Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Operation Organization: Keeping Up with Quilting and More

As a military family, organization is important. As a crafter, organization is important. As a mom, organization is important. Basically, organization is important. 

When the Army brought my son and I home, while my husband spent a year overseas, I had to chance to unpack and organize at my leisure. That included my creative area and office.  

In Miami, I'd started to get organized and had a variety of boxes that I'd purchased as I organized my craft room there. It was so easy to sort my creative supplies and tools into these easy to stack boxes. I loved them especially, because I could open them through the snap fronts. That was quite helpful once we moved here and they found a home at the top of the closet.  

Once we moved, I had more space and I started to get more and more supplies, mostly from friends who pass stuff along to me. When my husband returned after a year overseas, he started law school and I had moved to a job that allowed me to work from home. Since there was less travel and Iwas able to keep up with housework that when I was juggling a job where I traveled, worked odd hours and kept up with a toddler.

I was exploring a sale at The Container Store after a lunch meeting one day and found these sturdy, deep boxes and being pink certainly was a bonus! The blue boxes were perfect for organizing The Lil Monkey's art that comes home from school. (I have plans for that later.) 

When I started the "A Year of Quiltsmart" Project, I knew I needed to find a way to organize my rotating projects (really, who does one at a time?) and my Quiltsmart interfacing and panels. By this time I'd visited The Container Store a few times, and had discovered their clear plastic shoe boxes in varying sizes. Once a month I had a lunch meeting nearby and would head over to grab a few, and before I knew it, I had all my projects organized, each in their own container. 

The boxes were also the perfect size for extra unpackaged interfacing. Whenever I want to work on a project, I can grab a box, which has all the fabric, interfacing and pattern or notes. I can get started with a project within minutes. I also found these small scrapbook boxes that I use for smaller projects. I have been using the larger ones for scrapbook, but have only found the small ones recently.

Keeping myself organized has definitely made my limited craft time more efficient. Living a businy life doesn't mean that I can't have a little down time, I'd just rather spent it doing a project than trying to find all the parts to one. When I started the "A Year of Quiltsmart" project in August I knew that I needed an organized method because inspiration can hit at any moment and who wants to waste timedigging  for stuff you think you might have, when you can reach for it and be started in minutes. 
Until our next cup of tea ...

Conversations with my Kid: I Don't Know My Story

This is a little off topic of the blog, but too funny not to share. The conversations I have had with him over the years are quite humorous at times. He has a funny way of looking at things and his interpreation of every day life is amusing ... most days. Here is an example.

Last night when I was putting the Lil Monkey to bed ...

Lil Monkey: Remember when I was a baby and you stole me?

Me: What!?!

Lil Monkey: Did you steal me when I was a baby?

Me: Who told you that?

Lil Monkey: Well, I just ... you know.

Me: No. I don't know.

Lil Monkey: You know, in the movie Tangled ...

Me: That's Repunzel's story,  not yours.

Lil Monkey: Oh, then I don't know my story. 

I guess like the super heroes he loves so much, he wants to have a unique story.

Until our next cup of tea ...

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Operation Organization: Cross Stitch Corner

I learned to cross stitch at the age of 5, when a friend of my mother's taught me that summer. We'd spent a lot of time with her and her sons. I was the only girl in the group of kids, so I was either left or wandered off because I really wasn't interested in what the boys were doing.

I stuck with it through high school and even into college. Cross stitching was definitely what helped me keep my sanity through my husband's yearlong deployments. So many projects were created through those 3 deployments.

It wasn't until 4 years ago that I realized I had an organization problem. I was 7 to 8 months pregnant and the Army had just moved us from Georgia to Florida, our 3rd Army move in his career, but that did not count the 7 moves since I graduated high school, or was it 8?

Anyway, each move half finished projects, or even finished projects that had to be sewn or framed into its completed form, were boxes up and shipped along with all of our household goods to our new home. In some cases it only took days to get a house, in some it was weeks. In that time, I'd usually picked up another project at the locate craft store to keep me from going stir crazy in a hotel room in a new city with a grumpy bulldog. (To be fair, he was not grumpy if I just sat and let him lay on top of me, it was all this getting up and going places that did not include food that he was against.)

