Gramz's Blog

Musings of a crazy quilter

April 2012 - Posts


Well, I figured those fish were all looking at something....


I accepted a challenge offered up by a member our our quilt guild. Using a fat quarter supplied by the guild (everyone uses the same challenge fabric), make a child's quilt based on the theme "Children's Games". The quilts will be judged and ribbons offered in June to the top three. Then all the quilts will be donated to the foster care program in our county.

These are the fabrics I used; the black print is the one issued in the challenge. I found the fishing pole fabric at a resale shop. I have found some amazing buys there. I suppose people are donating their stashes. Lucky for me, I have found some top quality fabrics for around $1 per yard. I spotted the other fabrics on a clearance table at Wal-mart. I chose them because of the bright colors and the way they remind me of something to do with fishing. Little red stars look like fish food. The green looks like bubbles. The red looks like plants swirling in the current. And doesn't the blue look like tangled fishing line?

Aren't the fish cute? I thought a log cabin block done with fussy-cut fishies for the chimney would make an interesting pattern to hold the attention of a youngster.

Solid water-colored sashing separates the blocks.

Here is the finished quilt top. The challenge fabric is used in the inner border. I bordered it and backed it with the fishing pole fabric. I like the way the fishing poles keep my eyes moving around the fish blocks.

Now to quilt it and bind it. Once I had a plan, it went together quickly. I like square quilts, this one will make a nice child's quilt or a lap quilt.

Oh, and the game inspired by this quilt? Go fish!


Here is a picture of the finished band-aid I created to hide the damage I did to the drywall in my bathroom/laundry room. I will sew the sleeve on tomorrow. For now I just pinned it to the wall so I could see what it looks like in its new home.

It all started when I decided to rearrange a few items in the bathroom. This required moving the board with six coat hooks (I find hooks more practical than a towel bar) to a different wall. Unfortunately, when I removed the board, it pulled the paint and part of the new drywall with it. Oh, man, did I goof! I know better than to try to repair the drywall myself because I will make a royal mess of it, so I decided to cover it with a little quilt project until the drywallers return to finish up some details. I figure it is a good excuse to work on the skills that have become rusty.

I have heard other quilters talk about how relaxing it is to do hand work while watching television. So I thought this would be a good project to work on in the evenings.

Someone had given me a copy of the Dec 2010 issue of "American Patchwork & Quilting" and I saw a pretty quilt by Bonnie Olaveson which used the Louisiana block. I cut all the pieces out and started this first block by hand. It was not at all relaxing for me. The next block was done by machine! This is the Louisiana block I did using a scrap of a batik fabric:

It is my first attempt at making flying geese (something I had always avoided as too fussy and wasteful of fabric; I have since changed my mind). I also thought it would be a good opportunity to practice using varied scales and print designs from my stash. I originally intended to make three blocks, but I had trouble eliminating some fabrics so I ended up with four. It was so silly of me to start this project by hand. Machine is definitely the way for me to go!

I took pictures of the finished blocks to help me identify which scales of prints worked best together. The block on the far right is too busy for my taste, but since it uses some favorite fabrics from my stash, I decided to keep it anyway. This block uses fabrics from the quilt I made for my sister:

This block almost didn't get made because I thought it would not work well with the other fabrics. I figured I would make it anyway and probably leave it out of the project, but since it turned out to be my favorite block I decided to leave it in even if it is not as busy as the other three blocks.

My sewing machine had been packed away for nearly a year so I had to get used to using it all over again. Then I decided to dive in and do some FMQ. It certainly isn't perfect, but I still like it.

The back:

I thought the Louisiana block reminded me of butterflies. Since there are butterflies printed on my shower curtain, I thought it would be cute. Turns out there are not so many butterflies in the little quilt, but it sure makes a pretty band-aid. I'll post a pic after I get it bound.


