Monday, January 31, 2011

If It's the Last Day of the Month, Then I Must Have an OPAM Finish (and other good things)

Tah da!

Okay, so it looks a lot like my Fall Letty's Bag, but it is a Valentine's batik, and it's got little heart and orange/ black and red....totally different bag. I should probably find a new bag pattern.

But most importantly, it's an official OPAM (One Project A Month ...see sidebar) finish for January. Granted, it's not one of the projects I started 3 weeks ago and haven't finished, but a finish is a finish.

While the dog is still broke...though he's soldiering through  (could be he's just getting old, like the rest of us, and feeling a tad arthritic...we'll keep an eye on him, thanks to my sister, I'm washing my third load of clothes tonight. She phoned in the brilliant suggestion to unplug the washer and start over. That did the trick. No more F20 error 10 minutes into a load. I'll have to phone the repair people first thing in the morning to cancel the call. You're the woman, Sandy!

The ice storm cometh. The Federal government told their employees this afternoon that they could telework tomorrow or take unscheduled leave, and they have a 2-hour delay. I telework on Tuesday anyway, and it's been determined that if you telework, you don't get a 2-hour delay, or an early dismissal, since you haven't left your house to begin with. Oh well, that was fun while it lasted.

Speaking of fun, now that the pressure is off to finish for January, I'm going to sign off here and get started quilting the Checkerboard Hearts table quilt.

You followers still have time to get another comment in for another entry for the yard of Monet's Countryside. Good luck. I'll check back tomorrow morning and pick a winner.

If you're in the path of the winter storms, stay safe. If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, try to stay cool (and think about trading places with me). Wherever you sure to start off the new month doing something you love.

If It Wasn't for Bad Luck....Wouldn't Have No Luck At All

Well, 2012 2011 is certainly starting off on a sour note. I'm hoping that tomorrow ends the month of everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

So, last Sunday, the stove breaks. New stove, sweet. The day after the stove is installed, the washer breaks. Great! We've got a service call scheduled for Tuesday, which, coincidentally, is the day that a major ice storm is scheduled to slam us. Perfect! There will be no new washer, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he's able to fix this one in one service call. (Or I'll have to enlist my daughter to laundress duty--like that's gonna happen).

Yesterday the dog started having some kind of problems with a leg. He fell off the bed, he fell off the couch. But, he was well enough to get into our houseguest's bag and eat a mess of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and then in the guestroom wastebasket where I think he might have helped himself to some used contact lenses. Tonight the hubs carries him up the steps and says "I think something is seriously wrong with him". Wonderful. Exactly when I'm supposed to get him to a vet between washer repair and ice storm and work is problematic. He's eating, so I think he's just going to have a little crate-cation tomorrow and we'll see what happens.

We had houseguests Thursday night and Friday night (their power was out due to the fact that it snowed). Fortunately we had an extra set of sheets for the guest bed (remember, the washer has broke), because a new set of houseguests moved in Saturday night. The hubs took them to the airport this morning.

I've been fighting with my sewing machine this evening...apparently a little thread gremlin has set up in my studio and keeps breaking my thread. It had better not be a machine problem, but it's not looking good as it's Presencia thread and a new needle. Shoot me now.

Oh, and while the hubs is carrying the dog upstairs he informs me that he has broken the lid to the 'cookie' jar. The Radko Las Vegas cookie jar flashes before my eyes, but what he means is the Polish pottery dog treat jar, the one that I looked for for years until I found one the perfect size. Good grief! What next?

In the meantime, I've started yet another project:

And this month's Follower Appreciation Giveaway prize is:

A little something to take your winter blues away. It's a yard of Monet's Countryside Fabric by Fabri-Quilt.

One more day to comment, and as long as the roof doesn't cave in, the computer crash, the refrigerator head south, I'll post the winner on Tuesday (assuming we don't lose our power in the ice storm).

Check back tomorrow to see if I managed to complete the project I started tonight. Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Am SnOw Over This Already (and it's just begun)

Oh jeez! It's our first  major snow. And what an opportune time it chose to drop 10 inches of wet white stuff in my driveway and up the street....the night before the new stove is supposed to be delivered. Just great!

 You wouldn't know that there's a step down from the doorway. Heck, I was lucky to get the door opened.

That is not a bush, it's a birch that is was 2-stories tall. We went out after dinner with brooms and soaked ourselves beating and brushing the wet, heavy snow off the trees before they all broke. We weren't so lucky with the Redbud in the back yard, a large branch of that is cracked and will need to be removed. While we were cleaning off the trees and bushes, we could hear the trees snapping up and down the street. So sad.

