Balance is the goal. The goal is balance.

I recently posted about some of the physical changes I have been making in my life, and I’ve been asked specifics on what program I am using and the like.  So I thought I would just share a little bit about what I have been doing and how it has helped me.

The biggest problem I have is that I have never really exercised in any meaningful way.  This means that I have terrible balance and coordination, not to mention a complete lack of strength.  That made the gym and any group exercise completely out of the question as I had no intention of falling down in front of people, or allowing anyone to see me stand there awkwardly while I tried to process how exactly the instructor was moving in three different directions at once.

I expressed my concerns in a group of friends that happened to include Becky Collins, a fellow quilter who has often supported fellow quilters in  their quest for fitness.  She started the #sweatnsew group on Instagram, and you can learn more about it by clicking here.  She listened to my concerns and recommended that I talk with Brandy Martin, a Beachbody coach.

I chatted with Brandy and we determined what would be a good program for me to start with.  I committed to Beachbody on Demand so that I could stream the workouts from my devices.  I started the 21 Day Fix program which includes a series of daily 30 minute workouts and a nutritional plan.  The nutritional plan teaches about portion control and balance, and includes a protein shake made by Beachbody called Shakeology.  There are a lot of Beachbody peeps out there, so this probably isn’t news to you, but it was totally news to me.

The 21DF workouts are low impact, have lots of breaks, and walk through each move in such a way that it’s not hard to follow what the instructor is saying to do.  The first few weeks I pretty much cried every time I tried to stand from a seated position.  I dreaded going to the bathroom.  I got through the workouts with modifications, and my body was screaming.  I did the same workouts week after week for months.  The workouts are still tough, and still make me sore, but now it’s because I have learned how to make my body push a little harder when the moves get too easy.  And I really like being sore.  It means I worked hard, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Nutrition wasn’t a whole new world for me.  I love food.  All food.  Good food.  Bad food.  All food.  I wasn’t a stranger to things like kale and quinoa.  I like hummus and beans and avocados.  I also like chili dogs from the Varsity and a double patty melt from Freddy’s.  And let’s not get started on the donuts.

My real problem when it came to nutrition was portion control and knowing more about what I was eating.  Understanding that food is fuel.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some food.  And I still eat donuts and chocolate and a serving of fried zucchini at Brad’s Food Hut, but just not as often or as much.  I might order a sandwich, but skip the soda and the fries.

So what do I eat on a typical day?  I decided to document one day’s worth of food and be totally honest about everything I ate in that day.  So here goes…

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After my workout I make my Shakeology shake.  Currently I have been doing a recipe of Vegan Vanilla Shakeology, water, frozen banana, pureed pumpkin, frozen kale, PBFit, and pumpkin pie spice.  Years ago I used to puree my own pumpkin, but it is so much work to do and I find that the canned pumpkin is just as good.

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I have apples and peanut butter almost every day, but especially this time of year when there are so many varieties of apple available.  I have found that Smucker’s Natural peanut butter is my favorite commercial peanut butter.  There are a lot of natural peanut butters out there that are still loaded with sugar.  This one is just peanuts and salt.  I also like that the jar is glass and reusable with a full screw-on lid.  I can also get freshly ground natural peanut butter at Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market, but for some reason I just stick to this instead.  I think it’s because I like the jars.

Looking at this now makes me think that either this was too small of a serving, or this photo is deceiving.  I usually eat a bit more than what it looks like in this pic for a midday meal.  On this day I had a Mexican chicken with quinoa, brown rice, collard greens and cheese.  The Mexican chicken is just chicken breast, a can of Rotel tomatoes, taco seasoning and black beans prepared in the crockpot.  (I think it’s a variation on a recipe that usually also has cream cheese in it.  I just leave that part off.)  It is something that I make for dinner and have plenty of leftovers for a couple of lunches.

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Now a lot of people will look at this puny piece of chocolate and just laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh.  I get it.  But eating one small piece of chocolate is actually not a trigger for me.  It usually just quiets the craving for something sweet, and I can move on.  However, put a warm, soft piece of white bread in front of me and it’s game over, my friend.  There is no such thing as just one dinner roll in my world.  I’m learning a lot about what my triggers are.

 

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Dinner on this night was a huge plate of salad topped with salmon and kalamata olives.  I used lime and salt and pepper to season it, and had cottage cheese and berries on the side.  The salmon was leftover from another meal, and it was perfect served cold.  As a note, I know I still use way too much salt for some people.  All I can say is that I use less now than I used to, and my focus is not on salt right now.  It may be later down the road, but it isn’t right now.

