Friday, August 31, 2012

Christmas Through The Year - August

Last month Carol made one Christmas project for every day of July. Go ahead. Be impressed. I was! I have trouble making one a month, but I'm hanging in there...and my box is getting full! :) But if you are looking for inspiration pop in and see her wonderful projects.

I made a Christmas Tree.

In August. That's a really big deal for a gal who staunchly adheres to the rule that 'Christmas will not make a peep until the day after Thanksgiving'. I'm not much of a rule girl, but that's one of them. I get my feathers ruffled when I walk into a Hobby Lobby in July and the aisles are filled with wreaths and ornaments and trees. I will go through great lengths to avoid that entire area if I have to go in there. Alas, I needed a star for my August gift. So last week found me standing forlornly in front of the decorations. An employee was restocking next to me and she glanced my way as I sighed. I'm sure I was a pitiful sight. She sweetly asked if she could help me. I told her I was about to break the rule. She laughed and said that she was already sick of Christmas.

It took all my strength to reach out and snag the topper that caught my eye, but I did it for the sake of the tree:

I have been stitching up three sizes of yo-yo's for some time now. I just dug into my stash and pulled greens.Now I need to make another one...for me. :)

I know I saw this idea somewhere a couple of years a go, but I have no idea where, but this was not my idea so if y'all are familiar with this and know where this idea originated, I would appreciate it if you would let me know so that I can give credit where credit is due.

Cheryl and Darlene have been driving the Christmas train all year. It's a wonder they get anything else done. Cheryl gathers great tutorials so pop in and find the perfect gift to make and then hop over to Darlene's and be inspired some more to fill your own box. Others are linking up with their August projects and I need an idea for September!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back to School Giveaway!

This giveaway is now closed - Thanks for playing! 

Quilting Gallery is hosting another fabulous giveaway so get your hopping shoes on!

If you can hop in heels, you get extra points. As for me, I don't even own a pair of heels except for the heels on my boots. If I had to hop in heels...well, it would not be pretty. I can't even walk in them.

So I hope you've all cleared your calendar and precooked in order to make extra time because these giveaway parties always gather a big crowd. Lots of goodies to be had and new blogs to discover. The list of participating blogs can be found here.

I never know what to give away during these parties, but I want to give away something good...something I would want and I want some of these:

So I am giving away 1 package (50 clips) of these little red binding clips

And for a second giveaway I have 7 - 1/2 yd cuts of Amy Butler's Daisy Chain:

I bought these thinking I would use them in my Gypsy quilt, but I ended up not using them because the pretty design would get lost in the little pieces I needed to cut.

The first number I draw will have their choice between the two and the second number I draw will get the one the first winner does not choose. I will gladly ship internationally. So please be sure and let me know which is your preference in your comment.

I love replying to comments, but due to the number, I may not be able to do that, but thank you for taking the time to chime in!

No hoops to jump through. Save your energy for blog hopping. Just let me know what you are currently reading. I am a voracious reader and always love discovering new authors and titles.

This giveaway will close on September 3 at midnight EST and I will announce the winners on the morning of the 4th.

Thank you for taking the time to chime in on my giveaway, good luck and a big thanks to Quilting Gallery! If you hop over there using the link, there will be a list on Sunday with all the participants.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tripping Around the World Western Style

The binding is complete! Sound the trumpets! Cue the angelic choir! And then commence with the Snoopy dancing! To say that I am ecstatic does not even come close. Like many of you, I spent more time in front of the TV soaking in the Olympics than I have in the entire 2 years since the last one! And I stitched. And I stitched. And I stitched. Suddenly, the first stitch met the last and I was left with no stitches left to stitch. Then I jumped up and threw my arms into the air in triumph! DH was walking through the living room and asked who won a gold medal. Well that would be ME of course! I just bound the hugest quilt ever!  I know that Saska bound one as well, because she made one here and it was Saska that convinced me that I needed to make mine bigger than I had initially intended to. It's huge! She calls it a wagon quilt because it's big enough to cover a covered wagon! LOL. It's 123x135". Yep, I think Wagon Quilt describes it pretty well don'tcha think?
There are 100 blocks in this one...3600 2 1/2" squares to be exact, but who's counting. This is Bonnie Hunter's Many Scrappy Trips pattern. Here's the link to the tutorial. I used every western print I had and I still have a big container that won't close, filled with those prints.

