Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 31st - Mad Libs

This  year  we  are  staying  in for New Year's  Eve  and  enjoying each other's company.  Each  of  us  was  in charge  of something  to  eat. The  Boybarian  made  pizza, Princess  Sunshine  made Puppy  Chow (AKA Chex muddy buddies) and I  tossed  together  a  fruit  salad. Popcorn  will come  into  play  later  in the evening.

Princess  Sunshine  received  a set of Bananas  dvds  for  Christmas  so we started  our evening  laughing  with The Village Idiot  and Bone. Games are in the plan, we just haven't  decided  what  to  play.

While  waiting  for  the  decision, we have been  working  through  Dr. Who and Star Wars Mad Libs. Much laughter has ensued  and Princess  Sunshine  has now  been dubbed  Queen  Asparagus ...

What  things make you and  yours laugh? Did  you  spend  your New  Year's  Eve laughing with loved ones?


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 30th - on my quilt frame

Today  the  picnic  quilt  was loaded  on  my  quilt frame. Before  I  started, threads and fuzzies  needed  to  be cleaned  up. I  like  to  use  the  Bastis lint rollers from Ikea. Maybe  it  is because    I  never  remember  to look  for lint rollers  in any other  stores, but at Ikea the lint rollers  are usually  found  near the checkouts, so I  can remember  to  pick  them up ;) 

What things do you always forget to pick up?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29 - a recipe :)

Last week I made some Faux-Schino Cherries for our traditional coffee cake. The reason we do this is because it is SO hard to find any that are naturally colored. One of our children has reactions to various food dyes, so we have had to search out alternatives.

These are not low sugar! They just don't contain all the extra chemicals in those beautiful jars on the grocery store shelves. We chop them up and use them in baking, so they don't have to be the most beautiful in the world (and they aren't when made from frozen cherries). If you want prettier cherries, you most likely have to start from fresh cherries which are not available all year round in our neck of the woods!

I hope this helps somebody out there looking for alternatives like we were! My nephew just asked for this recipe as he lives on a different continent and is not able to find maraschino cherries consistently ... and he would like to share Nana's Coffee Cake with his family :)

Faux-Schino Cherries
(no chemically colored fruit for us!)

Approx. 2 lbs frozen cherries ( I have used both sweet and tart, they are both yummy!)
2 cups liquid from cherries (add water if needed)
1 ½ cup sugar
1 star anise pod (I never remember to buy these, so I have left these out)
Pinch of kosher salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pure almond extract(or more, to taste)

Thaw and drain cherries, reserving liquid.

In medium saucepan combine juice, sugar, anise pod, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cherries, lemon juice and almond extract and simmer for 5 minutes.

Let cool and transfer to container(s) and refrigerate until needed.

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28th - blowing, snowing, sleeting and the Sewing Dungeon

Today was a good day to hunker down and stay home. Meetings were cancelled, people were encouraged to stay off the roads, and even the public library closed down. The wind is strong and the freezing rain/sleet/snow mix is hitting the sides of the house hard. People I know have lost power and I am praying (selfishly) that we do not lose power at our house!

So, today I spent hours in my Sewing Dungeon. I have finished the picnic quilt top, tomorrow it goes on the quilting frame.
I had a few moments of panic. The blocks were laid out on the living room floor and I was missing one block. There was no way I miscounted, as I double counted at each step along the way. But that block was not there.

As I was starting to cut more pieces to replace the missing block, I saw the halves of the block had slipped and were lying down next to my sewing desk. Those halves were soon sewn together and the sewing of the top commenced.

This top will be a class sample. I will be teaching a Summer Picnic Quilt - using a Summer Party theme in February. These bright colors will be just the ticket in the midst of winter in Michigan. If you are in driving distance of Cardinal Creations between Cadillac and Lake City, you can sign up for this fun day!

How do you spend blustery days inside?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27th - full of fellowship

We  started  our day  in fellowship  with  our church  family. Our  pastor  is currently  preaching  through  the  fruit  of  the  spirit  and today's  sermon  was  on peace. Peace  with God, the  peace  of  God, and peace  with others.

