Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One Thing Leads to Another

A friend recently asked me to make her a couple of hot pads, and ever since the map project, I've been thinking of other ways to use the states.

Last night, I thought of this spin on the Texas flag, according to the colors that she says are in her kitchen.
I hope it works!

Back view

Friday, November 25, 2011

Probably The Most Satisfying Project Ever

Have you ever seen a project and felt instinctively that you should tackle it as soon as possible? As if it's some rite of passage?
Not since I cross-stitched a sampler of Proverbs 31 back in the early 90s (a 3-year process), have I come across something so tedious, engaging, and utterly addictive.

As soon as I laid eyes on Kate's scrap map
I. Was. Hooked.

I didn't spend much time analyzing my fabric choices, except for a few special places.

California is a dainty pink-and-floral print because my spiritual mother lives there. She is the epitome of a gentle and quiet spirit and godly womanhood.

Texas is black-and-white damask because it's where I live, and I've said that if I were any fabric, I'd be black-and-white damask home decor fabric.

Pennsylvania is denim because blue is part of the "Keystone State" emblem, and denim represents the casual, blue-collar atmosphere in which I grew up.

Georgia is camouflage because the lion's share of our Army time was spent at Ft. Benning.

Alabama is red because, if given a choice between the two rival teams, my husband would yell "Roll Tide!" rather than "War Eagle!". (I like the scissors print because it was while living in Alabama that I started sewing again more regularly after a long hiatus.)

Thankfully, I have very industrious kitchen helpers, so I was able to assign certain Thanksgiving dinner tasks to the children. They knew that I had some special sewing planned for this week, and they graciously allowed me the freedom to come and go between the kitchen and the sewing room at my leisure.

My two goals this week were my new apron (love!), just in time for Thanksgiving, and the scrap map.

I became so obsessed engrossed in the map project that I hardly slept on Wednesday night. I had just finished the final step of making it just before midnight, which meant that mounting and hanging it would have to wait until Thanksgiving morning.

I had multiple lists running through my head and couldn't prioritize them, so it took a long time to fall asleep.
Once asleep, I tossed, turned, and dreamed about the map and the fabrics for most of the night!
At 4:00 a.m., I forced myself to stay in bed and get plenty of rest for the day ahead.

Finally, I was able to get up, go for a run, mount the map, and watch, overjoyed, as my sweet husband hung it on the wall of the school room for me.
What a guy!

Once that was tackled, I was free to shower, eat breakfast, and work on the finishing touches for Thanksgiving dinner.

Incidentally, I strategically planned my Thanksgiving dinner dress to create a complimentary neutral backdrop for my new apron.

(My dress is actually slate-gray, but it looks black in this photo, next to the lighter gray in the apron, and so far from the black boots and tights.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What's On Your Thanksgiving Menu?

A loaf of bread awaiting its execution transformation

I have a basic blueprint that I follow each year when planning menus for major holidays, but I like to change a detail or two, just to keep it interesting.

This year, The Cousins will join us for Thanksgiving dinner, and one of them offered to bring the turkey!


Even with two ovens, it's a tremendous relief that I won't have to strategically time the use of them in order to accommodate something so large as a turkey and still make everything else in time for dinner.

I've been back in fitness mode recently, and I'm trying so hard not to load up on lots of heavy fare.
Even my pared-down menu still threatens the waistline, but not as much as in years past.
Trust me.

My dad bought this cute little garlic roaster for me a few years ago. Roasted garlic is a key player in my cauliflower pureé, which will be served in lieu of mashed potatoes, much to Morgan's chagrin. (I've promised to make it up to her on Christmas.)

What this photo lacks in aesthetic value, it makes up in culinary flair. This ordinary scene will morph into Craig's AMAZING collard greens (Daddy's recipe), sweet potato casserole, & cauliflower pureé.

The next generation of apple pie baker has graduated. Morgan normally makes the crust while I make the filling, but today she made the entire thing from start to finish. (It's probably more accurate to say that I've graduated. I wasn't a control freak about it, and she was free to create.)

What's fueling my operation today?
Ethiopia Harar Longberry

These bread cubes will become my stuffing (Mom's recipe), which will fill rolled flank steak (also Mom's recipe).

The remainder of today's prep includes making the topping for the sweet potato casserole, blanching brussels sprouts for roasting tomorrow, making cranberry salad, and mixing "pretty" herb butter to display on a cold plate.