Yesterday as I came out of Wal-Mart I saw a tube of Carmex lying in the parking lot. Uh oh, someone is going to be sorry they lost that, I thought to myself. Then I found myself wondering how it got there. Had some lady dropped it when she took her keys out of her purse? Had it fallen out of a shopping bag? It is a small item, perhaps it had been overlooked when the groceries were being loaded onto the conveyor belt. Or perhaps a little one had picked it up at the checkout counter when mama was busy paying for the groceries and had dropped it on the way to the car. It could be unopened; in that case a perfectly good tube of Carmex would go to waste. Too bad. 

But maybe a child would spot it, pick it up, and put it in his pocket so that, new or used, it would not be wasted.

I had done that once. My family was at an event in a big arena; the kind with lots and lots of seats and each row of seats set a step or two higher than the row in front of it. I don't remember if we were at a circus or a show or a concert, but I think we were there with another family because I remember other kids being there. The event must have been over, because my mom was chatting with friends and we kids moved back behind the grownups to play in some empty seats. That's when I found the lip gloss. It was in a little glass bottle with a screw-on lid and a tiny plastic ball was under the lid so the slick, sticky liquid could be rolled on. It would not be likely that I would find it's rightful owner so I unscrewed the lid. It smelled like strawberries. It tasted like strawberries. It was super shiny. I would look so grown up wearing it. I put it in my purse.

I wonder why my mother never made me throw it away. I didn't keep secrets from her so she must have known where I got it.

That bottle of lip gloss lasted a very, very long time.

As I continued to my car with my cart of groceries I thought to myself how horrified I would be if one of my children or grandchildren tried to pick up that little tube of Carmex lying on the black top. Just think of the diseases that little tube could contain. We have so much more understanding of disease today than we had back then, thank God. Then I imagine the germs that could have been spread by that one innocent-looking shiny bottle I carried for a couple of years in my little zippered purse. I considered how fortunate that I had not caught any diseases from the strawberry lip gloss. Then I wondered if I had caught a disease and just don't know it yet. Don't go there! I warned myself.

The young are so blessed in their ignorance.



The last time I quilted was nearly a year ago. It was June and my youngest daughter was getting married. I had been working on a quilt for her and since money was tight it was a scrappy quilt. I was making progress on a full size quilt when I heard she actually had a queen size bed. No problem; I just added a larger border. I finished the top and I was pinning the layers together on the ping pong table in the basement when I learned she and her fiance had purchased a new king size bed. There was no time to make any further changes before traveling 500 miles to attend the wedding, plus we were in the process of moving to our new home. Out of disappointment and frustration I folded up the quilt top and packed it away along with all my sewing gear.

Immediately after the wedding we packed up our entire house and put everything in a large storage unit. The only things that did not go into storage were two beds, one television and a table to put it on, a love seat, some summer clothing, very basic kitchen ware, microwave, refrigerator, and tools. We also put the lawn mower and lawn tools in the little shed on the new property. The big appliances were packed into the back of our son's bedroom leaving just enough space for his mattress on the floor. Nothing else could go into the new place because the renovation would be too extensive. We put the love seat, our bed, and the television on the enclosed porch which now functioned as our living room and bedroom. My brother-in-law invited us to stay with him for awhile and we did try that, but we missed the privacy that our own home provided even with all the mess. So for nearly a year I've been pretty busy with the house renovation.

Three things have dominated my thoughts these past months: make the house safe to live in, get our stuff out of storage, and find a place to sew. It has been quite a journey, and there is much to do to bring the house up to par, but we are now living in every tiny room in our 750 square foot home. It is cute and cozy. It is also challenging, because each and every project, no matter how small, makes our little house cramped. Piles move from room to room and boxes and bins of items which do not have a permanent home are stashed and stacked about the house. We are getting more and more creative about how to store and protect things. We have learned which items are not critical and so we have learned also to give them up. And nearly everything that comes into the house has to do double duty: it can be pretty but it must also be functional. We have made significant progress and most things have a home now.

So as you can imagine, I have not been able to find the space to quilt.

Suddenly, I hated going to quilt guild meetings. There were so many cool ideas presented and I could not work on a single one. Goodness knows I didn't really need the creative outlet - I have lots of projects going on at the house - but I really did need the fellowship. But getting time to get away became burdensome because I was just plain exhausted. I even stayed away from QCA for a time.