This afternoon  was  a  day  spent  with  family. I am  so  blessed  to  have  siblings  that  like  to  hang  out  together. I  know that  not  everyone  has  that  experience. My wish is  that  you will  laugh  and  fellowship  with  your  family as  we  do. Many times  we  play  games but  we  just hung out, listened  to  our  kids and snacked.

Too bad we  live  2 hours  away  from  family. Maybe  someday  we  will  live  closer ...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

December 26th - how did the time go by so fast?

Holiday  weekends  are  too  short  sometimes. The  Army Guy has  to  head  back  to  work  tomorrow  after church  fellowship  time.  I  look forward  to  his  retirement  from  the  Army  when  he will (hopefully) have  a  job  close  to  home  and  family.

Today  was  a  good  day :) we went  to  exchange  a  gift  that  was  the  wrong  size, and the lines  weren't  too long - though they were  out  of  stock  in  the  right  size so  it  took  a  while  to  order ...

The Army  Guy  and I  went  out  for  lunch at Panera  and  I  enjoyed  spending  time  with  my  dearest  love. Since  this  December  has  been  so  busy, we  haven't  had  much  of a chance  to  just  hang out together. I cherish  those  moments.

 This afternoon  he  spoke  my  love  language and changed  out the foot  on  my quilting  machine. Yes, *I* could  have  done  it, but he  took  the  time  and  did  it  for  me. My heart goes pitter-pat  for  that  man :) he does  his  best  to  take  care  of me. Maybe that's  why  I  miss  him  so  when  the Army has him working elsewhere. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day

We  had  a  blessed  Christmas  day. Our  day started with a Jullota service at Dalton  Baptist  Church. And, just like Mary  and  Joseph didn't  end  up  in  the  inn, the  service  was held  in an outbuilding  because  the  church building  was  without  power as a result  of high winds in  the last few days.  It  was  still  a  blessing  to  sing Christmas  carols  and focus  on  the advent  of  Jesus  first  thing  on Christmas  morn.

We went home, shared our  gifts, and had brunch. As a quilter, I  was  delighted  to  receive  this bundle of 24 fat quarters and a quilt  calendar.

Remember  the  pickle  on our Christmas  tree? It  took  a  while  for  the  family  to  find  it  this  morning, but Princess Sunshine finally found  it and opened  the  extra  gift. It  contained  4  tickets  to  see  Star  Wars  the  Force  Awakens as well as a refillable  popcorn  bucket (free refills  until April). We all enjoyed  the  movie ; )
What was your  day  like?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 24 - ornamental musing

 When you set up your Christmas tree do you reminisce over the various ornaments? I always remember my college roommate giving me this delightful elf coming through the JOY ornament. His backside sticks out the other side, producing giggles from the younger set.

Through the years I have accumulated a lot of ornaments with my ornaments with my name on them. For some reason JOY is a popular word for Christmas ornaments ;)
After the children decorate the tree, I am always delighted to see the raccoons communicating, even though one of them is stuck in the privy. I'm not sure which one of the kids started putting one raccoon in the outhouse ornament, but it has become a tradition that I look forward to each year.

We also have a pickle on our tree. Before I head to bed this evening, I will hide the pickle ornament in the branches of the tree and whoever finds it first gets to open an extra gift (usually a gift for the whole family). It is a silly thing to hang on the tree, but it has become a tradition the kids count on each year.

We have lots more ornaments, each with their own histories, I don't have the time this evening to share them all ... (I still have a little bit of wrapping to do!).

What stories do your ornaments tell?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

December 23 - Happy Birthday to my Army Guy! (and baking)

Today is my Army Guy's birthday :) he is traveling today ... we should see him later this evening :) :) :) It is always a good thing to have him home!

Today I introduced Princess Sunshine and The Boybarian to the "mysteries" of  our traditional Nana's Coffee Cake braid. They both can make a decent dough, so I got that out of the way before showing them the next steps.

