Monday, December 30, 2013

review: The Summoner/Chronicles of the Necromancer

Many of my best recent reads have come as suggestions from coworkers. (Thank goodness for good coworkers!) My fall into The Name of the Wind followed several months of cajoling by a near neighbour. When he left for greener pastures, I was a little upset to have lost my favourite sci fi/fantasy reading friend. Luckily, one of the guys down the hall made it quickly clear that we were destined to be reading buddies.

After bonding over reading the Night Angel series at the same time, a pile of six books was promptly placed on my desk and it was mandated that I must read these. And well, when someone wants to give me a few weeks of reading material and it's all in my favourite genre, how can I complain? So began my decent into Gail Z Martin's Chronicles of the Necromancer, starting with Book One: The Summoner.

These books have the medieval fantasy world, they have the intrigues of royal courts and politics, they have magic and fantasy and pseudo-vampires and -werewolves. It follows a group of young nobles, centred around Martris "Tris" Drayke, second son of the King of Margolan. His brother, Jared, is power hungry, greedy, arrogant and dangerous, determined to take the world down as he chases his ambitions of power and glory.

The story unfolds quickly after the death of the king, with Tris suddenly on the run in fear of his life, suddenly desperate to claim a throne he never wanted to save his people from his brother's cruelty. He's joined on his journey by an appropriately motley band of characters including the mandatory childhood friends, rough men picked up along the way and the serendipity of immediate and powerful allies joining his fight.

Martin moves the plot along quickly, and it's easy to get swept along with the story. There's plenty of opportunity for good old sword and sorcery action to take place, and many different subplots to focus on. The characters are well written and rounded, and easy enough to follow and (my big thing) believable. Minor characters are given enough flavour to seem realistic, and as the books progress the women are just as much part of the action as the men.

Books one and two tell a pretty distinct story, and it could have easily ended there. Book three and four are another clear pair within the series, and I've only recently cracked book four. The third book is an oddball in the set: the original conflict is resolved, and now suddenly although we know the setting and the characters Martin has to set up all new plots again and it takes time to get moving. It got a little bit bogged down both recapping the old story and setting the stage for the new one and it's fair to say the first half was a slog. By the end, though, I couldn't wait to get into book four.

Once I finished the Chronicles of the Necromancer series I quickly dipped into the pair of books that follow: the Sworn and the Dread, which tell a distinct story about two years down the line. If anything, these two books were better than the first four. So, if you're into action, fantasy and believable characters? This might be your thing.

Friday, December 27, 2013

quilt blocks complete!


Lately the scheduling elves at work have not been giving me full weekends off - lots of Friday/Saturdays though, so which feels like a weekend so I really can't complain. It also gives me the distinct pleasure of having the entire house to myself until about 6pm ... which is a) nice for my introverted self to recharge and b) allows me to turn the main floor of the house into a quilting-prep work station.

The other week my day off got spent photographing a number of piles of new fabric (thanks for my giveaway win, and the delivery of my Black Friday purchase) and doing so very much pressing and trimming and marking and cutting. Why, pressing what you might ask?

Working on these babies, of course:

35 of these, to be exact

Because somehow along the way I actually got all the blocks pieced. And laid out and now I'm working on sashing them. I'd been starting to get sick to death of this project, mostly because I didn't allow myself enough variation in fabrics. What was I thinking making a double quilt with only five fabrics, and one of them is white? The oddball blocks have helped relieve that tedium, though, and putting together my final layout and having a photograph of the finish line to refer to has helped.

It also helps that my niece and sister in law are super excited about it, and I'm getting update about new décor for my niece's room that are designed to go with the quilt. That's motivation: so if February 12th being the birthday on which I am aiming to gift this.

random blocks
Those three blocks where I've been much more random with the fabric placement completely allowed me to enjoy working on this project. Even thought it's just three blocks and it's colours and prints that are already in the quilt anyhow, they gave me some breathing room.

the layout!
The lighting on the layout picture is really crummy - the black and dark purples blend right into each other but really I took it more for my own reference than anything. The final quilt will look a bit different, just because of sashing, but now I have the blocks ready and a plan in place.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

< 3

I hope you all are out there having a happy holiday season and enjoying as much time with loved ones as you can fit in. As for me, this evening I will be holing up and snuggling Bunny, playing board games with family and mostly enjoying some quiet time.

Christmas Eve is pretty much my favourite day ever, even though I'm not a huge Christmas person. Probably because my favourite day ever, in history, was that Christmas Eve five years ago when I went next door to visit his momma and ran flat into Bunny and my world changed.

Five years ago today was love at first sight. Like I never would have believed if it hadn't happened to me, feeling the world around me shift and realign, the sense of the world closing in on me and coming forward to whisper and scream "this is it, this is your future". Some moments can never be adequately expressed in words and that night is one of them.

But five years ago, was a first kiss. A first hand hold. A sense of certainty like nothing I had ever known before in my life.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Stash - Joel Dewberry True Colors

The other week was kind of amazing. First, my lovely novelty fabrics were in the mailbox Tuesday night when I arrived home from work. Then, early Wednesday morning, after I'd started my day at work but before Bunny had left for the shop the mailman delivered another squishy package. Early enough that I got text message heads up and spent the day at work agonizing over when can I go home and play with the pretties, and it may have earned me a few odd looks when I skipped down the hall to the bathroom.


When you have these beauties waiting, though, who wouldn't skip a little?


I'd been drooling over the True Colors lines for awhile, and while I like prints from each of the designers I find the Joel Dewberry collection is pretty far and away my favourite. So when the Intrepid Thread announced that their Black Friday sale would be for 30% off I just couldn't resist. I'd heard good things from across the internet about the Intrepid Thread and opening my package I was duly impressed.  Tissue paper packaging, a little bow, handwritten note and some little charm square samples? They have my business for sure.