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I know, I know.  Twice in one day.  But I said I was going to be honest, so here’s to honesty!  I was up late that night as my husband was out of town and I was having a bit of a sewing party.  Could I have made a better choice?  Of course.  But I don’t feel the least bit bad about the choice I did make.

For me the key has been just to think a little more before I eat.  Even before I begin my day.  Or my week.  What do I need to buy at the grocery so that I have better choices on hand?  What do I need to take with me in my travels today so that I am not stuck with only less than desirable choices?  And how do I maintain balance?  It is totally okay to have a donut.  It is totally okay to eat a piece of chocolate.  It is also totally okay to choose to fuel my body with protein and fruits and vegetables.  And to give my body a chance to prove that it can do hard things by working out regularly.  Do I workout every day?  Nope.  But most days.  The goal is 6 days a week, but I am cool with 5.  Not less than 30 minutes, and not more than an hour.  And if I miss some while traveling that’s okay too, because I will go home and get going again.

Balance is the goal.  The goal is balance.

A Banner Halloween

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Getting it together

This past January I weighed more than I ever did 9 months prego and on the verge of delivery. I was not by any stretch what most people think of as extremely overweight, but I still could not move. I dreaded putting away dishes because if I knelt down, I had to use the countertop to pull myself back up again. And stairs. Don’t get me started about the stairs.  I didn’t like driving my fun little car anymore because it was so hard to get in and out of it.  Then I had a customer pull me out into the hallway during an event in The Green Apricot studio to tell me that I really needed to get it together.  That I should enjoy the holidays and my upcoming trip to Puerto Rico, but that when I got back I needed to do better.  All these quilters just sit behind their machines and get fat.  I was, obviously, totally offended.

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Then I saw this pic that my husband took of me on our trip, and I finally had a discussion with myself.  The conclusion was I am not getting younger, and it isn’t going to get easier. so get started. So I did.

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The irony of looking like this for most of my life was that I ate everything in sight and never did anything athletic or that even remotely looked like exercise.  Like never.  Ever.  When this photo was taken, I was about 37 years old.  I had brought 4 humans into this world who at the time were about 11, 13, 15 and 16 years old.  I had been divorced and remarried, and honestly had been through a lot.  But I was not prepared for what was to come in the next couple of years.

The difference between those two pictures is about 7 years, My Great Depression, and 50 pounds.  When I was 39, I went through some tough times.  I gained 30 pounds in about 3 months.  I then struggled through a deep depression that would last for about 2 years, and still lingers from time to time.  After the initial gain, I just kept adding on, a little more each year.  I went from being able to carry my weight around with little effort, and even less thought, to not being able to get off of the couch without my hips hurting.  I couldn’t get up a single flight of stairs without being winded.  But seriously, you don’t want to hear the stair rant.

Now, to be clear, I don’t really care to be as small as I used to be.  I am a grown woman, and I am totally cool with what that means.  In fact, I would be just fine with what the scales read last January if I also could move around with ease.  Now, again to be clear, I do have issues with vanity just like everyone else, and there is a part of me that would like to be size such-and-such again, or at least close to it, but almost as soon as I have those thoughts, I am reminded that it really is irrelevant.

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The difference between the picture at the beach and the bathroom selfie is about 10 months, about 200 workouts, a very different outlook on food, very little neck and joint pain, and 25 pounds.  I took this picture yesterday so that I could thank my friend for sending me this cute LulaRoe top.  We kinda have a joke running because almost every item of clothing I buy from her I say, “A jean jacket would be cute with that!”  So, I posted it on social media, really only thinking about the shirt, but when a couple of my friends made some kind comments, it got me to thinking.  I started looking over pics from this past year, and it has made me really grateful.

I like the woman in the pic with the orange bandana.  I also like the woman in the pic on the beach.  But I don’t really want to be either of them again.  The bathroom selfie is who I am today, and I like her too.  She’s been through a lot.  She’s made a lot of mistakes.  A lot.  She’s cried a lot.  She’s laughed a lot.  She still has trouble letting go of some of her baggage, but she’s learning to move on.  She’s learning about who she is, and who she isn’t.  She’s taking time to sort things out.  Slow down a bit.  Find balance.  Then pick up and run the race when the race is on, but slow down for the training.

