Sunday, October 31, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons.....and a Halloween Dessert!

Dan and I went to a really fun party for our friend Chris Spicher's 60th birthday last Monday night, but the attention wasn't all on Chris -- a lot of people had questions for one of the party attendees, Nicole McCracken. Questions being: Oh, my gosh, what did you do to get that cast on your foot? And -- WOW -- look at all that bling!

Answer to the first question? Tripped over the dog while going down a flight of stairs....ouch!!!

We invited Nicole and her husband Lon to dinner last night at the house; a early evening dinner so that she wouldn't have to cook, she could put her foot up when she needed to rest it and still get home and tucked in nice and early. Had to show you the comment-inducing cast!

Evidently you get to choose your cast colors these days and then Nicole added lots of bling and a pretty pedicure! If you have to look at a cast for several weeks, this is the imaginative way to do it!

We had a couple of bottles of red wine, ribeye steaks that Dan grilled, roasted asparagus and baked potatoes, both done in the oven. Dessert is the above Halloween funfetti brownies from a Pillsbury mix with whipped cream swirled right out of the can to make a ghost and tiny chocolate chips for eyes. The only difficult part was balancing the dessert plates on their way to the table so the little ghosts wouldn't slump over!

It was good to catch up with friends and cheer Nicole on -- the cast comes off November 16!

Friday, October 29, 2010

International Mystery Quilt of the Month -- Bolts in the Bathtub, Lancaster CA

Last month was the first meeting of the International Mystery Quilt of the Month club, which is somewhat like block of the month, only bigger! Last month took participants to Australia and there were three fabric colorways to choose from. I think Dawna will be especially fond of this program in that she doesn't have to make up a sample -- it's a mystery!

Four people brought back completed quilt tops for the Streak of Lightening pattern; it was interesting that they were all set a little bit differently....

Three of them were the same colorway, which was neutrals.....

..the fourth top shown was the second colorway, pinks and blues, and there was not a quilt shown from the third colorway, which was greens.

I was traveling last month during the meeting, so I'm somewhat behind!

Dawna also likes to show us what's new, like the quilt and pillow made from Moda's Santorini line. Dawna pieced the quilt top and Peggy, who works at the shop, made the pillow. The tiny ball trim on the pillow is really cute!

This month's theme is Italy and there were three colorway choices: Cappuccino (browns and tans), Lasagna (reds/creams/greens) and Spumoni (which was described as pastels, but is really pink/cream/brown/mint green).

This is a four-hour workshop, so after Show & Share, we all got out our rotary cutting equipment and started slicing away. Cheryl had all of her cutting done first as well as neatly displayed to decorative effect on her ruler!

I had chosen the Spumoni colorway, so at left are 1-1/2" strips cut from the 12 fabrics provided.

At right are the additional fabrics that I purchased: the frozen treat print for the outer border, brown for the inner border and, since I will probably put the blocks on point, the pink polka dot will be the setting and corner triangles.

This particular block involved sewing a diagonal seam across fabric squares and I am terribly inaccurate with this type of seam without marking. Even though the seams were short, I decided to improve the chances of getting the block the right size, so I Scotch-taped the Angler 2 to the tray of the machine and -- voila! -- it worked! Straight seams without taking the time to mark....

Won't get back to this project for at least a few days, but at least this month's is already further along than last!

After the Storm -- and Dinner....

We had a huge storm here in Southern California last week -- wind, rain, hail(!!) -- resulting in property and landscape damage for a lot of people as well as a career's worth of dents on some cars. After the storm, the clouds were so beautiful that I had to take some pictures...

These were taken off the back deck of my house; couldn't make up my mind which I liked best, so included both.....

It seems like whenever we have bad weather, it triggers the urge to cook -- maybe it's because you want to stay inside, light a fire and some candles and smell good things in the house?

Started with some baby bella mushrooms, which I quartered; then I sliced up some boneless skinless chicken thighs and reached for the standby in my kitchen -- Pasolivo lemon olive oil.

The Texmati rice and butter for a side dish....

This is probably the last of the fresh basil to come out of the garden; it's looking pretty spindly. My friend Charlene has been growing hers indoors, so I'll probably have to offer to trim her basil for her pretty soon -- do you think she'll fall for that one?

Browned the chicken & mushrooms in the olive oil, then added a splash -- well, maybe more than a splash -- of white wine.

This is a Sauvignon Blanc from Justin Vineyards, one of my very favorite Paso Robles wineries.

Rounded out the meal with a quick salad: bagged veggie lovers lettuce, some halved grape tomatoes from Cherub and our favorite not-homemade salad dressing. There's something about those Cherub tomatoes -- we've tried other kinds and brands, but keep coming back to these for their pure tomato-y flavor.