So the other day I gathered it up and hauled it out for a photo shoot. Don't cringe. I make quilts to use and they had better be able to withstand a little ranch dirt every once in a while.

The horses heard that the chickens put their 2 cents worth in on the Scrap Jar Star top last week and they were having none of that. We're an equal opportunity ranch around here.

This colt has a nose for a good thing when he sees it:

This quilt is worth it's weight in gold. So is that hay sitting there. Can you say ouch on the price of hay right now?

OK, fella, let's stick with the hay:

This was not an easy picture to take. I'm telling you! There was ladder scaling ... and  hay climbing... and rock hauling (which was unnecessary since I was able to tuck the top of the quilt into the baling twine) . And yes, I did it without help which is why there are no pictures to tell of the tale...which is probably a good thing. DH was away and I was washing sheets and I hard could it be? 

When that thought pops into my head, I should heed it as a warning, but do I listen? Nope.  I worked up quite a sweat and then DH admonished me for not waiting for him, but the sun was setting and I was going to lose the light. He's heard that before.

We have a king-sized bed, but it sits up high and we have a really thick mattress so this quilt is just right.

 It's crazy heavy though, but I wanted a warm, heavy quilt and a warm, heavy quilt is what I got. Right now, when it's still 100+ in the afternoons, it's a bit much, but we just fling it to the foot of the bed at night and every morning, when I make the bed, I get a workout, but it makes me grin every day.

I am so excited to finally have a quilt I made on our bed! Those 3 little pillows look kind of lost though. I think this calls for some big tone on tone pillow shams. I thought about fringe, but I'm not really the fringe-y type although I just happen to have a whole lot of black piping that didn't make it's way into a previous project...

Now I really need to do something with those walls. Sigh. Anyone up for some home improvement?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Border Wars

No, this is not a political post. :) Just an attempt to chronicle the chaos that is my mind. I have so enjoyed piecing this Scrap Jar Star top and really, it has been a wonderful journey. Especially since Staci and I teamed up and stitched together. So the top is complete and we come to the borders. It is then that Staci and I both come to an impasse. What to do? Well that is a good question. I'll let you hop over and read about her experience here. As for me, I just suddenly became completely unable to make a decision of any kind. Initially I wanted to make it JUST like Amber's because the minute I saw it, I fell madly in love and didn't think of changing a thing.

Then Staci asked, "What are you going to do for the borders?"

 Staci then showed me this one , from Lizzie, and being a scrappy girl at heart, I decided to add a similar border.

Well then Carol posted her amazing Butterscotch Fall quilt and I thought, "That looks gorgeous! I should add a border like that!"

So I ended up with too many options and each day I would settle on one and then the next day, I would   change my mind...again and again. I felt like  a puppy chasing his tail. Honestly, Why do we do this to ourselves? In the big scheme of things, this is NOT a big deal. So then why do I toss and turn and fret? I DO have a mind of my own...just unsure of where it is at the moment.

I finally decided against the scrappy border because that would mean that I would have to rip out the little colored squares along the border in order to balance everything and that made my head hurt just thinking about it.

I was just about to hang it out to dry...figuratively:

I didn't add a gorgeous border like Carol because that would mean I would have to hunt for more fabric and although that generally is cause for celebration, the huge amount of fabric I already own, made me come to my senses. And look how she completed her nine patches...I love that.

So after all of the fuss and worry, I just decided on a simple 3" border using the background fabric.

 I know. That was my initial plan. Not very exciting, but I am THRILLED to have made a decision and I think a scrappy binding will be just the ticket. (Yes the grass look odd. I had just mowed the day before and  I do not clean up grass clippings...or weed clippings to be precise.)

Now to find something for the back. Yes, I just lamented the fact that I had enough fabric, but I don't have enough of anything for the back. I sure hope this won't be a repeat of my border  dilemma, but I really want to get this to Jackie. I don't want to wrestle with a quilt this big. One of these days I am going to start making smaller quilts. Stop laughing. :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Lament of a Retired Home School Teacher

The stores are filled to overflowing with boxes of new crayons just waiting in anticipation of the next masterpiece.