There will be more pics.  And when there are, I want to be glad that I am no longer the woman in this bathroom selfie.  It’s all about progress.  It’s always about progress.

 

A Nice Place to Land

Travel is a very real part of my life, and I imagine and hope that it always will be.  Most recently I was back and forth from home in various stints over a stretch of a month and a half.  I will be home for about that long, and then gone again soon.  Then repeat.  Sometimes I travel for fun, like the trips we take twice a year to celebrate our marriage.  Or family reunion.  Or trips with our kids and their families.  Or the occasional quilt retreat that has no work attachments involved.  But while I don’t always travel with fun as the main purpose, it still is always fun.  Like visiting family, especially our kids and grandkids.  Or going to Quilt Market, if or when I go.  Or quilt retreats with work at least partly in mind, although sometimes work is the sole purpose.

For instance, the recent retreat The Green Apricot hosted in Crossville, TN.  I had a great time, and I loved being a hostess and cooking and hanging out and having a good time with friends.  On Thursday when it ended, it was good to see smiling faces packing up cars and heading back home again.  I, on the other hand, was not headed home.  Our granddaughter was having a birthday party in TN on Saturday, so rather than head south to Atlanta and then back up to Nashville the next day, I decided to hang around a bit and take it easy between retreat and birthday party.

As many of you know, I am a bit obsessed with donuts.  One time my husband looked at me and basically said, “If you’ve eaten one donut, you’ve eaten them all.”  I just stared at him.  The donut thing has been real my whole life, although I have hated Krispy Kreme for many years.  Mostly because my dad would get them on road trips, and inevitably I would get car sick, and well, the rest is history.  (As a note, I tried them again a couple of years ago, and I really do still hate them.)  The obsession, however, has really taken flight in the last couple of years because, well, donuts, and I love the idea that an easy way to shop local when traveling is to find a donut shop.  So, I try to look for donut shops whenever I am on the road.  This time I found Ralph’s Donuts in Cookeville, TN.  They’ve been there since 1962, and are located in a fun part of town with boutique shopping and eateries.  It was way off of my charted course from Crossville to Nashville, but totally worth it.  When I asked what was the one donut I had to order I got an immediate answer of, “Butter Twist.”  So, Butter Twist it was, and I was pleased.  I usually get two donuts at places like these.  A standard that I can compare with other donut shops, and their specialty.  But I had just returned from quilt retreat full of Oreos and Peanut M&Ms, so restraint was called for.  However, if I ever get to go back…

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Since I wasn’t in a big hurry, and I didn’t have the husband in tow, I thought I might check out Craft South in Nashville.  I’ve met Anna Maria Horner a couple of times, including once in a restaurant bathroom during Quilt Market, but that’s another story.  I’m kinda a big fan, and I love her work and her style, so I was looking forward to her shop.  However, it turned out that I might have actually been able to go into the store if Jeff had been with me.  I followed Sybil’s directions and found Craft South in a super trendy, fun neighborhood not too far from Vanderbilt’s campus.  But, all that fun and trend has a tendency to equal no parking.  After circling a neighborhood crawling with both construction and hipsters three times with no luck for parking, I bailed and headed to my evening destination.  Thompson’s Station, and Suzy Homemaker.

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Who exactly provides a snack bar in their guest room?  Who exactly puts together the perfect dinner because she knows what her guest needs?  Who exactly can cut through the crap and get to the real story with everything from politics to quilt shops?

Suzy Homemaker, of course.  No, that’s not totally her real name, but she is Suzy.  I met her a few years ago as she is Chris Warnick’s right-hand woman in putting on The Stash Bash, and have enjoyed her friendship ever since.  I messaged her a couple of weeks before I was going to be in Nashville to see if I could visit her and crash at her place for a night.  I knew it would be a treat to get to visit with her and her husband, but had no idea just how perfect of a place it was for me to land.

I had a great time at the quilt retreat in Crossville, and very much loved being a hostess for such an event.  But when it was over, I truly was exhausted.  It wasn’t until I settled in at Suzy’s that I realized how overstimulated I felt, and kind of wired.

Suzy keeps a lovely home, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.  So much of it is in the details.  Everything from the soap to the bed that I could barely convince myself to get out of the next morning.  Everywhere I turned there was something to look at and think about, but not in an excessively analytical way or in a trendy, copycat kind of way.  More like a “Huh- that’s cool-  I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it works perfectly” kind of way.