So my hesitance to start exploring while the dear hubby was at work, gave me plenty of time to stitch. When the Army moved us to Homestead, Florida (South Miami), I was nearly 8 months pregnant, hoping that we'd be able to get the house put together enough to bring home a new baby. So the kitchen, bathroom, and our bedroom were the primary focus. We were lucky, and I guess smart, because as soon as we learned where the Army would be moving us, we changed our baby registries to have all the of gifts not mailed, delivered to the local stores. It was like Christmas walking in and coming out with carts full of baby stuff that we 1.) didn't have to pay for and 2.) didn't have to unpack from the stacks of boxes that were sitting in our new house at the time. When you spend enough time in the Army you learn to always to looking ahead to the next move!

After we brought home The Lil Monkey, we slowly started to turn the 4th room into a craft room, the first time I'd ever had one (it only took 32 years!) The Christmas before he was born, my husband had surprised me with a sewing machine. So those last two months of pregnancy it was hard to focus on unpacking when I had that pretty new machine sitting there.

As I unpacked I'd realized that over the years, many of my half stitched projects had been boxed up for a move and then set aside when we unpacked because I had already started new ones in the interim. Since I was a serial project starter anyway and had rotated projects to keep me from getting bored, there were a lot. I knew that with a new baby, life had to get organized really quickly if I was to keep crafting. So that's where Operation Organization began.

When it came to stitching, the solution was simple. I needed something that allowed me to keep everything I needed for a project together, and that's when "The Box" came  to our house.

The box has changed over the years, just like the "craft bag" where I keep current projects for grab and go moments. Now it is a bright pink canvas basket, but the organization of its contents are the same.

Each cross stitch (or embroidery) project is put into its own zipper plastic bag. It contains the fabric and all of the floss needed to complete the project as well as with the original or copy of the pattern. I mostly use copies so I can highlight the finished sections as I go, but small or quick patterns may have the original. They are not really put in any order throughout the year, though at the end of each year, when I sort through and update my WIP (Works in Progress) list I usually put them back with larger in the back, smaller in the front. Throughout the year it gets rearranged with stuff I am pausing work on going in the front.

Each bag that is in the "working" rotation usually has a needle and hoop in it. I have a few pairs of scissors and even nail clippers that I use to cut with and those are usually in the bag as well. (I use nail clippers if I am taking a project in the car or on a plane for safety reasons and because sometimes TSA will not let you take scissors on a plane.

In the front of the box is also the stack of finished projects that need to be completed as a wall hanging or some sort of sewn project.

Since I mostly wind my floss on bobbins to prevent tangling, I also have a bag of floss that is unwound, so that if I am watching TV or at a sports practice I can take it and wind them at my leisure.

This year, I have the smallest amount of WIPs that I can remember in a long. My list this year includes ...

Finished Projects to Be Sewn or Framed:
  • Rejoice Wreath
  • White Heart (on pink)
Projects to be Stitched:
  • Christmas Bells Bread Cloth
  • Roll Poly Santa's
  • Easter Bunny - mom
  • Easter Bunny - me
  • Love Honor Cherish
  • Blanket with Jamie's initials
  • Army Seal
  • Good Night Moon blanket
  • Red, White and Blue Ribbon
  • Watermelon Towel
  • Monthly Christmas SAL
  • Witch Hat
  • key bookmark
  • Candy Cane Towel
  • Daisy Tabletopper
  • Jamie's Christmas Stocking
I'll create a Projects List with link at the top of the blog to help keep track. Tomorrow, I'll post organization tips for quilting and other crafting.

Until our next cup of tea ...

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pinterest Project: We Need Alcohol for This!!

Yesterday, I posted about getting some creative time in with my friend, Erin. Though it was by far, our longest creative time together, it is not the only one on this trip.

On Friday, we were still trying to recover from our Christmas Day adventures (the wind picked up our canopy in the backyard and sent it flying though the kitchen windown when I was washing dishes.) After additional clean up and repairs, we rescheduled a gathering of #TheFourFamilies to Saturday and settled in for a quiet evening around our new gas firepit. Mike and Erin, who are staying down the street, walked over with their oldest to join us for some backporch relaxation.

Earlier on Friday, the hubby and I went to Lowe's with Lil Monkey to  pick up the gas grill and I got some plain white tiles so I could "trouble-shoot" the Sharpie Alcohol Art project I will be doing with my son's pre-K class next month. Sharpies and 4/5 year-olds is definitely something that can get scary fast so I wanted to have some idea of the project beforehand.