The Boybarian chopped up our faux-schino cherries and they both took turns mixing up the filling before spreading it on the rolled out dough. Then I showed them how to roll it up, slice it and braid the cakes before baking. They are pleased with the results (I am too!).

Christmas morning we will douse them liberally with a glaze made from the leftover cherry juice and enjoy them with our brunch.

What kind of traditions are being passed down in your family?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22 - prepping for Christmas

Today was one of those days ... we had some things that needed prepping before we feel ready for Christmas. Princess Sunshine, the Boybarian and I went out shopping. The lines were long at some stores, but the Post Office and Barnes and Noble both had very short wait times :) Tomorrow I need to take the Boybarian back out, he has one more gift to buy on his list and that store was in a totally different direction than today's stores.

At home I prepped for a family tradition, Nana's Coffee Cake. The recipe calls for maraschino cherries, but one in our family has big problems with food dyes, so I needed to prep my own cherries to take the place of the jars of chemical red cherries.

 My first step is to thaw the frozen cherries. This year I used tart cherries, some years I use the dark sweet ones. The problem is that it takes a long time for those cherries to thaw! They were in the refrigerator for over 24 hours and some were still frozen.
I need to thaw them so that the juice doesn't impact the next step. When they are processed from frozen, I end up with twice as much liquid. When I thaw and drain the cherries, I use the cherry juice for the liquid in the next step, enhancing the cherry flavor :)

These Faux-schino cherries don't taste quite the same as the ones in the jars, they have more cherry flavor. That is fine with me, and I haven't heard any complaints from the rest of the family over this issue ;)

What are you doing to prep for your holiday celebrations?

Monday, December 21, 2015

December 21 - fashion neckwear

Today was a get-back-in-the-swing-of-things day. I paid bills and got groceries. Not a very exciting day. As the day wound down, I started looking through pictures from my trip. There were some exciting shots in the mix :)
Like a shot of me with a boa constrictor wrapped around my neck! It was nice to leave that fashion statement behind. I much prefer a nice infinity scarf draped around my neck, or even a bulky winter scarf.

Did you do anything daring this year?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20th - getting in the mood for Christmas

I  came  home  from  Belize  to  our  Christmas  tree  up  and  decorated. That  made  my  heart  sing :) I  love  a  decorated  tree. Last  year  we  never  got  around  to  putting  the  tree  up  and  I  really  missed  it.

This  morning  the worship  service  was  filled  with  special  music  numbers that  were  another  delight, adding  to  the  seasonal  mood. The  music  of  Christmas with   the   message  of  the  Prince  of  Peace  helps  my  celebration  focus  on  the  reason  we  celebrate  and  off  the materialistic.

What  helps  you celebrate  this season?

December 19th ... home again, home again, jiggety jog

We  all  go  through  different  experiences  in  life, most  of  which  are  temporary. My  trip  to  Belize  is  now  in  the  past. My  journey  has  brought  me  back  home  to  my  family. I  am  thinking  that  family  is  my  favorite  destination.

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18th - heading home

 today  we  leave  the  paradise  of  Belize  and head  back  to  cold  weather . ..

Nobody  is  going  to  make  my  bed  fresh  each  day   and leave  lovely  towel origami for  me  each day like  they  did  at Sleeping  Giant  Rainforest  Lodge.

I  am llooking  forward  to  seeing  my  family  and  not  being  eaten  alive  by mosquitoes!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17th and more Maya ruins

 I  can't  tell  you  how  delighted  I  have  been  to  have  this  opportunity . ..
 this  time  we explored  ruins  in Belize   ... I  can't  remember  the  names, I  will  update  when  I  have  better  WiFi   ;)

What  has  been  a  highlight  of  your  year?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

December 16th - Botanical Garden

Today was a busy  day ...we took  stream  samples  and  analyzing  the  organisms  gathered (though  we  didn't  have  the  best  results because  our equipment  wasn't as  good  as back in the lab).

We visited  a botanical  garden . ., focusing  on  epiphytes, bromelaids  and  orchids  :)
 We  saw  plenty of other  plants, such  as  this  one that provides  a  home  for ants  in  the thorns.

