QC Giggles and Stepping Out of the Box

Allie and I met last evening for Quilt Class, now dubbed QC (texting shortens everything).  The prayer flag 

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Kristen and Allie after the previous QC with their projects

that she worked on all summer is now complete, so we were left with, “What will the next project be?”

I had recently read the book, Wise Craft Quilts by Blair Stocker.  So SO much inspiration from this book.  You should check it out!  I love the organic feel of her projects.  Plus she uses a lot of what she already has on hand, which inspires me to use my scraps and the huge pile of muslin (that I bought from my brother’s rummage sale) and all the old jeans that people have been throwing at me for years!

With a blank canvas in front of us, I decided to take Allie on this new exploration with me.  I showed her the crazy quilt center block set in a neutral fabric square in Blair’s book and said, “Let’s do this.” (I was going to show a picture from the book, but not sure on permissions and such, so just get the book and check it out!)

We dumped the scrap bin on the floor and started sifting through.  I let it be Allie’s choice of colors, as I had thought she would be the one ending up with this joint project.  She started with muted blues and navies, but as we went, corals and melon and green and turquoise made it into the pile.

We started with 6 1/2″ muslin foundation blocks, but then we realized that our scraps were probably too small.  I cut the blocks down to 4 inches, and we got to work.

Crazy quilt piecing looks very forgiving, but we didn’t find this to be true.  You have to make sure you cover all the raw edges, and this requires some planning ahead.  Most difficult for both of us was breaking out of the traditional piecing of squaring up or symmetrical thinking.  Allie got a bit frustrated, and I wonder if she will want to continue with this project, but I am addicted!  I love it!  I wanted to continue into the night and not stop!

Our Four Completed Center Blocks (lying on muslin fabric)

I can see myself going bigger with this concept.  I’d love to embellish with doo-dads or big stitch quilt it.

Sewing with Allie is very therapeutic for me.  She’s more like a grandchild, since her mother, my sister, is eleven years younger than I.  Allie and I connected from day one of her life.  

Allie when she was a toddler with my youngest son, Alex, who still looks at her this way! 

We have a flow when we are together.  I love our discussions, and I love getting silly with her and going deep.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me think.  I look forward to QC, scheduled for every Wednesday at 5:30, although with her schedule (she’s still a college student and a Barista) and mine, we manage to get together every other or every third Wednesday.  Sometimes she invites her friend, Kristen, or her boyfriend, Elijah (but she calls him Jim…?).  And sometimes my niece, Rachael, joins us, although she’s off getting her doctorate degree now, so no time for QC!

I hope to inspire others to create and to carry on this tradition of quilting.  Possibilities abound.  And it’s not just for old ladies anymore!  It’s become an art!

I love spreading the love!  Creativity IS love!

 

 

 

 

 

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Focus on the Possible

Arizona was very hard to leave. Yes, for the usual reason of having to leave my daughter there, but also, because I LOVE – IT – THERE.

Every time I step foot on that Arizona airport tarmac, I am filled with emotion. I feel every part of my body relaxing, and it’s as if I am finally “home.”

Last Photo of the Superstition Mountains Before Landing

I’ve always dreamed of living in Arizona. As far back as I remember, it was my dream home destination. I think I’ve written about this before, so I won’t ramble on.

Mike and me at Canyon Lake

My daughter, Abigail and I were discussing this feeling in me during our last visit. She wondered if I carried a connection to the desert, since I lived there in my formative years – I lived in southeast New Mexico when I was 21.

Abigail and her husband, Adam, moved to Tempe in 2013.

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Adam and Abigail on a camping trip to get to the “GREEN”

Adam was accepted into the master/doctorate program with tuition remission and a stipend. They have been there since, as he is still in school. They both hate the desert. They hate the heat and how it imprisons them. They long for the green of the Midwest and the changing seasons and colors that go with it. My daughter stated, “I’m sick of tan!”

“”

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Stopped on the Apache Trail for a look

Abigail and I chatted about changing perspective. The sooner we accept and embrace a situation, it seems the sooner we are released from it.

It was easy for me to talk to her about it. Easy for me to say – See, this is what you need to do!

Upon our return from this short visit, my husband, Mike and I were walking from the airport back to my car awaiting us in long term parking. Long term, but not long enough.

The sky was matte gray, the temperature a damp 59 degrees, and a saturating, chilling mist seemed to be coming from every direction. Mike sneezed, and I wiped my running nose. “Welcome back to reality,” I stated, sarcastically. “I miss Arizona already!!! I’ve got shell shock!” I added, dramatically.