I'd spent the week agonizing over which my favourites were, as I prefer to buy half yard cuts and wanted to limit myself to buying no more than 9 yards of fabric due to shipping. (That's not nine yards, as you can probably tell ... there will be more fabric to share later.) I really couldn't be more pleased with my choices.


Isn't that wood grain luscious? The purple has already been allocated to a specific project, but the others will be great to have on hand.


I was a little disappointed the yellow herringbone was out of stock, but I'm also happy with these. Pretty much I love that pink more than anything - it's so rich and saturated.


These two were the surprise of the bunch. I mean, I ordered them so I knew they were coming .... but somehow in my head the scale was much smaller. I think I may order more of the damask in other colours for backings. The deep pink scroll I almost didn't buy (thank goodness the yellow herringbone wasn't in stock!) but it's kind of become my favourite of the bunch.

Linking up once again to Finding Fifth for Sunday Stash. :)


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sunday Stash (the lucky me edition)

A few weeks back I won a giveaway from the lovely Sharon who blogs over at Fabric and Flowers for a gorgeous little bundle of novelty fabrics. Of course, I've been anxiously checking my mailbox since then until earlier this week (on Bunny's birthday, no less) I came home to a squishy package in the mail. After squealing a little and jumping up and down (because I'm clearly a twelve year old) and putting my coat away, I got down to opening up the little bundle of goodness.


aren't they the sweetest?

I see lots of fun with these fabrics in the future. Next time I have a baby quilt on my to do list these fabrics are going to come out very quickly - I see the sweetest little boy quilt, with a little bit of red and blue solids and blenders for settings and sashing.


 
 
 

Maybe some fussy cutting with these would be adorable. Rocky mountain puzzle or economy blocks could be sweet. And the faces! I love the little faces on the two prints just above.


I don't mean to play favourites, but ...
 
The only thing that makes me luckier is that another package arrived in the mail the next day, but you'll have to wait and see what's inside.

Linking up with Finding Fifth for Sunday Stash. (though for some reason blogger keeps eating the code for the button. But I'm done arguing with the internets and would rather go to the aquarium.)


Thursday, December 12, 2013

review: the night angel trilogy

I promised ages ago that I'd share about this book and I've really been procrastinating. Probably because I started reading another series that I'm enjoying, and coworkers are begging me to take their advise on a third series after this ... but man was this a good one.

From some earlier reading, I already knew that I was a fan of Brent Weeks' writing style. And as I was working my way through The Black Prism I was instructed several times that I absolutely had to read the Night Angel trilogy if I enjoyed his writing. So, I scoured the used book stores in my area, to no avail, and then finally gave in and purchased a very large volume containing all three books for the trilogy. Good call, self, good call.

I devoured this. Stayed up till my eyes couldn't focus at 3 in the morning and I had to work the next day kind of devoured. The start took time to get going, which seems to be Weeks style. He sets the stage carefully, and it certainly plays out well later in the book, but beginnings aren't what I would call his strongest point.

There's a lot I'd like to say, but with a trilogy like this? If I say too much I'll easily spoil things. It's a well constructed medieval world, called Midycru that's comfortable to slip into from the get-go. There are multiple forms of magic. Well developed, distinct forms of magic. Which I actually think is quite masterful - it can be hard enough coming up with one cohesive system of magic, but to come up with multiple forms in one world? Colour me impressed.

The characters are strong and complex, with failings that allow you to truly enjoy them. The plot turns come at just the right time, and there were moments where I wanted to scream at what Weeks was doing to these people - he's not afraid to put his characters through the wringer for the sake of realism and story. Even better, it's not just the main characters that are compelling. The secondary and tertiary characters, spiralling out from the centre of the story are well developed enough that the story feels real. Although, Jenine maybe is a little two dimensional ... but she doesn't have too much of a role, and even when she does take up page space it's mostly to prop up to other, more major characters.

Weeks is equally deft with his plots and big reveals. Book three, in particular, has a few big moments that were just heart wrenching to me.

From his blog, it seems like one day we might get to read more of Midycru, and I'd be quite excited if that were the case.

Friday, December 06, 2013

bits and things

Hello! Yes, I do still exist, I promise. I've been sucked up into a vortex of sewing and being handed book after book by like-minded coworkers to read and somehow November passed me by with barely a post. Maybe I should stop apologising when that happens and just accept that life has overtaken blogging lately, and hey, that's cool. 'Cause, you know, life. It's a good thing.

So other than the obvious (sewing, reading, eating, sleeping) what have I been up to?

- I've been compulsively checking the mail box every few hours as I'm waiting for a couple of very precious parcels to arrive. Then I'll probably dance for joy a little bit.

- There's been a fair bit of tea and coffee drinking. Bunny and I picked up a generic decaf coffee for the occasional evening drink, and a few weeks back I got my paws on some amazing black tea pearls that I've been adoring for daytime drinking. (Seriously, if you're a tea drinking you need to find these. Maybe not for those who douse their tea in milk, but the perfect tea if you like a little honey or sugar. If you like green tea you might prefer this one - it's the only tea I drink without even a touch of sugar).

- I've discovered a new favourite pizza. It's wood fired, with pesto, mozzarella, bacon, potato, spinach and egg. Appropriately named the "Green Eggs and Ham". I don't even like eggs and I beg for this baby. (Also! We have a new, cheapish date place because of this.)

- Bunny and I have started Mission: Pad Thai. It's sad that we're having such trouble finding a decent pad thai where we live (to the point that I almost want to pick up take out to bring home every time we go to Toronto) and so we're planning to work our way through every Asian-inspired restaurant in town until we find something passable.