So when Erin came over, I enticed her to help me with the project. That's what good friends do, get you out of your comfort zone.

The premise seems pretty easy. Take multiple Sharpie markers and color white tiles with various designs then "drop" alcohol on it and watch them kind of melt together like a watercolor. Sounds simple ...
We had 4 color Sharpies ... black, red, blue and yellow. I thought the yellow wouldn't work, but we were surprised. After a couple of tries we discovered there were a few things that were not on the various instructions we'd found on Pinterest:
1. They don't really "melt" together without a little "dabbing" assistance. 
2. The red in particular was difficult because it tended to "float" and eventually just disappear.
3. Black was too strong and muddled everything into a black soupy mess.

The part we loved the most? You could rinse the times and remove the Sharpie and alcohol and start over, though we did have to wipe the ones with red with a little alcohol to get it all off. Not a big deal, and definitely a lifesaver since I'd only gotten 4 tiles. 

We each rinsed and redid our tiles 2 or 3 times, but eventually we got the hang of it. This is a photo of her tiles (top) and mine (bottom) when we left them to dry.

As you can see the red starts to fade away, but overall we were pretty happy. Unfortunately, it has rained to 48+ hours since then, so while they are dry, I have not been able to seal them with a Polyurethane sealer. From all I have read, it is best to use a spary versus a brush method so it doesn't distort the tiles. Hopefully, today the backyard will dry a little and I can spray them and post notes about the finishing step. I'll post another look at them as well, so you can see how they changed as they dried. 

Until our next cup of tea ...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Friend's Request

Military life comes with a certain degree of separation and a large portion of goodbyes. As a military family you learn to treasure friends when you find them because in a short time you're introductions turn to farewells. If you're lucky you'll stay in touch via social media and if you hit the lottery you may be stationed at the same location again with a good timeframe of overlapping between another move.

Sometimes you have the rare treasure of having a military friend who has family in the same location as you and the friendship can grow into one that will last weel into your golden years. George and I are that lucky. 

He and his friend, Michael, grew up in the same neighborhood and after highschool Mike headed to the Navy and George headed to college where he joined the Army. Eventually wives and children joined the mix and "coming home to visit" gave us more "family" to visit. Now that we are living back in the old neighborhood we've become part of the family their coordinate into those busy trips home.

Erin and I have a friendship that was born because of our husbands' history and grew fast because of the shared understanding of military life. It's hard to explain to those who don't live the daily life of a military family, but there are small daily things that you don't get if you don't live it. Today for example we talked about how even when you are unpacking from a new move you are taking notes on what to do differently when packing the next time, and how even putting away holiday decorations is extreme because you don't know if you will recieve orders to move before you open them again, so you have to pack with that knowledge.

That's not to say that we can't find comfort and support from those family and friends who are not military, but it's sort of an unspoken understanding.

During this visit, we've had a bit of time to get together with what has come to be known as "The Four Families", a group that includes two other friends from George's childhood in this neighborhood. With Mike and Erin staying down the street, we've also had some one-on-one time to visit and relax. Today was one of those days.

The Lil Monkey spent the day with my parents and I called Erin to see if she wanted to come over to sew. When their oldest was younger he recieved a lot of handmade gifts from family members, such as blankets, quilts, afghans, etc. In the 10 years between their oldest and youngest, many of those family members have passed away and Erin was sad that their second child wouldn't have some of the same heirlooms later. I offered to make a quilt and other little things earlier this year and she was excited but also expressed how she'd love to learn to sew as well. 

We were finally able to have a good amount of child-free time for both of us today, so she came over to help layout the quilt (I wanted her to have as much participation as possible) and to learn the sewing basics. After getting her comfortable with my sewing machine and showing her to basics, I pulled out the easiest projects to learn to sew on ... Quiltsmart ZigZapps and Wine Shades. She felt comfortable starting with the Wine Shades because of the straight lines. 

I sorted through my recently consolidated fabric stash pulled out some pink polka dot fabric that matched the quilt we'd been working on for her daughter's soon-to-be big girl room. She was a little hesitant at first, but when I explained that the wine shades were very forgiving as far as staying on the sitching lines and such, she started to feel a little more confident. 

