Framed

 

 

 

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Recently I was super excited to get my hands on the latest installation of the Ghastlies fabric from Alexander Henry.  Intown Quilters Fabric & Yarn is one of my favorite shops, and I was in a hot hurry to get up there and grab some before it was all gone!  I have managed to miss out on it in the past, but that was not going to be the case this time.

As you can see from the sampling above, the line is absolutely fabulous.  There are actually two color ways, but the difference is subtle, and I still liked to mix them.  One is kind of half the color intensity of the other, if that makes sense.  There is a perfectly chilling pastoral, a delightfully harrowing panel and a number of accomplices in the form of supporting fabrics.  I am just crazy over the moths and webs.

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But let’s be honest.  Sometimes fabric like this is hard to cut into.  What exactly to do with the panel?  The print rarely straightens up well to be able to cut an actual square, even though the panel is made of squares.  And, there’s no seam allowance between squares, so losing some of the print is bound to happen.  The pastoral print is fun and large, but where to begin?  How big to make the blocks?  What if I cut off someone’s head?

Well, no worries.  After all, these are the Ghastlies.

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I didn’t have a pattern, but Sarah at IQ and I were chatting and we came up with a bit of a scheme, and I headed home with fabric in hand to get to chopping.

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In my haste to start whacking away at the Ghastlies, I forgot to get a good plan about how to cut those panel squares.  I needed some for one size of square, and some for another, and it was getting difficult to get enough of the larger squares.  Then I realized that if I cut the panel in the middle along the print from selvage to selvage and worked out from there, I would have more to choose from for the larger blocks.

Once I had accumulated enough of the larger squares, I cut into the remnants of the panel for smaller squares- which left for lots of opportunity for selective chopping.

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Then I was ready for block assembly.  This thing was taking no time at all, and I was loving every macabre moment of it.

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The squares were all assembled, but something was awry, and it wasn’t just the lighting in my living room or lack of quality from a camera phone.  First, it was way tiny.  Second, well, the delight of drama was a bit lacking.

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So, back to IQ, and back to plotting.  I ended up using both color ways of the line, and put a little more thought into placing the darker fabrics to highlight a little more contrast.  After all, what good is a mystery without a bit of conflict?

But I still found that the pastoral blocks were blending into the background more than I wanted, so I decided to highlight just a few of them using a technique I learned several years ago and has come in handy a few times.

Sometimes I need just a thin line to define a space, or break up a design.  A very thin line.  Like a 1/4″ line.  But without adding any size to the original block.  Now, admittedly, I am not a perfect quilter, in any sense of the word, so the idea of cutting the desired area down by 1/2″ all the way around, then cutting a strip 3/4″ and attaching it with a perfect 1/4″ seam and keeping all and all straight and squared up is a bit daunting to me.  Maybe even terrifying.  Disturbing.  Unnerving.  (Better stop before I run out of adjectives.)

So, this is how I do it.  I leave the block the original size.  I cut a 1″ strip of the framing fabric.  I use a 1/2″ seam allowance to attach the framing fabric to either side of the block.  At this point I make a choice to either cut away the excess 1/4″ in the seam allowance, or leave it in for a little extra bulk in the frame.  I left it in this time, but Juan the Gammill Camel (my longarm machine) was not happy with me for doing it.  Then I attach the framing fabric to both the top and the bottom of the block, again using a 1/2″ seam allowance, and then either cutting away or leaving the excess.  It finishes nicely for me, and to me is easier than fiddling with a thin piece of fabric and a thin seam allowance.

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Having said all of that, when the gang at Intown Quilters and I got to talking about it and decided for a pattern’s sake to write it up a little differently.  So, if you pick up the kit or the pattern for A Ghastlie Parquet from IQ either in person or online, you’ll see a different way of doing it, but you’ll also know the secret of how it actually came about.

Once the top was done, and I swear it took just as long to write this blogpost as it did to make the top, it went straight into Juan’s arms.  Juan and I discussed our options a bit, but really, it was decided pretty quickly that we wanted webs.  But not just regular old standard webs.  We wanted cool webs.  And I found them at Urban Elementz.

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It quilted up quickly, and before I knew it the binding was on and voila- the Ghastlies were framed and on their way to the holding cell at Intown Quilters for your viewing pleasure.  Bwahahahahahahaha…

Mom was right.

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It’s about 10:00 am, and while I’ve been out of bed since about 5:30 am, I am not yet dressed, and that’s my breakfast in the Ninja cup on the table.  So what exactly have I been doing for the last four and a half hours of my life?

