Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Must Ask . . . Can YOU Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are. –Marjorie Hinckley

Thank you to everyone who voted in last week's poll about how often you cook. I am a bit surprised and really impressed by how many of you cook most of the time! Do any of you have your favorite recipes on your blogs? I did a little makeover of my menu planning & grocery list procedure. I had scratches and scribblings of our favorite meals on slips of paper and keep a running grocery list and menu, but decided I wanted everything neat and tidy and in one place, so I put it all in a spreadsheet. I have quite a good collection of meals that we eat regularly, but it would be fun to rotate a few new things in, so if you have favorite recipes on your blogs, let me know. While I was at it, I organized a template for my grocery list by departments and aisles in the order I shop them. I'll write down the items that I need on my grocery list notepad as we run out of things during the week, and then before I go shopping I'll transfer the list to my spreadsheet, sorting everything into their area, and print the list out. Tonight was my trial run and it went really well and I think it saved time. Grocery shopping and meal planning are big chores, before the actual cooking begins, so, again, I'm super impressed by all you diligent chefs out there!

Today's subject has absolutely nothing to do with food. What is on my mind this week is the Sesame Street quilt. On Tuesday afternoon, there was a notice that the pattern designer had finished more characters. From that moment on, I was a little unsettled about how to proceed. In the layout I'd settled on, I'd opted to leave out several of the patterns that Michelle had released, choosing characters I remembered most from either my childhood or the days when the Little Bugs were little enough to watch. With this new wave of patterns, Michelle has designed quite a few more characters that are from my childhood, and I started wondering if I should expand my layout.

I hashed out the pros and cons to making the quilt bigger. In thinking things over in the last few days, the biggest “con” to changing the layout is that I will not have the quilt finished in time for the quilt shows this season. I started this quilt specifically with that goal in mind, and it made me a little bit panicky to not accomplish a goal that I'd publicly announced, although it wouldn't be the first time.

As it turns out, though, the biggest “pro” to expanding the layout also happens to be that I will not have the quilt finished in time for the quilt shows this season. That takes a huge amount of pressure off me. Trying to meet such a tight deadline it putting a lot of stress on me. If I didn't have work or kids or chores it would be a snap. I could crack out a block a day and be done in no time. But I have to balance, because all sewing and no work makes Lizzie a frazzled girl. {Sidebar: I am always wishing I had more time for sewing. I kind of took a break from reality last weekend and did nothing but sew. Not getting my weekend chores done has taken a toll. I think the beauty of having a hobby you love is that you value the time that you spend doing it more when you have to balance it out with real life.} I've come to the conclusion that whether I expand my layout or not, I'm not going to push myself harder than I should to get this quilt done in time for the quilt shows. If I miss one or two {or even all three} this year, then there is always next year. Running, flat out, to get it done at the expense of other important things, is just not worth it.

With that extra pressure out of the way, I'm still undecided. My motto is “Go Big or Go Home.” That doesn't mean that every project has to be brilliantly amazing or that I'm trying to out-do everyone. It just means that if doing something is worth my time, it is also worth doing right. And I guess I have to decide what “right” is for me in this situation. To do that, I probably have to figure out what the end game is for this quilt. When I decided to do this, I knew it would be a big attention grabber at the quilt shows, but that also means that the details have to be perfect {hence, the giving myself a break with the deadline; after the blocks, which are time-consuming but not too difficult, are done I can spend the time I need and want to do a really good quilting job instead of rushing through it to get it done}.

But after the shows, then what? I've considered several options, and would love to hear your opinion. I'm just spit-balling here, so kind and constructive comments are appreciated. The obvious answer is to keep it and hang it on display. It would definitely be a cheerful addition to the decor. Another idea I've been tossing around is donate it to The Children's Television Workshop/ Sesame Street people. I am not sure if I'd want them to keep it {i.e. display it} in their offices, or if I would suggest to them to sell/auction it off to raise money for their operations. I'd definitely want to check with Michelle to see how she felt about it first. And lastly, I've thought about selling it. Now, before you get your flaming pens out, I know this may not be an option. There are copyright issues and creative considerations involved here. Again, I would check with Michelle and if she agreed, I'd share the profit with her and possibly donate a portion of it to the CTW. The biggest question there is how do you put a price on it? And would anyone actually pay that sum? Secondary to that is if the amount made in the sale would be worth all the effort I've put into it.

Back to the most immediate dilemma; what to do about the layout. I'm kind of lost and I must ask . . . can YOU tell me how to get to Sesame Street? Whenever I can't decide what to do, I find that asking opinions helps me to figure out what I really want. For example, when I talked it over with Mr. Bug, he suggested that I finish the 12-block layout in time for the quilt shows and then make another quilt sometime in the future using the 20-block layout. My immediate reaction was NO WAY! This is a one-quilt wonder.

I've narrowed it down to three options, and I hope you'll help me out by voting for your favorite layout.

First up, is the Less-Is-More Layout 1. This is my original plan for the patterns, with the exception of Prairie Dawn, who is one of the new patterns. As soon as I saw she was available, I kicked Rosita out and Prairie Dawn took her spot. It finishes at 42” x 53”.

Option two is the Less-is-More Layout 2. In this version, both Telly Rosita didn't make the cut and Prairie Dawn and Kermit {who may or may not be available from a different designer; Michelle hasn't done a Kermit pattern} took those spots. It finishes at 42” x 53”.

