10 Donuts and a Wedding

I recently traveled to Galveston, Texas to meet up with a few gal pals for our friend Safieh’s wedding. I flew into Hobby for the weekend and met up with Nisha and Marcia, then later caught up with Mari.

I was really looking forward to seeing my friends as we don’t all live near one another and maybe see each other in real life about once a year. But even though I was looking forward to the visit and the wedding, I had some anxiety about it. Not to get too tied up in the details, but I often struggle in tight social situations- the smaller the group, the more I struggle. And a wedding. Another trigger as I am terrified of missing social cues. It’s not usually visible to others. It’s just me making myself crazy.

But as soon as Nisha and I settled in near baggage claim with our hand sewing while waiting for Marcia to arrive, I started to relax. There were hugs and discussions about yogurt and the quilting industry. Then Marcia came and there were more hugs and smiles and, “Oh, I like your top! Did you make it?” In no time we were in a weekend groove, and I felt myself relax.

We had a rental car and an afternoon to kill, so of course we began the hunt for donuts and yarn. And this is how I knew I was with my people.

We stopped at a most delightful yarn shop- Park Avenue Yarns. I behaved and didn’t buy anything since carrying around my UFO list has been keeping me in check these days. But I wanted to. Oh how I wanted to!

Through the weekend we managed to hit five donut shops. Yup. Five. And we didn’t just get donuts. We got kolaches. Good kolaches. It is just wrong to go to the Houston area and not eat my weight in kolaches. Hey, Google- are donuts and kolaches Whole 30 compliant?

That evening we headed over to the first of the weekend’s events and finally got to see the bride. Safieh is always gorgeous, but wow, she rocked that red dress! It was good to see Ross, and his parents hosted such a great party at the Bryan Museum in Galveston. I loved meeting everyone, and I loved the artwork. (Can you see the three Andy Warhol paintings hanging behind Safieh?) But the highlight of the evening for me was the toast offered by Ross’s dad. Marcia and I bawled like babies.

The next morning we headed to the bride’s hotel room with donuts and Starbucks in hand. (We would have had kolaches, but I think I ate them all.) We chatted about everything from tinted lip gloss to the dress while the bride’s soon-to-be sister-in-law nimbly moved around Safieh like a hair and makeup fairy. A fairy with arms and legs for days, but at the same time kind of wispy. Safieh was cool as a cucumber, as they say. People came and went. Pictures were taken. Laughter. Jewelry. The bouquet arrived. Add something blue. Safieh was light and smiling, and so was I.

After a while we left her to the business of getting ready for the photographer and gathering everyone at the church. We headed to lunch, an afternoon walk on the beach and some hand sewing and knitting at our Airbnb.

The wedding was just lovely. Safieh looked absolutely stunning, and my favorite part was watching Ross watch her come down the aisle. Just the sweetest moment. After the ceremony, we headed over to Ross’s parents home for the reception. I think Safieh must have put in a special order for the weather because it was beautiful. Perfectly comfortable temperature. And that sunset.

The next morning was brunch, and some more time to kill before our flights. We headed to the last of the donut shops for the weekend, then caught an afternoon movie. Once back at Hobby, we sat once again with fabric and thread and yarn in hand, all the while surrounded by luggage and sad that it was coming to an end.

I didn’t catch a pic of Nisha working, and I stole this pic from IG, but here is the latest pattern release from Brimfield Awakening- a quilting venture she and Kim started together. Learn more by clicking here.

This was Marcia’s project- a lovely sofa blanket made from locally dyed yarn from Park Avenue Yarns.

And here’s my project- just a little something for Safieh and Ross. I knew I wanted to stitch an ampersand as a wedding announcement, but had trouble finding one I liked until I found this one. I modified the colors to ones that reminded me of Safieh. I loved making it and want to do something similar again, but it was a hard lesson in getting older. It is so much harder to see these days, and when I held the piece in more light, I realized I should have been stitching with more light! Next time.

I left Houston relaxed and filled with happy memories. I’m so very grateful for my life. For every single minute of it.

