Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Gift Bags

It's an interesting phenomenon; I am recuperating from a nasty cold that D kindly shared with me, but I have little to no energy or even a desire to have energy.  And that sentence makes me wonder if anyone has ever complained about having a "nice" cold?  Oh well.  Because of this lingering malaise, I've been doing everything except what I should be doing.  Therefore, no news of paintings because I haven't painted except in class (and because the current painting is another secret project).  Nor have I returned to my major quilting project because I just don't have the oomph, a.k.a. energy.

Instead, I have returned to a whimsical project I started last year (?) or the year before.  I have been making Christmas gift bags from scraps of holiday fabrics (or that's the way it started; now I sometimes purchase that kind of fabric when it goes on sale).  My thinking was that we spend a lot of money on paper and ribbon that gets thrown away, and while much of that is biodegradable, some of it (foil paper and glittery/synthetic ribbon) may not be.  It also adds up to a lot of money over the years.  So I thought, why not make pretty fabric bags that can be re-used every year?

Of course, there are drawbacks.  Gift bags don't really work well for curious youngsters, that's for sure!  And if you are sending something to someone, can you ask them to return the bags?  No, I don't think so.  You might be able to explain why they have fabric wrapping and ask them to use them as part of their tradition, but . . .  It might not be appreciated.

Anyway, here are some of the ones I have made - partly just for fun.  In the first photo the one in the front is this year's, but the two in the back are not.

Older one in the front.

And this one (showing both sides) is new and is made from pieces intended for a Christmas table runner that was never made.  Those triangular bits were used in every bag I've done so far this year.

The others are similar. I take pieces all higglety-pigglety, square them up, add more fabric pieces to even things out, then put on the top cuff (with a channel for a ribbon to pull it close), and there you go.  Bob's your uncle!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The "Right Thing"

How lucky we are that our daughter and her son were able to come down to visit us this past weekend.  They arrived late-ish on Friday because grandson had a swim meet.  Late or not, we were delighted!

On Saturday, D took "our boy" to a baseball card shop as he has developed a huge interest in baseball cards.  Fortunately, D knew of a very good one right in our area; I had worried that we might have to see if the shops in Cooperstown were open.  Grandson (C from now on) had been to one or two places where he lives, but I guess they are not shops that specialize in baseball cards since C was amazed at what he found.  D's shop specializes in only baseball cards, and the owner was very, very kind to C without being patronizing.  Anyway, C came home with lots more cards, and he was beaming from ear to ear.

Actually, the success of the baseball card foray was the reason they decided to leave earlier than planned.  Originally, daughter and C were planning to depart today, but C wanted to share his booty with his good friend who also collects.  If they had left when planned, C would be going with his dad to visit his dad's family in the D.C. area.  How could we object?  Any visit, no matter how short is still a visit!

So, we had dinner and got ready to play our traditional game of U

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Puzzle Update

A second entry for Thursday.  This one's for you, A!

A's Puzzle

It's possible that I have mentioned that D and I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles - especially during the winter months.  In case you missed that news flash, it is true.  Over the years when she visits us,  D's sister has joined us at the puzzle table and has searched church bazaars and other sales tables for puzzles to bring to our house.  Then she sits down and begins.

Well, she brought a 750-piece-doozie for us at Thanksgiving!  Whoo-ee, it was a really difficult puzzle.  D and A started working on it during that holiday with me giving it a pass as I walked by.  I knew it would be pretty hard even though A started right away.  Her approach to puzzles is to pick a color or a design element and work on that first (mine is to do the "grunt work", i.e., the borders, to get the boring stuff out of the way), and she was smart to do that on this one!  She did almost all the hummingbirds in the puzzle while she was here.

Did I ever tell you that A is very, very smart?

Did I mention that most puzzles we do are completed in 2 - 5 days?

Okay, this puzzle was started during the Thanksgiving holiday.  Today is December 14th, and the puzzle isn't finished yet!  BUT we are making headway.

Here it is as of this afternoon:

Can you see the birds?  Can you tell what constitutes the rest of the puzzle's design?  All D and I have  worked on are the leaves (not too terrible) and then have moved on to all the rest of the puzzle.  That's right.  It's been purple and pink flowers.  Each flower is made up of 6 - 10 pieces of its color, and differences in color from flower to flower is very slight.  

At this point, there is no way we would pack it in, and at this point it's actually fun as we have learned how to make it easier (anticipating certain weird puzzle piece shapes, identifying the subtle differences in color, and obviously fewer pieces to agonize over).  

When all is said and done, A, you did give us brain exercise in patience, logic, determination, analysis, and memory to mention just a few benefits!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Weighty Talk about Holiday Cards

Another day of coughing and hacking and making unpleasant noises; feel sorry for those around me!  Despite all of that, D (also hacking and making unpleasant noises) and I did manage to get a lot done today.  What we did was not earth shattering, but it is very important to us.

The important thing we did was get our holiday cards ready to go out in the mail.  Not a big deal, you think?  Well, it is when your family and friends are spread out all over the country, and few of us have the habit of regular communication.  Sometimes, these cards are the only way people hear from us.  Even though we have FaceBook and email both of which I use, neither of those are known for the personal, longer newsy communication that comes with a letter.  

And while that letter isn't terribly personal, it takes time to write and add photos.  It takes time to sign one's name instead of relying on the printed version in cards or write loving words by that printed signature, and it takes time to address envelopes by hand. That time is its own message to the receiver that we cared enough to use our time to connect with them.

And that's why we send cards, write letters, hand address, and sign our holiday cards.  It's important to us.  

So imagine how we feel when we receive your cards!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Biscotti and More Biscotti and Oops, a COLD!

The day started with the realization that I have indeed caught D's cold.  It isn't anywhere near as bad as his is, but it's a cold none the less.  Bummer!