And last, but not least, is the Go-big-or-go-home-everybody-gets-a-spot Layout 3, except, ironically, I'm going to have to choose between Guy Smiley and Barkley. It's a tough call, but I'm thinking that Guy is not going to make the cut {mostly because I'll be shopping for fabrics on the internet and it is really hard to choose two fabrics of the same color, but with the subtle variance in tone needed to carry out the definition between his nose and his face}. It finishes at 53” x 64”.

OK, so there you have it. Vote for your favorite layout, keeping in mind that I may or may not go with the majority vote. It will depend on if you all vote for what I really want. But I don't know that yet, which is why I'm asking you to vote.

HMQS: Youth Division Best of Show Spotlight

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
–Marianne Williamson

I volunteered as quilt monitor at the Home Machine Quilting Show at the beginning of this month. I entered a quilt in the show and volunteering was the best ticket price to get in to see the quilts, so I took the opportunity. One of the quilts I was most impressed with was shoved way back in the corner, about as far from the door as you could possibly get. As a matter of fact, there was a whole group of quilts back there that should have had a better spot for display. What initially impressed me about this particular quilt was how well all of the corners matched, so I started to read the description card attached to the quilt:

This quilt is made of 238 3" bowtie blocks, each from a different fabric. While I was working on the top, I read about prom in the teen section of the paper (even though I'm not a teen yet) and noticed that the guys wear ties to match the girls' dresses. The different bowtie colors dancing across the quilt made me think that Prom Night would be a perfect name.

When I read even though I'm not a teen yet, I did a double-take and then I realized that I'd accidentally stumbled upon the Youth Division quilts {note to self: send suggestion to HMQS to put the youth division quilts in a better spot next year}. When it dawned on me that the person who made this quilt was under the age of 13 {I later found out she was only 11!!!}, I was all the more impressed with the precision of the work, and the fact that she had pieced and quilted it herself. She definitely deserved her ribbon.

When the quilter's mom stopped by and left a comment on one of my posts about the show asking about my quilt and saying that her daughter entered as well, I e-mailed her back and asked her which quilt was her daughter's. When she told me it was Prom Night I told her how amazed I was with her daughter's work. I asked her if her daughter might be interested in answering a few questions so I could share with you her beautiful quilt and a little bit of insight into it. I hope you will enjoy my interview with Sparkle Jane as much as I did.

Elizabeth: Tell us about the quilt you entered in the HMQS.
Sparkle Jane: Prom Night is a lap sized quilt, made entirely of bowtie blocks. The squares started out at 2" and each {3" finished} block is a different fabric. I finished the quilt in about one month from the time I heard about the show until it had to be submitted. My favorite part of the quilt is probably the pieced binding. It was a last-minute idea, but worked really well.

Elizabeth: How old were you when you first started sewing?
Sparkle Jane: A neighbor, who helped my mom when she was learning to quilt, gave me a box of sewing pins when I was about 18 months old. I would stand on a chair next to the ironing board and stick the board full of pins in colored patterns. At three I would sew buttons all over scraps of fabric. I think Mom still has one or two of those works of art. At six I finished my first quilt.

Elizabeth: What was your first project?
Sparkle Jane: As I said before, at six I made a blue and yellow flannel lap quilt that I still use regularly. Mom cut and I pieced then she made the wrapped binding. I don't really like that type of binding. But for a first quilt it is OK.

Elizabeth: What interested you in getting started?
Sparkle Jane: My mom. I grew up watching her quilt. Also, when I was little I had a box of fabric scraps that I could do anything I wanted with. This helped me get used to being creative with fabric. I made a few hand pieced blankets for cats. Those might be around here somewhere, too.

Elizabeth: Who taught you how to sew?
Sparkle Jane: Once again, my mother. She introduced me to sewing early and kept me interested in it.

Elizabeth: What is your favorite project?
Sparkle Jane: My favorite project is probably a wall hanging that I made when I was eight. It has leaves blowing in the wind that are fused applique. I traced real leaves to get the shapes. Details on the leaves and the "wind" are chain stitched embroidery. It is the only applique project I have done so far, but I have another one planned.

Elizabeth: What project are you working on now?
Sparkle Jane: Which project out of the twenty are you referring to? :biggrin:

Elizabeth: Do you have a list of projects you’d like to do and what are they?
Sparkle Jane: Long list. I am making more baby/lap sized quilts for sale.

Elizabeth: What techniques would you like to learn?
Sparkle Jane: No idea. There are so many options out there.

Elizabeth:How often do you sew (every day, a few times a week, etc.)?
Sparkle Jane: I sew in most of my spare time when I am not playing with friends, harrassing the cats or reading. School, chores, church activity and ballet really eat into my sewing time. But, I do manage to get in some time with fabric almost every day.

Elizabeth: What else would you like to tell us about yourself?
Sparkle Jane: When I grow up I want to be a mom who makes her kids clothes and quilts. If that doesn't exactly work out, I plan to be an engineer or an architect.

So many people have helped me along the way. People have been sending me fabric scraps, helping me learn, giving suggestions, buying quilts and generally being amazing. Thank you to them all.

My new blog is: Sparkle Jane Please consider visiting.

Thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.

Sparkle Jane.

It was really fun to have you Sparkle Jane! Thank you for taking time to answer my questions!

You can see the other neat projects Sparkle Jane has been working on at her blog, and you can see where she gets her talent at Wedding Dress Blue, which is her mom's blog. You can read about their experience at the HMQS here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wardrobe Wednesday: From the Files of You've Got to Be Kidding Me!

The Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7

It's been a while since I've posted a Wardrobe Wednesday. In the beginning, it was mostly about showing off how much money I'd saved on some really cute clothes. But to be honest, I always felt a little awkward posing for the photos and more than self-conscious posting them for the whole of the interwebs. I did discover, however, that there is a voice inside of me with something important to say about beauty. Perhaps I'll let Wardrobe Wednesday continue to morph into something new and explore this more in the future. For now, though, I only have this one more thought on the subject.

I am not beautiful like you. I am beautiful like me.

The words are easy to understand. It's a simple concept. But how many women actually believe those words? It is something I have struggled with all my life. And it's no wonder. Let me illustrate.

The other day, I received my June issue of American Baby. {Missing something? Me too. I have no idea why I keep getting this magazine. Or coupons for Huggies. Or invitations to come see the latest retirement community, or issues of The Reader's Digest or Yachting Magazine. It must be someone's twisted idea of a joke.} I glanced at the cover and thought, pretty baby, as I set it down.

As I went about my business, my mind roved over her features. Wow, I thought. Her hair sure is tidy. My kids' hair was never that neat. I wonder what they had to do to get it to stay that way? My thoughts continued, Her skin is so pretty. I'll bet it is soft. That hint of a blush in her cheeks is just perfect. And I love that color of lip gloss she has on. [record scratch] ... Lip gloss? Babies don't wear lip gloss! I picked the magazine back up and examined it more closely. Either this baby is wearing makeup or she's been airbrushed. Here's a close-up so you can judge for yourself.

Makeup? Airbrush? A combination of both? Whatever the case, this baby did not need it. Shame on the editors of this magazine for doing it. And shame on that baby's mother for allowing it to happen.

It makes me angry.

And it makes me wonder. How do we get the message out that no one can live up to an impossibly unattainable standard of beauty and we don't want it shoved down our throats anymore. Theodore Roosevelt had it right when he said,
comparison is the thief of joy.

To anyone who struggles with self-image issues, to you I say,

Has Google Stopped Waving You Off Yet?

Better out than in, I always say. –Shrek

I'm having difficulty settling. What, you ask, does that mean? I'm having a hard time settling on where to direct my energy. I'm having a hard time settling on what to do with the Sesame Street quilt. I'm having a hard time settling on what to blog about. When I feel all anxious anxious and unsettled, it helps for me to talk it over or write it all down. Shrek is a very wise man. Better out, indeed. At the moment, there's no one available for the “”talking it out option.” Welcome to my crazy train of thought.

First things first. If you're here, then you have obviously chosen to ignore the dire warnings that the Shabby Blogs content on my blog is laced with malware. Or perhaps you didn't get the memo? Either way, I'm glad you're here. Thank you for reading. I'm having a hard time settling on what to do about this alleged malware infestation. It happened once before, a month or so ago. I just ignored it then, and it went away. I'm hoping that will happen again, because I really, really, really don't have time for a blog makeover. Part of me wants to believe it is a phish and when you click on the “safe browsing tips” is when you actually get attacked by malware. 215 people have visited my blog in the last 24 hours, so it appears that what I've got going on over here is interesting enough to risk it. I guess for the moment, I'm settling on ignoring it and hoping it will go away. If you end up with malware, send me your computer and Mr. Bug will fix you right up, free of charge.

I took a little field trip in the middle of that last paragraph to see if Shabby Blogs had any sort of comment on their blog or site regarding the malware situation. Of course, the site has the most sinister of malware warnings, and I didn't risk it to find out whether or not they actually do have malware. But that's actually not what I wanted to ask you. Have you seen today's Fabergé Google Doodle? Stunning, isn't it? And there's no malware warning to wave you off seeing it.

I guess the next issue I want to address is that I'm having a hard time deciding where to settle my energy. I seem to be running around like a chicken with her head cut off, but there is still vacuuming and grocery shopping and a mountain of laundry to do. I think this is a direct result of not being able to settle on a layout for the Sesame Street quilt since discovering that there are enough new designs {coupled with previously released designs I'd omitted from my layout} to make an even bigger and better quilt.

I spent the morning rearranging blocks and looking through my fabrics. I decided I needed to make a color chart for my Moda Marbles so I could see what I had and decide what I need to get if I enlarge my layout. That sidetracked me to updating my Fairy Frost color chart and somehow, I ended up tweaking my Dish programming. We've been paying for Blockbuster @Home for about six months now through our Dish subscription and not using it. It is similar to Netflix, only the same service we are paying for on Netflix is $7 cheaper through Blockbuster. The best bit is that there is not additional charge for Blu-ray, so we've activated our Blockbuster subscription, we're dropping Netflix, I downgraded us from 295 channels to 235 and we'll be saving $27 a month. Wohoo!

As you can see, unsettled is an understatement.

The line my crazy train of thought is running has sent some thoughts running for cover and dislodged others to bounce about looking, themselves, for a place to settle. And all this commotion has me trying to settle on a subject for posting. I've got about five things to choose from and have decided that each of these subjects deserve their own post. Putting them into one big crazy quilt post will not do them justice, which has me unsettled because posting more than once is day is just plain needy.

However, I've decided that I don't care if I appear to be needy. I'm going to post what is rattling around in my brain. Separately. And perhaps all on the same day. Most of you will probably miss most of the commotion because apparently . . .