- I'm trying to decide whether to get my vacation paid out this year. I'll have used a whooping 3 days between my friend's wedding and a last minute decision to book off for Christmas Eve. Not that we're doing anything particular but it's our five year anniversary and I'd kind of like to spend it with Bunny.

- I have Christmas apathy. My mom wants to do big gifty things, as she usually does, but it seems so silly. So unnecessary, really - we're all grown adults in the family and the gift portion of Christmas is really probably a least favourite. I'm more of a surprise gifter - like hey! I found this amazing tea you'd like so I bought it for you. I'm looking forward to seeing my brother, though.

Friday, November 22, 2013

plodding along

Since Blogathon Canada is hopping through my part of the country today (uh, not quite today but better early than late) I thought that just maybe I should come up with a sewing post. Sound like a plan? Good. Next week I'll tell you about the book(s) that have sucked up most of the past two weeks of my life and taken all my sewing time. But now, sewing.
 
so many things to iron
I've been busy as a bee sewing away at these blocks. Thirty five blocks. If I'd been thinking I would have added in a lot more fabrics - sewing primarily the same five prints and patterns has gotten more than a little bit repetitive. But finally, finally I'm getting to the point of being able to see and end in sight.

they look a bit better after some pressing


The pile of blocks up there? I spent the better part of my Tuesday afternoon pressing seams on those babies. Then I moved on to the dining room and marked some seam lines on them (that is one extra step that hand-piecing requires that I could do without).


all ready for trimming and marking seams
At the moment these here are my favourites. Probably because they're my contrast blocks and thus they don't look exactly like the other thirty two things I've sewn. I'm looking forward to placing them in the actual layout and seeing that bit of pop. I'm also looking forward to figuring out what else I can make in the future with the black damask.

The most exciting part is that I've finished block #1. About thirty of them I just have one more seam to go, but there's about five with more significant work. Then sashing. Then backing. Basting. Quilting. This is kind of the forever project, or at least it feels that way.

finished block!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

hey look

Over on the right, do you see that?? I've never had a button on my blog before (though I've linked some posts with buttons). But this one is worth it. Because the Sew Sisters Quilt Shop is hosting Blogathon Canada showcasing tons of awesome Canadian quilt bloggers.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

why I need a baby lock melody

Today's day three of the chicken soup diet (aka, I'm sick) and so in between long naps, bowls of soup and catching some of the craziness on the news today I've been clicking over the Bloggers Quilt Festival and looking at all the pretties.

This is the first year I've really been following enough (too many?) quilt bloggers that I've really had a chance to get into the whole Blogger's Quilt Festival that's been running around that corner of the intrawebs the past week and it's been so much fun to see everyone's post and to look through the link roundups.

While I'm not quite ready this time to actually enter the a quilt in the festival (maybe in spring? maybe next year?) there is a giveaway going on that's just too tempting not to enter. They're giving away a sewing machine. A Baby Lock Melody to be specific ... and this girl right here? Very much in need of a sewing machine. And to enter all I have to do is write about why I need this baby.

Cause I'm still doing everything by hand and it's driving me nutso at times. I mean, there's a certain portion of my sewing time that I would just never spend on a machine in general - hand piecing quilts for the house, or for very special gifts, stitching the binding in the back. But man are there parts that I would love-love-love to source to some time spent at a machine.

A machine would let me whip out some quicker projects - like for my coworker who is having a baby - without having to put in a four-to-six month time commitment. And there are people who will cause bodily harm to me if my coworker's baby gets a quilt before they will. (Maybe I exaggerate. But they'd be pretty disappointed.) I'd probably experiment more with patterns and blocks - sometimes knowing you'll be sewing the same thing for four to six months makes the choice of the next quilt to make very difficult.

My list of quilts that I want to make is getting crazy long, and even though I have my next two projects ready to go (once I finish this top, I start a log cabin and after that it's some crazy flying geese) I'd like to be able to think I'll realistically get around to making them while the ideas are still exciting.

I could also try paper piecing. The paper pieced blocks I've been seeing lately have me swooning, but it's not a realistic thing to do without a machine.

I'm thinking I'd love to join an online bee, as well, but that's just not realistic without a machine. I mean, it's doable, but I'd probably drive myself bonkers.

I could try out fancier quilting. I'm amazed at a lot of the quilting that so many people do on their home machine and I'd love to learn how to do that part of the process with a machine rather than by hand.

Stitching binding down by hand? On the front at least I would really love to do that on a machine. I've started to loath that part of the process by hand, but at the point where all I'm dealing with is binding I'm not willing to give up on a project. I'd just like it not to have to be a three-week affair, sometimes.

Of course, if I don't win I'll be just fine. The vast majority of my sewing I prefer by hand. And if I won, I'd have to do some very creative reorganizing. I think maybe there's a cupboard by the kitty litter box that could just sit a little table and a machine right now? I'm also not-so-secretly saving large chunks of my personal spending money with the intent that when we move, I get to buy a machine. And Bunny keeps saying he wants to get me one for Christmas - he hasn't realized yet that that's just not in the budget.

Friday, October 18, 2013

quilt blocks, assembly line style

Some of my blocks here are getting so close to being done that it's almost painful. I'm getting excited to reach the end of the piecing process and turn this into a quilt. I'm going to have a very happy niece when either Christmas or, more likely her birthday rolls around.