And, I  went  zip-lining today  for the  first  time   :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 15 and Maya ruins

Today we  went to Tikal and took in the Maya  ruins. Our guide, Elmer was very knowledgeable  and  we took  in plenty  in a  very  short  time. You  can tell  that I  was there, because  my finger showed  up  in  the  corner  of the  picture (kind  of  embarrassing).

 The  day was  HOT and humid (again) so we were thankful  for  shady  paths. When we were  on  top  of  one of  the  pyramids, we were getting  a  little  bit  red from  the  unfamiliar  sunshine.

Maya ruins were on my bucket  list  of  places to visit.  I  am  so  excited  to  cross  them  off  the  list.

What  is  on your list?

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 14

I cannot get the pictures to post when using my phone, sorry!

today we went caving and tubing through the cave. It was a WONDERFUL morning :) my camera wasn't cooperating so I have very few pictures to share when I get back home.

 Wish you were all here!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

started the day with rain and ended with sunshine

We  started the day with a flight that wasn't  canceled, which  was  a  good  thing.  There  was  a  flock  of  birds  on  the runway  delaying  our flight,which  was  an  annoyance . And  it  was  raining . 

everything  else  has been just  right :) the  temperature  was  in  the 80s when we  arrived  with plenty  of  sunshine.
 tomorrow  :)

hexies at 30,000 feet

Saturday I  left on a  trip and the is why this post is late ... my first flight was canceled  so I  drove  3 hours  to catch my second  flight. While  on that flight I  managed to make on hexies folded star and almost complete a second one. I  am  hoping  my flight in  the  morning  is uneventful!

Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11th - packing hexies

I  am  packing  for  a trip  and  wanted  to  have  a  project  to work on, so I  cut a bunch of hexies. I  do  not  usually  do hand  work, but  I  won't  have  room  in my luggage  for  a  machine, so I  will  play  with  hexies   ;)

 What  are  you  working  on  this  week?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The othe class painting

Since it is the end of the semester, I picked up the one painting that I forgot to take a picture of :) AND I made sure to take a picture to share with you.
Leisure Time

Oil on paper

... All of the items in the photo are mine. We had to put together a still life from our homes. This still life needed to have a narrative. I went with old and new technology, choosing to keep the new technology black as I feel its use involves less creativity, thus adding less color to our lives. My imagination plays better with old-school books than with pre-packaged entertainment.

On the whole, I am pleased with how this painting turned out. There are a couple things that I wish I had done differently, but I am not sure that I will spend any more time working on this piece. It may just get put away for an eventual frame ... if we ever have a library space in our home.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9 - where is December going?

My exams are finished, I am wrapping up a couple of assignments that got away from me (or were due this week) and looking forward to some weeks away from college. I hope to make some soap as we are getting woefully low on homemade soap, and I plan to quilt.

It is sad that the direction I want to go (quilting) is being sidelined while I gain some knowledge to further my goals. I would like to teach and speak quilting as well as create quilts and design patterns. I am taking courses that I hope will further my aims and give me some concrete applications for meeting my goals.

 I have started down the path, hoping to be more than an observer, doing what I can to make my dreams become reality.
These photos from a walk we took at McConnell's Mill in PA just give me inspiration. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do :)

What goals are you reaching for? What are you doing to further your reach?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Today I finished my exams :)

I had FOUR exams today ... I am now finished with tests from Fall Semester.

I do have a couple of assignment loose ends to tie up by the end of tomorrow :P

I will leave you with a picture of a quilt I made a few years back. I call this one Two Girls Making Music. It was based on a art challenge. The group all worked from the same art piece and we made our own quilts. This one represents my daughters who were both taking music lessons at that time. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7 - my last two paintings for my Painting Class

 Today was the last day for my Painting class. It was a our final exam day ... we critiqued the last two paintings of the semester.
We had our collage paintings. For these we were given a soliloquy from Hamlet and we had to choose a section that would inspire a collage. From the collages, we then made paintings. I chose;
"To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to"
I have named this one Jack and Henry.