The aisles are packed with colorful notebooks filled with fresh pages of possibility.

The still unsharpened pencils dangle enticingly from their overstuffed hangers.

The pristine bottles of glue stand at attention in hopes of mixing it up with that sparkly bottle of glitter.

 A new school year is just around the corner.
And I am at loose ends.

I have always loved this time of year and for as long as I can remember, I was the one who became quite giddy at the prospect of starting a new school year. As a child, I loved school. My Mom would threaten me that I could not go to school unless I made my bed. Horrors. Strange child? Perhaps, but don't judge.

Then as the years passed, we were blessed with two pretty amazing kiddos and before I blinked twice, they were traipsing off to school. The gathering of school supplies was an adventure. 

Alas, the actual sending them off to school...not so much. 
The over 3 hours of commuting each day...not so much.

 So I became a substitute teacher every day and ran the reading program when DH did not require my assistance on the ranch until the good Lord pointed us in a new direction and we began to home school. The kids were 7 and 9 and adventure was just around the corner.

To say that home schooling was a great fit for us would be an understatement. Oh the fun we had! Yes, there were tears. Yes there were days when the books were slammed shut in frustration. But those days really were few and far between. 

Still I was frightened at taking control of their education. What if I did it wrong? What if I wasn't smart enough? My degree was in Animal Science. Was I qualified? What  about socialization? These questions and countless others swirled and collided in my head.

Then I realized that I wasn't in control anyway. God was. I often relay the story that I didn't want to homeschool, but He wanted us to. 

He tossed a pebble to get my attention and I brushed it aside. 
He threw a rock and I rubbed the sore spot.
He lobbed a brick and I wondered how the lump on my head got there.
He heaved a boulder and I listened.

And thus we began to homeschool. A dear friend, Amy held my hand and guided me through the murky waters. I will be forever grateful. The adventure was on! We scribbled letters that were insanely  long back and forth by snail mail. 

I read voraciously about learning styles and teaching styles and just HOW to homeschool the 'right' way. I quickly learned that the 'right' way for one family was not necessarily the 'right' way for ours and that I was learning as much as the kids were.

I eagerly made weekly lesson plans and I quickly learned to make them in pencil because life happens and on a ranch, the windmills and livestock and water gaps, and cow works need to be penciled in as well.

We did not 'do school' from 8 to 3:30. 'School' became a lifestyle. 

The kids practiced their skip counting with mesquite beans while I hoisted a block and tackle in place to help DH with a windmill. 

We used an old ranch rope to learn our spelling words while waiting on a cattle truck:

When the rains came, we rushed to the creek to indulge in the rushing waters and discovered all the stages of a frog and returned home to read and draw and write more.

I read aloud daily until I lost my voice because books like Summer of the Monkeys were too good to put down.

We wrote newsletters. I put together unit studies where we made disgusting Barley Cakes 

and wonderful butter. We made models of the ear and of the Nile River and we laughed when we ended up with a 'plague' of crickets which really was comprised of only one cricket.

Our tummies hurt from laughing when we looked up what a puffin sounds like. This new fangled thing called a computer had arrived on the ranch and we had this very cool interactive encyclopedia. :) The kids ran to call Daddy and when he heard it, he said, "It sounds like Mama when  she wakes up in the morning."

We learned about simple machines:

took part in amazing plays:

participated in community service projects:

presented  projects  for the Science Fair:

Turned work into field trips:

 And the blessings overflowed.

Then the kids grew up. Just like that. And they were off on new adventures which have brought me great joy and great sadness all at the same time. I did not teach them everything they needed to know, but I hope that I taught them how to learn the things I did not teach them on their own. They are lifetime learners.

My lesson plan book lies empty, but my heart is full.

I think I'm going to buy myself a new box of crayons. After all, new masterpieces will not draw themselves.  The kids are off creating their own and the possibilities are endless for all of us.

Monday, August 13, 2012

My Long Overdue Chicken Post

So back in the spring, I had a made a little comment to Carol of the The Polka Dot Chicken, that I would name a chicken in her honor, when I got my chickens. I would name the sweetest, most charming chicken after her. She told her son and he made some funny remark about how I should really choose the orneriest chicken. LOL.