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She has such a great mix of wood and metal and white and black in her home, and just seems to highlight all the right things in all the right places.  Suzy and her husband are also in the race car industry, and there were hints of it throughout the house, but without being brash and kitschy.  It felt like Nashville, but it also felt like a canvas for conversation.

It was just what I needed- to be hosted for a day after hosting for a few.  We chatted into the night, and picked up again in the morning.  And of course, we had to get a donut, and head to a quilt shop.  This time there was plenty of parking.

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I stole these photos from the internet.  I am admitting it openly.  I’d like to give credit, but honestly, I’m not sure to whom I should give it!  At any rate, Suzy promised I would love Stitcher’s Garden, and she was not wrong.  Not by a longshot.  This place was packed.  I mean packed.  In every good way.  We have a shop in Georgia similar to it called Thread Bear Fabrics.  Both of the these shops have a crazy, serious selection.  You want traditional?  You got it.  You want modern?  You got it.  You want fat quarters?  You got more than you can imagine.  I had a fabulous time sifting through and making plans, and even remembering projects gone by.  I showed a bit of restraint, as I already have plenty and enough, but I did get a couple of things with purpose, and a couple without.

We literally shopped until the last moment.  Jeff flew in that afternoon, and I needed to navigate through Nashville traffic to pick him up at the airport.  It was good to see his face.  I enjoy my adventures, and I feel that I am fairly independent, but I miss him terribly when we are apart.

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Jeff and I go to Nashville from time to time as two of our daughters and their families live there.  We have a favorite place to stop and eat- Coco’s Italian Market and Restaurant.  My favorite appetizer is the bruschetta, pictured above.  I’d like to deconstruct it and try to make it at home, but I’m afraid I’d never get the bread quite right, and that I’d gain a couple hundred pounds!

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Speaking of low-cal Italian treats, we also never miss a chance to share a piece of Chocolate Eruption cheesecake.  We are kind of known for taking it to go with the intent of eating it a little later, but it never makes it more than a mile or so down the road.

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The next day we headed to our daughter’s house to spend the day celebrating our granddaughter’s birthday.  It was such a nice day with family, and I am so grateful that we were able to be there.  I feel very grateful for all of the travels, even the ones that can be somewhat stressful, but I am especially grateful for the travels that take me places like this one.  Some things matter, some things don’t.  Some things last, some things won’t.

 

Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market- just a few things. This time.

I really don’t know much about the history of Your Dekalb Farmers Market, but I do know a little bit about my history with this place of awesomeness.

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I grew up in Georgia, mostly in the Atlanta area, and have lived in and out of the area most of my life.  I remember going to YDFM when I was very young with my aunt who lived in Decatur, not far from the original market.  I also remember going after they moved to the current site, but I believe it looked a bit different back then.  I was still very young, and I only went a couple of times, but I seem to remember being just enthralled with huge tanks of fish, and watching the employees reaching into the water to nab one for a customer.  There are still tanks of fish now, but I don’t think as many.

YDFM doesn’t allow any photography inside of the market, so sadly, I cannot show you the amazingness of this place.  However, I can tell you a little bit about it.  At least this particular trip.

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I live about 40 miles from YDFM, which in our area means it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2 hours to travel to or from the market.  And yet, it is where I buy the majority of our meat and fresh produce.  It is also where I buy spices, fresh pasta, drinking vinegar, and international products that I would like to try.  I also take our recycling to their recycling center as the one in our county does not accept as many items.  The photo you see above is from the furthest parking spot facing the front doors of the market.  I often refer to the parking lot as the Serengeti, mostly because the few trees placed here and there makes me think of the pictures I have always seen of that place.  I usually try to park under one of the trees, but on this day I decided I could use the walk since I skipped the treadmill that morning.

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If you’ve never been to YDFM, there are a few things you should probably know.

First, as you can see, they have extensive hours.  However, if you have any kinds of issues with crowds or claustrophobia, some days and hours are better than others.  I try to go during the week, early in the day.  Mid afternoon isn’t too bad, but for me the traffic on the way home is terrible, so I’d rather go in the mornings.  I’ve been on a Saturday a couple of times, and will only do that now out of desperation.  Also, the week or days just before a holiday are insane.  As in you can’t reasonably shop with a normal shopping cart on those days.

Second, speaking of shopping carts, if you want one, you’d better get it from the parking lot on your way in because there are none inside.  There are rolling plastic baskets that are deep but slim, and of course, hand carried baskets.  But I can only go every couple of weeks or so, so I generally need a bigger cart.