I have studied the problem of needing an area

in which to sew and have tried to work out many solutions, but it seems the only place to set up my sewing machine is on the enclosed porch. There is plenty of light because there are lots of windows. But those windows are 100 years old and are drafty (but I still love them and their wavy, bubbled, cheerfulness. That room had never been insulated, so it was C-O-L-D! I have plans to insulated it and to install storm windows and a storm door, but other projects are more important at the moment. (Can you say "new furnace?") But, thanks to the unusually fine weather this spring, I have been able to work through the bins and boxes stored on the porch and arrange a little space for my sewing machine and ironing board. So three days ago I started sewing! Yay!

I even helped out at our guild's biennial quilt show (which was amazing!) and I went to our most recent guild meeting. Some ladies there make comfort quilts for children in the foster care system and they issued a challenge: make a quilt with the theme of "Children's Games" using a fat quarter of printed black fabric. What perfect timing! I can do that now! So I just completed my first quilt top in nearly a year; I call it "Go Fish". it is pictured below in my new "studio" on the porch of our home.

It is so good to be back!

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We recently celebrated our anniversary. Since we are still working our way past some financially lean times, I thought the small gifts we had exchanged had been appropriate and satisfactory. Apparently, my DH did not.

I am one of those people who doesn't really like surprises. I often do the shopping for the Christmas gifts intended for me and give them to my kids to give to me. That way I know I am getting exactly what I want and that they didn't spend too much. It isn't that I am a control freak, but rather it is related to my desire to plan everything. I am tormented by thoughts like: What if it is the wrong color? What if is too small? Will I have to wear it anyway even if I look like I was stuffed into a sausage casing? What if I don't like it? I think people's feelings might be hurt if I have to return an item to the store. I realize this character trait is confusing to gift givers. It is with great shame that I recall the situation in which a family friend purchased and returned several times a wedding gift for us because she overheard my anxiety about the bedroom I had not seen. My face still warms when I think of how ill mannered I must have been.

In an ideal world, the people who care about me should know me well enough to know what I would like, but I have learned that depending on people - especially my DH - to pick up on hints is impossible; I just have to flat out tell him what I would like to have. It is just one of those things I have learned after living with him for 27 years. If I don't give him a list of things I might like to have, he might get me something he would like to have. Sometimes he still doesn't get it and I have actually had a friend hand him an ad with the Kitchen Aid mizer I had asked for for several years. Because I worry that I might make the same mistake,  I also ask him for specifics about gift choices for him. I know from experience that whatever I buy for him will likely be returned even if it is exactly what he asked for so I have found it to be much simpler to take him out and let him pick out what he wants. When he selects it himself, it is less likely to be returned. If he tells me he is looking for a tool, it is so much easier to let him pick it out - and much quicker, too since he can head straight for it at the store while I would be wandering in search of it.

I also am uncomfortable with big ticket purchases for me. I can always think of so many things that are needed that should take precedence over whatever I might want. But one of the things I like best about my DH is that he is generous. So I sometimes have to let him make a big purchase for me. Years ago, the prongs on my engagement ring had worn out and I had lost the diamond in it. My DH had replaced it once before, but we had not realized that the prongs were so worn that the new diamond also fell out. I was devastated to have lost not one but two diamonds and I had resigned myself to the fact that I just didn't deserve one since I couldn't care for it adequately. But five years ago, my DH surprised me with a brand new ring. I was embarrassed by the size of the diamond, but I didn't want to hurt his feelings so I showed it off to everyone as if he had fulfilled my greatest desire by buying me that ring. I am used to the ring now (after having worked out for months just to support the added weight on my left hand), but I think I would have felt a little better about it had I been involved in it's selection. See what I mean? I just can't feel good about  such a wonderful gift, but my DH is such a generous kind of guy that I had to allow it.

Besides, if someone gives and expensive gift I feel like I should give as nice a gift in return. But sometimes finances don't allow it.

