Saturday, July 31, 2010

He Cracks Himself Up

This was at our Family Reunion in Indiana during our big trip last week (wait, the week before now).  There were 70 of us this year - quite a bit more the previous reunion in 2008.  Another difference was that there were lots of young children.  It was great to see the next generation of cousins (second cousins, I guess) playing and getting to know one another!

Sammy thought it was sooooo funny to trail a noodle along the edge of the pool and then jerk it away when anyone reached for it. He didn't want to get in the pool but he really had a good time!

Friday, July 30, 2010

I did it! Challenge Quilt Three: Pink Flags

I finished!

This was the Challenge Quilt for the Family Reunion I just attended.  Two years ago, the asian floral fabric was chosen as the challenge fabric.  All the quilters took a piece with promises to return with a finished item made with both the fabric and a certain template - the Flip Flop Block by Waterfall Quilts (scroll down to see the many Flip Flop Block patterns). 

This is the first year I've actually finished in time to bring it to the next reunion!  I also brought my newly finished quilts from the previous challenges - Herb Garden (2005) and Hills and Valleys (1998!).  This one is quite a bit larger than the others at 31 x 41".  It has two green fabrics as the background for the pink pinwheel shapes. I chose to use the challenge fabric for the border because although it's pretty, the pattern really isn't my style.  Once I combined it with these more modern, graphic Amy Butler fabrics (here are some of their current fabrics), I liked the resulting mix of styles. 

The thing that made this project the most "challenging" was the Flip Flop Block - it is all curved seams.  My sewing level still in the beginner realm - I've never sewn curved seams.  I know this is the point where I usually say something like, "it's rather easy once you get going" but Nope.  It's not easy.  It's hard.  They say you can just "ease it in".  I couldn't!  I ended up pinning it within an inch of it's life and muscling it in.  I had my shoulders up to my ears and every muscle in my body tensed.  My mom sat behind me and took out all my mistakes so I could redo them.  I think every seam had to come out at least once.  I've never had such a stressful sewing experience.  It's a good thing these were nice big pieces because I certainly didn't want to do any more of them. 

Maybe the struggle of getting it together was why I chose this as my first try at machine quilting.  After all that, I couldn't stand to not get it done.  And maybe it was partly that I didn't care if I messed it up by that point.  It's a good thing I loved machine quilting!  I still had some mistakes that had to be taken out and redone, but it had a sense of ease to it that was a lot of fun.  The enjoyment of quilting it redeemed the earlier stress of the project. 

The final stitches on this binding were sewn in the car, in the final miles approaching the reunion.  Soon I'll share the photos of the other challenge pieces!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Additional Stat

ZERO Good Cups of Coffee.

Travel was fun and now it's so good to be home!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We're back!  Here are the stats from our Big Trip:

2539 Miles
12 Days
5 States
6 Hotels
9 Breakfast Buffets
8 Museums
1 Family Reunion
15 Quilts
70 Relatives (or so)

Today, we're resting from our vacation.  Except James - he had to go back to work (poor guy). 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review: The Big Picture by Stacy Julian

I really really love this book.  

I've never really reviewed it because it's out of print... but really, I think I never reviewed it because I had too much to say about it to try to capture it all.  But now, I am so excited to report to you that Stacy Julian has acquired some copies of this out of print title and is selling them on her website!   She has also reacquired the rights to the content, which is awesome for her.  So, in honor of the occasion, I'm going to give it a try.

Stacy Julian, founding editor of Simple Scrapbooks Magazine (which is sadly no longer with us), is a really compelling personality.  She's passionate, silly, open, approachable and yet fearless.  This book is about scrapbooking like that - capturing thoughts and memories in a way that enhances your life and the lives of those around you. 