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I didn’t take this sweaty selfie this morning because I didn’t know I was going to writing about this, but it’s accurate anyway.  Each morning it takes me about 30 to 45 minutes to wake up.  During this time it is best if no one asks me any questions or expects me not to walk into any walls or furniture.  I don’t drink coffee, and I have to wake up on my own.  It means brushing my teeth, putting on my workout clothes, drinking some water, making my bed and perusing social media for a few minutes.  This morning I also threw in a load of towels and put some clothes for handwashing to soak in the sink.

Then I work out for a little over an hour.  During part of my workout, I listen to talks from the recent LDS General Conference.  I like the idea of strengthening both my body and spirit at the same time.

Then I clean.  Years ago I followed FlyLady.net, and I learned a lot about cleaning and organizing from it.  Over the years I have modified what I learned from it to fit my own needs, and basically it comes down to dividing the house into sections and working on a section each day.  (I actually only do this Monday- Friday.)  Our house is generally not messy, so that’s never really been an issue, although we do have a problem with piles that I have to work on.  The biggest problem our house has is the details, but I find that if I commit a couple of hours each week to each section of the house, so many of those details get taken care of.  This morning it was the kitchen.  Appliances, backsplash and cabinets are all on the list, but don’t all get attention every week.  Oiling and rotating my coveted cutting board as well as cleaning the floors really well are a weekly task.

Then I make my breakfast, hit the shower, get fully dressed (my stint with Mary Kay years ago also taught me a thing or two), and hit emails, bills, and other to-do list items.  Which reminds me I need to do something.  I’ll be right back.

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I don’t especially like working out or cleaning, so I do it every day, first thing in the morning.  I really hate cleaning the shower, so I keep a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in the shower and literally clean the shower every day while I am in there.

I’ve heard people say that you should begin your day doing things that get your creative juices flowing so that you feel energized and ready to face the day.  For me that is, as my Nanny would say, bunk.

In the past I have started my day by going straight to the studio, or by sitting down to write, or by cozying up with my latest yarn project while binge watching Netflix, all the while thinking, “Oh, I can wipe down the kitchen when I make dinner tonight.”

What.Ever.

I’ve learned the hard way that not only do I not wipe down the kitchen while I am making dinner, but I also like to snack a lot while I am “being creative,” and oh, I actually am remarkably less productive creatively while I have in the back of my mind the list of things I should actually be taking care of for the day.

When I choose creativity over responsibility, everyone loses.  It’s just the facts.  My family loses out on my undivided attention.  My body loses out on the attention it needs to function properly.  My spirit loses out on the joy of accomplishment.  My clients lose out because I am not efficient or dependable.  Even my projects lose out because I bring so much garbage to the table by not cleaning it up beforehand.

It may seem like I end up with a late start to the studio, because reality is that I rarely get there before noon anymore, but it is also very real that I am much more productive once I hit the studio doors than I ever was before.  I get the same amount of work done in an afternoon that I used to get done in a day, and it all goes back to putting everything in it’s proper place, both in space and in time.

I’d have to say that it really is true that it’s best for me to get my chores done first thing, even if it means I have to admit my mother was right.

Keeping the doctor away.

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I learned how to do some home canning several years ago when I lived in south Georgia and had access to what is, I suppose, the breadbasket of the state.  There were a plethora of you-pick farms within a 30 minute drive of where we lived, and I spent the summers that we lived there knee-deep in produce.

Canning, or bottling if you live in the western US, is not something that I grew up doing.  My first experience with it was as a young Army wife stationed at Ft. Lewis near Tacoma, Washington.  I had four small kids in tow, and not a lot of budget, but a whole lot of a sense of adventure.  I had always loved blackberries and remembered picking them with my mom in Georgia when I was young, but the blackberries I saw in Washington were about three times the size of the ones I remembered, and were not only delightful, but incredibly prolific.  They grew wild everywhere, and it made me nuts to think of all that fabulous fruit going to waste.  So, I learned how to make blackberry jam.  By the time we moved from Washington to south Georgia, I had been bitten hard, and I wanted to can just about any fresh produce I could get my hot little hands on.

But these days I’ve learned that our family doesn’t really eat jams or jellies, so it’s not worth the time and money to make them. Pickles are more difficult to get right than one would think, so we just eat all the cucumbers out of our garden.  Freezing things like beans and peas is just as good as canning, and really much easier.  However, I am a stickler for bottled tomatoes, peaches and apples.  I am really picky about how ripe the tomatoes and peaches are when they are picked for canning, and it makes a big difference in the final product.