. . . here there be malware.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bert and Ernie, Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

Ernie: “1-Q.”
Bert: “2-Q.”
Ernie: “3-Q.”
Bert: “4-Q.”
Ernie: “5-Q.”
Bert: “6-Q.”
Ernie: “7-Q.”
Bert: “8-Q.”
Ernie: “9-Q.”
Bert: “10-Q.”
Ernie: “What's that, Bert?”
Bert: “10-Q!”
Ernie: “I couldn't hear you, Bert.”
Bert: “10-Q! 10-Q! 10-Q!”
Ernie: “You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome, Bert.”

Bert and Ernie share the basement apartment in the 123 Sesame Street building. Ernie loves to play games, while Bert would rather read a book. Bert has 368 bottle caps in his collection and loves to study his pet pigeon, Bernice. Ernie loves sing in the tub with his Rubber Duckie and use his imagination. He often wakes Bert in the middle of the night to ask him a question, while Bert does his best not to get frustrated. To say they are opposites would be an understatement. But when Ernie is not getting on Bert's nerves and Bert is not being too serious for Ernie, they are best pals. These friends don't always agree, but they always try to work it out.

Bert and Ernie have been a part of Sesame Street since the first episode in 1969. Bert is performed by Frank Oz, and beginning in 1997 Eric Jacobsen also became a principal performer for the character. Ernie was performed by Jim Henson until his death in 1990, and is now performed by Steve Whitmire. When the characters were first created Jim Henson performed Bert while Frank Oz did Ernie, but they switched after not too long, and each performer gave their character a bit of their own personalities.

More Serious Bert Facts:
Birthday: July 26
Best Friend: Ernie
Favorite expression: “Er-nie!”
Favorite Color: Grey
Likes: Brass bands, paper clips, bottle caps, argyle socks, the letter W, and watching the weather forecast on TV
Favorite food: Oatmeal
Dislikes: Being woken up by Ernie, Ernie's jokes

More Mischievous Ernie Facts:
Birthday: January 28
Favorite expression: “Hey, Bert, old buddy? Are you asleep?”
Best Friend: Bert
Favorite Song: “Rubber Duckie, You're the One”
Likes: Singing in the bath with Rubber Duckie, playing the saxaphone and playing tricks on Bert
Dislikes: Cleaning up

Patterns by Michelle Thompson
Piece Count: Bert — 87, Ernie — 133
Block Size: 10"
Moda Marbles: Bert — Bright Yellow, California Orange, Turquoise; Ernie — California Orange, Cardinal, Bubblegum Pink, Grass Green
Kona Cotton: Snow & Black

I've also finished the label for the back of my quilt.

My layout is getting more filled in.

Or is it? Michelle has finished more patterns.

Uh-oh. I think I just heard my layout getting bigger.

I'm still debating the idea. Help me out, will you?

In the “cons” to expanding the quilt column:
• It will be like going back to square one. I started out with 12 blocks to finish and I will still have 12 blocks to finish {Zoe is almost done} if I expand the layout.
• Each block takes anywhere from 7 to 10 hours.
• I will definitely not have it finished in time for the first two of three quilt shows this spring/summer and possibly not even for the third.
• Each block takes anywhere from 7 to 10 hours.
• My embroidered quilt label will have the wrong month on it {and possibly the wrong year}.
• Each block takes anywhere from 7 to 10 hours.
• Because I don't have a deadline, it is possible for this quilt to end up sitting half-finished until the quilt shows next year.
• Have I mentioned how long each block takes?
• I will need more Moda Marbles for the back. I'll also need some other colors in order to have enough fabric to make more blocks.

In the “pros” to expanding the quilt column:
• I won't feel like I'm leaving anyone out.
• I'm definitely not going to have the quilt finished for the first quilt show and probably not for the second show, anyway. I can ease up the pace a bit and make myself not so crazy.
• I will need more Moda Marbles for the back. I'll also need some other colors in order to have enough fabric to make more blocks
• I won't feel rushed on the machine quilting part and can maybe explore other options besides stippling in the background behind each character.

It would seem that there are more cons than pros to making the quilt bigger. But knowing myself as I do, I think I probably won't be happy with it unless I include all the blocks that are available {except I'm going to have to choose between Guy Smiley and Barkley because there aren't enough spots for both of them}. Perhaps I'm not still debating it after all?

Shay told me that she really likes Sesame Street too, and asked if that made us childish. I told her that I'm sure that it just makes us young at heart. I'll keep telling myself that, because I'm going to have to start watching it so that I can see who Abby Cadabby is.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

I'm A Mormon: Brandon Flowers — A Fire Still Burning

I want to be a positive force in the world and I want to uplift people.

A lot of people love to come up to me and tell me they were raised in The Church and they expect there to be this camaraderie about, “oh, we've outgrown it now and we're smart enough now to not be in it.” It started happening often enough that it really made me take a look at myself. I realized I was raised in it and there's still a fire burning in there.

My name is Brandon Flowers. I'm a father. I'm a husband and I'm a Mormon.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cookie Monster, Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?

“C” is for cookie that's good enough for me,
Oh! cookie, cookie, cookie starts with "C!”
–Cookie Monster, “C” is For Cookie

There is more than meets the eye to Sesame Street's resident googly-eyed, cookie craving monster. Cookie Monster is a complex being; though his vernacular is simple, he has quite a large vocabulary. He composes poems and sings songs about his beloved cookies. He asks deep questions about where cookies come from and he is in touch with his emotions, bursting into tears at the sight of an empty cookie jar.