It took the hubs an hour and a half to get home from work...usually a 15-20 minute commute, and then it took him another 20 minutes to get up the driveway. I got the dreaded call to come down to the car and steer while he pushed. My blood pressure skyrocketed to about 176, and I lasted about 2 minutes, hyperventilating and getting the car nowhere until we finally changed places and were able to get the car into the garage with him driving and me pushing (a little).

Once inside, regardless of the fact that it's a weeknight, I flew into action with the juicer and a bag of blood oranges (aren't they pretty?)

Yep, it became Blood Orange Martini night. They were delish! Wanna make your own?
1 cup citrus flavored vodka (I use Skyy)
1/2 cup fresh squeezed blood orange juice
4 tbsp simple syrup
Fill a large shaker with ice and shake it like a Polaroid
I saved one of the oranges and sliced it to use the slices as garnish on the glasses. I would have dipped the rims in sugar, but the drink was sweet enough without needing any extra.
Yum!! (And potent)
The measures above will make about 4 drinks (depending on the size of your martini glasses)

Since I wasn't sure the new stove truck would actually make it into the neighborhood tomorrow, earlier today I picked up what I needed for two more stoveless meals....Foreman fajitas and a tolerable chicken casserole made in the Crockpot. The Foreman worked well for grilling peppers/onions/mushrooms and then the thin steaks. We had a bag of microwave Steamfresh rice and veggies. I was feeling really good about my creativity, had just wet the paper towels to put the burritos in between and was opening the microwave door when the power went off. Can you say 'Oh Shit!'.

After a minute it clicked back on and we made a mad dash tossing the burritos in and setting the table and finding the condiments in the fridge while we still had electric. Fortunately, it stayed on and has only flickered on and off about 3 times (I'm glad the new electronic stove didn't come today)

Our electric company, Pepco (Pirate Electric Power Co.) is one of the worst in the country. It's like living in a Third World country in the D.C. suburbs. Any little storm can knock your power out for days. We pay an exorbitant amount of money for service, yet no one (including the Public Service Commission) has been able to figure out what the heck they're doing with the money they're getting. They sure aren't using it to bury lines or update equipment, which is why it's likely we'll lose power sometime tonight for God knows how long. All that heavy snow brings the trees down on those above ground lines. (And you ask why I hate snow so much.)

Okay, I'll concede...there is one redeeming factor about this much snow, and that is that we'll likely have a snow day tomorrow. I telecommute anyway, so I wasn't going out in it, but it would be nice to have a free day to play in the studio. Must remember to turn  these jammies inside out before I go to bed.

Lastly, I am logging my first 2011 OPAM finish. I have completed prepping the 52 applique pieces for the next block in Aunt Millie's Garden...the hand applique project I take with me when I travel.  It takes a lot of time to trace, cut, starch, and iron for each block, so I think it can count as a project.

Tomorrow I hope to add another finish to the January list, and that would be the machine applique on the Fiesta block.
Check back tomorrow (assuming we have electricity) to see the prize for the January Follower Appreciation Giveaway. Stay warm, stay safe, stay sane...oh, and say a little prayer for an early Spring :)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Send in the interventioners (and ask them to bring along a stove)

because I've officially crossed the line and added one more project to the pile to be finished this month.

Yesterday I took a free motion quilting class called 'Slow, Speed Bumps Ahead'. It's the first in a series of three classes designed to teach you some of the basics of heirloom machine quilting. It was a great class, and I've got a lot of work as well as needles and thread to burn through to finish this 18" square wallhanging.
I'll show you how it turns out once it's finished.

In a show of jealous rage, the stove offed herself this morning. I'm awakened by the hubs at 8:30 (give me a break, we were at a neighborhood party last night doing karaoke----apparently there was enough alcohol in the house to get me up there) and he just wants to admonish me... "You had to stop and look at stoves in Sears the other day, didn't you. The stove is dead. "

Now, we all know the hubs. He's somewhat tech-challenged. Could be he's got the simmer select button on, or he forgot to hit the start button. So I roll over and go back to sleep for another hour before I come downstairs. The McDonalds bag on the counter (containing the cold bacon, egg and cheese bagel) is the tip off that maybe this is serious.

He had preheated the oven and was making muffin batter when he heard this kind of pop noise. He turned around and saw no lights on the stove's display, so he checked the fusebox, flipped the breaker, came upstairs and was pushing buttons when the door on it locked. Now he's scared that it's heating itself up to 550 degrees and we're all going to die, so he goes back to the basement and flips the breaker off, noting the official time of death as 8:26.