The Beauty of a Ballgame

I love baseball. I don’t really know why. I don’t follow it closely. I don’t know the names of all the teams, much less all the players. I don’t even know all the rules and ins and outs of it. But I LOVE going to a game. I sometimes like watching it on television, but never more than in October. I even like listening to Braves games on the radio in the car, but that’s another story for another day.

I love that things like this happen at a baseball game. I love how it feels on Memorial Day and Independence Day when they bring out a ginormous American flag that covers almost the entire field. It makes me cry every single time. I love the respect that is shown to my country and to its heroes. I love baseball.

I love that so many memories with this man are tied up in baseball. “Hey! We have kids here. Clean up your mouths!” “Did she just barf?!?” “Knock a homer, Chpper!” “I think we are in the old people section. Again.” “Can we borrow some sunscreen?” “That is one happy and agile old usher.” “Let’s try staggering the grandkids between us.” “Hey. The Wrigley Field usher just gave me a Reds baseball card!” “Beer.” (I suppose you don’t have to be too enthused when selling certain products at a game as they tend to sell themselves.) But I think my favorites are the trips to watch the Cubs on the 4th of July. Again, another story for another day.

Attending a Cubs v. Braves game at Suntrust Field brings up so many conflicting feelings.

First, there’s the teams. Here’s the thing. I’m first a Braves fan. Second a Cubs fan. Third a fan of whichever team is playing against the Cubs on the 4th of July. I was worried at this May Braves home game that I wouldn’t know who to cheer for, but throughout the game it was clear that the Braves will always be my favorite team. Conflict resolved.

Second, while I love going to Braves games, I go begrudgingly to Suntrust Park. The deal that was struck to get that ballpark built where it was built still stinks, and there just isn’t enough about the park to love in order to squelch the stench. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad ballpark, but it’s not great either. Unless you’re loaded. In which case it’s a great park with tons of perks. But that’s not what baseball is about. That’s what Cobb County is about. Conflict definitely not resolved.

Back to happy thoughts. I love food. I love food at a baseball game. Especially hot dogs. With lots of mustard. Or Italian beef sandwiches at Wrigley. But just say no to the nachos. And does any ballpark anywhere sell boiled peanuts as well as roasted?!? I mean we have a Waffle House and Chikfila at Suntrust, so why not boiled peanuts?!? Popcorn is always good, but really, too expensive considering you can bring some from home. I almost made my own, but this tempted me at the store before the game, so I grabbed a bag. Pretty good, but seriously, nothing tops fresh Garrett’s.

The moral of the story? There is none. Just that to me, a night at the ballgame is beautiful.

Something old. Something new.

I love this little quilt. I love the colors. I love the fabric. I love the maker. And I love what I got to learn from it.

Several years ago- more than I can remember- I participated in a quilt guild’s brown bag challenge. If I remember correctly, each member of the guild put 5 fat quarters in a brown bag and turned them in to a coordinator. The coordinator then redistributed the brown bags, and each maker had a few mo this to make a quilt top from the contents of the bag.

My brown bag ended up in the hands of a sweet friend and meticulous quilter, and I was thrilled with what she did with my fabric selections. Her curved piecing was impeccable, and I thought it was great use of the prints.

Like so many of my own projects, it got packed away and added to a long list of UFOs. A few months ago I actually went through all of my “stuff” and took an inventory of all of my UnFinished Objects and was horrified and embarrassed, so I’ve been pretty committed to finishing things off. The added benefit is that one of my major motivations is a sense of accomplishment, and as I finish each project my spirits are lifted and creativity is free to flow.

Another benefit is that I find that I’ve learned a lot since the project before me was first made, and I love applying new skills to those older projects. This time it just so happened that I had just learned a new-to-me binding technique, and this quilt was small enough that I was willing to try it without it being a huge commitment.

For years I thought that continuous double-fold binding was the only way to bind a quilt without folding the backing to the front. I’ve learned that is not at all true, and there are several more options. It really just depends on the end goal on which one works best, although most people pick one way of doing it and just stick to it. Me? Not so much. I like variety, and understand that I may not want the same finish on every quilt.

I recently attended the Southern Belle retreat for owners of Statler machines and hosted by Joan Knight and Anita Shackelford. We learned tons about our machine software, but there were also demos and discussions on other aspects of quilting. One of those was a lecture and demonstration of binding presented by Anita. During this, I learned about continuous single-fold binding, which I’ve never seen done before.

