Holiday Spice Tea from Tea of Life

The Christmas tea that I’d like to share with you this month is from Tea of Life. This is their Holiday Spice Tea which I purchased from TJMaxx in 2017. Try as we might, neither I nor my girls could find this tea again for Christmas 2018, and we looked every chance we got. We looked at not only TJMaxx but also Marshall’s, Home Goods, and even Tuesdays as they tend to carry a lot of Tea of Life tea varieties.3ACE3D3A-2AD7-4E8C-829A-E4ADD52066E2

When I originally purchased this tea I wasn’t really sure I’d like it, but knew if I didn’t there would be a good chance that either Victoria or Julia would. Why did I think I wouldn’t like it? Because it contains vanilla flavour, of which I’m not really a fan, but even more questionable in my mind was the spice star anise, which to me smells and tastes like licorice, and I hate licorice. That being said, I’ve read that this spice has many benefits which include the killing off of bacteria and fungus, providing a concentrated dose of antioxidants which may aid with heart health, and it keeps blood sugar levels steady. It is also a natural way to fight off the flu. In fact, the active ingredient in flu medications like Tamiflu is shikimic acid which is extracted from star anise. (Source)

I decided that for $3.99 I would take a chance since I liked the other spices in this pure Ceylon black tea which are cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, all of which have their own list of health benefits. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I bought this tea, and although I’ve shared it with my girls, who love it, I didn’t give either of them all of it. Since we were unable to find more this past Christmas, I drink it sparingly, which isn’t hard given all the various varieties of tea I have on hand.

There were two sealed foil bags inside the tin each of which contained twenty teabags. The minute I opened the first foil bag I could smell licorice. While there’s a hint of the other spices as well, the overwhelming scent of licorice hit my nose first. That made me even more skeptical. However, I’m glad to say that once it had steeped I really liked the overall taste of this tea. The combination of spices and vanilla flavour was perfect and the aroma was lovely. Just the thing to have in hand when you’re curled up in front of a fireplace with a roaring fire, a comfy quilt, and a good book. And yes, I like it well enough that I do drink it on even not so cold winter days. It’s such a treat!

Just as a reminder, three months in this new year have come and gone. The gift giving season is only nine months away. If you’ve not started on at least a list of things to make, and people for whom to make them, you’d best grab a cup of tea, a pad of paper, and get on it. Time’s a wastin’!

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A Christmas Tea Review

A day late and a dollar short. If I had a life motto that would probably be it. Actually, if I wanted to brutally honest, not to mention accurate, I’d have to say, several days late and several dollars short would fit me better.

Right now, I’m a month late. I wanted to start a series of posts to share a Christmas tea flavour with you and my thoughts about it. Each month, on the 25th, I’d share a different tea that is designated by the maker as a Christmas tea. Why? Well, because I can and because I thought it would be a fun and different thing to do.

I’d wanted to start the series in January because that’s National Hot Tea month, coupled with the beginning of a new year—what better time to start? Time got away from me though, and it didn’t get past the think-about-it stage. The idea sprang from the gift that I gave at our Christmas meeting to the ladies in my quilting circle, which was 12 teas to drink during the 12 Days of Christmas. Our family has celebrated Christmas over 12 days for many years now, and I kinda wanted to share that with my friends. While I didn’t give them Christmas teas exclusively, I gave them a few of those to try and filled in with other flavours for the rest. Then I thought, why not expand on that idea and share with my online friends throughout the year, many of which are tea drinkers too.

So, without further ado, the first tea I’d like to share with you is Christmas Spiced Tea by Marks and Spencer. I ordered this tea from Teadog year before last. After receiving the tea, I realized it was going to be one of my favourites, so I ordered a second tin. Yes, this tea came in a lovely red embossed tin with a gold teapot. I love the tin! I have one for the upstairs kitchen and one for the FFFFE338-A357-4906-85CC-A256CF457B32downstairs kitchen. I’m one of these folks who will buy the tin without really caring about the contents. Tins to me are like pieces of art. So, once I saw this tin up close and personal, it didn’t matter what the tea tasted like, I was in love with the tin. I know…I’m not always as rational as some think I am. Fortunately, when I opened the gold foil bag protecting the round tea bags, I knew I was in for a second treat. The smell that escaped was amazing. Without even tasting the tea I knew it was going to live up to its description as a spiced tea.