We drove the hour to our house, where we were greeted by our dog, my mom and later, by our adult son and his girlfriend – so much love. Even so, I found myself wondering – WHY? Why do I have to live in the Midwest? Why can’t I live in the desert where my body feels good and my heart feels happy? Why did I put down roots so deep in a place that doesn’t feed my soul the way the desert does?

The next day, I felt a bit of self-pity seeping in. Okay, well, maybe more than seeping. Maybe it was becoming my reality. Maybe I was becoming a river of self-pitying tears. That voice that said – I hate Indiana. I hate my job. – was taking over.

And then, I remembered. I remembered what I told my daughter. “Maybe if you embrace this place, you will be released from it.”

Butterfly Garden at the Desert Botanical Garden

Physician, heal thyself!

I cannot be a victim of my circumstance unless I choose to be.

Shift. Shift. Time to change perspective and focus. The things out of reach always look better than they do up close.

Again, I choose gratitude as my attitude. And from there, happiness grows!  I’m still not giving up on my dream of living in the desert.  After all, dreams are necessary to keep us looking forward.  But in the meantime, I will carry it in my heart!  I focus on the possible.  And not on being a victim of circumstance.

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My darling daughter, Abigail at the condo complex

 

Go North!

I know I’ve said it before, but what the heck were they talking about “the lazy days of summer”?  Summer is always so busy!  Not that I’m complaining, because if you know me, I truly live by the old adage – “idol hands are a devil’s play things” – or however that goes.  That’s how I remember it from my childhood years when my mom kept us busy from sun up to sun down with chores.

I have kept up with my Instagram posts.  They are quick and easy and don’t have to say too much; a picture is worth a thousand words, right?  So you can check me out there – unless that’s where you found me here!

My husband and I took a quick trip to middle Michigan.  It was his idea, which totally surprised me.  I made the reservations through VRBO, giggling as I did so, because I booked a place with a quilt shop on the property! Hey, I made sure there were bike paths (for him/us) nearby!

The place we stayed was called The Cardinal Nest.

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Mike in front of the Cardinal Nest a Norwegian Stabbur

It was the most amazing place we have ever stayed.  I want one in my back yard now.  Like a quilting/writing studio/getaway!

Okay, yeah, back to reality.

As soon as we arrived, I headed into the quilt shop.  It was my dream quilt shop.  Young, beautiful, friendly, hip women/owners to greet me and an up to the moment selection of fabric.Fabric  I purchased some Halloween prints and made my brother a wallhanChillging when I got home.  I got the panel on Amazon.  All three of my children let me know they’d like one, so I ended up ordering three more panels and making three more.

I also purchased a Maywood Studios Texture Illusion jelly roll while I was there.  TextureI love this line, and want to get some yardage to go with it.  It’s so cool how it looks like wool, but it’s cotton!

I did use a bit of the jelly roll to make myself a new Noodlehead Super Tote.  img_2736It isn’t exactly the design I was thinking of, but I decided I wasn’t buying anything else to make it.  I was determined to use what I had in my stash.  I used a pair of my oldest son’s jeans.  He was the guy who would wear them till they were patches (patched by me) upon patches.  Good memories.

I’m loving having a new bag to carry, and it makes me smile, so I guess that’s a success! It will be perfect for our upcoming trip to Arizona to see our daughter!!

Anyway, back to our Michigan getaway.  Mike was set on going back to Petoskey, so we loaded up the bikes and drove up there to ride.  We rode a bit in Traverse City, but I’m telling you, that place is so busy.  I couldn’t handle it.  Which turned out to be a great thing, because we headed north where the trails going from Petoskey to Harbor Springs were amazing.  PetoskeyWe actually pulled off to the side of the trails, cut down a VERY short path and waded in Lake Michigan at a beach where only one other person was present, and he was reading a book under a tree.  We searched for Petoskey stones.  Mike found one.  I didn’t, but the cold water on my legs and ankles (I’ve had some tendinitis) felt amazing.

It was a great trip.  If you are looking for a getaway, the Cardinal Nest is so unique.  You just have to experience it.  It would make a great place to get away with a group of creative people or quilters.  The basement was all set up for that type of thing – mainly quilting!  (I even heard Mike telling a friend on the phone that it was the coolest place we have stayed!)  And just so you know, I’m not getting paid to say these nice things.  Just sharing for the sake of sharing.