If you aren't a scrapbooker, this book would show you the point of it all and the joy and meaning of it.  If you are a scrapbooker who feels always behind, this book will liberate you from the obligation and free you to capture what matters most to you.  If you are a scrapbooker who is happy with your art and your story, this book will give you ideas and inspiration.  Really really good stuff.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pearled Barley

I have some pearled barley in my pantry that I've wanted to use before it gets old, but I've had a hard time finding recipes I like with it. This time, however, I made two barley salads in a row that were quite good.  This one had kidney beans, fresh garden tomatoes, green bell pepper, and tiny cubes of cheddar cheese.  The dressing was a little lemon juice, garlic, dijon mustard and olive oil.  I served it over lettuce as our main dish with some stripped of grilled chicken as more of an accent. 

I think the barley makes a better salad base than addition to a soup - we're going to keep eating it like this!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Product Review: Crop-A-Dile Big Bite

We R Memory Keepers Crop-A-Dile II Big Bite PunchNot too long ago I found a Crop-A-Dile Big Bite on sale for a price too good to pass up.  It is the current model, so there is no reason that I can tell that the price was so low (It normally retails at $39.99).  I hadn't planned to purchase one but it was just such a great deal.  Since Sally asked me to review it, I want to tell you what I think about it after using it a while.

There are three settings on the tool - you move a slider at the top to punch regular holes, small holes, or set a variety of eyelets. The slider is easy to set to the proper setting - just move it over.

This guy is powerful!  It really works very well.  It punches through many different materials, including some metal.  I punched the holes for Zack's new belt buckle through the thick, plasticy faux-leather of his kids belt with no problem.  I'm not sure the picture does it justice - it was thick.  There is no way any regular hole punch would have been able to do that.  The long handle gives you plenty of leverage.  I also punched heavyweight chipboard and then the whole stack of paper for a mini book (third picture).  The tool went through each without a problem.  It won't really punch fabric - it makes a hole but not cleanly.  Zack likes to go about punching things and even at five years old he finds it easy to use.

The footprint is a little ridiculous as you can see in the first picture, but it's worth it because the shape creates a six-inch reach.  It enables you to get into the center of a 12 x 12 paper or far into whatever other project you are working on.  It's nice not to be limited to the edge of something.  There is a ruler and a sliding stopper on the base so that you can mark the depth and repeat it.  That's a nice feature that I like.

The eyelet setting (there is a finished eyelet in the tag here) is done by moving the slider and turning a pair of blocks to the proper sides.  There are numbers and letters on the blocks but they are black on black, raised but not colored, so it is hard for tired eyes to read.  Also, there is no key on the tool telling you which side combination to use for what - you need to instead save the portion of the package with the little chart on it.  I'm glad I read this elsewhere and saved mine.  The eyelet setting is silent - so much nicer than getting in trouble at your scrapbooking retreat (ahem, hypothetically.  yeah, right.) for making too much noise banging on your eyelets with your tiny craft hammer!  Setting works very well for small eyelets.  The large ones set with quite rough back in thin paper, though. 

I find that it is easy to mark the depth I'm punching but because it's more of a table-top sized tool than a hand-held sized tool, it's hard to center the punch where I want it side to side.  The best thing to do is make a pencil mark where you want to punch and then it's easy to line up the punch at just the right spot.

Overall, I'm happy I have this tool.  I would definitely buy it again, though I can't see paying full price for it.  I wish I'd bought a few more for gifts!  I won't be taking it with me to crop nights - it's just too heavy and bulky. 
Main Pros:
  • Powerful
  • Simple to use
  • Quiet
  • Long Reach
Main Cons:
  • Big/Heavy
  • Large eyelets may not set smoothly in thin paper
[Note: I have an affiliate account so if you buy an item through an amazon link on any of these posts, I get a tiny referral fee.  That doesn't change my recommendations or lack thereof.  Just so you know.]

Saturday, July 10, 2010

With His Own Money

Zack has a new treasure.  James and I have been so amused by this story, I thought I would share it here.  Zack had a whopping three dollars to spend.  He normally doesn't have discretionary money (although he's old enough now that we're thinking of changing that) since we usually put any birthday money in a fund for him later, but a few weeks ago he traded his Daddy a three dollar book discount card for three dollars cash.  He had gotten the book discount card through Half Price Books' Summer Reading Program but the book he wanted was six dollars.  He was happy to read and earn another three dollar card, but you can only use one card per purchase.  They let us put his reading card toward Daddy's purchase and we gave him the cash in return (that was a difficult exchange to explain to him, I tell you!).  The next time we went, his six dollar book was gone and he picked out a three dollar book after all.  I'm not sure how much Zack understood of the transaction, but I think he was pretty pleased with the whole thing.  The next morning he was asking Daddy to take him out for garage sale shopping (he asks that even when he has no money.  I'm pretty sure the stop at the donut shop is his usual motivation).