This is a black tea from southern India. The ingredients list includes: cassia bark, allspice flavourings, and nutmeg. The tasting notes are nutmeg, clove, and ginger. This is almost like a chai tea, but there’s no need to add milk as I often do with a chai. It’s a very flavourful tea; some might find it a bit strong, but if you enjoy spiced teas then I have no doubt that you’d enjoy this one. It’s a very aromatic, very warming tea. The aroma of the dry teabags reminds me of the smell I get when I make pumpkin bread, but without the added smell of pumpkin. Yum! My only regret is that this selection wasn’t available this past season from my usual sources, so I’m having to drink it sparingly to make it last. That’s something to keep in mind with Christmas teas. They are oftentimes seasonal. If you find a tea that you like, I recommend buying a second, or third, box/tin just in case it isn’t anywhere to be found later in the year or the next time the Christmas season comes around.

My other thought was to show off my Christmas themed teacups. I’m on vacation right now though and didn’t bring one with me. Actually, I don’t have very many that are specifically Christmas, so I’ll be looking to add to my collection this year. I have to do it for you of course. That’s what I’ll be telling Rick anyhow when he asks why on earth I need another cup and saucer. And yes, I do travel with my china as I prefer my tea from china teacups rather than pottery mugs. This cup and saucer set is Grand Tapestry by Gorham. Being a collector of teacups, I find it frustrating when I see one that I like on someone’s post, or in a magazine, but aren’t given it’s pattern name or maker. If you like this one, it can be found at Replacements.

To give you something to do to enhance your tea drinking experience, I found a hand embroidery pattern that I wanted to share with you. The scene is much like that of Blue Willow, which I have loved since childhood and collected over the years. Whether you stitch it onto a tea towel, a napkin, or frame it, I’m sure you’ll enjoy having a piece of handwork to look at during your relaxing tea time.

Until next month!

Christmas Quilts & More

One of my favorite types of magazines is those which focus on Christmas. While I love magazines, I love, love, love Christmas themed magazines especially. If I had the money, and the space, I’d buy every one to be found on the bookstore shelves. That’s how much I love Christmas themed magazines. Unfortunately, I have neither the money nor the space, not to mention the time, for such a large variety of magazines that focus on one holiday. So, I pick and choose very carefully those magazines that come into my home starting around November but staying forever…and I do mean forever. I have Christmas magazines that are more than 10 years old that I still pull out for inspiration or just to get me in the mood for Christmas. These magazines cover the gamut from decorating, party planning, new recipes to try, and crafting of one sort or another. The latter being the ones that I actually get around to using for their intended purpose – more or less. I’m still better at looking at the photos and dreaming about duplicating the projects than I am at the execution process.Mag-BHG-Christmas Qlts n More 2018

The other day I received a copy of Christmas Quilts & More in the mail. This is a special interest publication from Better Homes & Gardens. I knew immediately from the cover that I was going to enjoy looking through this magazine, and I’m here to tell you that I was in no way disappointed by its content.

On the cover it states that there are “25 holiday projects, quilts, décor, and gift ideas.” I’ve gotten into the habit of using colorful sticky flags, that I buy from Dollar Tree, to mark the projects or ideas I find particularly interesting. That way, when I pick up the magazine later, I know which pages to look at and am able to save a bit of time, although not much as I get sidetracked and start looking at everything else in the magazine yet again. Yes, you could say when it comes to time management, I’m hopeless. I enjoy myself to be sure, but I’m hopeless in making the most of the minutes allotted to me each day. I’d like to say I’ll get better at it, but I know myself well enough not to lie about this particular kink in my personality.

Mag-BHG Christmas Qlts n More 2018 FlagsAnyhow, of the 25 offerings in this publication I have 15 of them flagged. When I went back and counted the number of flags sticking out the side of the magazine it made me wonder which projects I hadn’t flagged, and why. So, I went back through the issue again. Of the projects I didn’t mark one was a wreath, which I don’t need at the moment as I have a beautiful one that I purchased several years ago. One was for a tree skirt which I don’t need because I purchased one on sale last year at TJMaxx. Then there was a stocking which I don’t need, but after looking again I decided that the holly leaves and berries would work well on another project, like a hot pad or mug rug. There were four quilt projects that I didn’t mark, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t decide to make them later on. Since my count didn’t add up to 25 I went back a third time to figure out where I’d missed the other three projects. I can only conclude that those three are the evergreen sprays that are shown between sections. These should be easy enough to execute without instructions and would look wonderful on or beside exterior doors or windows to add a bit of festive cheer whether they were hanging inside or outside your home. The one using sewing notions would be perfect to hang on your sewing room door.

I do realize that this publication is a compilation of past projects that have been featured in BH&G publications. That means you may already have the instructions elsewhere, but it’s nice to have so many projects, and a fairly nice mix at that, all corralled in one convenient place. If only time could be so easily recycled I might have enough of it to actually be able to get one or two of the projects I marked completed.