The last times you've seen any progress on this I was just beginning, and plotting possibly adding some additional colours into the scheme, and then my last online purchase I showed off the new purple solids that I'm incorporating. Since then a lot has happened with this baby.

things looked a lot like this last time
The finished blocks are 12" square, and I'll need 35 of them total. Thus far the first 32 are in progress. The last couple blocks are going to be a little different - I'll reverse the colours a little, and use some more black on black prints for the main component. Working with such a small selection of fabrics has definitely made it clear that in my next projects I want to have a lot more variety of prints and patterns, even if I use a monochromatic colour scheme. Which is why I've starting shopping to stash fabric for future use - it's harder buying for a particular project than going out and buying a handful of kickass purple prints and choosing between things I already love.

so many blocks in progress
I've marked so many seams
I've also driven myself a little nuts with some sloppy mistakes. Matching the wrong colours together has made me need to pull out the seam ripper more than once lately.

can you spot the mistake?
I've still got several steps and seams to sew before the blocks are complete, but I'm reaching the point where an end is actually in sight. Of course once the blocks are made then there's the sashing to do, and after that I'll have to quilt the beast. Which I've actually got somewhat planned, actually.

I'm puttering my way along to the end and am getting super excited to start my next couple of projects. There's a log cabin planned to match my Scrappy Trip, and then there's the flying geese that I've been collecting fabrics for.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

review: the black prism

It's been awhile since I've had some new reads that I've been excited about, but thankfully (for my sanity) I seem to be back in the groove again. I really can't believe that the last book I was excited about was back in July. There had been a few stops and starts since then, and after which I just reverted to re-reading some trusty old favourites until I stumbled upon a copy of Brent Weeks' The Black Prism in the sale bin at Coles.

I'm so so glad I picked this baby up. My review can best be summed up with the fact that I stayed up till 3am last night reading partway through the sequel, and only crawled into bed because my eyes got bleary. This is page-turning fantasy at its finest.

The world Weeks builds is vibrant and well thought out, a big selling point for me in fantasy. He touches on every aspect: history, culture, government, religion, geography and winds it into a cohesive whole. His magic system, which is quite literally colour as magic, is brilliant. With all the thinking my quilting has me doing lately about colour theory this fits perfectly into my current headspace.

The Black Prism is the first in a planned series of four books, and focuses mainly on the brothers Gavin and Dazen Guile, and the aftermath of a world they had thrown into war in their struggle for power. At times I wondered if the book was itself a sequel, as Weeks so often referenced the recent past. The brothers are complex and morally challenging characters, who embody that slippery slope of grey between good an evil. The rest of the main cast of characters is equally compelling, from Kip the bastard child in a backwater village, to Karris the woman both brothers loved at one time, to Commander Ironfist of the Blackguard.

There's so much I'd like to say, but Weeks has so many big reveals throughout the book that I don't want to ruin anything. The best advice I can give you is to buy the sequel at the same time you pick this up. You'll save yourself a trip to the bookstore.

Monday, October 14, 2013

brick and mortar fabric shopping

The other week Bunny decided that he needed to go buy some outdoorsy things at Le Baron in Mississauga, which is a bit of a drive, and asked me if I wanted to come with. A day in a car with Bunny is better than a day at home without him, so of course I said sure. Then my little brain started percolating. If we were heading in a southward direction to begin with it seemed like maybe, just maybe, I should make him take me to a quilt shop in Toronto that I'd been eyeing for awhile. I'd have to amuse myself in a camping store, so why not have him amuse himself in a fabric store for a spell as well?

It was a good call, because I couldn't have been happier with our experience at the Sew Sisters Quilt Shop. It didn't take more than a moment or two after walking in to be greeted and given a general overview of where things were, after which Bunny was swiftly offered a chair. He jokingly also requested a beer and a hunting magazine ... and well, what do you know?

somehow this is the only picture we took
Somehow this was the only picture that was taken while we were there, because I was too busy oohing and aaahing and trying to make up my mind about what to buy because it was all so pretty. The selection definitely appeals to a mix of quilters, I think, not focusing too heavily on any one idea. There were lots of basics, lots of Kona solids, batiks, 30's prints and some nice modern fabrics. There were a few prints I was kind of hoping they'd have but wasn't expecting to see but I definitely was happy with the bits of stashy goodness I brought home.

I was shopping with a purpose: masculine reds and blues for my brother. I've got his quilt mostly planned, and I've decided I'm doing very scrappy flying geese. I think I did pretty ok - I got two half metres that I'm quite happy with, seven fat quarters and a remnant.


In the back is a little remnant from Once Upon a Storybook - .2 of a metre for $1.40 so I just couldn't pass that up. Then there's three fat quarters that were on sale for $1.75. None of them have selvedge, so I'm not really sure what I have there but they all work within my palette. Then I picked up fat quarters of Sketch in red and blue, and as well as Stockholm Hexagons. I prefer buying larger cuts, really, but knowing the project these are intended for a fat quarter was enough. The half metre cut on the bottom is Lost and Found by Riley Blake - on sale! Then there's the red cobblestone fabric, which is Red Glass from Light Fantastic.

Speaking of that line, you might notice one fabric up there that's just a little out of place. It was so pretty I just could not resist coming home with it.


it needs some ironing, and a plan
This beauty is also from Light Fantastic, simply called Butterflies Purple and I'm in love. I almost wish I'd bought more it's so yummy I just don't know what I'm going to do with it. The collection has this wonderful stained glass look and I just want to eat it up and snuggle it and maybe roll around naked in it. Oh wait, what? It's really pretty, and I simply had to bring some home, even if I don't have a plan.

These reds and blues together with what I picked up in my last spree from the Fat Quarter Shop, I may finally have enough masculine reds to tackle a my brother's quilt at some point soon, though I'll need to pick up more solids. Which maybe means next time I buy fabric I can start rounding out some of the other colours in my stash ... or buying more fabrics for the eventual bedroom quilt.