Third, they don’t take credit cards, and they don’t really like to take checks.  Cash or a debit card are your best bet.

Fourth, I have the same suggestion for this place as I do for IKEA virgins.  The first time you go, show some restraint and don’t buy much.  Just a few things, then go home and let everything you just saw kind of settle in your brain for a bit.  Otherwise it is easy to waste money and end up with a lot of food that you can’t possibly consume before it goes bad.

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My weakness is the bakery department.  I actually don’t buy anything there anymore for a couple of reasons.  First, it is so dang good that I could probably eat my weight in breads and muffins and croissants and cookies, and that just doesn’t work out very well.  Second, they are fresh baked and don’t have any preservatives, and so should be eaten within a day or two of purchase.  Sadly, I have found that we can’t eat it fast enough, and usually have some waste.

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As you can see above, I mostly focus on fresh produce at the market.  There’s aisle after aisle of varieties of produce, most of which I am familiar with and know what to do with, but some is just foreign and intriguing.  There are organic and nonorganic options, and the description above the bins includes the origin of the food.  I find that the produce is fresher than at the grocery, and that the prices are at least competitive, but often are better.  They bring in and move such a large volume that the turn over is amazing.  Also, if you are wondering if something is actually in season, or if it is maybe late in the season, you will know quickly at YDFM.  In the height of the strawberry season the berry table is overflowing with packages of berries, but when in winter the selection is much smaller.  While there are always a wonderful variety of apples available, it is evident that apples are currently in season by how many more than just the standards there are in the market.

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Other favorites are the deli, seafood and meat departments.  Pictured above is a pretty normal lunch for me.  YDFM smokes their own meats on site, and I prefer their sliced turkey, chicken and roast beef over other places.  While I don’t often eat it in a sandwich, I do like to make kind of a deli plate for a light lunch. They have an amazing selection of cheeses from all over the world.  I like to buy a new cheese to try from time to time, and then talk my husband’s head off over dinner about where it is from.

The seafood department at YDFM is a force in it’s own right, and simply has to be experienced to be understood.  My house could fit in the seafood department.  My entire house.  And if it is seafood and they aren’t selling it at YDFM, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.  I have gone in there when every bin and tank was full, and and I have been there when the seafood selections were thin.  There’s a reason for that.

I don’t like to buy chicken anywhere else.  I find that the chicken at YDFM is the size that you would expect a chicken to be.  It doesn’t look like it came from a chicken that could beat you up in a dark alley.  And they have just about every cut you could think of.  They also have turkey, beef, bison, lamb and pork.  There’s probably something else in there, but I can’t remember, and well, no pics allowed to help me remember!  We love the sausage that YDFM mixes.  They have it in turkey, chicken and pork.  The hot is the best, but to each his own.  *Here’s a tip… When buying seafood or meat at the market, ask for ice.  If they have any available, they will double bag your meat purchase in a bag of ice.  However, I find the cashiers don’t really like it because it gets the labels wet and makes them difficult to scan.

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Spices are another thing that I love at YDFM.  They are significantly less expensive than the national brands at the grocery, and are fresh.  They don’t come in fancy packaging, but they don’t need to look good to taste good.  I use the pumpkin pie spice in my favorite fall protein shake.

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McClary Bros Old Timey Drinking Vinegar is another thing that I recently discovered at YDFM.  I believe you can purchase it elsewhere, but it’s just as easy for me to get it there since I know they carry it.  Every evening before bed my husband prepares a glass of this drinking vinegar mixed with some seltzer water for each of us.  The biggest benefit we’ve noticed is a significant reduction of acid reflux at night.  I don’t know that it is as healthful as Bragg’s, but it is definitely more palatable.  There are several different flavors, but we like the Michigan Apple Pie the best.  I’d say the Beet and Carrot one would come in second, but really, by a long shot.  The other flavors are just too sharp for me.  It’s also a little pricy in my opinion, but we only drink a little at a time, and since we don’t really drink anything else other than water and Red Rock Ginger Ale, we have room in the budget for it.  Again, I am sure Bragg’s is a healthier option, but how healthy can it be if you hate it so much you won’t drink it?