While looking through the issue the third time, I had a thought which is actually one that I’ve thought about before but just never allowed to get past the thinking stage. That thought was this. Instead of just wishing my creative time away only to get to the end of the year with nothing significant to show for the days that have flown past, why not get my act together and force myself to make at least one project, probably a small one, each month that could be used as a gift for Christmas or as an addition to my current decorating items. I know I’d have to make a date with myself in order to do that. I also know that I’d have to work on it the same time each day/week/month in order to remember to do so. Otherwise, time just gets past me, and I find the month to be over before I’ve even realized it began. So, I think that’s going to be my approach to getting past the I-wish-I-hadda stage in order to finally have something to point to at the end of next year, Good Lord willing, and say, “Wow! I did all of that this year?! Who’d of thought it…” It might not be a quilting or sewing project either. Creativity and working with ones’ hands is always a good thing to do regardless of the medium. Now all I have to do is figure out where to store the items I make so that I can find them when the time comes to give or to use them next year. Another kink in my personality to be overcome I’m afraid, but that’s a discussion for another day. Suffice it to say I tend to give gifts all year long as I run across them when moving a bag to find something else that’s lost. My kids know I mean well and still seem to love me anyhow. For that I am grateful.

The Lost Have Been Found! Hallelujah!!!

Last year, or was it the year before that (?), Donna and I decided we’d do a quilt together. She and I have both taken to small, not necessarily mini, quilts and thought that a doll quilt would be the perfect thing to create. Being small the concept was that it wouldn’t take us a whole year, or longer, to complete. What is it they say about best laid plans…?

Deciding just which doll quilt to make is never an easy task, but there was one thatPic-KTracy-Doll Qlt-30s I’d wanted to make for a very long time. I took my book with the quilt design in it to our sewing circle meeting and showed it to Donna. She liked it too (she is so easy going), so it was decided that it would be THE one with which to start. The design was by Kathleen Tracy and was originally in one of her books, which has since gone out of publication. However, Martingale included the quilt in their 101 Fabulous Small Quilts book, a must-have book for those who love small quilts, so you still have the opportunity to make that quilt too if you’d like.

Miss Kathleen’s quilt used heart-shapes to make a flower design which is so sweet. I had already bought the pack of papers that were required (no need going into how long ago that was before Donna and I decided to make the quilt) and while we were waiting for her pack of papers to arrive we set about choosing our fabrics. She decided to do hers in solids while I stuck with my personal favorite: ‘30s reproduction prints. Since I have a LOT of ‘30s prints I thought making each petal from a different print would be good. I’d need 60 prints in order to do this. Nooooo problem. All I’d have to do is decide which print went together with the others. Now, you might think that deciding on how to arrange the prints would be an easy task because I always say you can’t go wrong with ‘30s prints. But then, at this point you really need to take into account who it is doing this project—ME. Nothing ever seems to be so straight forward, much less easy, when I start thinking and putting things together. Those who know me well know that decision-making isn’t my strong suit. This little quilt started giving me a headache from the git-go. For non-southerners that means “from the very beginning” and the word “git” is really the word “get” but we don’t pronounce it with an “e” but with an “i” sound, a particular pet peeve of my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Hardy.

Anyhow, there were questions that had to be answered before I could decide on exactly which prints to use. For example, should I make use of geometric prints only such as checks, dots, or squares in each flower, or should I use only floral prints in each flower. How about using solids in amongst the prints? What about the conversation prints with cute cats, dogs, sheep, children, etc.? At this point my creative mind had created too many choices, too many decisions.

While I love ‘30s prints, I really love the conversation prints, just so you’ll know. They’re the ones that always call to me, “Use me! Use me!!!” Some might think that the conversation prints are for use in a child’s quilt only. I was actually told this several years ago by an experienced quilter when we did a BOM using ‘30s prints because she didn’t want them in her quilt. While I didn’t argue with her, well, not much, I didn’t agree with her then any more than I do now. After closely studying several vintage quilts from that era, I have come to the conclusion that conversation prints were not used only in quilts meant for children. I can’t say that every quilt made back in the ‘30s or that used ‘30s prints, often called feedsacks, have conversation prints in them, but the quilts that I own or have looked at closely have at least one or two floating around somewhere. If they’re not on the top then they may very well have been used as part of the backing. So, I have no qualms about putting conversation prints into projects I make using ‘30s prints regardless of the age of the end user.

OK, back to my decision-making dilemma. Another question that had to be answered was, “How do I arrange the prints in each flower?” Do I make the flowers using the same color, i.e. all red prints, all blue prints, all green prints, etc.? Or, do I make each petal a different color? If I make each petal a different color, do I repeat any color within a flower? Do I use a print more than once? Now are you beginning to see why there was more to making this little quilt than I’d initially thought about when drawn to it several years ago? By now you’re probably thinking I’m a fruitcake or too easily get wrapped around the axle about my fabric decisions. In all honesty, I’d have to plead guilty to being both, usually in tandem.