Friday, October 11, 2013

old dog, new trick

When Bunny and I got together Jethro had just exited his puppy stage, and was pretty much trained. Oh, he still doesn't heel as perfectly as I'd like him to, but he can do all the basics and he's got his obedience down. I still remember Bunny showing off the first night we spent together making Jethro run around in circles and sit up and lay down over and over again on command.

So I never really got to teach the little guy anything. And at this point, he's well into his middle age. But there's one thing our very well behaved dog doesn't do that I'd always wanted to see: balance a treat on his nose. Clearly it was time for me to set out teaching him how to do that.

It took about a week to learn the basic, and now after a month of practice this dog has it down. He can leave the treat on his nose for a full minute. When I'm not watching him, even. I can leave the room and he'll do his trick. The hardest part was actually coming up with a command (we use "hold" for the verbal command, and a single raised finger for the hand signal).



he can even pose for pictures!

Just in the past week he's started to really get the best part of the trick down, the bit that's just too cute for words ... getting the treat right in his mouth when I release him. Mostly he'd just been flicking his head backwards and sending the treat flying which has the added benefit of letting me get to it first if he hadn't held the pose long enough. He's started to figure out the exact motion that lets it land directly on his tongue now, which is my favourite.

He also hates this trick. I get the biggest, saddest puppy dog eyes when I make him do this, and he tries to refuse to give me his nose when I'm setting him up for it.

see the stink eye? well ok it's just the flash, but he hates this

It's also just gratuitously cute. So there's that.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Q4 Finish A Long Goals

Two posts in one week? And both about sewing? Do I maybe just need to make a quilting blog? Decisions don't need to be made all at once. (There's also maybe a sewing post or two that's due for next week ... so warnings in advance if the sewing stuff isn't your cup of tea).

Since participating in the last quarter of the Finish-A-Long was so much fun (and I got to see so many beautiful quilts!) clearly I'm going to have to have another go around this time. Q4 is a bit ambitious for me as I'm really not sure that I'm on track to get anything done completely but setting a goal or two never hurt anyone.

1 - Cameron's Quilt

First off on the list is the quilt for my niece. This is the project du jour, really. I'm working on it pretty much on a daily basis, and I have almost all of the blocks at some stage of in progress.

excusing the crummy ironing board, here's a sneak peak
I've actually come a fairly long way since this picture was taken, and I do have an update planned to share for you soon. Just need to actually get the pictures off the phone and onto the computer.

Optimistically I'd like it done for Christmas. Which - three months? I'd like to say it will be done by then, but there's a long way to go and it's a biggie so we'll see. Realistically I expect it to be done by her birthday in February.

2 - Pillow Covers

 
 
I probably won't make much progress on this, as it's not a focus of mine, but hey it doesn't hurt to put on the list. Eventually these blocks will end up as pillow covers to co-ordinate with the Scrappy Trip I finished last month, but they're not serious sewing. I'm just using leftover scraps and backing fabric to make them and mostly they only get worked on when I'm testing new bits for new blocks. Right now I'm testing out some flying geese, so they are still slowly growing.
 
I feel a bit silly setting two goals and not really feelings that I'm likely to accomplish either, but hey, I'd rather aim high and "fail" than not even try!
 
 

she can quilt

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

New Pants!

I gave in and bought new pants over the weekend. (And I did much more fun shopping, but you'll hear about that later.)

These pants are a big deal, kind of. Because I've put on weight in the past year, but am still smaller than I've been most of my adult life. And the weight that I lost in the misery of last year wasn't really sustainable and putting on ten pounds is really just the result of having my appetite back after a long stretch of being very stressed out.

These were pants I resisted buying. I kept telling myself that I could either lose ten pounds or gain ten pounds - it didn't matter which - but I wasn't buying new pants. So I felt crummy because my body didn't fit my clothes. Then I looked crummy because I was wearing clothes that were cheap and awful and didn't quite fit. I know better than that, really. I like feeling pretty and clothes that fit are a part of that. Vain? Maybe, but I'm ok with that touch of vanity.

This whole not buying new pants thing was starting to make me miserable with my body. I don't really like pants, but I feel ok in skinny jeans, and I didn't have skinny jeans that I could zip up. Having awful oversized, falling off clothes made me feel awful.

So this weekend there was a sale at Bluenotes and we were in Square One. I tried on some pants and said screw it. I'm buying new pants. And it's amazing, even though I should have known, what having pants that fit does to me. I feel like me again.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Finish-A-Long Quarter 3 Results

Boy do three months ever go by quickly. It's amazing looking back to see both what does, and doesn't, get accomplished in that time period. Back when I was setting my goals, I had a pretty good feel that I would only actually get one out of the three done, and I was right. What can I say? My process is slow. Until I hurry up and get myself a sewing machine I'm never going to manage speedy finishes, and "buy a house" by necessity comes first, seeing as I have nowhere to put said machine right now. (Seriously, my fabric lives in shopping bags in a corner of the dining room. I iron on a half sized board that alternates living on the freezer, and on an unused portable toilet. I sew sitting in bed. I have no space for a machine.)

All that being said I'm very pleased with my progress on the projects thus far. Of my three original goals I managed to finish up my Scrappy Trip Around the World quilt.



the quilt in its typical use

It's gorgeous, it's riotously bright and colourful, I snuggle up with it nightly and Bunny and I are both thrilled with it. It taught me a lot, primarily that I'd like to say "I'll never use Walmart fabrics again", because really? they are not easy fabrics to sew and all the prints in the same line have different weights. The fact is I'm planning on making a co-ordinating log cabin quilt so we can have a somewhat matched pair of living room snuggle quilts.



always cuter on the dog!