Oh well, I was able to mix up and bake two more batches of the biscotti for the holiday party at painting.  The weather blessed me with an extra week as painting was canceled today due to snow.  Now I have four batches of biscotti which is enough to give everyone a goodly number to enjoy.

After the biscotti were finished baking and even though I felt weary, I pushed on and packed up the fall and Thanksgiving decorations that have been sitting on the dining room table for a week now.  Admittedly, I was late taking it all down to begin with, but the delay in packing it really made me feel behind the eight ball.  And you know what?  The dining room still looks awful!  The huge bin of decorations is on the dining room table; it does look neater than the pile of stuff but . . .  There is also the matter of the cooling racks of biscotti (dense with dried fruit, nuts, and white chocolate) which won't be put away tomorrow.

Then I pulled out some of our Christmas decorations and spread them throughout the downstairs- except for the dining room, of course.  By that time, I was truly feeling tired so Christmas items that live in heavier bins won't be moved and opened until D is home to do some of the heavy work.  

The highlight of my day was pulling out my first Christmas quilt made in 2007, the one with antique Christmas postcard fabric.  It's a still a favorite among all the wall hangings I've made so far.  I'd only been quilting one year, and I designed something of my own by adding those directional borders (including trying techniques I knew nothing about).  So now it is hanging in our bedroom this year where we can enjoy it again. 

Some of you have seen this already and maybe wondering why I'm showing it again.  Here's the thing, I have a quilter friend, KR, who rotates her quilts.  That way both she and her family have a chance to become reacquainted with all the lovelies she has made.  Because of our renovations, we no longer have as many places to hang my quilts, but we do have some room.  It's time for me to take a page from my friend's book because not only is it enjoyable, it also sparks new ideas.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Snow and Biscotti

Well, it looks as though we may really get some significant snow tomorrow, and it may be my fault.  You see, tomorrow is supposed to be the holiday party for our painting group, and since (as you know from reading yesterday's blog) I was away from home for most of the last three days, I spent today doing laundry AND baking.  

That's right, I was baking like mad to make sure I would have the biscotti I had promised for the party.  It wasn't until I was on my second batch that I took the time to check my email.  Ok, I wanted a break.  Anyway, that's when I found out that our painting class (and therefore, our party) has been canceled due to the pending storm.  It was the first I had heard about it.

You'll think I'm terrible, but I breathed a sigh of relief.  If I didn't get the third batch baked, the world wouldn't beat a path to my door in order to lodge a complaint.  Then I thought, darn it! We always have fun when we get together, and I already had two batches baked . . .

I admit I didn't even start the third batch.  There will be time enough for that tomorrow, and biscotti improve with age.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Special Weekend

My good friend and I took part in another Quilt Camp this past weekend, and again, I can't show any photos (even if I had taken any!) as most of us were working on secret projects for family members and/or friends.  During this time of year it is a real bonus to be able to leave our homes to go elsewhere to sew.

We were at a favorite local quilt shop, Log Cabin, where we are treated like queens and good friends.  For example, the food is very plentiful and beyond delicious, the rooms in which we sew are quite comfortable have the most important things for quilters (decent light, room to cut, ironing boards with good irons, waste baskets, and quick access to coffee and bathrooms).  We are in the company of others who share our passion, are willing to stop their work to offer advice, and encourage when one needs it.

Here's a good example of the benefits of working with others who share the passion.  Everyone makes mistake at one time or another, and I made an all-day-long mistake.  On the first day, for my current project I sewed one block and set it where I could easily see it to use a pattern for the rest of the blocks.  I sewed all day long and by evening had all my remaining blocks complete.  With the time I still had before going home I began to sew the blocks together.  That's when the sky fell on me.  

The first block (the one I used as a model for the day) was sewn incorrectly so every single one after that was also wrong!  You know what happened?  The owner of the shop came in and started un-sewing so I could get back on track faster!  

Now how special is that!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

General Report

These last two days have been spent finishing one project.  It is a small piece (unlike many of the previous projects), but there were times when it seemed to me to be too large for its purpose.  However, it is finished, and I am glad of it!

Today I spent time organizing the items I need to take with me for the weekend quilt camp.  There is a quilt I started a the beginning of November that must be ready for the quilter by the first Saturday in January.  I should be able to finish several more blocks.

Then I looked for half-finished holiday items to work on if I need a break from the big quilt. Why I was surprised at the age of some of the unfinished projects I pulled out for consideration, I don't know.  But there are several.  

I hope to have news and photos to share on Monday!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Holiday Posts

There is a problem when writing a blog that is primarily about one's art endeavors, and that problem is especially acute during the winter holidays.  It's a little less problematic but still a possible issue during other major holidays.

After all, when you think about it, a creative person who enjoys any kind of craft is usually up to her or his eyeballs making gifts for others.  How to write about the progress and or problems?  How to post photos of the gifts?  

Now, if I were of professional caliber, I would be designing lots and lots of crafts that I could post, write about, and entice my hundreds of followers to buy.  

Sigh.  I'm not that good, that energetic, or persuasive.

So here's what you can expect:

  • the occasional day or three with no posts on any subject
  • posts with no photographs
  • or worst of all?  
Posts like this one!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Further Stitching on CzQ Block

Today was spent primarily in stitching on Barbara's crazy quilt block.  It still amazes me how many hours go into one block of a crazy quilt!  I think when I start the next block (not until I finish the current one, though) I will try to keep track of the time.

Of course, that probably won't include time spent on planning, looking for inspiration, searching for just the right notions and threads or photos, but it should prove to be interesting!

The result will be entered in the little notebook I am keeping which contains detailed information about each block.  I hope my crazy quilting friends are keeping similar notebooks to pass on with their quilt (whether finished or not).