Cookie Monster got his start as The Wheel-Stealer, in a 1966 snack commercial which never aired. After several evolutions, he became the cookie-and-pie-and-hubcap-and-letter-and-veggie-and-flatware-eating monster we know and love today. The gravelly-voice Cookie Monster was performed by Frank Oz until 2001 and the principle performer has been David Rudman since that time. In order to preserve his fur, the prop department provides him with rice cakes painted to look like cookies to devour during his scenes. He's appeared in more than 500 episodes of Sesame Street and is one of the most beloved characters of the show.

More Delicious Cookie Monster Facts:
Given Name: Sidney, or Sid for short
Birthday: November 2
Favorite expression: OMM-nom-nom-nom
Favorite Song: “Hungry Like the Wolf”
Favorite Book: The Joys of Eating
Favorite food: Cookies
Dislikes: An empty plate and eating the last cookie
Alter Ego: Alistair Cookie

Pattern by Michelle Thompson
Piece Count: 121
Block Size: 10"
Moda Marbles: Cornflower Blue & Taxi Cab
Kona Cotton: Snow & Black

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I Must Ask . . . How Often Do You Cook?

There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves. –Thomas Wolfe

Two weeks ago, I asked how many picky eaters there were. Among the picky eaters, texture was the main cause for not wanting to eat something, which I thought was interesting because for me it is mostly taste. And although there were more total combined picky eaters, there were a surprising number who said they weren't picky, but then went on to list this or that they wouldn't eat. From one picky eater to another, I don't blame you one bit :wink:.

We're still talking about food this week. I'd planned to ask this last Thursday and then ran out of time to put it together, so it was a funny coincidence when the new girl at work, who'd noticed that I bring left-overs for lunch quite often, asked me how often I cook. I was all ready with my answer because I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now. Generally speaking, I cook five times a week. I write out a menu that has three weeks on it. I fill the first week in and shop for groceries for everything I need on Saturday. I always cook something nice for dinner on Sunday {LadyBug requests pork chops frequently, which compliments Grasshopper's requests for mashed potatoes and gravy}. I do pretty well Monday through Wednesday. Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the days I have a harder time cooking. Sometimes, I swing by the pizza place on the way home from work on Friday night, but we don't eat out too often. Most of the time if I don't cook, we kind of eat what we can find; leftovers, cold cereal, ramen noodles. Whatever I have on the menu for the nights I wimp out on cooking gets moved forward to the next week, so that's one less meal I have to think of for the next go round. I find it really helpful to plan a menu and have done it most of my married life. That way I can have all the ingredients on hand for what we're eating that week, I don't have to think up something every night when we're all hungry and tired and if I know what's coming up, then I can "get in the mood" for whatever's on the menu. It also helps manage the expectations of the picky-eater Little Bugs. I have them help me plan the menu and if they can see that there are several dinners they like on the menu during the week, especially dinners they've chosen, there tends to be less complaining.

I don't mind cooking much. It's the dishes I don't like. Mr. Bug takes care of that most of the time {I think I've only loaded the new dishwasher once}, so that makes it really nice. I do not care much for the handling of raw meat, though. I buy hamburger 5 lbs. at a time and do all the handling at once. If meatloaf is on the menu, I make up two meatloaves, cook one, freeze the other, and then while the meatloaf is cooking, I brown the rest of the hamburger and divide it into 1 lb. portions to freeze and use later. It makes handling raw meat more manageable because I know that I only have to handle it once, but I get five dinners out of it. The same goes for chicken, only I will usually get between 10 and 20 lbs. at a time because handling raw chicken is at least twice as yucky as handling raw meat. I will divide out a couple of pounds and package and freeze those raw for dishes that have you cook the chicken as you make the rest of the meal. I bake the rest of the chicken and divide it out into 1 lb. portions, freezing it for future meals. Then, when chicken tacos {or chicken chili, or chicken enchiladas or chicken casserole} comes up on the menu, I pull a package of chicken out of the freezer, thaw it in the fridge overnight, and when I go to put dinner together all that is left is the shredding or cubing. It saves a lot of time.

When I asked what your favorite chore was, cooking got the most answers hands-down. Today I want know know just how much you like to cook, so I must ask . . . how often do you cook? Just for clarification, heating up a frozen dinner in the microwave doesn't count. But, everything doesn't have to be from scratch, either. I totally count those prepackaged pasta meals as cooking, because you use the stove top, it takes more than 4 minutes on high, you dirty a dish in the execution and I don't do them that often. I'm sure there are other prepackaged items that require similar efforts, so use your best judgement. I'd love to hear your favorite thing to cook in the comments.

P.S. I would add to Thomas Wolfe's quote that there is nothing more appealing than the sight of a man making dinner for someone he loves. Mr. Bug grills the best steaks. Ever.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Various & Sundry Monday: Vol. 28

I believe all suffering is caused by ignorance. People inflict pain on others in the selfish pursuit of their happiness or satisfaction. Yet true happiness comes from a sense of peace and contentment, which in turn must be achieved through the cultivation of altruism, of love and compassion, and elimination of ignorance, selfishness, and greed. –Dalai Lama, 1989 Nobel Peace-Prize Speech

Yesterday there was a partial eclipse of the sun here. What a cool event to witness! Mr. Bug rigged us up a shadow viewer and we watched as it progressed. I fiddled with my camera settings, hoping to increase the pixel area/photo size. Instead I decreased it and ended up with teeny tiny photos with even teenier tinier images of the shadow of the eclipse. My little photo is almost not worth sharing, except the next time an eclipse will be visible in Utah is in 60 years.