That's my only finish and I'm quite ok with that. The pillow covers are still sitting pretty much incomplete. I've been using those same crummy Walmart fabrics to test out blocks for upcoming projects, and so they're growing bit by bit. I'm doing bits and pieces that slowly grow those, but I really didn't expect to finish them anytime soon, so I'm ok with that.

As far as my niece's quilt ... well it's progressing. I need thirty five blocks, and I have about thirty in various stages of completion. I knew from the get go that this would be a stretch to even have the top finished, and I was right.

Really I'm quite happy with my progress. I got my must complete item done and am toddling along on everything else. It was as much as I could have really expected.



Linking up to the FAL over at She Can Quilt.

she can quilt

Friday, October 04, 2013

reading recommendations

Can someone please tell me why I've never heard of Brent Weeks before I picked up a book of his from the bargain pile the other month? Because dude is a fantastic fantasy writer, and apparently just what I needed to pull me out of my reading funk. And he's written so many books. There's a back catalogue I can go explore! Wee!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

updates

The end of the whirlwind has come and it's crazy to think. My friends are married! And suddenly I have what feels like bundles of extra time - and the bride was really super reasonable and very upfront about her expectations, so I wasn't even all that drained. I guess it's just nice to have social time be catching up/hanging out with friends and not worrying about inter-city buses almost every weekend. But last weekend was so much fun I really can't complain.

All in all, I have my time back but am just struggling to catch up with my straggly bits. There are a lot of straggly bits. I've had lots of fun lately, and have lots planned coming up. What's going on around here?

- I cry at weddings, apparently. Like I cried about fifteen times. There is picture evidence of this - and lots of it. The ceremony. Speeches. Father-daughter dance (that one slayed me, as it was extra special).

- I'm reading again! The last book I tried to read was so terrible I gave up, and I've had a hard time picking up something decent. I started a new fantasy novel earlier this week though and am thoroughly absorbed.

- My niece's quilt is crazy. I can't wait to show you more pictures ... that I have, sitting on the hard drive here. I need to take more at this stage, too. I also need to post my Finish-A-Long link up.

- I need to buy new pants. Just give up and buy new pants. Nothing fits, and after seeing pictures from last weekend I realized I really don't need to be stressing about my weight. I look just fine, thank you.

- My nephew is so cute! Baby cuddles make any day better.

Monday, September 23, 2013

whirlwind

The last month or so has been crazy busy 'round here. Crazy expensive too, really, but that was planned and budgeted for. I'm pretty much so tired I can't think straight, but as of the end of September I'll have my life back to myself.

We're in the home stretch to my best friend's wedding, which has been taking up a lot of my time lately. Lots of running around with last minute business - finding a local seamstress, trying not to freak out over the fact that David's Bridal left no seam allowance in my dress and my alterations ended up being a little more substantial than just "letting the seams out an inch" - because there wasn't an inch to let out. I picked that up over the weekend, so that's done.

Work's been crazy lately. It's a busy time of year and that's been reflected in scheduling and leaving me super drained. I'm pretty unhappy with the number of hours they're giving me and if things don't let up soon I may in fact lose it.

Luckily, I have stress relievers. We're re-watching Doctor Who in the evening while I sew (although we're nearing the end) and running next door for a hit of cute baby crack is always guaranteed to make me smile. The little man is growing like crazy and the things he can do are mind blowing. Plus, seeing my macho man husband turn to marshmallow goo any time he gets near the baby just melts my heart. He's gooey with the baby. For realz.

Plus, it's motorcycle season which means I get race weekend. Nothing is quite as good as that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

happy mail

So last you heard about where I was at with the quilting, I was contemplating the purchase of some additional fabrics to go with the turquoise for my niece. It needed more contrast. So, I set her wild on the Fat Quarter Shop website, showed her what I had in mind, and told her to go ahead and pick any two fabrics she liked that she felt would go with her quilt. Then, since I only needed a half yard of each, I added in some extras I thought would go with her choices and picked up some fabrics for future projects. After that it was just get my hands on the credit card and wait.

Last Wednesday was practically Christmas morning in our house, as the fabrics arrived even before I woke up.

So what all did I get? I shopped with some sense of purpose and with the plan to spend exactly $100 so I could get the most out of my shipping money. The first priority was fabrics for my niece but after that I have two projects in mind. My brother will be next on my list and he's asked for reds in his quilt, and there's a red-and-blue quilt featuring many, many flying geese percolating around my head for him. Then there's the Swoon I'm planning for Bunny and my bed eventually, featuring eggplant purples and greens.

Excusing the mess in the background, I got all of this
I had a pretty good haul for my brother. Masculine designs and fabrics are hard to find, but I found some cute prints and interesting geometric shapes. I think a semi-improve flying geese quilt will do exactly what I need it to.

For Flying Geese

these houses are my favourites
The next fabrics are really just for me. I mean, Bunny has to like them, but who am I kidding. They're mine.
perfect colours, and from some of my favourite lines

Then, because I figure I'll always have a use for them, I picked up some neutrals. Apparently I like black?

more houses!
I also might be developing some favourite designers and fabric lines ...

such as V and Co (I really should have picked up the Ikat Diamonds in eggplant too)


and Sweetwater (I pretty much want the whole Road 15 collection)
Then, of course, there's the pile of fabrics for my niece:



The purples she chose ... and the wrong side of the turquoise I'd been using
 And the black and grey print will also feature, just a little, in her quilt.

for accent blocks. I love the damask and honeycomb prints.

That's probably enough gratuitous fabric pictures for one day. I should have updates on the actual quilt top in the next week or so. I've definitely already cut into the purple solids and started playing.