Eventually, we both had our heart-shaped papers and had decided on what genre of fabric we were going to use. Now came the time to actually work on the project. Donna took a trip and worked on her hearts. She decided that she wasn’t doing a very good job at them, especially at the top section where the heart dips down into a point. When I tried my hand at it, I didn’t have any better results than she had. Then I took a trip. While I was at the beach, thinking about what we could do to make our hearts look like hearts instead of what they looked like, which wasn’t really hearts, the light bulb came on. Why not use hexies instead?! Hexies are much easier and we could make small flowers using ½” hexies. I had some ½” shapes with me, so I laid them out in a flower shape next to a flower using heart papers (not fabric-covered papers by the way, just the papers) and discovered that they were roughly the same size. Viola! Problem solved! When I got home I got in touch with Proj - Doll Qlt - Hexies - VarietyDonna, suggested we use hexies instead because they were much easier, and she agreed that we should do that. So, our version of Miss Kathleen’s little quilt was born and began to take shape. Of course, now I had gone from needing 60 prints to needing 72 prints, but since I have way more than 72 different ‘30s prints that wasn’t going to cause a problem at all. Here are some of the ones that haven’t been made into flowers yet.

Donna and I have known each other for several years now, but apparently, she didn’t know me as well as I thought she did. She was so diligent in getting her hexies covered and turning them into flowers, worrying that I’d have mine done before she got done. Truth was she’d finished several flowers before I’d even gotten started. Imagine that… It was all of those decisions that I had mentioned beforehand that had me stymied. By the time she’d finished four flowers, I’d just decided on what I wanted to use for the center. Originally, I was going to use a print that had several flowers of different shapes. Then I realized that I’d have to repeat some of the flowers so that each of the twelve centers wouldn’t be unique. Scratch that idea. I finally decided on a yellow dot print that I’d use for the center of each flower. That would make life easier and have the added benefit of giving the viewer a focal point, or place for the eye to rest, when looking at the 72 different prints amongst the flowers. With that decision, I got the twelve centers whipped up in no time flat. Of course, while I was doing the center hexies I was still trying to decide what to do about the petals.
Proj-DBennett-Hexis x 3
Donna finished her flowers loooong before I did. Here are three of her flowers. Aren’t they lovely!? In fact, mine are still not finished, but I have a very good reason why. It’s because I lost them. Yes, I lost them. I had kept them in a little tin that I take with me to our sewing circle but took them out and put them by the cash register so I could show them to a lady who said she thought she’d like to start making hexies as she needed some handwork to keep her occupied in the evenings. She didn’t come to visit on the day I thought she would, and my little pack of six completed flowers, centers, and petals was moved. And then they were moved again, and again, and again… Then they were lost, and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I searched in all the places where it would have made sense for me to put them—probably a dumb thang, a dumb thang to do (for those who remember Gomer Pyle). Just so you’ll know, you never look for something you’ve lost in a sensible location. If the lost item was in a sensible location it wouldn’t be lost now would it. I also looked in quite a few nonsensical locations but to no avail. Alas, my little packet of flowers, etc. were nowhere to be found. Bummer…

My adorable little flowers were lost for a good two months or more. I finally decided that they’d gotten buried under something, and since they were so small, fitting inside of a plastic zip-top snack bag, it would be decades before they were unearthed. I finally decided over the weekend to make new flowers as it wasn’t fair to keep Donna waiting any longer on putting her quilt together. Tuesday, while looking for something else that was lost because it had been moved from where I normally had kept it, this time due to the construction in the front room, I found not only what I was looking for but I found my flowers. Hallelujah!!!

Now that the lost have been found you can see what I finally decided to do as a layout of my petals. Do you see any kind of plan going on? There is one, kinda, but I won’t say that I’ll carry it out on all twelve flowers. Time will tell really. Pic-EPP 30s Flowers 2 - 2018
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Magazine Monday – The Farmhouse Movement