Now I've got to find a replacement, and it's going to take me a few days to figure that out, so it will likely be a week of Foreman grill and microwave meals (yum-o!). I've got to heat water in the microwave for tea and coffee.  

I went out and looked at LGs today, and then came home to find bad reviews on this brand, in general, so now I've got to start over looking at other brands. And I upscaled the old one...I'd like a convection oven, and I'd also like a double oven..neither of which comes cheap.

It was just one more thing to add insult to injury...the electric bill came last week, and it was $525. The sting of that wasn't so painful when I found out my neighbor's was $570, and we both felt a whole lot better when we heard the guy across the street say that his was $740 (he has 1 teen and 4 moved back home after college girls--yikes!)

Gotta love our electric company, Pepco (Pirates Electric Power Co). While they can't keep the power on in a storm, they've got screwing their customers down to a science. As for the elderly, low income and fixed income households they serve...not to worry, they'll set them up with high-interest payment plans so they can spread this bill across a few months. Bad news is it's 10 degrees out, so next months' bill is likely to be the same. Now that's going to cramp my Florida quilt shop hopping next month. Bummer!

Eight weeks ago I made reservations for Sunday night at Volt (Michael Voltaggio...runner up on Top Chef) to surprise the hubs for his birthday. Suffice it to say that neither of us thought it was a good idea to drop a buck and  a half on dinner tonight, in light of the recent household bleeding expenses, so the Foreman went into duty...chicken caesar salad.

I'm falling asleep here, so I'm out.

Have a quilty Monday!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Project Short of an Intervention

I'm treading on some seriously dangerous ground here this week. I've begun yet another project without completing the others I've started. I do this a lot, not just in quilting. I'll be emptying the dishwasher and decide that the Tupperware cabinet needs a total re-org, and off I go.

Clearly the applique bug bit this week, and fortunately it reminded me that I'm heading to Florida in a couple weeks and have not restocked my in flight project carry on.

This is what accompanies me on all trips:
It's my tricked out Omnigrid zip case, and it's fully loaded for hours of hand applique fun.

This is what came out of it on our last trip to Florida in November:

I'm honing my hand applique skills on Piece of Cake Designs' Aunt Millie's Garden.

So last night, instead of stitching down the Fiesta motifs, or  making a Checkerboard Hearts sandwich, or whipping out a Valentine's version of a Letty's Bag (I could go on, but I think you get the point), I was up until 3 a.m. with this:

I traced my current block onto freezer paper and cut it all out, neatly, and on the lines. And I even remembered to use the light box so I could do the right thing and trace the pattern from the backside. (oooh....I am getting good!)

And then I flipped it over to the right side and traced it on my background fabric.
And I did this with my trusty, sharp, #2 pencil. Trace just inside the lines, and you'll cover it with the applique pieces and don't have to worry about 'erasing' something.

Today, the fun begins. It's time to iron all those little freezer paper pieces to our fabric.

The best thing about freezer paper applique is that when you iron them to the wrong (right) side of the fabric, you can just peel them up.

And iron them to the right (wrong) side of your fabric. (Which I did more than once, by the way.)

Once everything is pressed to the fabric, you cut around each piece and leave just shy of a quarter inch all around, which you are going to iron under.

Now the fun really begins.....

Gently spray a bunch of spray starch into the cap of the can. (It'll be all foamy at first, but it will settle down into liquid). You're going to use this to brush on the edges around your freezer paper template.

Don't be afraid to saturate the fabric, and it's okay if the freezer paper gets can take it. You're going to iron it dry momentarily. You want the fabric wet so that it's pliable.

As you turn the wet fabric over the edge of the freezer paper, run your iron along it to crease it down.

If you don't like what you've done, wet it again with the spray starch and start over. I never worry much about the 'points' as I'll adjust them when I'm sewing the piece to the background. But a good way to iron them is to first fold your point straight down from the top and then in from the sides (think napkin folding).

Once I've got them, I'll pin the groups of each type together (or if you do a whole motif at a time, pin the parts needed for each together). I work by piece, across the background so I don't have to change thread colors as often. When you're ready to sew it on, remove the freezer paper. Keeping the paper inside it until you use it helps it keep its shape.
I also keep them in a small, zip bag. I can see what I have, and there's no danger of losing a little piece (though there's always the danger of losing EVERYTHING that way.) Very conducive to sitting next to that person on the plane who feels the need to visit the bathroom every 10 minutes, requiring you to pack it all up, secure your tray table, and refrain from asking them why they didn't heed their mother's instruction to potty before they left the house.