NOTE: when I shrunk these pictures down, it lost some to the subtle shading, making blocks of color where there were gentle gradations of color.

The last assigned painting was a landscape painting. We were to use a skinny format, either horizontal or vertical. AND we had to work from one of our own photos. My photo was of one of the trails by McConnell's Mill in PA. I call this one "Around the Bend." This painting was painted mainly with palette knives, very little brushwork. It may use more paint, but it is fast!

Again, this painting is very flat looking in my photograph. I wish I could show it to you all in person, it is even better than this photo!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

December 6

Nothing much to say today ... I worshiped with my church family this morning, made sure a vehicle had enough gas to make it through the next two weeks, picked up a couple of few things at Meijer and worked on school work.

Exam week is starting tomorrow. I only have one exam slated for Monday and FOUR on Tuesday. Life is going to be crazy over the next 48 hours ... And in the midst of the craziness is my Guild's Christmas Party. I am not sure what I'm bringing for the pot luck!

Here's to a good night sleep and success in getting things done for school!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

December 5

Today I ventured north and watched my nephew in the lead role in his high school's production of Honk! and took advantage of the trip to set a date for teaching a Summer Picnic Quilt Party at Cardinal Creations outside of Lake City, MI.

The class will have a Summer Picnic Party atmosphere with beach music, a picnic lunch, and making a picnic quilt. We will use the Avignon Picnic pattern, which is beginner friendly, so any quilter should enjoy the class!

I am already looking forward to February 20! We celebrate Christmas in July, why not Summer in February?

designed by Joy LamphereCardinal Creations is one of the shops that carries my Amanda Baby Quilt pattern.

AND, they are close to relatives, so I have the bonus of spending time with family while partying with a group of quilters.

What could be better? Quilting, celebrating summer in the midst of a Michigan February, hanging with relatives, and fun with fellow quilters!

How are you going to celebrate in February?

Trees - December 4

 I have a thing for trees. They catch my eye and I want to photograph them, sketch them, paint them, and I *need* to make a tree quilt sometime!
 I love the trees with character. The ones with lumps and bumps, those with twisty branches. I am fascinated by roots ...
 Even fallen trees catch my eye - with the bark peeling off and the moss and fungi growing on them ...

 I like to see reflections of trees in water ...
and the pattern of limbs against the sky.
 Trees by walking paths, shading me from the hot sun.
And, I think my very favorite, is the light filtering through the trees dappling all it touches.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3 - blocks on my design wall!

 Recently I hosted a swap of 4 1/2" units, Know Snow and bright fabrics. My intent was to make an Avignon Picnic quilt found on Moda Bake Shop.

 Here are four blocks made from those units :) The quilt takes 16 blocks total and they go together VERY quickly. I highly recommend the pattern! 

I will be offering this as a Picnic Quilt Party class sometime this winter ... the designer, Andrea Harris has graciously given me permission to use the pattern for a Quilt Party :)


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2 - My Painting Class

 One of the classes I am taking in college this semester is Painting I. The focus is on oils and I had never used oils before (well, I tried them as a teen and only made muddy looking stuff). I think I am getting the hang of it.

After starting off with some small acrylic studies, we moved into larger works (all of these are 18" X 24").

Our first oil paintings were of a black and white still life. Not an easy task, but it helped us understand more about working with oils by limiting our palette to only black and white paint. That way we focused on the medium and how it works.
 The second painting was also a still life, with mostly brown tones. There were some green bottles and a red strip of fabric. I added the green drape when I noticed that the breast of the loon faded into the background.

I totally missed out on a picture of my third painting! It is also a still life, but *I* got to choose my subject matter. Maybe I will remember to share it after I get it back from the instructor.
And then we have our collage paintings. We started by making collages inspired by lines from Hamlet. Then we used our collages as inspiration for a full painting. Mine still needs a couple of things to finesse it and then it will be turned in and critiqued on exam day.

And, the last painting is a landscape ... pictures will happen later in the month as today is really the day that it started coming together and I just haven't remembered to take a picture!