At the end of March, Rick and I went to Gatlinburg for a long weekend. We used to do this for “spring break” when the kids were given a week off from their dance and gymnastics classes. They’d go visit their grandparents while Rick and I would spend three or four days alone in a chalet. This go around our trip had nothing to do with anyone’s schedule but was made more out of habit. It seems we’d gotten used to being in Gatlinburg in March and something didn’t seem quite right without our annual trip there. While we’re pretty much couch potatoes once we get settled in, we do make at least one, and this trip two, visits to Books a Million (BAM) while there. BAM used to be one of our places to visit daily when the kids were in classes, so it’s just a natural place for us to go. Of course, I always have to have an Oreo Candy Blast and love the double chocolate chip cookies that they now offer even though they’re definitely not per diet. But I digress…
Mag-Farmhouse-Vol 1 Issue 2
At our first visit to the bookstore during this trip, I ran across a new-to-me magazine. It may be new to you as well since the March/April 2018 issue is only the second one. It’s The Farmhouse Movement magazine, and I hate that I missed the premiere issue. I was actually looking for the latest issue of The Magnolia Journal, which I found and bought, when one of the articles listed on the cover of this new-to-me magazine caught my eye. It’s been recommended that I change my eating habits and follow a ketogenic diet. To do this I have to change the type of flour that I use to bake with from our standard variety to coconut, and/or almond flour. Not an easy concept for someone my age to grasp (and we won’t even discuss the implementation thereof). So, when I saw a review of six different flours inside this issue, I knew I needed to check out that information as well as whatever else was hiding between the front and back covers.

I took a moment to look at the table of contents and saw that it included an article on starting a garden, basic sewing, and making some simple products to use in the home. Of course, there were a few other articles that caught my eye, but the ones that hit me first were enough to intrigue me into giving this new publication a whirl. Once we were back at our sweet little cabin, I sat down and started at the beginning since I needed to get a feel for the mind behind the magazine. That mind appears to belong to Jordan Schrandt. You may have heard of her, but as a quilty person, who tends to have blinders on where new names and faces outside the quilt world are concerned, I had not. You can learn more about her on her website though, as have I. She seems like a lovely young woman with a vision who has taken on the challenge to enable others to live a better quality of life.

Now, for my thoughts on the magazine… The magazine is very well done in terms of photos and layout. It has a nice matte finish and contains 99 pages. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that there wasn’t a single advertisement included in the page count. That means you’re truly getting your $8 worth out of this publication. I know advertisements are what help to keep the cost of publication down, but I have stopped subscribing to some magazines for this very reason.

The review of the six different types of flour was very helpful. I’m still a bit confused but figure if I read the page 100 times, like the TA in one of my computer classes recommended we do with new information (this was in 1992 by the way), I might be able to retain the nuances of the different flours and how to use them long enough to actually bake with them. Still, I’ll probably take a picture of the page with my phone (Victoria taught me this trick) so that I can use it as my “cheat sheet” when the time comes to start experimenting. Actually, we did bake a loaf of keto bread using both almond and coconut flour a few weeks ago. Can’t say as I was impressed with the result, but it was better than having no bread at all for making sandwiches. Hopefully, with this new information, on these new-to-me flour types, we’ll have a better outcome in future baking adventures.

The information shared on basic sewing was indeed very basic. It is definitely meant for a beginner who has very little to no experience using a needle and thread. Instructions on equipping a sewing box, threading a needle, hemming, sewing on buttons, and mending holes were given. It should get newbies started but some good tips were left out. For example, when hemming, be sure to take a back stitch every two to three inches so that the whole hem does not come out. That way you’ll only have to repair a few inches instead of re-hemming the whole section. Plus, tie off your thread when you’ve finished a seam before you cut the thread. I do a backstitch and run the needle through the resulting loop before pulling the thread tight to secure. Only then do I clip my threads. I wouldn’t recommend having stitches that were 1/2″ apart either. We’d call those toe-catchers. The mentioned 1/4″ apart would be better and even a bit smaller distance between stitches better still. I can hear my grandmother now telling me to always take small stitches.

While I enjoyed reading the information on gardening, making natural cleaning items, kitchen economics, and making a house look more farmhouse-like, I didn’t read the article on chickens, though I may go ahead and do that, eventually. No offense to anyone, but I greatly dislike chickens. I grew up having to tend to them and they’re just not my favorite critters. I learned at a very young age never to turn my back on roosters. Needless to say, I got very good at walking backwards.

There was a good article on forgiveness as well as articles on intentional parenting. It was nice to read about another family that homeschooled their children and to be reminded that no one is a perfect parent (something I guess I struggle with accepting if I were to be honest). I could totally relate to the article on foster parenting and adoption as Rick and I have done both. The articles were well written and brought back a lot of memories.

Overall, I have to say that I enjoyed the magazine and could relate to it well, even though much of it seemed to be geared to a younger audience than myself. The next issue is said to be coming out in May, so I will definitely keep an eye out for it. At the beginning of the magazine there is a page that explains the farmhouse movement. You can read that for yourself here. Given the direction our country seems to have been taken in, and its people have allowed themselves to go over the past several decades, I hope that the movement takes hold of young parents and enables them to nurture and train up the children who will become our future leaders. Our pastor in Albuquerque gave a sermon many years ago entitled “Give Me the Old Paths.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of that sermon, possibly from Jeremiah 6:16, and the need for families, for our country, to return to the values and morals that were once so common and expected. Under the name of the magazine are the words, “Timeless Truths of Healthy Homes.” Never before have we needed more truth and healthier homes than is needed now. Good work Miss Jordan! I look forward to enjoying your next issue.