Two of the major differences from the continuous double- fold binding in familiar with are that continuous single-fold is cut at just 1 1/4″, and the length of the binding is not pressed in half. The binding is machine seamed on the diagonal, and machine attached (right sides together) to the front of the quilt.

The binding is then flipped to the back, and the raw edge is folded halfway down with a hard finger press as it is hand stitched to the back of the quilt. I found that it worked best to work about 2-3″ out from my needle and press towards where I was working. Otherwise the binding can start to warp.

Stitching is standard 1/4″ blind stitch with a single thread. Corners are also standard 90 degree with flaps sewn down both on front and back.

What I loved about it is that the binding, and especially the corners, are remarkably flat and tight. It was a relaxing process to me, but I happen to LOVE binding quilts. The negative was that quite honestly, it took me twice as long to do because of having to stop to finger press every couple of inches. I may see if I can tweak that process next time.

And so, there it is. Something old- a marinated UFO, and something new- a fabulous technique!

Sugar Sand?

Recently the hubs and I had the chance to get away for our own version of spring break and went on a jaunt down to Clearwater Beach, FL. We stayed at the Wyndham Grand right down on the beach- perfect view, accommodations, and weather.

We arrived on a Monday, right after the Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival ended. While it would have been fun to see the sand sculptures, to be honest we were glad that the crowds were light.

It was a quick trip, but a much needed break for Jeff. We really just relaxed, ate too much, and got a bit of vitamin D. It was just right.

During our travels he keeps his eye out for auto repair shops, and I check GPS for quilt stores and donut shops. On this trip we stopped in at Rainbow’s End Quilt Shop for a quick look around, and on the last day we went to a donut shop I had spotted earlier in the week.

Admittedly, I had my doubts about this place. I mean, how good does a donut shop at the beach actually have to be to be successful? There’s an ice cream shop on every corner in Clearwater Beach, and every restaurant has the best grouper sandwich in town, but as far as I could see, there was only one donut shop.

As soon as we walked in the door, I knew this was not your average donut shop. There were no donuts. That’s right. Not a single one.

This place makes your donuts right in front of your face. No need to watch for the “hot donuts now” sign. And thank goodness because these are fabulous cake donuts, not the ultra sugary stuff from Krispy Kreme. And if you don’t know, I do NOT like KK. But I digress.

After a somewhat confusing order form involving a wide selection of donuts, icings and toppings, we watched as our donuts were fried and dressed to our liking. We got plain donuts, but prepared differently. Chocolate with sea salt, lemon with coconut, and lemon glaze.

One bite and that was it. Light crisp on the outside. Warm squishy cake on the inside. And hello. Lemon glaze that is actually lemon and not pretend lemon?!? Yes, please!!! How about the chocolate and sea salt? Jeff thought he only wanted a lemon glaze, but one bite of the chocolate sea salt and he ended up eating half of it. But only because that’s all I would give him.

Clearwater Beach- you have lovely palm trees, tasty grouper sandwiches, and beautiful white, sugar sand beaches, but I love you for your donuts. That’s my kind of sugar.

Knit Along, Baby!

Or, maybe it’s a baby knit along? Or maybe a knit along for babies? It’s so much work to come up with a catch hook. Just sayin’.

So how about we just get to the point. (If you want to skip the story, scroll down for important dates.) Do you see that super cute tiny human up there in that pic? She’s the latest addition to our family, and I’m totally using her cuteness to draw your attention to the buttery blanket she’s modeling!

I first saw this Baby Gradient Kit by Feza Yarns at the beginning of October and fell in love with the softness of the yarn and the fineness of the knit. She won’t stay small for long, so I dropped everything and got to work. I finished it in about 3 weeks, and it was both relaxing and rewarding to work on. Plus, she loves it.

I really wanted to make another to have on hand for any future babies in our family, so I got with my friends at Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn to get another kit. I ended up buying two, because, well, two.

I’m so excited!!!! The kind of excited where I want other people to be excited, too! So, why not join me in a knit along? This is a fabulous project for starting off the new year. It’s a relaxing, easy knit, and with a little encouragement, it can be a pretty quick finish.