The Line-Up:

Cauliflower Pureé

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Collard Greens

Cranberry Salad

Sweet Potato Casserole

Stuffed Flank Steak

Whole-Wheat Rolls with Herb Butter

Apple Pie

(And from The Cousins:)



Green Beans

Pumpkin Cheesecake

*  *  *  *  *

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Apron Happiness

It's been a while since I've had Morgan model for me. Isn't she just cute??

I posted about this fabric (purchased here) a while back, and mentioned that I hoped to make an apron out of it.

I've wanted a new apron for months.
Thanksgiving offered the perfect excuse to drop everything and get started on it this week, but I wanted something that will go beyond one day.

I can't imagine ever getting sick of this one. The fabric just makes me happy every time I look at it.

I added a towel loop to the waistband and made a decorative tea towel to match. When I cook or bake, I wash my hands countless times during the process. Since the children are normally right there working with me in the kitchen, the hand towels can get scattered. This way, I'll have one right at my fingertips and won't have to share.

I prefer a D-ring over using ties for my aprons. It's actually easier, as I don't have to hem long edges of an extra tie. Isn't that yellow fabric wonderful? It makes me want to duplicate it on a wall (a shade or two lighter). I won't, though...

Last year, I won a giveaway that Liesl was offering,  and included in the goodie box were four different designs of this gorgeous embroidered ribbon. When I started laying out the fabrics for this apron, I just knew that the ribbon would be a perfect embellishment. I certainly don't regret adding a band of it here. 

This is where the idea for this apron began. Not only do we fight over hand towels in our kitchen, but there seems to be a little elf that steals the hot pads just before one of us needs one. The idea of attaching hot pads to the apron is ingenious! 



It always takes me forever to start hanging things on the wall after moving into a new home.
I just don't "feel" it right away. I'm too focused on the rest of our existence to worry about what should adorn the walls.

That doesn't mean I don't like wall art, though.

I saw this fun guitar painting at TJ Maxx a while back, and it haunted me for a few weeks.
When I returned a while later for another purpose, I was delighted to find that it was still there and the price had been reduced.

I thought it might be great for the boys' room, but I later decided it should hang next to Craig Grayson's drum set in the school room.

The hook from the previous picture was a bit too high for the guitar painting, but I was unwilling to make a new hole in the wall.

I started brainstorming on what to use to make it hang lower, and a guitar strap came to mind.
We don't have an extra guitar strap, so I thought of the next best thing.
With boys having major growth spurts, that means there will inevitably be belts that are still in good enough shape to reuse.

(Thanks, Graham!)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My First Mug Rug!

Quilting is not my forté, so I did some random squiggly thing on my machine. Anyone who might pity my lack of skill is very welcome in my home to give on-the-spot lessons. I'll provide lodging and meals. By the way, I avoid binding if I can help it.

Last spring, I discovered this link party, and I've wanted to make a mug rug ever since.
Sadly, my quilting skills are severely deficient.
For that reason, and because of another recent major relocation and a long sewing to-do list,
I've put it off until today.

There are oodles of mug rugs online, including a flickr group and various others.
For those who don't know what I mean by "mug rug", it's been described as being smaller than a placemat and larger than a coaster, with the purpose of making a cup of coffee or tea more at-home.

I've seen a few amazing designs that I'd love to try, like this, this, this, these, and this.
I may or may not eventually get around to making one of them, but today I was suddenly inspired to make not just any mug rug, but a 
mug rug.

The Steelers idea has been in my head for some time, and a while back I saw a beautiful Cathedral Window quilt that was simply breathtaking. 
The design is perfect for making the Steelers insignia, but I couldn't recall where I had seen the quilt. A search of a few blogs led me to this variation of the Cathedral Window block, complete with a tutorial.
My handy embroidery machine was helpful, too.

Here's a back view of the finished product:

I've been so inspired lately by other bloggers to use up some of my scraps. This could become an addiction, although I ran from anything akin to quilting several years ago.

It seems almost unfair that I have this. I'm not exactly a faithful Steelers fan; but my husband and children are.
I'm sure there's someone far more deserving of this mug rug. I just felt the need to make it.
Besides, I couldn't bring myself to risk getting coffee stains on it.
It was a blast to make, though!

This was finished just in time for Amy's Sew & Tell tomorrow:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Happy 14th Birthday, Graham!

In those days, he carried "Bear-Bear" and sucked two fingers. His favorite companion was "A-bah-dah" (Gabriela), and he loved to play with her hair.

He was a special "pet" to his big sister, Caelyn, and absolutely adored her.