So what was it that my DH bought me that has me running mental circles now? A bike. Yep. A fancy hybrid (the kind that is somewhere between a racing bike and a mountain bike - not the kind that uses alternative fuel although that would have been preferable to the traditional power produced by my weary legs) with all the bells (literally) and whistles (figuratively) that I am not used to: 21 speeds, aluminum frame, hand brakes, cushy seat, and a huge wicker basket on the front.

A few months ago he had purchased an identical one (man's version) for himself and I was pretty ticked off that he spent that much money on himself without discussing it first. Then I found myself just a tiny bit jealous that he could take off on it by himself because there was no way my little old one speed could keep up. On the other hand, I didn't know if I could keep up anyway since he is in much better physical condition than I. He offered to buy me one, but I just wouldn't spend the money on something I feared I might not use much. But I did start to do a little research to determine if I should eventually get one, imagining what color, what style, what size I would need.

When DH surprised me with the bike, I experience the gamut of emotions. Guilt that he spent so much money on me when the family has other needs. Anger that he was telling me I am fat and out of shape (which I am). Wonder that maybe he wants to have me for company on his long rides. Disappointment that I did not get to pick it out (and since I suspect it was special ordered I dare not complain). Fear that I would not be able to keep up. Worry that allergies and weather would keep me from riding. Terror that my DH would pick up on one of these emotions and presume that I am ungrateful.

Dang! I'm outright neurotic!

I'll just have to hop on the bike and take it for a spin.

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DS: I think I heard a mocking bird in our yard.

Me: Really?

DS: Yeah. What does a mocking bird sound like?

Me: Good question. I'm not really sure. I think they ... (he interrupts)

DS: Wait! Maybe it was a knocking bird. Is it "mocking bird" or "knocking bird"?

Me: Well, what did it sound like?

DS demonstrates by tapping rhythmically on the dashboard.

Me: I think you mean "woodpecker"!

We emptied our storage unit today.


It has been quite a process. Two years ago, my husband started a new job in Indiana – 500 miles from our home in Missouri. At the time, we had a beautiful four bedroom, two bath, 2,000 + square foot house in a five year old subdivision on the outskirts of town, two children at home, a pool, a home office, and one dog. We had both been unemployed for some time, so when this job became available it was a huge answer to prayer.


For six months I sweated it out, mostly alone, since I had to remain behind to settle our affairs and prepare for the move. In my mind, hubby had the easy job. All he had to do was live in his sister’s basement, go to work, and look for us a place to live. I, on the other hand, had to deal with a rebellious teenager who during that time decided to move in with her boyfriend and subsequently got pregnant, console the youngest child who would be leaving behind the only neighborhood he had ever known, and pack up the house. I would have traded places with him on any day.


Now, I did not do it all entirely alone. One day a man from church came by and moved some packed boxes to the garage for me because I had injured my back; I really needed the room to continue the packing process. Another day, my oldest daughter and her boyfriend emptied everything out of the attic. And then there was the fun day when ladies from church came over to help me pack up the kitchen. And yet other friends disassembled the 24-foot pool and packed it up for the move. I could never have accomplished it all without their help.


During those six months, hubby would come home on an occasional weekend (eight hours driving in each direction!) to help out. There was the weekend we emptied out the crawl space and discovered boxes that had never been unpacked from the previous move. Unfortunately, much of what was stored down there had mildewed. So we rented a dumpster and as we hauled boxes into the yard from the attic, the crawl space, and the garage, we tossed the mildewed items into the dumpster and sorted everything else out for a yard sale. Boy, that is the biggest yard sale we ever had! Because we had household items from every room in the house I am convinced we had the best selection of all in the neighborhood yard sale. I had no idea we had collected so much stuff! At the end of the sale, we donated every leftover item to charity – and that was still a sizeable pile of stuff.


It was surprisingly freeing to be rid of all those items, but yet I still had to pare down our belongings because everything we would take with us to Indiana would have to fit in one car and one 26-foot rented moving truck. There were more difficult moments to come.