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Dinner on the same day as a trip to YDFM usually involves whatever I saw that wasn’t actually on my list.  This time it was fresh whole wheat pasta and YDFM’s own marinara sauce.  I’ve wanted to try their marinara for a long time, and it was quite good, but I have to be honest, I like mine made from our homegrown and bottled tomatoes better.  The pasta was perfect, but Jeff wasn’t crazy about the texture.  Fresh pasta is a little different from dried.  I froze what pasta we didn’t eat that night, and I’ll probably have it for lunch some time.

So, that’s your intro to Your Dekalb Farmers Market.  If you live in the Atlanta area and have never been, you really should give it a try, and if you are in the area visiting, it is worth putting on your list of places to visit.

Love you SO much I can barely stand it!

I love holidays, and really, any reason to celebrate by making something for someone, especially my kiddos and grands. I especially like corny or cliche sayings that I can find something cute to go with. Sometimes my ideas are pretty cute, and sometimes they are way dumb, but always meant to show the recipient a little bit o’ love.

This Valentine’s Day I decided to make these phone/tablet stands that I found a free, online tutorial for. I had found it quite a while ago, but had forgotten about it until a friend reminded me about it. You can find the pattern by clicking Factotum of Arts.


There were a couple of Open Studio days scheduled at The Green Apricot, so I offered kits for the “insides” of the stands and invited friends to come and sew with me. I replaced the rice with poly pellets, as food stuffs have a tendency to attract critters. I also cut the stabilizing piece of Pellon to 5 1/2″ rather than 5 3/4″ because it seemed easier to work with, but that was about it for changes.


On the first 6-hour day, I made 10 stands. I got two out of one fat quarter, with a decent chunk left over. Because the cut is 9″x12″, you can get 2 out of a 1/4 yard of non-directional fabric. If you are using directional fabric, be sure to cut it so that the top to bottom is the 9″. The pics on the website are with directional fabric, so just look at the pic carefully for proper placement.


On day two, I made 10 more. A few more than I need for my family for Valentine’s Day, giving me a little stash of gifts for later in the year. They make great pin cushions as well as device stands- perfect for that next pin cushion exchange. They also are a cute shape, and I think I may be inspired to get a little more creative next time. I’m thinking gnome or Santa heads.  Or a chicken. Or marshmallow Peeps. Hmmmm.

#Stockingpalooza2014

Thirty-one Christmas stockings.  (I. Like. Big. Numbers and I cannot lie… Sorry Sir Mix-a-lot, you come to my mind at the strangest of moments.  Back to the point…)

This year one of our daughters asked if I could make stockings for her and her family, so I proceeded to call and text to find out who all wanted a new Christmas stocking this year, and before I knew it, the numbers were climbing… to 31.  That may seem a little extreme, however I find that with just a few tips and tricks, this really is a quick and easy project.  They end up being perfect for everything from charities to last minute gifts.  And even Santa can get on board with that.

A guild that I belong to has made these stockings for several years to give to a local women’s shelter, so that’s where I learned to make them.  I did a little prowling online for “Magic Christmas Stockings”, and everything I found was pretty similar to what I had been taught several years ago. However, in one of those “Eureka!” kind of moments, I had an idea of how do make them a little different this time around.

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So, are you ready for some Stockingpalooza?  Fabulous.  Here we go…

Be sure to read all of the instructions (or at least look at all of the pictures) before proceeding.  There are two options included in this pattern based on the kind of fabric that you choose to use.

Tools:

Required:  Fabric scissors, pinking shears, coordinating thread, marking pencil or pen, pins, iron, sewing machine in good working order

Outline of desired stocking shape traced onto a large sheet of drawing paper, parchment paper, or pieced-together printer paper.  You can do this using a stocking that you already have, or a template from the Internet.  A search for “printable Christmas stocking patterns” will produce a number of them to choose from.  The amount of materials listed in this tutorial allows for a stocking that is approximately 12″x18″ finished.