So the chickens arrived and they were treated like royalty. Their every need was met. They were warm and dry

And hungry:

They played king of the mountain:

And went to sleep with full tummies, falling in a heap:

It did this newly empty nester's  heart good to hear the pitter patter of little feet again...even if it was only chicken feet. :)

And I observed in order to determine just who would be crowned Queen Carol. It really became quite obvious early on. There was one little darling chicken and she had this little X right on the top of her head. Try as I might, I could not get a really good picture, but I KNEW that SHE had to be Carol because Carol is a master cross-stitch queen! (Really! Go over and just look at the beauties she stitched up!) It was destined to be!

Here's she's  a bit disgruntled at those big, rough hands who are cradling her so gently:

So Carol and the other chicks grew and finally left the brooder for the big world of the Coop.

They huddled in the blue container, unsure of their new surroundings. but it wasn't long before they began exploring. Each morning I eagerly headed to the Coop to open the door and each night I shut them in. All was well in chicken land.

Warning...stop at that last sentence if you do not want to hear a sad tale. This is really the reason I haven't posted about my chickens yet. One sad morning, I went out and found 2 chickens missing and 13 lying dead. I was devastated. Yes, they are just chickens, but I was quite attached to them. I had a dining room filled with cowboys and I came in close to tears. Had those cowboys not been there, I would have been bawling. DH later assessed the situation and found a 2" place under the door going into the chicken yard where something had dragged chickens out. I brought the last 5 remaining chickens into the house and he set a trap. The next morning he had a very fat skunk in said trap.

I hauled 2 truck loads of big rock (who needs to go to the gym) in from down the road and reinforced the Coop.

The good news is that my 5 chickens are fat and sassy and Carol was spared! So maybe her son is right. Maybe underneath all of that sweet, charm there is a bit of orneriness and that is what saved her! Expecting the first egg any day now!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Constellation of Stars!

The stars at night sunset are big and bright

...and flying in the sky:

This is what greeted me when I attempted to snap a few photos of my SJS flimsy this evening. Welcome to NM:

So I just changed sides. Presenting the Scrap Jar Star finished flimsy!  Do you like my design wall? It's called making due. Grin. It is plastered to the side of the coop. I am over the moon with these pretty blocks! I am still contemplating my borders and I'm leaning towards a scrappy one. I have a confession to make though.

There has been a casualty among my stars. I was SO excited when the blocks were finished that I rushed to square them up. I was multi-tasking as well which is NEVER a good thing to be doing when squaring up blocks! Alas, my points were sheared!

 LOL. I had to laugh because my first inclination was to cry. My heart actually skipped a beat. You know what though - I am determined to love this quilt despite it's stubby little points. It will be my reminder that only God is perfect. Apparently I needed a whole quilt filled with reminders! :) 

I'm thinking that I need to re-evaluate my 1/4" seam allowance since I changed to Aurifil thread. It is so much thinner that I think it really made a difference across the block and I think I need to change the setting on my machine. A committee was assembled to assess the situation:

And a second opinion was requested:

A detailed inspection was made by Carol, the resident quilt expert:

And all points of view were considered. My chickens have very definite opinions:

 Here's Carol with a bit of a frown on her face. I think she is scolding me. She's disappointed that there is not one chicken in the entire quilt:

 But after I promised to pay closer attention to detail next time, I was given a rousing approval and much squawking and feather ruffling took place:

I am still in search of a backing as well. I had some ordered, but I received a phone call yesterday to let me know that they didn't have any so the hunt continues. I wish I had something in my stash.

In the meantime, I will decide on a border and wait for a backing to appear...preferably on clearance! :)

Now hop on over to Staci's corner and be prepared to be amazed! You can rest assured that hers actually have points! :) Stitching with her has been so much fun! Have you seen her giant Halloween SJS block? It is just the neatest thing! She's her stars! 

Stay tuned...I've not had my fill of stars yet! However, our darling Girl has been ever so patient while I went off on a tangent with these stars and I still owe her a Gypsy quilt!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic Contender?

Yesterday DH and I headed back to Texas for yet another trip to the packers. That has got to be an awfully depressing place to work. We also had to pick up a trailer and drop off another one and then we scooted a few miles out of our way to whisk college girl away from her beakers and test tubes for lunch.