Next up is a fall, quick trip to Tempe, so I can put my arms around our daughter.  Gratitude is an attitude (Oprah’s line?), so I’m focusing on the three times I will have seen her face to face this year, instead of the many, many weeks I wish she was here (or I was there.)

 

 

 

All I Need…..

I have a bunch of old CDs in my car. I rarely listen to them. My commute to work is short, but lately, even short is too long for the repetition on the radio. Today the CD I listened to was an old One Republic. I got caught up in the song, “All I Need.” I was touched by the line that talks about things not turning out like you thought they would. And they say, “Did you think you could find it, better than you have it?”

I found myself nodding and I wondered if anyone else looks back at their life and thinks, “Wow, this is not how I thought my life would be!” Obviously, I am not alone, because here’s this song about it.

It sounds as if I am a little unappreciative of my life, but that’s not it at all. I could have chosen different paths, and things could have been different, but like they say in the song, “All I need, is the air I breathe, and a place to rest my head….”

It would be easy to look back and say, if only……

But even through all the tough times, all the rocky roads I chose, the stupid choices I made, I have learned so much. I truly believe that had I chosen what seem to be the hard path at the time, that would have taken me in the direction that I really wanted to go instead of the path of least resistance that led me to a hard life with many unseen hills to climb, I would not have found the spirituality, compassion and empathy that I now possess.

I hear others whose lives have been the typical – graduate from college, get married, have three kids, attend church and ball games and do all the socially acceptable and expected things – judging others who have not made good choices and have ended up divorced, poor, living on welfare, struggling in life. And I feel bad for the judgers. Their lives seem empty and without meaning.  I cannot and do not want to join them, because I was one of those who chose the rough road, and if this is where I ended up because of, or in spite of, it, I am grateful.

I’m sure when people see me now, driving my Lexus and living in a nice home, they don’t see the nineteen year old young mother, with a deadbeat, drunk and abusive husband that I married, because I wanted to have someone to love and accept me and a place to call my own, being so hungry that I wanted to eat my daughter’s baby food. They don’t see the abuse that I left two marriages to get away from. They weren’t there to see my current husband and myself and three kids living on a meager income, so I could stay home and hold my own baby when he cried and to greet our older two when they got off the school bus with their joys and their sorrows.  They don’t know what my husband and I went through to make it to this twenty-eight year anniversary this month.

I have always had something to be grateful for, even when my stomach was caving in and grumbling I could look at my dark haired baby girl smiling up at me. And as life went on I was blessed with two glorious boys that I never imagined I could love as much as a girl.

I have to say that I probably wouldn’t have discovered my love for quilting and the joy that it brings me if I had not been so desperately poor.  It all started with the patchwork quilt I made for our daughter, then eight-years-old, so she’d have something special under the Christmas tree that year (she’s 35 years old now and still loves and uses that thread bare quilt.) My husband used his skills that year to make our oldest son a toy box that looked like a truck.  If we had both been working and had plenty of money, we would have gone to the store and bought the latest trendy toy, and it would be forgotten and our lives would not be as rich as they are today, both having taken our creativity to a new level.

They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I truly believe that. I’m blessed to have an open heart. I reflect with gratitude at all the lessons I have learned, and the doors that have opened because of them.

