Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Memorial Quilts

Oh I'm really getting the hang of this blog stuff now... did you notice the new background? Pretty fancy huh? It's the little things in life that amuse me!

While pulling together a few pictures tonight, I couldn't help but notice the number of memorial quilts I have done over the past few years. It started with a pile of my Dad's flannel pajamas that I didn't know what to do with. Like any true quilter, the natural thought was to cut up the material and sew it back together! I did so, therefore creating one of my first quilts.

What you can't see in this picture are the buttons that I pulled off the pajama top and sewed in between the blocks. It's comforting to lay beneath this blanket, and to feel the buttons I know my father touched every night. This is one of Olivia's favorite blankets to cuddle under. I also made a second and third similar blanket for my sister, Linda, and her son, Tommy, shown below. This is such an easy pattern, and I use a fusible grid to make the sewing go by quickly.

In another memorial quilt, I created the one below for my Aunt & Uncle's wedding anniversary. It's made out of my Mom's blouse (who was my Aunt's sister); you can see the yellow blouse material in the squares. I incorporated peach fabric with angels, and my sister Sally, who also quilts, hand quilted a few hearts here and there. Needless to say it was a show-stopper, and it brought my Aunt to tears.

I can't tell you the pleasure it brings me to make quilts that bring such comfort to those who I give them to. In the quilt below, a friend asked me to make this quilt for her husband out of his father's clothes. She gave me a shirt, a beige raincoat (of all things!), and another lightweight blue jacket, that came together to create the following quilt. It's the same pattern as the one above, which again, works well for the purpose. You will see that I included buttons from the shirt on this quilt as well.

I made another quilt for this person out of her mother's blue velvet dress, but I can't seem to find the pictures! Once I locate them, I'll be sure to post. Coincidentally, she had a baby boy the following year and I still had scraps of the blue dress which I incorporated into a baby quilt. I thought it would be nice for the baby to have something of his Grandmothers :o)

Finally, the next memorial quilt is made from pictures rather than clothing. It is for a dear family friend who turned 80, and the pictures were those collected by family throughout the years. It was the first time I incorporated pictures into a quilt, and it was certainly a lot of fun!!

What was really nice is that after she opened the gift (and finished drying her eyes), she walked it around to each table, where friends and family looked at the pictures and reminisced. When you see things like this happen, it makes all of the time and effort worth while.

Well, enough for tonight. The whole time I've been blogging my husband has been sitting on the floor next to me wrapping gifts. Time to go help! Merry Christmas all,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mission Accomplished!!

Wow, did I get a lot done today! Being home sick, I should have been resting, but I'm determined to clean up some of my projects to show progress on this blog. Today I finished up a few items:

1. The first is the gift for my daughter's teacher. I made this candle mat which is so simple and takes less than 2 hours. It came out so nice and I loved the fabric so much, I made a second one for myself!!

I personalize the gift by adding my daughter's picture to the back and have her sign it in permanent ink.

2. The second project I finished was a kit I regretted buying (don't we all have those?) It was a small project but I found out after I bought it that all handwork was required. Anyone who knows me knows that I despise hand sewing. This weakness of mine only heightens my respect for those of you who hand quilt... patience just isn't a virtue I possess. After I bought the kit and realized what I got into, I jumped in feet first. My daughter, Olivia, and I spent quality time cutting out each of the bird's bodies, beaks, wings, and holly leaves. Then I spent the majority of the 5-hour drive from Vermont to Connecticut hand sewing, only to finish the small holly leaves! At that point I realized my sewing machine was going to come into play.

This afternoon I finished the piece, YEARS ahead of when it would have been completed had I stuck it out with hand sewing (it probably would have been a wedding gift to my child who is now 6-years old). I adore cardinals, so needless to say I'm loving this candle mat! I even embellished the bottom with a decorative stitch, and Olivia had fun poking through old buttons looking for the two that were used as the holly berries. I will admit, I did hand sew the buttons on, but briefly considered doing it by machine!!

During the time I was doing all of this, Olivia was right there with me cutting up fabric to use as part of her "scrap quilt." Below is a picture of her proudly displaying her work:

Finally, I thought I'd share a table runner I recently made during the "Christmas Tea" sponsored by my favorite Connecticut quilt shop, The Yankee Quilter (theyankeequilter.com). Every year they host a tea featuring Janet's famous homemade scones and lemon curd, and we sit around, snack, sip and sew. It's always a nice time, and this year we were even treated to a coating of snow.

Well, after my 4-day hiatus from work, it's back to reality tomorrow. Thanks to all who have dropped me a note for your motivation and inspiration; I hope to have more finished projects to showcase in the coming weeks.

Warmly ~ Christine

SNOW DAY! (um... kind of....)

