Monday, September 28, 2015


The only explanation for this ensemble is that he didn't want to wear the orange shirt with the green shorts because then he'd look like a pumpkin.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ripe for the Picking

I love apples, and I love apple picking, which makes it sort of surprising that we don't go to the local orchards all that often.  When we do, we're often past the peak for picking and it's already transitioning into the Fall festival season.  We got it exactly right this year, with perfect weather last weekend, and tons of varieties of gorgeous apples, ripe for the picking!

We brought home over 20 pounds of apples!  The first thing Joseph and I set out to do was make some apples muffins, using this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  (We grated the apples instead of dicing them). We gave some to his teachers and some to his friends, and have been snacking on apples constantly - not sure what we're going to do with all the rest!

If you have a second, look back at these photo's from one time we went apple picking when Joe Joe was much younger, just over 3 years old.  So stinking cute!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Galaxy of Stars

You know what's really hot in quilting these day?  (Ha ha ha!  Of course you don't know what's hot in quilting these days!  You're my loyal family and friends that check this blog to see what's up with us and our boy, and very sweetly humor my obsession with fabric and fiber arts.)

But the answer is: mini quilts.  When you don't quite have the energy to tackle that next big project, or don't feel like digging out and finishing up some old work in progress, it's sometimes easier and more gratifying to just make yourself a mini that makes you happy.  Actually, people join mini quilt swaps all over social media these days, but I haven't joined that bandwagon yet.  Making mini quilts is also a great way for me to try out new techniques or patterns without committing to a huge project.

I came across this pattern in a quilting magazine some time ago and really loved it.  Maybe one day I'll make a full sized quilt out of it, but just one large block, with 6 stars of varying sizes, can be used to make a pillow, or a mini quilt like mine.

Of course I read the directions before getting started, but my mind just did not grasp how tiny some of the subunits would be.  The star point sections finish at 1.5 inches!  I added a small plain border so all the stars would be floating in the background, making the bright colors really pop against the dark blue.  The whole project finishes around 21 inches.

I originally wanted to play around with organic, wavy line quilting, which made me think of shooting stars and comet trails.  But I kept being drawn to the center dark blue square of the star-within-the-star, thinking it was a great focal point for quilting to radiate from, like a starburst.  Once I did a few lines, I realized it was looking more like a spider web, so I ripped out all the stitching and went back to my original plan.  I love it a million times more, and it wound up being so easy, just going back and forth without having to stop and start with every line.

I think it's the dense quilting that has made this just about the hardest quilt to photograph.  Or maybe it's the sharp contrast of colors?  Almost every photo is somewhat out of focus, and I took lots of photos.  Blurry or not, it's such a happy little quilt.  It can even be rotated for a different look.

The back is just a bunch of scraps pieced together until it was big enough to fit.  I also included scraps of each color into the binding, which were strategically placed in an area of the quilt that seemed relatively devoid of color.

So as not to bore you all completely with quilty stuff, here's a picture of JT with the mini.  I love that he's wearing that shirt while holding a square quilt!  I'm not sure what will become of this little beauty, but Simon seems to enjoy using it as a window seat pad.

Since we're on the topic of quilts and such, I will openly admit that yes, when I recently had a day off but Joseph was in school all day, I drove more than 2.5 hours each way, by myself, all the way to Lancaster, PA, and back, just because they were having an awesome fabric sale at Zook's.  I wasn't joking when I said I was obsessed with fabric!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Back to School Night

Third grade seems off to a good start!  Last night was Back to School Night, and parents were treated to a letter and some samples of writing and math that the kids have been working on so far.  There are so many things I find fascinating about these papers.  Like, Joseph always refers to us as Daddy and Papa, so seeing him write "Dear Dads" is weird.  Also so cute that he says there are 4 boys living in our house, because he included the cat (we are the alton boys for a reason!).  Why is his favorite number zero? Did you notice he's in "3th" grade.  And who does he thinks he's kidding with that sleep schedule?  P.S. he's only lost 7 teeth.

I know it's hard to read the tiny text here, but he was supposed to write an article about an important event in his life, and he kind of made up a story about when his great grandmother died.  Or does he really think the mailman brought us an invitation to her funeral 5 hours after we found out she had passed away?  Who knows what goes on in the mind of an 8 year old!  It also says in another section that he wants to be a rich artist.  