I’m also particular about apples, but it has less to do with ripeness and more to do with variety.  I like variety.  I like how mixing different types of apples gives even applesauce a little bit of complexity.  The funny part about buying apples in Georgia is that at the time we moved to Washington, I really didn’t know that there were apple farms in Georgia.  In fact, I was really excited to take the kids to show them where all their apples came from in the grocery store.  Of course, I didn’t realize that the apple orchards were quite a trip east from Tacoma, and we never did get to go and see them.  But, as they say, all’s well that ends well.

This year I wanted to do a little shopping to see what the price difference really was between buying at the local markets and driving up to north Georgia to the apple houses.  In the photo on the left above with the red apples, you see what a box of Zestar apples from Your Dekalb Farmers Market looks like.  They cost $46, and are from Minnesota.  They are also absolutely delightful, and might be my favorite.  The apples on the right with the mix of red and green are from some of the north Georgia apple houses.  There is a mix of Arkansas Black, Pippin and Braeburn.  Of these, I like Arkansas Black the best to eat raw.  But the Pippin is a nice, firm, tart apple, and is good for baking.  The Braeburn is a smaller, softer, sweeter apple, and adds nice balance to the mix.  The basket on the right cost about $17, and is probably about 1/2 to 2/3 the number of apples on the left.  At the apple houses in fall of 2017, the apples ran about $6 per 1/2 peck, $11 per peck, and $17 per half bushel.

I generally preserve apples just two ways.  One is to bottle pie apples using a recipe in the Heritage Cookbook, which is a community cookbook my sister-in-law gave me about 11 years ago.  It’s a fat little thing full of input from residents of Parowan, Utah, and the recipe for Apple Pie Filling is the one Judy used for the apples that grew on their property in Parowan, and the one two of my stepdaughters helped her to bottle.

I have plenty of pie apples on hand from past years, so this year I bottled just enough to send some to each of our kids as part of a November care package.  Conveniently, there are 7 kids, the recipe worked for 7 jars, and the canner fit 7 jars in a single swoop.  Done.

Apple Pie Filling

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 10 cups water

Mix together dry ingredients in large cooking pot and add 10 cups of water; cook and stir until thick and bubbly.  Slice tart apples and pack into quart jars.  Leave 1 inch head space.  Fill jars with hot syrup.  Process in water bath 30 minutes.

Other fruits and berries can be used in like manner, but when using peaches, add 1/4 cup more cornstarch.

The other thing I do with apples is to make unsweetened applesauce.  In past years I have made a lot of different kinds of applesauce and have tried lots of recipes.  However, I find that I like to preserve food as plainly as possible so that I have more options down the road.  If I want cinnamon applesauce, I can for sure add cinnamon to it after it’s been made.  Heat it up on the stove even.  But once it’s in there, it’s in there, and you got what you got.  Plain, unsweetened applesauce is a reasonable snack, is easy to dress up, and can sometimes act as a replacement for oil or eggs in baking recipes.

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I set things up pretty much the same every time I bottle something.  Some of the tools are different based on the produce, but basically, the kitchen always looks the same.  In the fall I don’t mind working a little later in the day, but in the summer, I’m usually at work canning by about 6:30 am before it gets very warm.

I know, there are lots of cool gadgets out there for peeling and coring apples, but for some reason, I still prefer to just use a simple vegetable peeler and an apple cutter.  Half of the time I don’t use the cutter- I just cut the apples in quarters, set them on a flat side and slice out the core of each quarter.  I also make sure I have some form or another of citric acid on hand to help keep the applesauce from turning brown too quickly.  As far as I know, turning brown doesn’t have a huge affect taste or nutrition, but it just doesn’t look very appetizing.

The beauty of making applesauce is the ease of the process.  Really, all I do is peel, cut, drop in a large cooking pot, and mix in some citric acid.  When my pot is almost full of apples, I add about 2 -3 cups of water and set them to boil.  It is important to watch them and stir them often for a couple of reasons.  One is they have a tendency sometimes to boil out of the top of the pot.  The other is they can burn on the bottom while the ones on the top haven’t even softened up yet.  Once I can see that they have started to boil, I turn them down to medium heat and cover, still stirring often, until the apples soften and simply begin to break down into applesauce.  I am happy with it at this point, but it is also possible to put them through a food mill for an even smoother product.