The eclipse, which was annular {meaning the moon appears too small to cover the sun completely and leaves a ring of light around the moon} was fully visible in California. This is a photo of the actual eclipse.
{Photo: AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama}

Dog Ear Confetti
These little bits of fabric and paper are the dog ears of 936 half-square triangles. Each square has two triangles and each triangle has two dog ears, that makes a total of 3,744 dog ears {give or take} in this little pile.

I'm doing a half-square triangle swap. I figured out how many 2" HST's I'd need to make a nice lap-sized quilt and then pulled fabrics from my stash. Our swap group used triangle papers that let you sew 12 HST's all at once. It is almost like paper piecing, but not quite. You put your two fabrics right sides together, put the paper on top and use it as a template for sewing and trimming. When you finish, the half-square triangle still needs to be pressed open and you have paper to remove from one side. I did 78 sheets and used a different print fabric for each one. It took me a week, but I am done! I kept four of each of my color combinations {312 HST's} and sent the rest {624 HST's} to be swapped out for HST's made by other members of the swap. Let the record show that I was finished and had my swaps in the mail a full 10 days before the deadline.

I won't be so on top of things with the Sesame Street quilt. Cookie Monster has been giving me the old stink eye for about a week-and-a-half now. I'm going to be right on top of the deadline for the first of three quilt shows, if I don't miss it completely. Besides Cookie Monster's other eye and the rest of his face, I have six other blocks to finish, and then there's assembly, quilting and binding all to get done by June 8th. It is such a fun quilt to work on and I'm still really excited about it, so I hope that enthusiasm will help me get it finished in time.

Peony of the Day
I have 17 peony plants in my gardens. 13 of them are blooming this year and I intend to show you them all. I still had my camera set to stupid a smaller pixel/photo size, so pretty much what you see here is what you get.

This is Bowl of Beauty. It is kind of the teacher's pet, because I bought this as a dry root start {I know there is a name for it, but I've been trying to remember for days and can't} and usually it takes three years for those kinds of starts to actually produce flowers. This one bloomed right out of the bag {literally} the first year I planted it. I love that kind of self-motivation.

This is Félix Crousse. He's not quite completely open, but look at that beautiful color! Félix & Beauty are right next to each other and they look so pretty together.

And to wrap up, this is my second Karl Rosenfield plant. The first one bloomed last week and now this one has buds starting to open. I has been really fun to see the peonies bloom this year.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I'm a Mormon: Deborah Gardner — The Privilege of Motherhood

I do what I can. I let the rest fall by the wayside. I'm not doing everything perfect and that's OK. I understand that really, God is proud of me for what I did today.

I'm a story book reading, toilet bowl cleaning, totally not perfect full time mom of 5 kids and 2000 Bulgarian orphans. My name is Deborah Dushku Gardner and I'm a Mormon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

HMQS: Judge's Marks

You're not obligated to win. You're obligated to keep trying to do the best you can every day. –Marian Wright Edelman

I got the judge's marks back on the quilt I entered in the HMQS today. My marks were mostly positive, but there were a few items in the “needs improvement” category. After I got past the initial reaction to protect myself from criticism {which only took about 30 seconds}, I found the judge's marks to be very helpful. In the quality of quilting, I need to work on better control of the curves, as well as backtracking. In the last year since I finished the quilt I think my curves have improved, but I'll definitely be more mindful when I next do curves. I'll agree with the judge on the backtracking. It's a tricky business to learn and I still need to improve that.

My other “needs improvement” notes were on finishing—the entire category: straight edges, binding filled & securely stitched, miters stitched closed and square corners. This was kind of a surprise to me because binding a quilt is one of the things I love best. But I'll definitely take the notes and use them for improvement. Learning is the name of the game and I already I know how to improve the binding. I've been cutting it at 2½”, which leaves it a little bit loose. I'll start cutting at 2¼”, which should help with the fill. And I'll start stitching the miters at the corners closed. I kind of like them open, but if the judges want them closed, I'll give them what they want.

There were lots of positive comments; integration of color and design, overall precision of work {piecing, seams, points, borders, sashing} and the back of my quilt were all marked “well done.” I was particularly pleased with the things that were marked well done in the quality of quilting cateogry; stitch length, tension, distribution of quilting, and quilting pattern enhances. The final comments from the judge were, “Use of fabrics to form unity in design well done.” I'm really glad I entered and can't wait for the next show!

I wanted to share a two more of my favorites from the show. This first one is called Wisteria and it was amazing! I love all the 3-D details, the little embellishments in the flowers and the scroll-work border. Amazing! If you right-click on the photo, you can open it in a new tab and see it close-up.

This next quilt is called His Light Reflected. I love things in rainbow order. When I'm working with fabrics for a scrappy quilt, I always stack them in rainbow order. I always admire rainbow quilts and someday I'll maybe do one of my own. This one is so beautiful. I love how certain elements are repeated throughout the quilt.

Here is the center of the quilt. The quilting is absolutely spectacular.

The quilter matched the gradations of fabric from the center of the quilt out to the edges and matched her thread to the fabrics. It is such a simple quilt, but it is so gorgeous!

It is quilt show season and I am definitely looking forward to seeing more beautiful work!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Favourite Things Friday: Peonies

The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size. –Gertrude S. Wister

Spring flowers are my favorite. It is probably because they have the less is more thing down pat. They bloom for two weeks and then you have to wait another 50 weeks to see them again. After a long, dreary winter, those first beautiful colors of spring are miracles to me. I have a serious thing for tulips and peonies.