Wednesday’s Wisdom

CA-Wisdom ScrollWords of Wisdom – It’s something I’ve wanted to introduce to the blog for a long time now. Something I’ve intended to do but have held back on following through. Why? Because it just seems like an unrelated and somewhat random topic for a blog that’s mainly about quilting. Not that quilters aren’t wise, it’s just not what you expect to read when you visit a quilter’s blog. But, there’s a reason why I’ve wanted to share some things with you, and I’ll try to explain without going into great detail.

Wisdom…it’s something that I’ve always sought after and tried to apply to problems, but fear I have not always managed to do so. The concept of obtaining wisdom seems easy enough, but the actual obtaining thereof, not so easy. That’s probably why this verse has always intrigued me, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” (Prov. 4:7)

The past six years have been a struggle for me. A constant struggle with very few breaks for taking a breather and regrouping. Just when I’d think that I was about to get a handle on my world another bit of it would break off and come crashing down around my ears. While I’m thankful my struggle hasn’t been health related, well, not seriously anyhow, I’ve had to acknowledge that it’s been just as insidious as some of the worse ailments known to mankind. Mine has been a struggle with my mind and emotions. There are no pills that can cure this type of ailment, only mask it. Because of that you can bank on the fact that I’ve taken no medication but have consumed enough hot tea over the past six years to float a battleship. Needless to say I’ve also had to include the consumption of cookies and a lot of sugar/honey to go along with the tea. You see, tea and cookies go hand in hand in my world. Of course, that’s created another problem, but I’m working on that one too.

I can’t honestly say that I’ve overcome anything or that my struggle has finally ended. Since I don’t currently see a light at the end of this tunnel, I’m not sure it ever will end completely. In the absence of a happy ending, I’ve had to find coping mechanisms to get through each day. I’ve had to cling to my faith, which at times I must admit became very weak to the point of almost no longer existing. Thankfully, I have been blessed with support from my husband and a handful of faithful friends who were always there to encourage me and to help keep me going. Along with certain Bible scriptures, I found that reading quotes or statements made throughout the centuries by others, who have no doubt endured struggles of their own, helped as well. It is this that I wish to share with you, maybe two or three on future Wednesdays, in hopes that they will help you too or maybe someone you know who is going through their own struggles and needs some meaningful words on which to focus. I found that memorizing anything during this time was out of the question, so writing down these bits of wisdom on 3×5 cards and taping them to my steering wheel, bathroom mirror, on my computer screen, or sewing machine, etc. worked best.

When my trials began, I felt like I’d wasted 19 years of my life (now 25). I ran across this: Talk not of wasted affection; affection never was wasted. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Hopefully not.)

After being told I worry too much about fairness: The happiest people don’t worry too much about whether life is fair or not, they just get on with it. ~Andrew Matthews (Getting on with it has been easier said than done for me.)

When I was told I was chasing shadows: Be kind to your shadow. ~Rebecca Lawless (I’m afraid I’ve been quite ruthless on my shadow.)

When I was told to move on: There is great power in letting go, and there is great freedom in moving on. ~Author Unknown (Boy, do I need the power to move on!)

Because I’ve been told I dwell on the unchangeable past too much. One neglect makes ten regrets. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897 (Guilty…I’ve beat myself black and blue with, “I should have…”)

OK, maybe these aren’t what you’d consider “words of wisdom.” Maybe we should instead label them “words of encouragement to get us through times of discouragement.” Words that will make us stop and think in a bit more positive way than what we may have been thinking beforehand. Regardless of what you call them, this is my attempt to share something that has helped me in hopes that it will also help you, or someone you know and care about.

As I said at the beginning, every week when Wednesday rolled around I’d think, “OK, this is the week I post some words of wisdom on my blog. Surely I can’t be the only one in this great big world of ours who has struggles that seem never ending.” I know for a fact that I am not. I also acknowledge that mine are trivial compared to those of others. We all have struggles of one degree or another. They’re just different for each of us while at the same time being somewhat similar. Their difference is in their makeup, their similarity is in the pain that they all too often cause. Sometimes though, words fail us when we try to share our struggles with others who care or may be able to help. When that happens, the best thing, actually I’d say the only thing, to do is take it to the Lord in prayer. After all, as I’ve been reminded over and over again, He’s in charge of everything anyhow. There’s none better to have working behind the scenes for us than the One who already knows the outcome.