She slowly stitched along, talking herself through the steps and buttons, while I organized my box of ZigZapps looking for some more Wine Shades. I'd recently given my roll of panels to my Mom who was short for a class she was teaching and was now regretting not keeping some. I soon got lucky, finding a few pre-cut wine shades interfacing panels as her confidence grew and she began chatting about making set for each holiday. I dug around in my fabric a little more and found fabric for her to use to make wine shades for 4th of July/Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving/Fall, and Halloween.  

A few hours after starting she had a stack of completed wine shades, the remaining panels I could find and a list of fabric to get at the store this week. I'm not sure of I should be proud like a Mama Bird whose chick learned to fly, or if I should worry that I have created a tornado that cannot be contained! But I guess I'll worry about that later because now I have to show her the ZiggZapp flowers, leaves and petals, stars and more!!!

It was truly an amazing day to be able to take a break from the realities of military life and the looming seperation and just get creative. Quiltsmart made it easy to get have fun while learning, and who knows what crafty craziness we try next!!

Until our next cup of tea ...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Roses

I'm pretty sure my family and friends on my private Facebook page are tired of me posting this same thing every major holiday but I just can't help it.

Christmas morning we went out into our backyard and the rosebush my husband's grandmother plannted more than 30 years ago was in full bloom again. I am so excited that every holiday, no matter what time of year, this beautiful bush of pink roses greets us with a floral display. It's kind of like those who have passed away are wanting to remind us that they are still in our hearts.

This poor plant hasn't been cared for properly in many years. My father-in-law was content to let it gow wild and it has held up under a variety of winter freezes, droughts, hurricanes and so much more. I want to prune it and give it a little TLC (tender loving care), but I am scared if I do that it won't bloom yearround like it has been since before we inherited the house in 2008.

Any suggestions or advice?? I have no experience whatsoever with plants. In fact, I am a bit of a plant-nemisis, but I really want this one to be its best. Should I leave it be or do a little work?

Until our next cup of tea ...

Friday, December 26, 2014

A Creative Christmas

I am one of those people who get VERY excited about homemade or artistic Christmas gifts. I mean, yes, I did ask for a toaster this year and get one, but I really love artisitc gifts. This year I was surprised and actually turned into a kid in a candy store when our friend and neighbor Kevin brought over presents from him and his wife Jill. 

He came over at the point when my husband and a friend were fighting a reoccurring issue with our sewer line (it looks like a piece of the plastic pipe broke off and is causing a backup. He handed hubby our gifts and started talking to hubby and friend. I came out with the friend's wife at that time and Kevin asked if we liked crosses. Erin and I said "yes" and he came back with a shoe box sized box and dumped out a pile of beautiful crosses made from silverware. 

Erin and I were like kids in a candy store, but was still hestiant to take a whole bunch, but we each took 4 (well, I had already gotten one and got 3 more.)  He was like, "Is that all you want?" but we didn't want to be greedy. It sounds like they made a whole bunch, and they were certainly beautiful. I really loved these ...

He also gave us this beautiful license plate he made with our last name. I didn't even know he was creative - in this sense. He has done a lot of stuff around his house and rebuild my late father-in-law 1935 Harley Davidson. 

I get really excited when I find new creative friends, especially when they are longtime friends to begin with!!

Until our next cup of tea ... 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Buying a New Home for Christmas

In the 11 years that George has been in the Army, we have met some amazing people. Many of the spouses I've met who share a love for creativity have some really amazing and unique talents. My husband spent 5 years in his first assigned unit and I was surprised with how much time I spent with the spouses and families through 2 yearlong deployments that it was AFTER we moved to another military installation that I found out some of the creative talents some of the spouses I'd seen on a weekly baisi, if not more, had been keeping to themselves. O.k. it's not like they were hiding it, I just think many of them "developed" or honed their craft after we'd left.

One of those spouses. Maribel, was someone who I'd watched to learn more about being a military spouse. As a young wife, married to a newly commissioned officer, I knew that the impressions I made would be important. Maribel, the spouse of a senior officer was a great example of the poise, confidence and friendiness that I hoped to develop as I started this new life.

Though we didn't keep in close contact like some of the other friends I'd made in those firs few years, I did check in with her via Facebook a few times a year. It was a few years after we left that she introduced a line of decorative papercraft homes, chapels and other buildings that were the absolutely gorgeous. 