We had decided on three possible towns we wanted to live in, with two of them being higher on the wish list. When in the spring hubby found us a three-bedroom rental in one of our preferred towns, we were elated. Knowing he would want to move in as soon as possible, I arranged with the rental agency to have the house ready for us to sleep in the night I would arrive and to sign papers the following afternoon. I strategically planned the items I would pack so he would have all the necessities to set up housekeeping. I packed everything he would need into the minivan and I hit the road. I completely trusted my husband’s selection of a home for us. The rent was a bit high for the neighborhood, but it was a rent-to-own deal so I knew it would be worth the effort to make any improvements. We had planned to sleep on mattresses on the floor that first night, but the furnace wasn’t working so we slept in his sister’s basement. The next day while he was at work I was at the rental and I started assembling the basic furniture I brought and imagined where everything would go in the house. I was surprised and ashamed of the disappointment I felt about the condition of the house. I had always said that you can make any house a home just by putting your own belongings in it and here I was being put to the test. I was determined to stand by my word. As the day warmed I noticed an unpleasant odor that got stronger as the day went on. By the time hubby got off work I had identified the source of the smell that by this time was irritating my sinuses and my lungs: the carpets smelled like cats. I am allergic to cats.


No problem, we thought. We’ll just take up the carpets, refinish those pretty hardwood floors and it will all be good. But the realtor did not go for that idea. She said she would not tear out $2,000 worth of perfectly good carpet. She was angry with me because I had assured her on the phone that I completely trusted my husband’s judgment and she had turned down another renter because of my agreement to rent the place sight unseen. I was miserable. Thankfully, hubby’s sister let us store all that stuff in her basement until we found another place. So I returned to Missouri and the house stacked with boxes to wait.


My very pregnant daughter dropped out of school and decided to move with her boyfriend to another city; he had taken a different job so that he could have insurance for her and the baby. They moved the day before we did. I had kept all her bedroom furniture for her and they came by to tie it all on top of their belongings that were loaded onto his pickup truck. It grieved me immensely to be leaving my girls behind, but it seemed to me worse because they would be separated by many miles from each other and would not be find comfort in each other’s presence. I felt this whole experience would either break us, or teach us all more self-reliance.


One of the best decisions we made during the whole moving process was to hire professional movers to pack the truck. They were worth every penny. They had the whole house packed up lickety-split, they used their young backs rather than our ageing ones, and they didn’t have a single argument as I am sure we would have!


Eventually, my hubby found the perfect rental for us in the town that was at the top of my list. The price was lower and the house was in much better condition than that other house, so I guess the Lord knew what He was doing. We settled our son into his new school as we settled into our new hometown. Hubby and I were so happy to be living together again! The only thing we missed was having the complete autonomy that comes with home ownership; we never felt like it was a permanent home.


So this is the part where I tell you about the ugly little house we bought not quite a year ago. I have talked about it in earlier blogs. It is very, very tiny. It feels more so when you live with a man who has long, gorilla-like arms that seem to bump into things even in a very large room. The house was in such rough shape, that we packed up everything except our beds, a tv, a loveseat, and the patio furniture, and moved it all into a 10x30 storage unit. It was kind of like packing it all back into the moving truck. Thankfully, I had saved all the moving boxes. We lived on the porch of the house for several months while we did the renovations. Once the drywall was complete (and we had exhausted our strength), we laid sheets of vinyl flooring and carpeting, moved the main pieces of furniture in, and decided to just live here for the winter months. Meanwhile, I would go to the storage unit from time to time and bring home a carload of things to put away. Those boxes and bags full of our belongings would stay piled in corners until I found a place to put them away or decided to get rid of them. Once the house felt normal again, I would return to the storage unit for another load.


We still do not have a climate-controlled space – or even a garage – to absorb any overflow. The shed contains the lawnmower and bicycles and the attic holds the Christmas decorations. Other than that, we have gotten creative with storage solutions or have simply gotten rid of it all.


Today, we emptied the storage unit. Surprisingly, I have been able to find a home for most items (even if not in my home). There are a couple of those plastic bins stacked in one closet and some on the enclosed porch. I will not be able to reduce the contents of those bins right away, but at some point I will be able to let more of their contents go. The important thing is that somehow I have survived the culling process (there is probably a good sermon illustration in there somewhere). More importantly, we are able to live in our smaller, but comfortable space without feeling responsible for so much stuff. With that storage unit empty, I am free to concentrate on a multitude of unfinished projects. Maybe even start a quilt.