So here’s the deal- visit Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn and/or The Green Apricot on Facebook or Instagram (@intownquilters @thegreenapricot) to see how to earn 15% off of your kit and be entered into a drawing for a $40 gift certificate at IQF&Y. (Opportunity ends 12/25/17.)

Then, cast on your first row on 1/20/18 and get to knitting! The kit includes 4 cakes of hand-dyed viscose/cotton yarn and the needed pattern, which is basically a garter stitch edging with a stockinette body. Each section is intended to gradually change color from one cake of yarn to the next. I didn’t follow the color change in the pattern for the one I made for our granddaughter, but I will for the next one.

And how about an incentive to finish? Post a pic of the first completed section on or before 2/3/18 with the hashtag #iqfykal and tag The Green Apricot/@thegreenapricot (so I can find it) and IQF&Y will have a reward for you! We’ll keep going every two weeks, and before you know it, you’ll have a completed bit of seriously soft and sweet on your hands. It might even be difficult to give it away.

IMPORTANT DATES:

12/25/17 Deadline to earn 15% discount and enter drawing.

1/20/18 Cast on!

2/3/18 Finish first section!

2/17/18 Finish second section!

3/3/18 Finish third section!

3/17/18 Finish!!!!!!

Stay tuned for more info, and be sure to check out both Intown Quilters and The Green Apricot on social media.

Always Watching

img_8168-e1509022930502.jpg

I was so excited for cooler weather that I started scanning Pinterest for fall decorating ideas in September.  When it was still in the upper 80’s around here.  Like way hot.

img_7763.jpg

In fact, I got to it and bought pumpkins at the state farmers market and started decorating inside the house.  I knew it was a bad idea to put them outside, but I figured they’d be good for a while inside.

img_7769.jpg

Well, as of this week I am down to just a handful of pumpkins as they have all started to rot.  I am sure I was supposed to do something like wax them or whatever, but really, I’m not worried.  It just means an excuse to decorate again.

Anyway, in the midst of my prowling on Pinterest, I found a cute tutorial about making an eyeball quilt block from Happy Sew Lucky.  You can click here to see the tutorial and the inspiration for my Always Watching pillows.

When I saw the blocks and tutorials I started to wonder if I could do something similar using the Creative Grids Log Cabin and Curvy Log Cabin Trim Tools.  I didn’t want a whole quilt, but I thought it would be kind of fun to have a few sets of eyes looking at you from the couch when you came in the front door.  Or greeting you at bedtime.

I cut strips from black and white fabrics, and for this particular pillow I used the 6″ Curvy Log Cabin Trim Tool and followed the instructions for strip size and for cutting the center block, or the pupils.

Usually when making Log Cabin blocks I make sure that as I add strips I rotate the blocks in the same direction, but in this case I wanted the eyes to be a mirror image of each other, so I rotated one clockwise and the other clockwise.  Following the directions on the tool, I trimed to Round 1.

Continuing on to Round 2, I added black, as I wanted my eyes to be very simple- just an eyeball with a pupil.  I’m thinking I might do it again and add an iris, but that may be a project for another day.

I like crazy eyes, so I just turned them around a bit and added just enough black all the way around to make a 12 1/2″ pillow cover.  I played with the idea a little more and made some not-so-scary eyes, which were also fun.

img_8165.jpg

Again, the goal was to keep it pretty simple, so I layered the block with a piece of batting and just quilted around the pupil and the inside of the eyeball.  I then threaded my loose threads to the back and tied them off.

I wanted to make these as pillow covers because I like the idea of being able to change out the pillows around the house, but don’t like the idea of storing actual pillows that aren’t in use.  Aint nobody got space for dat.

I made my own pillow forms as I have plenty of materials around to do it.  I just have to remember what size I am supposed to make the pillow covers.  Hence a blog post.