I like to bottle applesauce in single serving sizes, and it’s how I use up all those jelly jars that I don’t use for jelly anymore.  They stack very differently in the canner than their older cousins the pint and quart jars, so I have to make sure that when they are submerged in the water bath that the water covers the jars completely.  Also, while you can’t see it in the photo, the jar I am holding in my hand is chipped along the lower rim.  It went straight to the recycling bin as that one chip could cut someone pretty badly, and even if it didn’t, I worry that the chip could affect the integrity of the jar.

When my kids were younger, I used to make Red Hot Applesauce.  We would get Red Hot candies at the store, put a few in the bottom of the jar, then fill it with applesauce and process in the water bath.  The candies would melt up into the applesauce, and it had kind of a cool effect.  Plus, it added just a little something to an afternoon snack.  I tried to find Red Hots this year, just for nostalgia, but all I could find were Hot Tamales.  I figured they would probably work, and it was worth the try.

It worked exactly as I remembered.  Now I am all stocked up on applesauce for the season, and gratefully so.  If you would like to try to bottle your own applesauce, be sure to check out guides from places such as your local extension office, or booklets such as the Ball Blue Book of Canning.  The Ball Blue Book is where I started my canning journey, and I feel confident it will help you along the way, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Always Watching

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

A Few of My Favorite Things

This year has been an interesting one for me.  Let’s just say that 2017 has presented me with lots of opportunities for growth.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful life, and I am very grateful for every aspect of it, both the chuckles and the challenges.  But I have found myself as this year is beginning to come to a close taking time for a lot of personal inventory.  Asking myself questions like, “What am I supposed to do now?”  And hearing myself say things like, “Well, that didn’t go the way I thought it would.”  Midlife crisis?  I dunno.  Maybe.  I think I thought I was too young for that, and that really that only happened to men, but of course neither of those statements are true.  We all have to reevaluate ourselves from time to time if we have any hope of making any real progress in life.

So, for the last week or so I have kind of put the breaks on a lot of things in my life.  Not permanently, but just long enough for me to slow down and think more clearly.  But just because I said, “Whoa, Nellie” on certain aspects of my life did not mean that the blows quit coming.  A client who will not forgive me.  Difficulty and hurt in a relationship in my family.  Watching someone I care about struggle, and knowing there is nothing I can do.  Making another really big, really embarrassing mistake.  And then there was the trip to Utah.

That I am not on.

When this trip was scheduled, I was anticipating having a very different list of things on my plate, and I knew that I really couldn’t take the time to go out west with my husband for a long weekend and camping and hunting trip with the family.  A few weeks ago it became obvious that things were changing and that I really did have time to go, but I also knew that plane tickets are pricy, and we really do plan those kinds of things pretty far in advance in order to keep our costs as low as possible.  It was just too late.

Dropping Jeff and a friend off at the airport was feeling a lot like salt being rubbed into the wound that has been 2017, but I am pretty much over that crap.  No, I was not happy about missing out on a chance to see kids, grandkids, in-laws, nieces and nephews.  No, I was not happy about missing out on clear, cool mountain air, campfire smells, dutch oven cooking and more stars than I used to think it was possible to see in one night.  But there are lots of things to love right here in my own backyard.  Lots of things things to counteract salt, and bind up a wound.

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Doughnut Dollies is my most favorite donut shop ever.  It is also 46 miles from my house.  Obviously, I can’t make a trip to Marietta, GA every day or even every week just for my beloved donuts, but I can once in awhile.  We live south of Atlanta, and south of the airport, so I began my trek north for the day.  I went straight to Doughnut Dollies from the airport, and I couldn’t have been happier about it.

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Like I said on Instagram, caramel goes pretty dang well with salt, and even better on a donut, so a salted caramel donut it was.  And an orange gingerbread one for the road.  I know the question begs to be asked, “Why is Doughnut Dollies the best?”  I love their hip, crafty and creative takes on my favorite pastry, and the shop itself is an absolute delight, but really the reason I love them so is the texture.  I love bread.  Soft, fluffy white bread.  These donuts are much more bread-like than most donuts, and I love that the donut itself doesn’t seem to be as sweet as others.  The sweet seems to be more in the add-ons, and I just really like the balance.  (This may also explain why I hate Krispy Kreme donuts, especially when they are hot.  It’s like just eating fried sugar.  Bleh.)  Plus, the peeps that work at Dollie’s are really nice, so that’s always a plus.