If You Get Tired of Walking, Start Running

Woods
My Beloved Woods – Also the view from my back yard
It wasn’t the woods that really that drew me.  It was “away.”  And being only eight years old, the woods behind our house was as far away as I could imagine going without a car.
When things got tough at home, I’d pack my doll suitcase with all my doll’s clothes and make my plan to go to the woods.  I’d sit and fantasize about the life of love and acceptance I would have there.  I’d live there when I grew up, I imagined, with my little girl with beautiful blonde curls – not unruly mousy dishwater blonde hair like mine.  And there would be no man.  Men were scary and unpredictable, and I didn’t see the need for one.
I didn’t ever take my packed suitcase and go.  After fantasizing about my future adult self living there, I would stow the fantasy away as a back up plan.  Yes, that’s where I could go. That’s where I would go.  The woods.
As an eight year old, I had realized just how far my legs would take me.  And the woods was far enough.  It was the same distance south as my grandmother’s house was west.  Yes, I could make it that far if I wanted to.
I didn’t ever go there.  Not alone.  I was afraid.  Afraid to be alone.  Afraid of the unknown.
I had “tired legs,” as my mother recalled.  There are pictures of me at the zoo in the stroller with my older sister pushing me and  my brother, three years younger than I, walking beside the stroller.  My legs were tired, Mom had noted.  It was very sweet of her to let me have the stroller, although I’m sure she was just desperate to be done with my whining and sulking.  (I was a very sulky child, I have been told.)  And I’m sure my younger brother couldn’t wait to run free!
My grandmother, who was the ultimate example of unconditional love, lived across the pasture from us.  We loved to run across he pasture to visit her.  I remember, after one such visit, standing at the edge of the pasture, looking at our house in the distance, my belly bulging with chocolate kisses, rootbeer and popcorn.  My blood sugar coming down from it’s spike, I was overwhelmed and depleted of any energy.  My legs would feel wobbly and my body felt as if it were made of lead.  I’d start to cry, and my older sister, trying to distract me, would try to convince me to run.  Sometimes it worked.  Others, I’d trudge through blinding tears and salty sweat rivers back to our house.
It would be many years before I realized that my legs weren’t “tired”, as my mother had thought they were.  It was my mind.  I was easily overwhelmed.  Most tasks seemed insurmountable.  I didn’t have a “can do” spirit.  I had a “can’t do” mindset. My mind was more powerful than my body, and it was convinced that most things were just too difficult to even try.
Many years later, self awareness made me realize that I could do things with a different perspective.  Instead of thinking about all I had to do or get done, I could just sing a song, dance and play music, and suddenly the tasks would be complete.  My legs are strong and can carry me a long way.  I have discovered mind over matter.
Once, while visiting Chicago with my daughter, niece and brother, we were in search of a particular pizza place.  Gino'sMy brother had seen it on the internet and said it was supposed to be the best!  We walked what seemed for miles, him with his nose to his smart phone GPS, and the rest of us obediently following him on his quest.  The sun was beating down.  My shins were burning from my non-supportive tennis shoes.
My mind went back to my childhood and my “tired legs,” but as it did so, it stopped on a memory.  Another brother, five years older than me, was driving the car.  My older sister sat shotgun, and I in the backseat (in more ways than one.)  We were just out for a drive.  Out for freedom from adult domination.  We saw some people walking down the road, and as we approached them, my brother told my sister to yell, “Hey, if you get tired of walking, start running!”
We all thought we were pretty funny and clever, and as this memory played through my mind, I repeated my older brother’s words to the rest with me pounding the concrete walks of Chicago.
“Hey, if you get tired of walking, start running!”
We were a bit delirious by this time, and everyone started to giggle.  I decided to do it.  Just start running.  Everyone followed my example, and to my great surprise, it really did seem to help.  Running took different muscles than walking!  We were laughing and running and running and laughing, passing other people walking, and I am sure they thought we were escaped mental ward patients or high on crystal meth, but we didn’t care.  We were from out of town, and we were hungry!!!! 
 
We finally made it to the pizza place.  It was a lot further than my brother admittedly had anticipated or calculated.  We each drank a pitcher of water – no exaggeration, and the pizza was the best we’d ever have – as promised! We were all too tired to walk all the way back to the train, so my brother paid for a very, scary, taxi ride.

Chicago Jim
Myself and my little brother, Jim
(There’s two morals to this story; most times, the best things may be a long, hard, hot walk away, but the destination is worth the suffering in getting there.  And, letting someone else drive your life can be a bit terrifying!)
As an adult, I have realized that I have and still do let others shut me down or drive me around.  Sometimes, I still let people sit on my legs, letting my desire for their approval to keep from going “to the woods,” that place of unknowns, that place of alone. I let them drag me around and convince me to settle for a frozen pizza, instead of making the effort for a scrumptious Chicago Style deep dish pizza.

Today, I remembered that my legs aren’t tired after all. And if I get tired of walking, I can just start running!

Girls
Myself, my daughter, Abigail and my niece, Allie (2011) in Chicago

KAYAK – YEAH!

Last weekend, we took the plunge and bought kayaks.  We had actually had the plan to buy some in 2014, but I talked my husband out of it.  When he ended that year with hurting his back, I was glad we hadn’t spent the money.  He spent that next year doing physical therapy, acupuncture, injections and finally, in the spring of 2016, he couldn’t take the pain anymore.  He had a lower lumbar fusion.  Since then, he has been testing the waters, so to speak;  trying bicycling, swimming, jogging and finally golfing.  He’s found ways to adjust the way he used to do those things, adapting to his new back’s lack of mobility and flexibility and his tendency to get “stiff.”  Now he can add kayaking to his list of things he can still do.