Zack is a little intense about loving his belts, so I am not surprised that he notices any large or flashy belt buckle. He's particularly impressed with country singers and family photos from the eighties.  A couple of months ago we were looking at one such old photo - the whole family was dressed in our finest seventies regalia, but what did Zack want to know about?  He wanted to know exactly what was on Uncle Steve's belt buckle (oh you want to know too?  Silver buffalo nickels and turquoise.  Yep).  I actually had to rewind the Martha Stewart show today so that he could point out Clay Walker's belt buckle to me.  We didn't teach him this!

Zack found this particular beauty of a buckle at the garage sale.  It was marked five dollars.  He got some instruction from Dad on how you don't pay full price for items at a garage sale.  According to James, James sort of coaxed him through a little bargaining.  But if you listen to Zack's version, he "just told the man, 'I will not buy it for five dollars.  I will only buy it if it is TWO dollars!'"  Either way, he managed to walk away with a new belt buckle for two dollars.  He's soooo proud of it.  It's the first thing he's really bought with his own money and I think that makes it all the more precious.  Zack's convinced it is real silver and gold.  He says the man at the garage sale "took very good care of it by polishing it" and that Zack must also polish it to take care of it (hope the gold doesn't rub off too quickly).  He wants to sleep in it, but James convinced him it could damage the gold, so he very carefully drapes the belt over his closet door when he goes to sleep. 

When Zack brought this home I didn't think he had anywhere to put it, but he brought me a belt from two years ago that the buckle had torn out of.  It was a reversible style belt and the hardware just couldn't stand up to how he likes to tighten it down (why does he tighten his belt?? it's a mystery).  I broke out my crafting tools - it took the Crop-A-Dile and a scrapbook album post (you know how the extra pages come with extra posts and screws? Handy.) to attach this baby.  Scrapbooking hardware seems an odd choice but rivets were too shallow to go through two thicknesses of belt.  This solution is standing up to daily use!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Challenge Quilt Two: Herb Garden

(click photos to see a larger version)

This is the second of a series of challenge quilts from my husband's family reunion. You can see the first challenge quilt here.  This miracle of this piece is that it's actually finished without a visit from my mom to get my moving again.  This time it was the upcoming reunion that had me inspired to get something done!

In 2005, the challenge fabric was a white calico with rosemary sprigs and small purple and fushia flowers.  I designed this miniature to pickup on that herb theme.  The blocks were taken from all over - some of the leaves were from a miniature quilting book, some were reinvented from finished pieces I saw in quilting ads, and some were designed from scratch.  The whole thing represents a garden with a path near the bottom, stacks of terra cotta pots, herbs and trees, a fence rail and the sun and sky at the top.  The finished piece is 13.5 x 16.25" and has ...wait for it... 305 pieces!

I certainly had moments where I thought the whole idea was just too much for a novice quilter.  My mom helped me early on and talked through many of the steps with me.  She is still incredulous about the little sun!  But, since we've discussed my trouble with finishing projects, I am so glad it is done.  And in time to take back to the reunion this year!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Fireworks Fun

How was your Fourth of July? We did the redneck thing and it turned out great. We drove to the mall parking lot and backed up to the hill overlooking the city (along with an entire mall parking lot's worth of other people). James put down a stack of blankets/foam pads to make the bed of the truck comfy and we had a picnic and fireworks viewing all from the back of the truck.  We didn't fully realize how late it actually gets dark, so we kept the kids out way too late but had a great time. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Pick One

Apparently I have time to either have fun, or write about having fun, but not both. I need a break in the fun.

But who wants to stop having fun??