tough and strong. I have never thought of her as vulnerable. That was a bit of a shock.

The hospital and my sister were going to communicate with Mom's assisted living facility and ask for a few more services, to help keep my mom on a more even keel. We have our fingers crossed.

My mom is 93. Love!

Oh.. amidst the scariness, I was in town just in time to attend a concert. The town has an annual music festival which brings in professional musicians from various symphonies and orchestras around the country and world. Fabulous concert... and there was a lovely, cool evening with a pretty sunset.

In more bad news, last week there was a horrible event in my town. A police officer was shot to death during a routine traffic stop. He didn't even get as far as up to the car to chat with the driver. The driver just pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. The officer was 47 years old and leaves behind a wife and two teen-age kids. Our town is heart-broken. It's a small, quiet suburb with a small police force. The town has shown wonderful support to the family. Today was the funeral. The procession from the church to the cemetery went right through my neighborhood, so I joined the vigil. It was very emotional. Police from everywhere came to join the procession. I saw cars from all over Minnesota, of course, and from North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and even Canada. Very moving. The hearse went by, followed by the family. The two teenagers were waving out the window, signing "I love you" which I signed back.

My childhood friend was with me during the procession. Her father died when she was 12. She felt a kinship with these teens who are now without a father. May his children heal and grow with love despite their trauma and loss.

Before the event started, some on-duty police handed out stickers to kids in our group:

quiet. respectful. emotional.

Peace and Love to all.