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Tomorrow, my Love and I will celebrate 27 years of marriage. There have been many blissful moments as well as tearful ones, but our love has endured them all. A facebook friend asked me to tell our wedding story. Since I already shared it there, I thought I would share it with my blog friends as well.

During our engagement, my fiance and I lived several hundred miles apart so we were anxious to firm up the arrangements whenever we could be together. Back then we weren't aware of any tools to help plan marriage ceremonies. If computers and the web had been available back then, we would not have experienced the crazy mix-up that was to come.

On one of his trips to my hometown, I think it was in January, we went to the courthouse to get our marriage license. I remember it well because the ladies there were so friendly. When they asked the date of the wedding, I told them April 6. We did all the paperwork and received congratulations from all the nice people in that office. We were reminded to return the paperwork within 30 days. It felt good to be able to do something together in preparation for the big event.

On the day of the wedding, everything went according to plan. We started a few minutes late, the cake wasn't pure white, and I hadn't completed all the flower arrangements, but otherwise everything was perfect. After the reception we headed for our honeymoon in a city about two hours away. When we arrived at the hotel in our wedding attire, we learned that someone had cancelled our reservations. The hotel manager was quick to remedy the situation and gave us a lovely room and left special gifts for us. The first or second night at the hotel we ordered pizza in our room; after the first delivery, a second call came in for a pizza delivery that turned out to be some of our male college friends playing a trick on us. They never made it up to our room, thankfully!

A few days later we were settling nicely into our little church parsonage and I had fun arranging all our lovely gifts. On the Thursday following the wedding, we had our first argument which we quickly patched up. I can't even recall what we argued about, but immediately afterward we received a call from the minister who officiated at our wedding. The pastor and I were friends; we had grown up together in that congregation and I had even done my ministerial internship under his leadership, but it was still odd that he would call.

 "So, how's married life?" he asked.

I think I responded with something like, "Just fine." I was curious about his call and thought maybe he was calling just to tease us.

"Well, I'm sorry to say that you're not."

"Not what?"

"Not married."

Now I was really confused. He started to explain. He had turned in the license to the courthouse as expected. The problem was, it hadn't been turned in within the required 30 days.

But it HAD, I thought. It hadn't even been a week yet.

Turns out, that paperwork has to be turned it within 30 days of when you APPLY for marriage license. Since I had told the clerk our wedding date, I naturally assumed she meant 30 days after the wedding.

So, there we were, living in the church parsonage and we weren't legally married! We were in utter shock! At that point I must admit I felt quite insecure. What if my groom decided he didn’t want to be married to me at all? But he assured me that he still wanted to be married.

Since the state we lived in required a three day waiting period and blood work to approve a marriage license, and since the announcement would be in the local paper, we decided we had better head back to Kentucky to get another license and have the same minister do the wedding again.

I called my parents to explain the situation and to ask if we could stay the night with them. We quickly packed and were on the road. When we arrived at my parent's house, they both met us at the door. If you knew my dad well, you would realize he rarely answers the door so it was surprising to see him standing there. They had discussed our situation at length and decided that in the eyes of God we were already married so they were going to allow us to sleep in the same bed together that night. I hadn't even thought of that! Of course, we kept to our own sides of the bed that night because my parents’ bedroom was directly below ours!

The next day was Friday, and we immediately applied for and received our new marriage license. The clerks were sweet and apologetic. I think they said this is the first time this situation had occurred. Then on to the church where we were married again, this time I wore navy rather than white. My maid of honor was still available, but my mother signed in place of the best man.

We were very quiet about it at first, because we did not want to cause a problem for our little church where my husband was the pastor. But our district presbyter thought the story was hilarious and he liked to introduce us by telling people that we lived together before we were married.

Now it is just a funny story. I understand that minister now warns couples not to make the same mistake. The fun advantage is that we have two anniversaries to celebrate so we can pick the date that is most convenient for work and family schedules. But I always have to remind myself to write down the legal date when asked; I still view the first date as the real one.