From Marietta, I decided to keep heading north.  This weekend is the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay, and Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega.  The weather is beautiful and finally starting to be a little bit cooler and drier, which around here is nothing but good news and puts a lot of people in a good mood and stirs up a desire to head to our version of the mountains.  A lot of people.  Knowing that this weekend is festival weekend up north, I also knew that it meant the apples are in, and it’s time to make applesauce, but I wanted to get up there before the crowds.  So, I plugged in Sybil and headed up the highway.

From the Atlanta area, I just take I-75 north to I-575, and stay on it until it ends and becomes GA-515.  The first apple places you come to in Ellijay are on the right, Panorama and Penland’s.  I have to be honest, I always stop here, but it’s not really usually to buy apples.  My husband’s favorite hot sauce comes from this place, and they don’t take phone orders and they don’t ship.  So I stock up on it, and a few other gift items for the holidays.  I did buy a peck of Arkansas Black, and of course, some apple cider donuts.  They are my second favorites behind Doughnut Dollies.  Every time I go there I am greeted by busloads of seniors headed to Ellijay for the day, and quite honestly, I think that is their biggest clientele.  I don’t have any opinions about Penland’s, as quite honestly I’ve never been there.  I just get what I come for at Panorama, and then move along.

I keep going north on GA-515, then turn right on GA-52.  This is where the majority of the apple markets and farms are located.  There are little bitty, no fuss places like Hudson’s Apple House, and there are larger markets complete with petting farms and hayrides like Hillcrest Orchards, and there are several in between.  It really just depends on what you are looking for.  When my kids were younger, we went to the bigger places more often because there is a bit of tourism and fun about it, but nowadays I really am just going for the apples. I realized on my drive up that it was the first time that I had ever made the drive without my family.  It made me a little sad, but then I gloried in the fact that I could do what I wanted without worrying about this or that, and I got over it quick.  Apparently that’s the name of the game.

I love Hudson’s Apple House.  It might be my favorite stop of all.  It is small, and located in what looks to be an old service station.  The family is lovely, and I always like to visit with them.  There’s no fuss.  Just apples.  And kindness.  I wanted a tart, hard apple, but not just a Granny Smith, so she offered for me to try a Pippin, which was delightful.  If my family and other close friends are reading this post, they are probably laughing at that pic of the partially eaten apple.  I hate biting into food like that because I feel like I get it all over my face and I’m sticky and dirty and need a shower.  But, she wanted me to try it before I bought it, so I did, and I loved it, but I was really glad I had wipes in the car.

My other favorite on Ga-52 is the B.J. Reece Apple House.  It is one of the bigger places, and is a little touristy, but seriously has a really great selection of apples.  I think you can also pick your own here, and they may have hayrides and things like that, but I don’t really pay any attention to it.  I’m just there for some serious apple shopping, a jug of peach cider, and maybe some produce.  I didn’t buy as much as I usually do this year, something I will explain in another post, but I did pick up some Braeburn apples, which I am looking forward to using.

If I had the kids with me, I would have continued on southeast on GA-52 and gone to Burt’s Farm.  I took the kids there many times when they were younger to pick out a pumpkin, or just to take photos with the rows and rows of pumpkins of every size and color.  When they were very small, it wasn’t as well known, and it was easy to park, and there weren’t a lot of crowds to contend with.  It is still gorgeous. and lots of fun, but it is also a popular destination for school field trips, and is often packed with people at this time of year.  I did debate about going over to Amicalola Falls just past Burt’s Farm to climb the stairs by the falls, just to see if I could do it and not feel like I was dying like I did the last time, but I opted for a different route. I still think I might go back up sometime this fall.  I feel those stairs challenging me.

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Instead, where GA-52 takes a sharp left to head towards Burt’s and the falls, I turned right onto GA-183 and followed Sybil’s directions back south and into Atlanta.  When I got to Intown Quilters I shared apple cider donut and apple joy with Sarah and the crew, and they shared fabric and fiber joy with me.  It lifts my spirits so much to be with creative friends and talk about our passions.  I love this shop, and it’s crew.  I never leave there empty handed or without inspiration, and yesterday was no exception.  We laughed and chatted, and even disagreed, and in the end I left with both my hands and my heart filled.  It was a good day.

Even though 2017 and I have been battling it out, I know that in the end I will prevail.  I’m totally watching fireworks on New Year’s Eve this year because while 2017 is going down in flames, I will live on.  This year may have beaten me up a bit, but I’ve lived long enough to know that bruises heal, even the ego type.  It is just a matter of time, and as my husband says, learning how to fall so maybe next time there are no bruises, or at least smaller ones that heal faster.