Optional, but very helpful:  Serger/Overlock machine, invisible thread

Materials:

Option #1-
Stocking Exterior- 1/2 yd printed duck cloth, canvas, or other heavy fabric
Stocking Interior- 1/2 yd printed duck cloth, canvas, or other heavy fabric

**If fabric is directional, be sure that the stocking outline will fit in the proper direction
Binding- (1) 2 1/2″ x 20″ strip of coordinating fabric
Ribbon- 40″ of 1″ satin ribbon

Option #2-
Stocking Exterior- 1/2 yd lightweight or quilting cotton fabric
Stocking Interior- 1/2 yd lightweight or quilting cotton fabric
Binding- (1) 2 1/2″ x 20″ strip of coordinating fabric
Lining- (2) 18″x 22″ batting scraps
Ribbon- 40″ of 1″ satin ribbon

 Directions for Option #1-

opt1, step1Fold both the Interior and Exterior fabrics right sides together, selvedge to selvedge, and press.  Layer the Interior and Exterior fabrics on a cutting mat or workspace with the Interior on the bottom, as shown above.

opt1, step2Using an outline of the desired stocking shape, trace the shape onto the fabric.  My template happens to be made of a clear acrylic, and I used a Frixion pen to outline it.  However, you don’t need either.  The pen marks will not matter when the stocking is sewn together, and a paper template will work just as well.

opt1, step3For ease in the next step, go ahead and cut away the excess fabric from around the stocking outline.

opt1, step4Pin the layers of stocking together, well inside of the stocking outline.  There are two ways to proceed from here.  The picture above shows using a serger to cut out and stitch together the layers at once.  If a serger is not an option, simply cut the layers of stocking fabric with fabric scissors using the traced outline, then stitch the layers together using a 1/4″ seam allowance on a regular sewing machine.

IMG_7692The above pic is what the stocking should look like at this point.  If the layers do not look like this, then the stocking will not turn out the correct way.  Reach in between the two Exterior Fabrics and pull the stocking right side out.  It should look like this…IMG_7695

To bind the stocking, begin by taking the 2 1/2″x20″ piece of fabric to an ironing surface.

To bind the stocking, open the stocking so that the Interior Fabric is visible.  Line up the binding on the inside of the stocking with raw edges together as shown below and pin in place.

binding1The orange mark on the binding in the picture above is to show where to begin stitching.  It is important to leave about a 1/2″ or so space between the fold and the beginning of the stitching.  It isn’t important that this space be exact, only that there is enough room to tuck the binding tail into.

binding2Using 1/4″ seam, stitch the binding to the inside of the stocking, rotating the stocking as needed.  Stop stitching, with the needle in the down position, just before you reach the folded point of the binding.

Fold binding to the outside of the stocking and pin in place, as shown below.

pin bindingUsing either matching or invisible thread, stitch binding in place by stitching very close to the seam created earlier.

finish stitch bindWhen complete, the outside of the stocking will look like this…

binding stitched downFold the top of the stocking down about 2″ or as desired.  mark the back edge of the stocking for ribbon placement.

Fold the 40″ ribbon in half width wise to mark the center of the ribbon.  Align the fold in the ribbon with the mark on the stocking and pin in place.

Stitch the ribbon in place along the fold mark, fold the top edge of the stocking down, and viola, it’s done!

finished two layer

Directions for Option #2-

When using a lighter weight fabric, add layers of thin batting to make a more substantial stocking.  The directions are exactly the same, except at the very beginning.

IMG_7732Following the directions as above layer the Exterior and Interior fabrics, but put one of the pieces of batting in between the two fabrics. You may have figured out by now that it doesn’t matter what order the Exterior and Interior fabrics are layered.  It only matters that they are right sides together, and in this case, that there is a piece of batting between them.

IMG_7733

Lay the second piece of batting on top of the layers of fabric and batting.  Trace the stocking outline onto the batting, similar to the directions above.

Pin all of the layers, serge (or cut and sew), trim the top, then run a second seam just inside the serger seam.

Just as above, pull the stocking right side out by reaching in between the layers of Exterior fabric.  The red check becomes the inside of the stocking, and ultimately the folded cuff, while the peppermints are the outside.

Bind and finish as directed above.

I personally prefer the binding method, but if you would rather have a cuff, like the one pictured below, measure the width of the top of your stocking, double that measurement and add 1/2″.  Cut a cuff 8″x the measurement that you just found.  Sew the cuff together on the short sides, then fold in half on the long side, creating a tube.  Sew the tube to the top of the stocking, raw edges together, and cuff to the inside.  Don’t forget a hanging loop.  Then flip the cuff to the outside.

IMG_7751This is actually an incredibly versatile project, and I look forward to doing another batch next year with another spin to it.  I’d love to see what you do with it- maybe a toe with a bit more curl?  Or some applique?  Embroidery?  Pieced fabrics?  Hmmm…  I’ve already got some ideas for #Stockingpalooza2015!  Maybe a little Christmas in July?  What about a stocking swap?  Well, well, well, I guess we’ll have to see about that.