I have 17 peony plants, of which only three are repeats. All but four have buds on them this year {and those four are going to be relocated to see if they'll buck up and grow already} and I am so excited, because three of those 13 with buds on them are new bloomers this year. A couple of the plants in sunnier spots have started to bloom already and that's my favorite thing today.

{As a side note, my dad told me the other day that his grandma was a member of the Ogden Garden Club. Her specialty was roses and she would go out and use rolls and rolls of film taking pictures of her gardens. It must be hereditary.}

This peony is called Karl Rosenfield. I have two Karl Rosenfield plants. This one is on the south side of the house, so it is a little ahead of the other plant, which will be blooming any day now. Their color is so eye-catching.

This is Top Brass. There are six different bloom types for peonies. This one is called a double bomb and it is a good 7" across. I love the yellow in the center of this pretty white peony.

This peony was named after the man who discovered penicillin, Dr. Alexander Fleming. This is one of my oldest peonies as well as one of my favorites because of its beautiful pink color.

I'm sure you're wondering what is so interesting about this peony that hasn't even bloomed yet. I was going to wait to post about it until it did actually bloom, but I'm so excited about this bud that I'm giving you a sneak preview of something amazing to come.

This is a hybrid of a tree peony and an herbaceous peony {all of the other peonies I have are of the herbaceous variety and they are the most common}. What that means is that this looks like a regular garden variety peony, blooms like one and you take care of it the same way you would a regular peony. What it gets from the tree peony side of its family tree is stems strong enough to support the giant blooms that appear in mid-spring, which is a definitely plus for a peony. All of my other peonies have support rings around them, but they still bow over with the weight of the giant flowers they produce. Ironic, isn't it?

This hybrid is called Bartzella and its blooms are a beautiful lemon yellow. They are so beautiful that there was quite a to-do when it was first introduced 10ish years ago. Cuttings were selling for $200 a pop. I bought my start five years ago for the much more reasonable sum of $49 {plus shipping}. I've never paid that much for a plant {that wasn't a tree} and never will again because $49 {plus shipping} for a hybrid shrub it is just too sad for words. Generally speaking, if a perennial plant doesn't bloom by its third year, it probably sterile and won't bloom. You can move it and see if it likes a different spot better, but most of the time that doesn't help. I'd pretty much given up on old Bart here because he was supposed to bloom two years ago. But I suppose that good things come to those to wait. I counted nine buds on Bartzella this afternoon! I can't wait to see if the yellow bloom color lives up to all the hype.

Today's post brought to you by:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HMQS: Best of Show

I don't believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be. –Ken Venturi, Success Secrets of Super Achievers

Attending the Home Machine Quilting Show was really fun. I didn't take any classes {see also; new dishwasher} but did volunteer as a quilt monitor. My ulterior motive for volunteering was to get to see the quilts without paying admission. My job was to walk around the quilt displays giving plastic gloves to anyone trying to touch the quilts. When I checked in the woman who marked me off told me that I could take pictures as I wandered. It was a pretty sweet gig.

My first mission, while looking out for quilt-touchers, was to find my quilt. It was exciting. Once that was done, I took pictures of quilting motifs I want to try. Then I started to feel overwhelmed at all the beautiful quilts at the show. My little daisy among all those roses was starting to look more and more like a wilted dandelion. I started thinking about all the quilts I would never have time to make and that I will probably never be a show-stopping quilter. I wished that I could quilt full-time. It was a little sad.

And then I met the Best of Show winner. Her quilt is called America, Let it Shine.

I don't even know her name, but she is a mom, just like me, fitting in her quilting time between kids and chores and whatever else that life throws at her. She likes to draw her quilt designs out, just like me. And just like me, she works with the things that are available to her. She pieced and quilted this beautiful tribute to America on her 20 year-old Bernina.

I realized that I don't have to better than everybody else. I remembered that someone else's successes don't make me a failure. I was happy just to be a quilter—a better quilter than I was two years ago, and a member of a world-wide quilting community.

Putting a quilt in the HMQS was on my list of 40 things to do before I turn 40. I've got a few days less than eight months to work on my list, which makes it good timing for a little update.

I've checked a few things off my list since I posted the finished version of it, I have a few more things in the works, and was actually glad to be reminded of what is on there.

I'd forgotten about the tutorials. Two of them are half-written.

I'm pretty sure Mr. Bug is on board for taking the Little Bugs to Disney World in the fall.

I might have to re-think my goal of reading 5 books I haven't already read. I love to read, but you can't multi-task while you do it unless you listen to an audio book, which is just not the same thing.

I've discovered, in my pursuit to learn to love mornings, that it isn't mornings that I dislike. It is the waking up that I dislike. And conversely, I dislike going to bed at night, even though I very often wish I could during the middle of the day.

Posts about most of the things I've checked off the list:
Entering a quilt in the HMQS
Finished Quilts: Polka Dot, Rooster Table Runner
The Tulip Festival
The Piano Guys Concert
Tutorials completed: FMQ Swirls

Monday, May 14, 2012

Various & Sundry Monday: Vol. 27

Little drops of water,
Little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean
And the pleasant land:

So the little minutes,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages
Of eternity.

Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Help to make earth happy
Like the heaven above.
–Julia Carney

More from the Home Machine Quilting Show
I've been picking up the HMQS catalogs every spring for probably the last 4 or 5 years, always admiring the quilts they show off and browsing the class lists. As I flipped through those pages I thought I'd never, ever, in a million years be quilting my own quilts. But last year when I was looking at the catalog, I was particularly interested in the quilt show because I'd started quilting my own quilts. I'd missed the entry deadline, which was OK because I didn't really have anything good enough to go in a show anyway. But I decided then that I would enter this year. I entered my Snowball Quilt. I knew it would be a daisy among the roses and didn't expect to win. I thought it would be fun to enter, though, because at the time I'd finished it {which was about 11 months after I started doing FMQ}, it was the best quilt I'd done. The show was last weekend in Salt Lake and here's my quilt hanging in the show.

Quilt shows are subjective and each person gets a unique experience when they attend, which is why, I think, it is hard to share them properly in a blog post. I mostly took close-up photos of quilting techniques that I liked and want to have as a reference. But there were a couple of quilts that I really liked and want to share them with you. I started yesterday with one of my favorites and I'll share another today. Maybe I'll show a couple of others in the next few days, or maybe not. I haven't decided yet. The lighting wasn't the best for taking photos. I alternated between using the flash and not using it. I used the flash on this quilt and should have gone with my gut and taken some without the flash. I did the best I could in editing.

These little embroidered dresses are so amazing! I love the bead details the quilter added. It is hard to pick a favorite!

Can You Tell Me How to Get {Back} to Sesame Street?
I've had to put my Sesame Street Quilt on the back burner for a little bit, because I had some prior sewing commitments that are a little time consuming, but not very interesting to post. Mostly, I'm participating in a half-square triangle swap that I signed up for in February, but that isn't due until the end of this month. I figured there was plenty of time, right? Right. Anyway, there's no set number of HST's you have to make. You just make however many you want, keep a few of each of your color combinations for yourself and send the rest to the coordinator. You get back the same number of HST's you sent in and then you can make something fabulous with them when they come back. I decided that I didn't want to be on top of the deadline for this one, so I've put the Sesame Street quilt on hold and have been working on getting them together. The HST's are 2" finished and I'll need 888 of them to make a nice lap-sized quilt. Picking and prepping the fabrics was fun, but sewing them together, even using a speed-piecing method, is killing me. Can you say snooze-fest?

My point is, 888 half-square triangles in the prep and sewing stages does not make for interesting blog fodder. I'm still looking for the balance between work, home, kids and me, so when I have a few free minutes and the choice is between sewing or blogging, sewing has been winning, even though it's not interesting enough to post about. When I get my swap triangles back and start sewing them together, then that will be interesting. And as soon as I get them wrapped up and in the mail, I'll be back to the Sesame Street quilt, racing for the deadline. The first quilt show is June 8th and 9th. If I miss that one, I have a few days before the entry period for the next quilt show. If I miss the second show, then I have three more weeks until the show here in town at the Art Museum, which is the show I really want to make it to. Hopefully, I'll be done with these HST's in the next few days and back to Sesame Street before mid-week {yeah, yeah. I know. Wishful thinking.}.

I was really inspired by Michelle's patterns and that's where this quilt started. As I've worked on blocks, I've also been working out all the details of the quilt, including how to quilt it. I wanted to do something other than my favorite swirls in the sashing and feathers in the border. Those didn't seem to really fit this quilt. I was inspired by a couple of things Lane is doing on his red silk quilt. I loved the pumpkin seed border and figured it would fit really nicely in the sashing of the Sesame Street quilt. Not so much.

The outer corners don't match up, and the intersections are kind of weird. So I asked Lane what he thought. He made some really great suggestions for making a motif work in your space. I revised. Lane {and everybody else}, what do you think? Do the little spacers work, or do I need to go back to the drawing board?

Monday Music Spot: A Thousand Years
The Piano Guys' latest release is an amazing! I don't think there is one thing they've done that I haven't like. But this one is extra cool because it also has a really great Twilight connection. They've put together an arrangement of Christina Perri's A Thousand Years from the Breaking Dawn soundtrack and it is beautiful.

Available for purchase from The Piano Guys or on iTunes

Story behind the song:
Our kids give us great inspiration for our music. When Jon's 17 year-old daughter said how much she loved this song, Jon decided to try it. He experienced a flood of inspiration. "Never has a piano part come together this fast" Jon says. Steve experienced similar inspiration while composing the cello parts. Since the lyrics suggest a bride walking towards the groom in a ceremony we thought we would include a quote from the Bridal Chorus by Wagner in the climax of the song (it is carefully disguised).

As it seems to always go, Paul and Tel didn't find the spot until they spent 9 hours driving around southern Utah the day before the shoot looking. After getting a little discouraged by not finding anything that great, they just happened to check out a little hidden spot right near Baker Dam and thought it was perfect for the song. The next morning we all loaded up the piano and headed out there to film, but after getting the Truck and Trailer stuck and waiting for the sun to move, we didn't get started filming until that evening having about 3 hours of light. It was so fun to film and play in the middle of the trees!

A Thousand Years written by CHRISTINA PERRI, DAVID HODGES
Arrangement produced by Jon Schmidt
Arrangement written by Al van der Beek, Jon Schmidt, & Steven Sharp Nelson
Performed by
Jon Schmidt: piano
Steven Sharp Nelson: acoustic cello, & cello-percussion
Music recorded, mixed & mastered by Al van der Beek at TPG Studio
Video produced by Paul Anderson & Tel Stewart