As you can imagine, life with an active toddler boy, I was a little nervous to order some of these delecate ornaments and such, so I put it off. Earlier this year, my husband bought me a china cabinet and when Christmas came around, I knew that it was the perfect time. 

In early December, my order arrived and I have to say, they were even more amazing in person than I'd seen on her website, White Berry Lane. I love that they can be personalized with names and such. I even requested all white to fit with my (future) Pink and White Christmas. It inspired me to make some more ornaments for that tree too, which I'll share later. 

I knew even before they arrived that there was no way I could put them away with the holiday decore, so with a little rearranging, they got a permanent home in the tea cabinet. 

Even the packaging is adorable and I was hesitant to unwrap them!

She also sent me this cute tea set photo which is also on display in the cabinet. 

Until our next cup of tea ... 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Inspiration is Everywhere

I'm having a bit of quilting withdrawals, though it partially for a good reason. Last week our little family joined my brother and his family, and my mom and stepfather for a 5-days cruise, so that's why the blog has been a little quiet. Our dear neighbors collected our mail and packages while we were away and brother them over when we got home. I went to tuck the "Santa" gifts and other things away in the craft room and the light blew when we went in there. So while the packages are safely tucked away, I cannot do any sewing until Hubby can fix the light (I am too short to reach even on a ladder because it is recessed lighting.)

I was even proactive, but cutting and sorting projects at the beginning of the month because our families are really big on making homemade gift baskets and I needed the cutting table to put them together. {sigh} I guess I'll just be happy I can work on some stitching projects.

Earlier today I was chatting with Quiltsmart Mattie via text about some inspiration that I saw on a quilt blog that would look great with the Quiltsmart Dahlia. It got to me thinking about the random photos I take because I think it would be a unique quilt pattern, or color combination or just because I was inspired in that moment. 

Take these tiles at Lowe's. I am coordinating my son's class's annual Art Auction project this year and I saw these and thought it would be fun to try a similar project using Quiltsmart's Hexagons.

I saw this pink rose when my husband and I snuck away for lunch one day and thought the pinks would be amazing in a Quiltsmart Lonestar. (Can you tell that this A Year of Quiltsmart project is not just a part of my creative time? I'm a little obsessed!) 

When we were on the cruise, my husband and I took my son to the Dr. Seuss "Green Eggs and Ham" Breakfast. I thought maybe I'd push myself out of my comfort zone one day and try a red and aqua/teal combo. That would be WAY outside my comfort zone, color-wise.

I hope that I never stop seeing creative "inspirations" in everyday life. Even if I never get to see all the ideas created, it still makes life "colorful" to imagine all the possiblities. 

Until our next cup of tea ...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Festive Fun with a Friend!

Today I had an alone-day. My dear husband was taking his last final of the semester and my parents were taking Lil Monkey to their community's Christmas parade. I attempted to get some long overdue house cleaning done, but then the craft store was calling my name. As soon as my neighbor got her kids and husband off to their respective activities, we headed over to JoAnn's to get supplies to make wreaths.

Now we've both been wanting to make Mickey Mouse holiday wreaths since our two families went to Disney together about 18 months ago. Her husband was more than ready for her to got get the stuff to get it done. My husband was used to my project fixations.

So off we went. The store is pretty picked over at this point and they are already putting out Valentine's Day stuff, but we found what we needed and about 2.5 hours later, this is what we had ...

Her wreath was a beautiful greenery wreath with ornaments and bows ...

Mine was a wire wreath with ornaments strung (and glued) to it. I filled in some of the empty spots after this, but forgot to take another photo.

All in all it was a fun afternoon, and something we'd nover done before. First we've never had a kid-free day at the same time, secondly she's never really done craft projects of this size before, but I think she is hooked now. She is already looking for Spring wreath ideas. I've created a monster!!

Another quick project I did was this vase. The case itself was 70% off because it had a chip in it. As a 
collector of the occasional chipped teacup, I wasn't deterred. The 4 berry branches were 70% off as well. I added some Epsom salt to the vase which I had at home. So for about $8 I created this fun centerpiece. (Later I found 4 more berry branches from a live wreath we had last year - 2 dark red, 2 gold.)

Another great craft adventure complete!!

Until our next cup of tea ...