Mike in his new kayak

My oldest son, Drew, and his wife, Bethany, came for the weekend.  Drew announced that he and Bethany were going to buy a couple kayaks.  They, too, had intended on buying some a couple of years ago, but then Bethany became ill.  She’s had a rough couple years with a failed surgery, loss of hearing in one ear, lots of pain, and a final diagnosis of Lupus, but she’s finally got some good meds and seems to manage much better.

So as we were sitting on the patio Saturday morning, Mike and Drew said they were going to go look at kayaks.  Bethany and I quickly announced that we were going, too.

Long story short, we purchased four kayaks, ran back to the house to pack a cooler and snacks, changed clothes and headed to the river.

Drew on his maiden voyage

I’ve only kayaked a couple of times, but it seems like a natural state of being for me.  I’m not saying I’m “good” at it.  I’ve still got some learning to do.  But as we floated and paddled, I totally felt I was in my element.  I told my mom I love it as much as quilting and writing.  But just in different ways.

My view from under a low hanging tree – so peaceful!

Bethany loved it, as well, but at the end of our two and a half hour trip, she was hurting.  Even so, she’s determined to go again.

Bethany just getting started

I’m thinking I need a large “dry bag” to carry quilts in, so I can do a quilt photo shoot in the middle of the river!

 

Quilt In a Day

I’ve always wanted to make a quilt in a day.  I told my husband I’d love to have a day that I just got up and started sewing and continued for the whole day.
He laughed, and said, “Oh, really?  Well, maybe I’d like to do that with my bicycling…..just get up and ride the whole day.”
I told him that he pretty much does that….but not the whole day, because he isn’t physically capable of that, but if he was, he would!
Sunday he got up and left on his bicycle, stating that he wouldn’t be back for about five hours.  I took my mom to church, then we stopped at the grocery (which seems to be the normal thing to do, because everyone from church was there!) The strawberries were on sale, so we both stocked up.
When I got home and put everything away, I was just heading to my quilting studio when my husband pulled up on his bike.  As much as I love him, I was disappointed.  I wanted to sew!  He came in, and I said, “Wow, you weren’t gone as long as you thought you were going to be.”
He told me he rode 60 miles.
I said he must have really rode fast!
He agreed.
I told him I was wanting to sew, and he told me, very matter-of-factly, “Well, go ahead.”
I didn’t really need his permission.  He understands my passion for quilting, as I understand his for cycling.  Yet knowing he was fine with it did free me up to fulfill that desire.
I didn’t spend the entire day in my studio.  I took a break to eat lunch with my hubby and make some Amish strawberry shortcake.  I got the recipe from Pinterest.  I made a strawberry sauce to put on it and cut up the rest of the strawberries to put on top.  It was amazing!
Amish Strawberry Shortcake
Amish Strawberry Shortcake with Blueberries
My day in my studio ended with a completed quilt top.  That’s a first for me!  I’d always wanted to make a quilt in a day.  I had purchased a pattern from Suzy at Suzy Quilts blog Suzy Quilts – Modern Handmade Quilts .  It’s called the Maypole Quilt.  Maypole Quilt Pattern (Download) – Suzy Quilts
I think I saw it first on Suzy’s Instagram account, and my brother, Jim, and I both thought it was awesome.  I had cut it out on Saturday, but come Sunday, I messed up the first step, so had to do some re-cutting.  I also decided to change a couple of the colors that I had originally chosen, AND I had not labeled the pieces, so I quickly did that.  It made putting it together so much easier!
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Maypole Quilt
Jim has done a few quilt-in-a-day quilts.  He lives in San Francisco and has a very busy life.  So when he comes back for a visit, he will set up a sewing machine on my mom’s kitchen table and sew a million miles an hour. Nothing too elaborate or detailed, but always beautiful products in the end.
There’s something pretty satisfying about starting and finishing a quilt top in one day.  I’d love to do a retreat where that is the focus – just sewing.  No dishes.  No dog to let out.  No laundry calling my name.  But I have a bread ‘n’ butter job during the day, and my vacation time is spent going to see my daughter, who had the nerve to move to Arizona.

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My darling daughter, Abigail, in Arizona
So taking a vacation day or days to attend a retreat is not in the time allowed or the budget.  I have solved this in a small way a couple of times by just announcing to my husband (and son – before he moved out) that I was going on a sewing “retreat,” adding, “Just pretend I’m gone.”  I’d go to my studio and make myself pretend I was away from my house and all other distractions.  I need to do that again.
So, do you like to do retreats?  Or do you find a way to “retreat” without leaving?  What’s your favorite time to create?  And lastly, have you ever done a quilt in a day?  I’d love to hear about your creative process.