Because I’ve been told to look more for silver linings than at the dark clouds that I seem to be sitting under, I’m making this effort to, hopefully, help someone else who is struggling. Otherwise, my journey will have been for naught, which would take me back to my original thought, that I’ve wasted 19+ years of my life. Since that’s not a pleasant thought, I’d like to just move on. Please pray with me that I can, because it’s time that I did.
CA-Prov-Wisdom over Gold

Magazine Monday

Mag Cover-Primtv Qlts-Wntr 2017While I was busy hosting Stitchin’ Camp this weekend, the winter edition of Primitive Quilts landed in our mailbox. Anxious to look through it, but at the same time wishing to be able to give it my full attention, I decided to wait until Sunday afternoon, after my nap of course, to look through its pages.

Sometimes, magazines will offer several projects within their pages, but only one or two that will tickle my fancy. In this case, my wait was welcomed with a magazine brimming with projects that I wanted to do. Mag Cover- Primtv Qlts-TabsI use sticky flags to mark the projects that interest me, so my copy now sprouts nine colourful flags, each marking a must-do project, out of the 16 projects included within its covers. Not bad! In addition to the projects, there are many other useful tidbits included in each issue. I was pleasantly surprised when I read the books reviewed in the Book Nook section as the shop has, or has had, all but one of the ones listed, and I have a special order request for that one book which I’ve not yet had in the shop. Needless to say, I’ve already sold out of a couple of the books that were reviewed, yes, they are that good, but I can always “buy more” as Nathanael used to say when we’d tell him that we’d run out of something, including money.

Now, you might say that “primitive” is not your style. Well, it’s not really mine either. I’m a Victorian kinda girl. But, thankfully, I had a grandmother who was a seamstress by profession. She taught me at an early age to ignore the fabrics used on a pattern, usually dress patterns, and to look at the bare bones drawing at the bottom of the catalog page instead. From her I learned that while I might not like the fabric shown on the cover of a pattern, all I had to do was change the fabric in order to have something that better suited me. She taught me how to visualize the dress made in my choice of fabric(s) instead of the fabric used in the cover photo. At the time, I didn’t realize just how valuable that lesson was. Now, as a shop owner, and creative person in general, I would say learning to look beyond the visible and being able to visualize the possible is a lesson we all need to learn as it can help in so many areas of our lives with one of the most important areas being personal relationships, where looking beyond the outside covering of a person into the depths within can mean the difference between being saved from a bad relationship or making a forever friend.

As one might guess, the colours used in the projects of this issue are mainly warm, cozy colours. While I might make one or two of the projects using similar colours, I will most likely brighten them up just a tad. Instead of using dark greens, browns, and navy, for example, I will probably use bright reds, turquoise, and lime greens. Who knows, I might even throw in some purple along the way because I do have purple ornaments for the small tree that sits on the library table in our hallway. In my book, purple is a valid colour for any time of the year. Of course, there are all those variations-on-a-theme possibilities as well. I can see extracting parts of projects to make a smaller version, especially for gift giving, or mixing and matching bits and pieces to my heart’s content. Oh, dear…here we go…

If you’ve never looked through a copy of Primitive Quilts you can visit their website and see the projects included in the winter issue. You can either order a copy online or visit your nearest bookstore for immediate satisfaction. I really think you’ll be hard pressed to ignore this issue once you’ve taken time to look through it and imagine the projects in your own favorite colours. As always, feel free to share what you’ve made with us. I’ll do that myself, once I decide on just which project to do first. Those who know me well know that decision making is not my strong suit, so it might be next Christmas season, or winter, before I actually have anything to show. Remember though, patience is a virtue. Knowing me will no doubt help make you a very virtuous person indeed.

I’m a Bit Concerned…

Last year we lost Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. A publication that was the prototype for all those that have followed. Sadly, it wasn’t the first quilting/sewing related publication to fall off the newsstands in the past few years. AQS has stopped publishing new books, and although they’ve added a fall show in Paducah, they’ve cut others out of their lineup. In the past few years smaller publishers have been bought out by larger ones. Several well-established quilt shops across the nation have closed their doors. Now, we’re losing some of our fabric options as fabric vendors cease operation or are phased out, namely Kona Bay and Red Rooster (see their posting of March 16). Why?