After this weekend's snow we woke up this morning expecting school to be in session. Apart from the otherwise 90-minute delay, we were ready to brave the 14 degree (F), frigid weather and winds, only to find out school was cancelled due to a lack of heat. Since I've been nursing a cold, it seemed like the perfect day to stay in our pj's and relax.

The first thing I wanted to do was log onto this blog... I think I'm hooked already! Thank you to all who have dropped me a note... and to Lisa for spreading the word! It was such a pleasant surprise to find your comments, and I'll look forward to corresponding with each of you in the future.

Last night I went though a few of my books to find a quilt pattern that I can use for my "weight loss quilt". I think I found one! It's called "Charming Baskets" out of the "Simply Charming Two" quiltbook by Moose on the Porch Quilts (http://www.moosequilts.com/) (picture attached). I think this will work out perfectly, as it's a 12-block quilt (one for each month), and each block can be modified to include a different color triangle for the number of pounds lost that month. Again, this is still an "idea in progress", but I feel I'm on the right path. Next week we are scheduled to head to our Vermont cottage, and I'm hoping to visit my favorite quilt store --Knits & Bolts in New Haven, VT -- to check out their fabric. Knits & Bolts always seems to have a great selection, so I'm sure I'll find something that will work! This is the same quilt shop where I picked up the pattern book, as they were offering a class for "Charming Old Maid." All the quilts in this book are made with Charm packs, so it should be fairly hassle free.
As promised, I'm including the All American Beef Stew recipe I made last night. I served it with crescent rolls and it sure was delicious! We enjoyed it in front of a coy fire, which seemed perfect for the first day of winter. Enjoy!!
3 lbs. well-rimmed beef round, cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes
1/2c flour seasoned with salt & pepper (I add onion powder and dried parsley to the flour also)
1/2c vegetable oil
2 large onions, cut into wedges or thick rounds
4 medium-size carrots, cut into 1-inch lengths or diagonal slices
1-1/4 lbs. small red-skinned potatoes, quartered
3 ribs celery, cut into 1-inch lengths or slices
About 4 cups beef broth (I have also used vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Coat meat with seasoned flour and brown in hot oil. Reduce heat to medium low, drain off all but 1 tablespoon pan drippings. Add onions, carriots, potatoes and celery to pot. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until lightly browned. Add broth, tomato paste and mustard, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Bring to a boil. Return browned meat to pot. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour, stirring once. Taste; add additional broth and salt or pepper if necessary. Cover and simmer 1 hour longer, stirring once or twice, until meat is tender and sauce slightly thickened. Makes 8 servings.
Per serving: 279 calories, 36g protein, 17g carbs, 7g fat.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Welcome Winter!

I would have been remiss if I didn't post something about the winter weather we've had here in the East this weekend. Very appropriate given today was the first day of winter! Above is a picture of my two Golden Retrievers out during the height of the storm, which didn't seem to bother them!

The snow started Friday afternoon about 1 pm; schools had cancelled for the day as a precaution, so my husband and daughter lucked out with a snow day. It continued to fall right through early this afternoon, for a total of about 10". It made for great sledding, cooking making, and quilting (of course)... but the snow is gone, along with the weekend, and it's back to reality tomorrow.

My Very First Blog

Hello everyone, I'm new to this whole blogging idea, so please be patient with me! I've been inspired by my friend Lisa, who became addicted to quilting after seeing a finished photo of my quilt "Three Bean Salad". Since then, she's been off and running, putting me to shame and making more quilts than I can count this year! Check out her blog at http://candlelitequilter.blogspot.com/.

Since the holidays are upon us, it's a time to not only look back, but to also look forward and determine where we'd like to go in 2009. Like many of us, my New Year's Resolution will be to lose weight. I threw out an idea to my local quilt shop (that didn't embrace it) to offer a quilt class that would feature a "block of the month" illustrating the number of pounds lost that month. The goal is to have a 12-block quilt featuring monthly blocks that depict the quilters weight loss achievements. By January 2009, not only will I be thinner and healthier, but I'll also have a cozy quilt to cuddle under that will be a culmination of the 12 months of weight loss I have achieved!

This blog will memorialize those efforts, and I invite my fellow quilters to join me!!

Since I don't have a specific pattern picked out, I encourage you to select something that will work well for your particular skill level. Personally, I have been quilting for 3+ years, and will probably do blocks that will allow me to applique items that represent the number of pounds lost that month. For example, perhaps a block that represents 3 birds for 3 lbs. loss -- does that make sense?

As I mentioned earlier, this is going to be a work in progress, but I hope you will join me for the ride. I'm open to your feedback, progress and suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line!

Wishing you a ver Merry Christmas, and all the best for a healthy and prosperous New Year!!