We were only about 7 miles from the house, but still on the ranch, when we ran across a bull lumbering along the road. A bull, but not our bull. In fact this particular bull had made his way to our ranch on two previous occasions and he has been put back on his own turf. Now we like to think that we're a neighborly bunch, but rouge bulls do not good company make.

So DH called our ranch hand and told him that once again, he would have to come gather the rascal back up. This time DH told Jake to take him to the headquarters pens and DH called the owner and told him we had his bull at the house.

 So we are away all day and pull up in the evening to a set of empty pens. The owner of the bull pulls in behind us to load his bull who is nowhere to be found. LOL.

 DH calls Jake to get the story and Jake says he did put the bull in the pen. Sigh. The ornery thing jumped the fence and took off for the hills. DH told the owner that he would gather him back up again in the morning and bring him in again.

  So he and Jake ride the pasture this morning and find no sign of the bull. They ride into the next pasture and find him happily tiptoeing through the mesquite in that pasture, perfectly content. So they drive him BACK to the pens and put him in this pen. Are you lookin' at ME?

Stinker. I'm fairly certain the boys came up with other names for him. :) See, here he is building up speed for his next great escape:

Sorry fella. You're outta luck!

 Hopefully the owner will come haul him away today...preferably to the sale barn...or the packer! So that is my story of the cow bull that jumped over the moon fence!

Think I can get him to London in time?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Invisible Moms

This was shared on a  board I frequent and I wanted to share it with y'all. I was cleaning out my drafts and found that I had never posted this. May it bless you as it did me:

The Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense: the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, “Can't you see I'm on the phone?” Obviously not; no one can see that I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible: the invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, “What time is it?”

I'm a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?”

I'm a car to order, “Pick me up right around 5:30, please.”

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude—but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. My friend had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when my friend turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.”

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

“With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”

In the days ahead I would read—no, devour—the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals—we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a work man carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the workman replied, “Because God sees.”

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you.

I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.”

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my children to tell the friends they bring home from college for the holidays, “My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning to bake homemade pies, and then she creates a turkey feast that takes hours.” That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want my children to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to their friends, to add, “You're gonna love it at my house.”

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals, but we cannot be seen. And, one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM! If you want, share this with all the Invisible Moms you know

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert

A super, quick, throw together, everybody will love it dessert!

 Around here, this is known as 'Dave's Dessert'. Dave helps us every time we work and I KNOW I HAVE to make this dessert when he does. Once he even sauntered up to me and whispered, "You know I won't be here on Thursday, Sugar." Translated, in Dave speak, that means, "Don't make that dessert on the day I'm not here." LOL! I even had to give him the recipe because apparently he told someone about it and they tried to make it, but it just wasn't the same. I have sent him home with extra portions as well. Initially I was worried it would melt before he got home since he lives about 30 miles from here, but I shouldn't have been concerned. Dave has a heavy foot. Grin!

Yesterday it was 112 degrees. Hubby came in and said he thinks he melted the crew. I was in the kitchen at 3:30 am, fumbling about (at 3:30 that's all I can manage) and beginning preparations for breakfast at 4:30. We start that early in order to beat the heat. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I can't tell you that this dessert will bring cooler temps, but I can guarantee that a melted crew of cowboys will be revived.

Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert

Ice Cream Sandwiches (number depends on how big of a pan you make. I usually make a BIG pan. Larger than 9x13. A regular 9x13 isn't really tall enough. I mean it works in a pinch, but my giant lasagna pan is 3" tall - Dave gets 2 helpings and I use 36 sandwiches) Everyone can have seconds unless I have more than a dozen men. Then they have to fight over whatever is left.

1 large Container Cool Whip

1 jar caramel ice cream topping

Hershey's chocolate syrup

Chocolate English Toffee Chips

*Cover the bottom of your chosen pan with ice cream sandwiches.

Spread a layer of Cool Whip on top.

Drizzle the caramel topping over the Cool Whip.

Drizzle the Hershey's Chocolate syrup over the caramel.

Top with another layer of Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Spread 2nd layer of Cool Whip.

Sprinkle Toffee Chips on top.


And if you drive really, really fast, I'll save this last piece for you.

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