Thursday, December 31, 2015

Christmas Wrap Up

Sneaking this in before ringing in the New Year tonight!  We had a lovely holiday filled with good cheer, and more importantly, family!  Mimi came the week before Christmas and stayed through the 26th, just missing Grammy & Grandpa when they came later that day.  (We're still hoping to convince Poppy to travel one of these years!).

Mimi and I took Joseph to mass on Christmas Eve, where he decided he was really interested in learning more about religion, and asked me to sign him up for Sunday School next year.  (I'll be interested to see if he follows through with that, but I'm game).  Our friends then held a fabulous open house in the evening with tons of good food.  Before bedtime we did our usual routine of leaving cookies for Santa, checking his location on NORAD, saying good bye to Johnny Duddle (our Elf on the Shelf), and reading The Night Before Christmas.

Santa showed up sometime later to stuff all our stockings and pile presents under the tree.  He even left the fireplace door open on his way back up the chimney!

He was SO excited, it's a wonder Joseph slept even a wink.  We were awakened at dawn by him begging us to go downstairs, and he started tearing into presents the moment Mimi finally joined us.


There were tons of Minecraft Lego's and toys, and many other things that were on his wish list, like Harry Potter books, a Nerf football, and an Under Armour bag for his tae kwan do gear.  I think he was most excited to finally have a plasma ball, some random thing he saw in a gift shop on our trip to Atlanta that we refused to buy and carry back on the plane.  He also loved the surprise mini foosball and Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots games.

That should have been plenty, but there were more presents from friends (rare Harry Potter Lego's! Basketball clothes!), and even more when Grammy & Grandpa arrived the next day.  Thankfully Santa listened to me this year when I told him that even though he really wanted it, Joseph did not need an Xbox, and we would appreciate if he left that off the sleigh this year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Holiday Baking

Tradition and I had a little break up this year.  Forever overcommitted before the holidays, I decided for the sake of my sanity (and of those around me) that I simply would not stress myself out again trying to manage the volume of holiday baking that I usually push myself to do.  So for the first time in forever I just let it go, and Brent's office did not receive their annual cookie boxes that they've come to expect from me.  The only other thing I have to say about the situation is #sorrynotsorry.

I did still manage to steal some time here and there to bake small batches of treats for our friends, family, and guests because really, what's a holiday without baked goods?!  Without the added pressure of trying to do too much, I truly enjoy it.

Since I was breaking with tradition anyway, I also threw caution to the wind and tried almost all new recipes this year, keeping only everyone's favorite chewy ginger cookies and my own favorite, decorated sugar cookies.  Such a daredevil, I know.  Everything was awesome!  Chocolate Peppermint Blossoms, Key Lime Crackles, Chocolate Nutella Rugelach, Toasted Coconut Butter Cookies, and (not really pictured) Eggnog Cookie Squares.  Plus I threw in some left over Rice Krispie Treat Pops I made for JT's class party.  I completely love the snow covered sugar cookie tree idea I came up with this year.  So simple but really adorable.  Our close friends and neighbors each got a box of special treats, and the rest we kept for dessert after Christmas dinner.

So, who's up for dessert?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Taste the Rainbow

I could be posting a few Christmas photos right about now, but I really wanted to squeeze in this one entry about quilting before the end of the year.  Unfortunately 2015 was not a terribly productive quilty year for me, but I at least managed to finish up this project that had been banished to the "UFO" (unfinished object) pile for what seemed like forever.

I have had quite the love/hate relationship with this quilt.  I had so much fabric left over from Angie's 40th birthday quilt, even after making two sets of quilted tote bags with the remnants.  I just could not look at it or let it take up space in my stash any more, so one day I ironed and chopped it all up into 2.5" strips are decided to make it into a simple picnic blanket.  Really, what else can you do with realistic prints of fruits and vegetables?

Although there were times that I truly hated looking at this fabric, I did love designing an original block that would work with precut strips, and I also loved using my quilting software to bring an idea to life.

It's a large (13 inch) block that is intended to be rotated for visual interest, and the sashing is built into the block design so it is super simple to assemble.

I managed to make all these partial blocks way back in 2013 when I broke my leg and figured out how to sew with my left foot while having a giant purple cast on my right.  They waited in a drawer for quite some time before eventually making it into full blocks, and then waited even longer to be joined together into a quilt top. And then even loooooonger before finally being sandwiched and quilted.  A fun design has its limits when made with ugly fabric.  I resolved to finish it this year - not because I really wanted it, but just so I could call it done.

I used yard and yards of Kona Chocolate brown for the backing, because if this thing actually does ever get used, it's going to be on the dirty ground.  To make it less structured on the back I randomly threw in a few snippets of fabrics that said "picnic" to me - watermelon, berries, even some potato chips.  The quilting design is one I recently saw a friend use on a mini she made, simple straight lines  echoing out from an x in the center.

I always thought I'd use the same brown for the binding, but (1) there wasn't enough left over, (2) I didn't want to buy more since there was no way I was investing any more money into a quilt I wasn't crazy about, and (3) it was actually too much of a contrast and looked entirely out of place on the front of the quilt.  I wound up using the same off-white Kona Bone as the background fabric, and it looks alright.  I tried out a glue basting technique this time before machine stitching the binding on, which worked pretty well, especially for accurate mitered corners.

In small amounts, most of the fabrics aren't terrible, but it's a lot to take in all together.

I do especially love how it looks like a rainbow when it's all rolled up and you can't quite tell you're looking at green beans, squash, grapes, and various other fruits unless you look more closely.

So stick a fork in it, it's D.O.N.E.  By far the longest "WIP" (work in progress) I've ever had, more than 2 years in the making.  After all that, it better get used!  With these crazy December days in the 70's we've had around Christmas, I'm about ready to pack up a picnic basket and head outside.