To observe, enjoy and create in everyday life

Quilting the Slow Way

Before our oldest son was born, a friend of mine taught me how to quilt. We would get together, and she would walk me through the process of choosing a pattern, finding fabrics that suited the project, cutting the pieces and then sewing them together with a very precise quarter inch seam. From my very first, and slightly wonky, wall sampler, I fell in love with quilting. Thankfully my cutting and sewing skills have improved in seventeen years! Making a quilt is a craft that is not only beautiful, but it serves a practical need as well. 

The greater majority of my quilts that I make each year are given to family and friends. It is such fun to create something for a dear friend or a new baby and be thinking about that person as I sew the scraps of fabric together. I do keep some of them for myself though. I will admit to having one (or more) of my quilts in every room of our house except the bathroom!

Part of any craft is to increase one's skills. So with my quilting over the years, I have chosen a new skill to acquire every so often. One year I focused on applique and paper piecing. Another year I hand quilted a quilt for my mother in law instead of machine quilting it. I have also challenged myself with intricate or difficult blocks. This year I wanted to challenge myself to slow down, which led me to giving hand piecing a try. I am participating in a Hand Pieced Quilt Along with Elm Street Quilts. The goal is to hand piece a block each week. There are a total of nine blocks in this sampler, and the blocks will increase in skill level as we go along. 

I am excited about this project. I like that I can bring along my piecing (much like small knitting and crochet projects) and work on it while I am at the library, doctor's office, school parking lot, etc. When I typically piece a quilt, I am at home behind my machine. So it is fun to have a traveling project! I also appreciate how the block slowly builds. I could hop on my machine and whip out a six inch block in a few minutes, but the process of creating a block stitch by stitch is appealing. 

We will see how it all goes over the next couple of months! If you are interested in joining, it's not too late! It would be great to have you. Hop on over to Elm Street Quilts or Simple. Handmade. Everyday. to find out all of the details.

These two were my sewing partners one morning. Our pup, Sadie, and her friend, Shiloh. They were not very interested in quilting themselves, but they were quite cozy. 

Winter Walk

January is often a sopping wet mess of a month here in the Pacific Northwest. We do, however, have some wonderfully cold, dry days that make for perfect walking weather. And while I sometimes daydream of living out in the country where I would have daily access to forested trails or vistas of the Cascade foothills...the reality is that I live in the suburbs. 
Being in the suburbs does not mean that beauty and nature are not present. They are certainly there, and they are waiting to be observed and appreciated right out your front door.

I love seeing the frost patterns on the leaves. The ice crystals remind me of science experiments with my boys when they were younger. We would mix borax with boiling water in a canning jar and leave pipe cleaners in the solution to develop crystals over a few days. It was always a fascinating to watch the crystals grow. If you shape the pipe cleaners into stars or snowflakes, they make great Christmas tree ornaments.

We may not see them often, but there are more creatures than just cats and dogs in my neighborhood. I have seen Bald Eagles, Coyotes, Rabbits, Salamanders, baby Opossums and more. Today I found a few sets of paw prints crossing the road.  Maybe they were left by a Raccoon or Opossum??

The Pacific Northwest is home to a thousand shades of green as well as a variety of mosses and lichens. When we have had a stretch of overcast and gray days, the greens of the mosses really stand out.

Pops of color in January is always refreshing to see! There are a few flowering shrubs in my neighborhood that set berries. So come winter, we are left with these amazing colors on display. I love the purple American Beautyberry. And I imagine the local birds love these berries as well.

Daphne blooms in the winter, and it smells lovely. I have tried to grow it in our garden, but a heavy winter snow took it out one year. So, I am always thankful for neighbors who have these winter blooming shrubs in the area.

Even the rain is beautiful! This Serviceberry Tree (Amelanchier) had some berries leftover from summer hanging onto the ends of the branches.

Getting outside as often as I can to walk through my neighborhood is so refreshing. I always return in a better mood and am ready to tackle the rest of my day. How about you? What have you been observing in your neighborhood?

Happy Birthday & Happy Birth Day

Our oldest son celebrated his 16th birthday this week, and with that celebration came a flood of memories of him as a baby, a preschooler and a young child. After a dinner out, we had a fun time pouring over his baby album. I don't think he had flipped through it in years, and for that matter, neither had I.

His birthday always feels different than his younger brother's does. I think it is because with celebrating the oldest's birthday, I am also celebrating the day I became a mother. Years ago when Jackson was turning five or six, a friend of mine wished him a "Happy Birthday" and then promptly turned around and wished me a "Happy Birth Day." At first I didn't understand, but she quickly pointed out to me that it was my birth day as well. That this day was a celebration day for us both. For Jackson it is a day for turning another year older, and for me it is a day to celebrate entering motherhood.

From that birthday forward, I have been grateful for her well wishes to the both of us. It is easy to get wrapped up in the party planning for a child's birthday. But it's important to also find some time to remember the day my boys came into this world, and how each of their births has changed me as a person. I look at the pictures of myself on the day of Jackson's birth, and I look tired and happy and young...but also a bit unsure of myself.

And now, sixteen years later, I realize that I have gained confidence in my parenting. I have grown from a clumsy and uncertain person into a mother who has had to learn how to be more brave than would normally be comfortable for myself. I have learned how to step out and trust that the parenting decisions being made through the boys' childhood are the right ones for each of our boys. I have learned how to pray and hold our boys with an open hand. They do not get to stay with us forever. In just a few short years, another phase of my mothering years will be closed and I will move onto a new phase. And so, while I celebrate Jackson's growth from infant to confident teenager, I also celebrate my growth from new momma into a more seasoned and still learning

Learning Something New

At the beginning of each year, I find myself debating whether or not to set a "New Year's Resolution." Resolutions often lean toward making healthier life choices. And while, getting in better shape and losing a few pounds are certainly goals I should set for myself, they are not the type of resolutions I like to set. Probably because I have not proven to be the best at keeping those ones! Over the last number of years, I have used the beginning of the year as a time to set a goal (or resolution) to learn something new. One year I learned how to knit, another I focused on baking the best loaf of bread, and another year I signed up for a class to learn new quilting techniques.

So for 2019, my New Year's Resolution will be to learn to play the piano. As a child, I had always wanted to learn to play a musical instrument, but that was never in the cards. Well, I take that back. I did learn to play the recorder in Fourth grade. However, that was where my musical experience stopped. And then, years ago, our neighbor needed a place to store an additional piano. Our living room was offered up. And there the piano has sat, unplayed, for seven years. My husband gifted me piano lessons this year for Christmas, and I was super excited and intimidated!

My first lesson was last week, and I felt like a fumbling six year old sitting on that bench not knowing one note from the next. But each evening as I sit at the piano to practice my scales, I feel a little bit more comfortable. Who knows, I might be playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" before you know it! 

How do you treat the beginning of a New Year? Is it a time to break a habit, build a habit or maybe learn something new?