He called himself "Ham", and referred to Morgan as "Doe".
We never thought he'd master English, but he has become quite a brilliant young man.

Graham has since traded his stuffed animals for pocket knives, multi-use tools, and Chinese stars.
(True story.)

He loves to play football, Risk, or Chess, and is enthralled with military and martial arts movies, cars, and music.

He doesn't say much, but when he has something to share, it's always interesting.
I love to observe Graham's relationship with his siblings.
He's affectionate, humorous, and ever so protective of all of them.

He shares a strong bond with his older brother, Craig Grayson. The two of them are like James & John, the "sons of thunder", in the New Testament.

"Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
   are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
   who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
   when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."
Psalm 127:4-5

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Pieced Project, or Coaches Are Effective

Some things are just easier and more enjoyable when there's someone standing by and cheering me on.

Like push-ups.
And childbirth.

Back in 2002, I was burned out on quilting. It was stressful for me because it's just not one of my strengths. I had joined a quilting circle (Did blogs exist then?) with ladies who really knew their stuff, and I couldn't hang!

I stuck around long enough to do a few swaps, and as a result, I have a few quilts' worth of blocks to (some day) put together.
At times, I take them all out just to admire the work and reminisce. Then they go right back into their ziploc bags for future consideration.

Since "meeting" people like Amy and Penny and countless others - and ever since I participated in the very fun scrap swap - I'm inspired anew.
But alas!
I still sort of stink at quilting.

The Houston Quilt Show and my friend who took me there have served as fresh inspiration.
Still, I'm a child of the generation that helped usher in the age of instant gratification; hence another excuse to not make quilts.

They take time.

I like to make "stuff" and "things" that don't take very long.
So, Amy's recent (brilliant, fun, perfect) idea to make a mini pieced project for Sew & Tell was right on time for me!
(And she even stood by and cheered me on! Bless her!) 

Equally on time was this tutorial (I really like her style).

"Mind the Gap!" I love this fabric. I used it for the back of one of the pot holders. The London Underground is one of the most crowded situations I've ever experienced; but it was fun! This project reflects my frequent tendency to make major blunders in my sewing. In this case, I forgot to add the second layer of insul-brite; so I'll be hanging with the seam ripper today.

Caelyn was impressed that the recipe on this fabric can actually be read. I may try it, just for fun.

By the way, if you're needing more inspiration, Sew Mama Sew is doing an entire month of daily ideas for making Christmas gifts, etc.

OK. Gotta go. 
I can't wait to see what everyone else did for Sew & Tell...

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I made this purse a few weeks ago and didn't add the finishing touch right away.
Making the flower embellishment required using a hot glue gun, and I couldn't remember where I had seen mine when we moved into this house. 
Besides, I'm pretty sure that we lived in California when I bought the two that I have.

That was before email.

It's safe to say that if I were to even locate my glue guns, they'd need to be replaced.
This called for a trip to the craft store.
(Twist my arm!)

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to join a friend for the Houston Quilt Show. 
It was spectacular, and I so enjoyed Lou Ann's sweet company.
We were at the show for most of the day, and the ready-made, impulsively-purchased handles of the purse ended up really hurting my shoulder.

I decided to go ahead and replace the handles by making fabric straps, instead (which is sort of what the intelligent designer of the pattern suggested in the first place).
I learn the hard way.

As seems to be my M.O. these days, a major boo-boo was quite obvious after I finished the entire project. Just scroll back up to that photo at the top of this post, and see if you can figure out my blunder.
A nice person on Facebook said that she actually prefers the flaw rather than the "right" way.
It just doesn't bother me enough to redo it.
Seam ripping bothers me.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Precious Moments

Often these days, I find myself lamenting the fact that the children have outgrown so many of our favorite books, toys, and clothing.
A colonial-period dress and a Pilgrim dress that I made for Gabriela have become sewing room decor, and many of our children's books & toys have been set aside for visitors or future grandchildren.

Today, Morgan showed me that seventeen isn't too old to enjoy a special mommy-daughter moment together with a favorite.
I was lying on Gabriela's bed, talking to her as she cleaned her closet, when Morgan handed me Joyful Noise, plopped down beside me, and snuggled up in a blanket.

Oh, the giggles that ensued!

One day she'll be reading with her own children, but today I'm thankful for this special time that will soon be only a memory.

As Craig says to encourage young parents,
"The days may seem long at times, but the years are short."

Take some time to read with your little ones... or your not-so-little ones!