I highly recommend this Omnigrid case for your applique. One of the best things about it is that it's unpretentious, unassuming, professional, not too large, and has a shoulder strap. To cut to the chase, it's something you can ask your hubs to take on the plane as his 'personal item' (aka ManPurse), when you've already got your own purse, and the big Vera Bradley tote bag that's stuffed with all the stuff you don't want to disappear out of your luggage, or can't live without when you arrive and your luggage does not.

More on travel projects tomorrow. I've still got 32 pieces of applique that need to be starched, turned and pressed before I go to bed. And the sooner I put my PJs on inside-out and hit the sack, the closer we are to knowing if we get a snow day tomorrow (highly unlikely, but what the heck).

Sweet dreams of applique and quilting to all!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Today I Faced My Procrastination Demons.....and Beat The Crap Out Of Them

Either the Wonder Under Fairies dropped in on their way to West Palm or yours truly was busy last night. All the fusible needed for the first block of Fiesta was cut and waiting this morning.

Having learned my lesson while trying to quilt the woven mess created earlier this month, I cut the centers out of most of my pieces...the less plastic, fusible, stiffy mess, the better This quilt is going on my bed when it's done, and I don't really want to feel like we're sleeping under newspapers and cardboard.

So, the big excitement of the morning came when I looked outside and realized that even though it was a telework day, there was also a 2-hour delay tacked onto that (we don't do ice very well outside the Nation's Capital), so I now had two carefree hours to spend in the studio (gee....not too long ago I'd have been excited to have those two hours to catch up some laundry, or scrub some, how our priorities change as we get older.)

Let's press those little Wonder Under buggers to fabric...oh wait...aren't those supposed to be ironed to the WRONG side of the fabric?  Rewind!

Learning from our mistakes (considering that it might be a little tough to cut the pieces out of the fabric without any good dark pencil lines to cut along), I cut these a little larger, rather than cutting them on the lines.

 And once that was done, I again cut out the centers.

And pressed them to the right (wrong) side of the fabric this time.

And then, a few pieces later, I got carried away and AGAIN ironed to the wrong (in this case, right) side of the fabric. Oopsies!! So much for learning from our mistakes.

But eventually, everything was fused and cut and waiting to come together...all 55 pieces.

So now, we need to cut and tape together our 18.5" block template.

And I didn't take an applique class for nothing (though if I recall, it was one that was the morning after a particularly raucous Happy Night with the neighborhood ladies, so it's a wonder I remembered anything at all from that class. The art quilt from that class...a poppy pretty much taking up shelf space in the closet, and likely will continue to do so.)

Now, here's the acid test. We all know that Wonder Under and I are like oil and water, so I'm totally expecting that this paper isn't going to just peel off. I'm going to have to use some combination of pin pricks, tweezers, re-ironing, swearing, scraping.

Miraculously, the paper peels away and we can start to adhere the fused pieces to the non-stick pressing sheet.

I figured that all this fusing was a job for the cheapie little Rowenta travel iron. No sense gumming up the Oliso, because we just know that at some point I'm going to iron one to the iron instead of the non-stick sheet. It's a given.

The gods must be crazy, or I have been a very, very good girl lately, because the Wonder Under was being it's submissive little self for me today, and was nothing but cooperative.
 One piece down, so we now lay on the next piece that overlaps the red heart ever so slightly.

And we cross our fingers and press--only the parts we want to adhere to each other--makes it easier to peel up if it's not all pressed to the sheet.

After it's cooled, we can carefully peel it away from the pressing sheet.

A quick check to be sure it's all stuck together like it should be.

 Wah La! Perfecto! Moving on.

Save the sections with LOTS of pieces for last. It's good to practice creating the larger motifs with fewer pieces before you tackle the more difficult ones.

 But they do all come together in the end.

If you take your backing fabric and fold it every which way and iron in some creases, if you've got a great pattern (and Sindy Rodenmayer does great patterns), it will have those fold lines on it so it makes an easy guide for laying your motifs out on the block. A little measuring, a little eyeballing, a little backing up and viewing from 5 feet away, and you'll eventually wind up with this:

After which, you should seriously consider telling the hubs he's taking you out to Rio Grande for dinner and a celebratory margarita (rocks/salt).

All we need to do now is figure out stitch and thread to be used to further secure the motifs to the backing and we can file this one away until 2012, when the rest of the project is complete.

It's not too late to jump on this project yourself. You can get all the info you need if you click the Fiesta icon at the top of my left sidebar. I'd love for you to join me.