Monday, September 16, 2013

catch up

Well, I just dropped off the face of the earth there, didn't I?

And the question you've all been wondering I'm sure, is what happened? Well, the usual really. 42. Life, the universe, and everything. Being busy. Snuggling my nephew, getting input from my niece on her quilt, late nights cuddling and sewing, friend visits. Nothing out of the ordinary, but the ordinary certainly filled my days.

When your days are same old, same old day in and day out there's not always much to share really. Even when the things that you're doing with your time are fun and enjoyable.

I've also been busy trying to get my few last minute things together for my friend's wedding at the end of the month. And while I'm very happy to get to be part of it all, and for the two of them, I'll be glad when the whole event is over, really. One less to do to be concerned about.

I'm hoping to have some more updates, and pictures, and reviews and a recipe or two here soon - they're in the works, I promise. But life's kind of got a hold of me. You know how it goes.

Friday, August 23, 2013

one

Sometimes the moments we're proudest of are our quietest.

I've been very private about my wedding because to me, that's what it was: something intensely intimate and personal that Bunny and I did. This union that we entered into together. And we may have done it with a city hall ceremony that we had no control over, that we heard for the first time as it was being performed, with cookie cutter vows (a secular version of the same words couples have repeated to each other for generation upon generation), while we may not have had an immediate earth quake moment getting married was intimate, and vulnerable and really an intense personal transformation.

I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

We marry each other every single day, still. We will until we aren't around anymore.  Every day we help create and grow this relationship.

Today is one year from a random Thursday were we stood in front of a justice of the peace and promised everything. Some things explicitly, some implicitly. And so quickly, already, a year has gone.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

new project time: for my niece

Now that the Scrappy Trip is finally finished I've had plenty of sewing time to devote to the newest project in my lineup: my niece's quilt. It's my biggest project so far, as its designed for her double bed but the actual block construction is very, very simple. It's inspired by the Labyrinth quilt, though I've done up my own pattern and it's got a much more controlled colour pattern than the original.

All in all I need 35 blocks, plus sashing. The blocks themselves are fairly easy to construct, and I've been doing so in an assembly line fashion. I've got the square-in-a-square sections all in various states of doneness and am working on getting up my required number of those before I move any further. This is the fussiest part of the blocks, with all the little half square triangles and 3" seams - later on there's long seams and strip piecing. These bits are coming together quickly, so it's not completely unreasonable to imagine that the rest of the quilt will.



Blocks in Progress

Nearly Done Blocks
I'm also feeling like I need to rethink the colour scheme just a little bit. Not much, just throw in maybe a grey or a lighter blue to give a little more contrast. Right now my pattern calls for strips of the two turquoise prints to go right beside each other and I just think the whole thing might have more impact if I add in a little more oomph to the colour scheme. I also might do a couple of random blocks where I reverse the colour orientation.

So now I'm plotting yet another online fabric purchase, because I want to use blacks or greys from the same line as the original fabrics. And since I'd only need 3/4s of a yard or so, and I'm paying for shipping anyway it just seems like I should plan a bit of a stash spree. There are some eggplant and green prints I've been eyeing, and there's a quilt I'm planning for that I need to start acquiring non-floral red prints for and I could use a few yards of solid fabrics ... and apparently there's a 20% off discount code that's active for another month. Yeah, this is dangerous.

I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday. Why not play along, right?
WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced

Monday, August 19, 2013

$2 tequila,and other odds and ends

Whew, it's been awhile since a proper update here, hasn't it? It's been a bit of a whirlwind couple of weeks. Schedule wise, I'm just coming off about three weeks of late shifts - and with the late shifts I always find my updating energy zapped away. When I don't get home until 9:30pm I'm just not into much besides Doctor Who and sewing.

Plus, last weekend was a dear friend's bachelorette party which soaked up pretty much the whole weekend for me. Plenty of fun was had (as were plenty of $2 tequila shots, which were dangerous) but everyone was feeling a little rough around the edges by the time we made it home on Sunday.

Also Bunny took a big step with his career that I'm super proud of. He challenged the first session of apprenticeship school and not only passed by had a crazy good mark that was unusual enough that the apprenticeship coordinator called his boss and told him that Bunny's mark was super uncommon. It's always nice to have a reason to be proud of my husband. :)

This weekend was much quieter, but still super busy. Things started up with an all day date out with Bunny - a massive shopping "spree" at Walmart (although, toiletries, work clothes and new sports bras don't feel to spree-like), followed by a game of mini putt played without the scorecard and with frequent stops to cuddle on the in course benches. The day ended with a very Bunny-style dinner out, at a local hole in the wall BBQ place that gives you enough food to feed two with a half sized sandwich. Then snuggles, sewing and Doctor Who.

To top the weekend off, Sunday was the return of MotoGP from the summer break at Indy. So Sunday we secluded ourselves in the basement and watched young men drive their bikes very, very fast. Amazing.

Other than that I've been keeping busy with all the usual.  Work. Sewing. Eating (though not cooking - more time for that next week!). It seems like everyone's a little bit busy this summer, doesn't it?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scrappy Finish

It's done!!! Done done done. I started working on this quilt back in January and it's been a long process with lots of updates along the way. I could have declared the blocks finished back in April, but decided to make just a few more (and I'm glad I did). After that it was basting the quilt, which I hated - my sore back and knees didn't thank me. Then there were the hours upon hours of hand quilting to make the cross hatch pattern. Then this past week I put the last few stitches in the binding and now it is done. And somewhere along the way I discovered a camera. (Next time I promise I'll give better update pictures, really.)