The Girard's dressing is the one that Dan buys whenever I'm out of town and fresh dressing isn't on hand. We like the Light Champagne; it's not as oily as full fat dressings, but isn't sweet either, like so many "light" products.

Pour out another glass of that wine and we have a quick, easy weeknight dinner!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Alex Anderson Quilt Retreats -- Session I

AAQ Retreats started ten years ago when cyber quilting friends from a message board on Alex Anderson's website wanted to find a time to meet and sew together. That first retreat, in November 2001, lasted four days and had about 25 people attending. Most of their time was spent in independent study with both Alex and I on hand to answer questions and give opinions about fabrics, etc. Alex did a "breakout session" on hand quilting and I did one on machine quilting. Both of us would occasionally do impromptu demonstrations when someone asked a question about a technique that we thought everyone might like to know.

In 2003, the third year of AAQ Retreats, the waiting list was so long that Alex decided to open a second session and there are still two sessions: this year, Session I opened Thurday and will run through noon on Sunday; the second session starts Sunday afternoon and ends Wednesday at noon.

This year, Alex is teaching some curved piecing techniques and she has two auxiliary teachers: I am spending a day at each retreat teaching how to choose quilting designs, including a demonstration on marking and spacing border stencils, and Dale Fleming will be teaching pieced circles on the second full day of each retreat.

On Friday, I did my 1-1/2 hour demonstration and then walked around the room talking to all of my friends (many Session I retreaters have been coming here for years and years; we only had 3 new people this session) and taking pictures.....

Sylvia has been with us all ten years; here she is piecing two quilts at once out of her scrap bags. Not a bad idea -- think of all the things we could work on simultaneously out of our strip buckets!

Definition of "Strip Bucket
": Whenever I finish piecing a quilt, I piece whatever fabrics were used on the front of the quilt into the back. Whatever is left over after that either gets put back on the shelf, if it is at least 1/2 yard, or if it is smaller, it gets cut into 2-1/2" strips and tossed in either the light, medium or dark strip bucket. That way, when I'm ready to make an easy quilt, there are all the strips already cut and waiting!

Sitting across the table from Sylvia, Carol is working on her fall applique quilt; I took a picture of the pattern cover, too, so you could see it the whole thing....

Alex giving one of her curved piecing demonstrations; that's Carolie Hensley of The Cotton Patch looking over her shoulder. Carolie brings a selection of goodies and sets up a store right here in the hotel for the retreaters. They also have Friday evening on their own to visit local shops, but you can't beat the convenience when you gotta have something right now!

Julie with the basket quilt she was working on last year -- she's ready to choose border fabrics now. I think it needs a narrow stripe to stop all the action before the final border....

Cindy's project is also an ongoing one -- she's appliquing Christmas tree lights on the border of her tree quilt from last year. Last year Alex taught isoceles triangles using her method; I taught scalloped bias binding which, of course, I do totally differently than she does. It's kind of a joke at the retreat: Since Alex and I do everything almost totally opposite, if someone asks one of us a question and doesn't like the answer, they go ask the other one and they'll probably get the answer they want!

Natalie and Jackie are a daughter/mom team that comes to sew with us every year...

Lynda works on very small, intricate designs -- we always love to see what she is doing!

At right is the center block of an appliqued quilt; she also had the borders done...all beautifully hand appliqued...

Danelle and the circles blocks that she brought to have fun with this session.....

I'm off to teach "Free Motion Boot Camp" at The Cotton Patch today and then will drive back to the Hilton Garden Inn in Livermore where the retreat is held and spend the night there. I'm not teaching tomorrow so will most likely be going to the Pacific International Quilt Festival which is being held this weekend in Santa Clara, about a half hour drive from Livermore. PIQF is always a good show and I should be able to get some good pictures if there aren't 50 people between my camera and each quilt!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Very Batty Wednesday!

My friend Dawna (co-owner of my local quilt shop, Bolts in the Bathtub) dropped off this very cool doormat Tuesday night and invited me to come over Wednesday to collect still more bat booty and see her latest now I have a bat mat!

When I showed up at her house for coffee yesterday morning, there was a Happy Halloween bag that has several colors of little battery-operated lights. Dawna said she couldn't get it to light, but when I got it home, it lit up all over! There was also purple bat fabric inside the bag -- this is fun!

Then a light up bat sign that I'm going to put in the back yard where I can see it!

And my Longaberger baskets were in! Dawna is also my Longaberger rep, so it's always a treat to get new baskets. Dawna "dresses" the baskets for me -- puts the liners, protectors and all that in the basket, so that all I have to do is take them home and admire them. Couldn't resist the TREATS basket with the candy corn and polka dot fabric liner...