I took a separate picture and enlarged the lower right corner for obvious reasons!  Reading that kind of makes me not care so much that he still reverses his d's and b's a lot.  And it also makes me wonder where on Earth that came from, because he is such a Papa's boy.  But it surely made my night, and the gorgeous sunset as we were heading home was just the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Line Up

At only 8 years old, Joseph has outgrown kid sized shoes and is now wearing the same size as Brent.  We've always known he's going to be a big guy, but WOW, we didn't expect it to happen so soon!  I'm counting down the days until he fits in my shoes.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Family Biking!

Now that we can ride bikes together as a family, it's all Joseph wants to do.  (Yay!!!)  Last weekend we rode a good chunk of the Capital Crescent Trail for the first time, something I've wanted to do forever.

It was a bit tricky getting the bike rack attached to the car and loading up all 3 bikes.  It really didn't seem as secure as it should have, so instead of exploring Roosevelt Island as we had planned, we stuck a lot closer and got on the CCT at the entrance near Little Falls.  We rode all the way down to Fletcher's Cove and back, which has to be a good 5 miles!

It's all uphill on the way back, and Joseph did a great job.  We're teaching him how to use the gears to his advantage now, and it seems like he's starting to get it.

Just he and I went for another ride around the neighborhood after school a few days ago.  While we were stopped for a water break he spontaneously said, "I love riding my bike now, Daddy.  Thank you for encouraging me to do it again."  That right there was a pretty proud parenting moment for me, and it's things like this that just make every little thing I do with him worthwhile.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What's black and white and green all over?

This quilt!

This quilt has been well over a year in the making, which is not very typical for me.  I usually work on one project from start to finish before moving on to the next.  But I thought it would be fun to try to check off a few more things on my "quilty bucket list" and came up with this project.  I've wanted to make a "sampler" quilt, where every block is different, and I thought it would be fun to do that as a "block of the month" project, where I just make one block (or in this case two blocks) per month, and wind up with a full size quilt at the end of the year.  As a typical fabric hoarder, I also wanted to make an entirely "stash" quilt, where I only use up what I already have on hand instead of buying anything new.  Lastly, I thought it would be fun to do the quilt in an "improv" fashion, where I had no plan for what the finished project would be.

I decided to break into my beloved black & white print collection, and used this funky green color as the background solely because I had tons of it left over from a previous project and was pretty sure I would never use it again. I also settled on making the entire quilt out of 3" half-square triangles (or "HST's" as we quilters love to call them) to make 12" blocks.  I'd make a batch of HST's here and there whenever I had the time, then used 4 groups of 4 different prints for each block, rearranging them into as many unique patterns as I could.

There are enough combinations of 16 units that every block could have been completely different, but  I did include a few patterns twice, just in the exact opposite arrangement of print and background.

After all the blocks were done, I still had to come up with the layout on the fly.  The sashing that I designed perfectly highlights and frames each block individually but unifies them all at the same time.  I couldn't be happier with it, and I especially love the strong linear component that it adds to all the randomness of the blocks.

Can we all just pause a moment to admire the most Perfect. Binding. Fabric. Ever?  I kind of knew all along I was going to use it.  Can I also mention how much I love these Wonder Clips when it comes to binding?

The backing is by far one of the most cray cray I have ever made, but again, I was really trying to use up random fabrics I had in my stash, so I had to piece a few together.  I also threw in a few blocks I had made that didn't seem to read well on the front of the quilt.  There's this spirit animal print I picked up in Alaska last year, a black polka dot I bought in Lancaster ages ago, and also whatever green I had leftover.

The quilting is about as simple as it gets: a grid of 3" squares.  However, many of the seams with HST's are bulky and bumpy, so I offset the grid so that it went right through the middle of the sashing and the middle of each 3" unit, avoiding just about every seam there is.

So check this out: my waterproof camera has all these cool settings, including filters where you can isolate colors, like GREEN!  It's almost hard to tell the 1st picture isn't all in color unless you look closely.  The rest are a bit more obvious.  I love the one with my green soled flip flops.

The green reads so differently in all of these pictures, but in real life the color looks like wasabi to me (even though it is actually Kona Tarragon).  That green with white flecks all over reminded me of wasabi peas, so I'm calling this quilt "Wasabi Peas and HST's."  I probably would have loved this quilt more with a different background color (maybe blue or red?), but it was super fun to make, and it's one of the very few quilts I've made that I get to keep and enjoy using!