This quilt is seven months of my life. Zoning out and sewing on weekends and days off. Sewing a good hour each and every night while watching crappy tv and snuggling with Bunny. And each and every last stitch is done. You'll have to excuse all the pictures, I'm rather proud of it.


It's not as "scrappy" as some Scrappy Trips. It's made all with one fabric line (that I got at Walmart, so I'm a little short on details) - two jelly rolls and four fat quarters. Because it's not a line of quilting cottons specifically some of the fabrics (particularly the fat quarters) come at different thicknesses. The fabric doesn't have the give and glide of a quilting cotton, but I still have a companion quilt planned, featuring log cabins.

This is a fun pattern to work with, and because of the strip piecing it's perfectly suited to my style of quilting involving hand piecing, Doctor Who and maybe a glass of wine and I'm sure that once I find myself with a sizeable scrap pile I'll revisit this pattern in a true scrappy fashion. It's also a great beginner pattern, and helped me build up a lot of confidence.

Because I used the same 14 fabrics over and over in this quilt I wanted each square to lead into the next. The way I've achieved that is living up matching fabrics in separate blocks to create a more continuous movement. Colour placement on the blocks themselves was fairly simple as I gave each block I worked on a "theme" whether it was to be mostly one colour (like the green block in the bottom right) or to be mostly bright fabrics and it came together quite well into a cohesive whole.  Also, there is a my side and a Bunny's side on this. I'm picky like that.


The sunlight in this one makes the colours look a little deceptive, but you get the best view of the texture. I cross hatched the quilting here, going through each square on a diagonal in both ways.

Every single stitch of this baby was sewn by hand. I made Bunny buy me a cake when I finished. A hand made quilt deserves a cake, no?

she can quilt

Thursday, August 08, 2013

tiramisu

Usually desserts are made because I have an earth shattering desire to make this one particular thing. Like, if I don't make pot de crème now it seems like the world might explode. Or I'm craving the validation that comes from taking a plate of ever-popular blondies next door (because they're always a hit). Sometimes it's a simpler motivation like a box of cheap sponge cakes crying to be covered in sautéed fruit and whipped cream.

Very occasionally do I make food on demand. Especially a new recipe, that I haven't tried before. But when my mother comes home and says "there's mascarpone in the fridge and ladyfingers in the cupboard and what alcohol do you need for the tiramisu you're making tomorrow" it's kind of hard to say no. I do live rent free in her basement and all, so if the occasional dessert is requested of me that's really not asking too much.

I have to admit, this dessert was just a little more time consuming than I thought. It also dirtied an awful lot of bowls. Three different bowls just for the mascarpone filling, though there may be a step or two that could be streamlined. It also took longer than I expected, but was heavenly enough that it didn't matter.

This is a make ahead matter. I don't usually have the patience to let a dessert sit in my fridge overnight but the texture on this will thank you. The cheese mixture needs time to soften up the ladyfingers and things are a thousand times better day two than day one. I didn't change much from the original recipe (found here) though I'm glad I did make the few changes. The extra egg white and mascarpone made for a more substantial filling, and even though I made a smaller size in terms of cookie content, it was definitely needed.

And also? It's tiramisu. That's about the only incentive you should really need to make this.

Tiramisu

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, room temperature

  • 2 double shots espresso
    • can be replaced with 1/2 cup of strong hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 ounces amaretto (or rum, or kaluha)
  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • 3/4 cups whipping cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • 16 ladyfingers
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate shavings
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
Directions
  1. Make the mascarpone filling.
    1. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer. In a metal bowl, mix the egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla. Place the bowl over the saucepan and whisk thoroughly. Cook, constantly wisking, for about 5 minutes until the egg mixture gets a glossy texture and doubles in size. This is good to go when it's thickened enough to hold a ribbon between beatings. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    2. In a separate bowl, thoroughly whisk mascarpone until softened.
    3. In another bowl, whip egg whites until they hold medium peaks.
    4. Whisk mascarpone into the egg yolk mixture until evenly incorporated.
    5. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolks and cheese, about a third of the egg whites at a time. Once incorporated set aside for later.
  2. Make your coffee dipping syrup.
    1. In a small, flat bottomed dish (not a bowl) dissolve the sugar into the coffee or espresso. Add the amaretto (or other liquor) to the mixture.
  3. Begin assembly.
    1. Cut your ladyfingers in half. They absorb the coffee a little better this way, it seems.
    2. Using half of your ladyfingers, quickly dip each piece into the coffee mixture and create a single layer on the bottom of your pan.
    3. Take half your mascarpone mixture and spread overtop of the ladyfingers.
    4. Don't freak out when you realize that the mascarpone layer is thin. It's ok, I promise. This dessert is not the sum of its parts.
    5. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate shavings.
    6. Repeat, layering a second set of coffee infused ladyfingers over the cheese mixture. Cover with remainder of the mascarpone, grate some more chocolate.
  4. Whip your cream together with your final tsp of vanilla and tbsp of sugar.
    1. Optional: Once the cream becomes thick but not quite whipped, pour in a couple of tablespoons of your leftover coffee and amaretto syrup. This just compounds the flavours and makes everything even more delicious. Whip until thick and holding medium peaks. This step really reinforces the coffee and amaretto flavour in the dessert the most.
  5. Spread your whipped cream mixture over the final mascarpone layer, dust with cocoa powder.
  6. Cover, and let rest in the fridge overnight.
  7. Portion and serve.



And! Here's a picture. You'll have to excuse the crummy lighting in the kitchen.


Also, apparently my mom's old Pyrex is trendy now. (The hand-me-down ceramic oven less so.) This same pattern is at all the local antiques markets. It looks dated to me, but hey it does its job. And we've got even more awful and popular ones as well. Who knew everyone would want the Pyrex?