I also buy the Horizon of Hope basket every year; this is the pink and white basket that Longaberger does for Breast Cancer Awareness. A portion of every Horizon of Hope purchase is donated to the Susan G. Komen Fund. This is Dawna holding my basket after she has gotten it all dressed up and ready to go home with me.

Dawna recently took a workshop with Sylvia Einstein teaching curved piecing. Above are the 16 blocks that she finished. She showed me the border fabric that she has chosen and I think the finished quilt is going to be stunning!

A great way to spend early Wednesday morning -- having coffee with my bestie!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Bern Fabric Center -- New Bern NC

Last Saturday, I taught a machine applique techniques class at New Bern Fabric Center, the last stop on my 16 day trip. New Bern was an approximately 2-1/2 hour drive from Wilmington on Friday night, I was staying at the local Hampton Inn for two nights and then driving about 2 hours Sunday morning to the Raleigh-Durham airport.

Love all things Halloween, so took this picture before I even got in the door....

The lady who made the quilt hanging over all that delicious fabric was in my class -- tried to get her to pose next to it for the picture, but she was very modest....

Cute little pink smocked dress in the window....

They have a big BERNINA section....

I had never seen an BERNINA 830 "skeleton" before. It shows all the inner workings -- fascinating! James and Carole told me that this machine has been sewed on by Ricky Tims!

Back outside to get this picture of the embroidery done to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Many of the Bernina dealers are embracing this cause and I saw different variations on the theme as I traveled from store to store.

These were blocks hung high on the walls, alternating the embroidered blocks with the plain blocks. It made a very nice and colorful presentation above everything else going on in the store.

As I was leaving, James and Carole gave me a 2011 pocket calendar -- actually, it's more than a calendar. It has a nice thick pad of paper, a calendar, address book and a number of reference pages. I immediately turned the corner over on the page I'll use a lot -- the one that shows all of the time zones in the United States!

New Bern Fabric Center is located at 1218 S. Glenburnie Road, New Bern NC 28562 (ph: 252-633-4780). To go to their website, click here. They are very nice people who have been in the Bernina family for a long time.....

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Great Blog -- Terificreations Weblog!

I read Teri Lucas' blog pretty frequently, especially when she has great tips about working with threads, dyes and all the other fun things she uses in her quilting. Her blog is more educational than social -- she comes up with this great stuff day after day!

It is worth a trip over there today as she has a great Tip of the Day posted that is all about go to Terificreations Weblog, click here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Summer Breezes Creative Quilting & Fabrics -- Wilmington NC

Today's workshop is a small trapunto butterfly piece; my sample is on hand dyed fabrics and is quilted with pink threads -- no surprise there.....

Here's a closeup of one of the butterflies....

Glenda Lewis of Summer Breezes rented a meeting room at a nearby hotel for the workshop...

..smiling people and Bernina 830's!

After the workshop, Glenda and I went to the store so I could take a peek at all the things going on there. An event had been held to get everybody ready to make Christmas gifts and decorations, so Summer Breezes is all ready -- complete with tree! That's Glenda with the big smile!

There are embroidered decorations and lights and spools of metallic thread....

...and pretty red bows! I love the idea of thread hanging on the tree; adds a lot of color and sparkle...

Glenda showed me some of the embroideries: the one above is done on a premade table runner.

Glenda plans to put log cabins and other blocks around this embroidery to make a small seasonal quilt....

Another premade plain black table runner -- a blank canvas for more beautiful machine embroidery!

This cute Santa has a fluffy beard....

...made using Minkee and Texture Magic!

One of the store's projects for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is this notepad cover -- the outside using decorative stitches, machine embroidery and a number of different presser feet...

....while the inside has pockets for pens and maybe a calculator and your small pad of lined paper.

Lots of place mats in various seasonal prints....

...complete with built in pockets for silverware and a napkin.

Glenda said that she had taken samples of these place mats to a gourmet food gathering, thinking that perhaps foodies would want to make them. She said everyone loved them, but they wanted to buy them already made!

Sometimes in the warmer weather, a sewer still wants to spend some time at the machine, but wants to make a smaller project. To accommodate that, Summer Breezes has a Bag of the Month Club where you can make all kinds of purses.

There was such a variety that I just kept taking pictures!

Summer Breezes Creative Quilting & Fabrics is located at 5221 Oleander Drive, Wilmington NC (ph: 910-791-6868). To see their website, click here.

After class is dinner and a 1-1/2 hour drive to New Bern NC to meet James and Carole Hall of New Bern Fabric Center -- until then.....
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