I picked up this super cute Halloween fabric at Intown Quilters when I was in Atlanta recently.  I didn’t want the back of my pillows to be boring, and this was perfect!  I originally thought I wanted to do an inset zipper like you would do for a pocket in the lining of a bag, but in the end decided that it would be easier to get the cover on and off of the pillow if the zip went from edge to edge.  I had already cut the fabric into 12 1/2″ when I decided to do this, so it wasn’t exactly right after the zipper was installed, but it was good enough.  Next time I would cut the back to be 12 1/2″ wide and 13″ long for seam allowance in the zipper.  I cut the back fabric straight across at 3 1/2″ down from the top in order to install the zipper.  I used a 14″ nylon zipper that was easily sewn through and cut to fit.  I then used 2″ binding to finish it off, sewing the binding to the back of the pillow cover by machine and to the front by hand.  It took an afternoon to make all three pillows covers and the pillow forms, so I feel like I could knock out a few more pretty easily.  I think I need at least two more, but I really think I will end up going for seven in the end.  Maybe next year!

 

A Banner Halloween

img_7876.jpg

I’ve always loved Halloween, although I think the reason I like it so much mostly has to do with the weather!  I also like funny costumes and fall festivals complete with trunk-or-treating and donuts on a string.  But I really love Halloween decorations.  Not really the kind that try to be seriously scary or gory or whatever.  Just the fun stuff.

img_7768.jpg

I especially like Halloween decorations that have a vintage flair, and was drawn to some fun fabric I found on clearance at a shop called Stitching It Up in Cedar City, Utah.  I have  been to this shop a few times over the years, and I follow Kim on Instagram.  The shop is lovely and covers lots of stitching joy- quilting as well as needlework.

img_7680-1

I was really excited about the fabrics you can’t actually see very well in the photo.  They are printed Halloween banners with a gothic text style, and when I saw them inspiration struck.

While I love holidays for a lot of reasons, the biggest one is that it gives me an excuse to make stuff for our kids and grandkids.  First of all, I don’t think we celebrate enough in life.  There is so much good in this world.  So many things to enjoy and be happy about.  And secondly, let’s be real, as much as there is to be happy about, life can be hard.  Maybe things are tight financially.  Maybe work or school hasn’t been going as well as one had hoped.  Maybe there are unexpected physical challenges.  And maybe everything is just fine.  In any case, I am grateful for little opportunities to do things for our kids to try to let them know that I love them.  That I am thinking of them.  That I want them to have a little something extra to smile about.

So, why not some Halloween goodies?  Just for fun.  There were just enough banners on the fabrics to accomplish my goal, so when I got back from Utah I started plotting.

The first set of banners weren’t quite big enough for what I wanted to do, so I added a striped fabric to the bottom of each strip of lettering before loading them onto Juan.  I plotted out the desired shape on the computer and stitched around each letter.  It took a little longer than I expected because I wasn’t sure how to plot it such that it didn’t stop between each letter.

img_7787.jpg

The other banner had the shape I wanted, and it was just a matter of stitching the layers together.  I was glad to have strips of batting left from other projects that were just the right size.  It is always good to me to find a use for leftover batting, although I usually cut it into smaller bits and use it to dust and clean.

img_7870.jpg

After they were stitched out on the longarm, I used pinking shears to cut around each shape.  I didn’t want to make a double-fold bias tape to connect the letters because I felt like it was just too much work.  So I cut a strip of fabric using a pinking blade on my rotary cutter and then using a glue stick, glued the letters into place.  I was really worried I was going to accidentally put them in the wrong order and spell something wrong!  Then I took the banners to the sewing machine and just stitched through the top strip to hold everything in place more permanently.

img_7871

Once these were finished, I packed up a few other things- some paper banners and little bit of candy, along with some Halloween themed books for the littles.  It’s quite the stack of boxes when I put these things together, and it does my heart good to know what that stack represents.  I love my peeps more than I can tell them, so I try to show them instead.

Years ago when I was a young mother, I was at a friend’s house when she received a package from her mom.  It was nothing special- just a small box of candy with a silly note.  I asked my friend about it and she said that it was from her mom, and that she sent things like that all of the time. It stuck with me, probably more than it stuck with her.  I knew it was something I wanted to do for my kids when they grew up and moved away from home.  I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I try to do it from time to time, and holidays give me a good excuse.

These pics from our son and his wife that were taken in their little college apartment made me smile.  I love holidays.