After being told last year by a new-to-me batik vendor that they have to pay for their orders up front, I better understood how challenging, not to mention expensive, it must be to produce fabric. While I rarely cancel an order once I’ve placed it, there have been a couple of times in the past that I felt I had no choice. I have no doubt that other shops may find the need to do so as well from time to time causing the fabric vendor(s) to be “stuck” with excess fabric that they thought was sold. Thankfully, quilt shops are usually given 30 to 60 days to try and sell some of their new fabrics before having to pay for them, but apparently not so for our beloved fabric vendors. It could be that more established vendors might not have to pay the full amount of an order up front, but still. I don’t even want to think of what the bills are for some of the well-established fabric vendors we know and love. Then there are the book vendors, the pattern vendors, the thread vendors, the batting vendors, etc. How are we to help sustain all of these folks in the current economic climate?! Not to mention the current mindset of many quilters (a topic for a future post) based on personal conversations coupled with social media discussions and comments.

“What on earth is going on?” you might be asking. Well, it’s simple really. Ye olde trickle-down effect has gone, or rather has been going, into effect. Quilters aren’t buying as much fabric as they once did, so obviously, quilt shops aren’t buying as much fabric as they once did, at least this shop isn’t. Surely I can’t be the only one out there who has cut back. While I know I’m stating the obvious here, fewer sales to shops, be they online or brick-and-mortar, means less fabric needs to be produced. Fabric groups used to have upwards of 40+ SKUs. One Benartex group several years ago had 72 SKUs! That was a lot of fabric of one type for a shop to add to their inventory for the express purpose of making all the projects for which that line was designed. More recently, some vendors have scaled their offerings back to somewhere between 12 to 20 skus in many cases. This makes it much more feasible for a shop owner to purchase a whole group rather than pick a few pieces from a group hoping all the while that they’ve picked the right few pieces, i.e. those that the customers won’t be able to live without. Vendors ha
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New Monthly Offering!

Whoooo are we foolin’? We know starting new projects is always more fun than putting the finishing touches on an old project, especially when the new project is small and can be done in just a few days. Better still when the project can be done by hand making it portable in addition to being cute. Such is the case with our new monthly offering, Little Quilts Squared. Each month we will kit a new project that will result in a 12” square that can be hung on a table top stand or from a freestanding hanger. Each option allows you to use your space to its best advantage.

“What if I don’t like small projects?” you ask. “Can I stitch the squares together into a quilt or seasonal wallhangings?” Absolutely! This is your project so you can do with it as you please. While you’re stitching the monthly blocks just be thinking about how you want to put them together at the end of the year. There are several options I can think of and will be happy to share my ideas with you when you ask.

The kits will be ready on the first Saturday of the month, even after the brick and mortar portion of the shop closes on October 1. We will be one month ahead of Pic-September-Owlschedule so that you can get your project done in time to hang it for the appropriate month. For example, this past Saturday was the first day of this program, so the first kit we put together was for the September project which has a little owl sitting on a branch in the light of the moon. In September, we’ll have the kit ready for the October project and so on. The kits will come complete with everything you need to finish the project with the exception of threads, batting (great time to use up scraps), and fusible webbing.

One complaint I’ve heard over the years with regards to kitted BOMs is from folks who don’t want their project to look like everyone else’s. Granted, unless the only folks you know are ones who do the same project and visit your house on a regular basis, how many others are even going to know that your project looks like that of someone else? But, because of that complaint, I usually try to figure out ahead of time whether or not a project is adaptable, and these definitely will be. With a little thought, there are always lots of ways to make your project uniquely your own. Here are some ideas for you to ponder if you’re one of those people.

Around here, we’re oftentimes bad about using the pattern as a guide and then doing our own thing. Do you ever do that? I must confess that we did just that with this little owl. Each of the patterns in this year-long BOM were designed with a pieced background. BUT, I had this great night sky fabric stashed away that we thought would work equally well and save the time of cutting and piecing the background. Since the moon covers up so much of the pieced background, I didn’t think it would make too much of a difference in the overall look. Ptrn-TWBL09-Sept-CrpdHere’s a photo of the pattern the way the designer meant it to be. What do you think? As always, if you’d prefer to have a pieced background you can pull from your stash, piece the background, and save the kit fabric for use in something else later. If you do decide you’d rather have a pieced background, you might want to consider piecing the top and bottom rows while leaving the middle row as one strip since the block in the middle isn’t even seen. I really do like the look of the pieced background, but if I’m going to do the work I want y’all to be able to see it.

Something else you might want to consider doing to change your owl up a bit is using a large white button, a yo-yo, or a fuzzy pom-pom on the top of his hat. Same goes with his eyes. We used buttons because that’s what the designer did and we already had them on hand. You could use regular black fabric if you’d rather or again, make small yo-yos. Victoria stitched the eyes on but didn’t want her owl to be cross-eyed like the one in the pattern. By moving the black portion of his eyes around, you can give your owl lots of different expressions.

When Miss Martha drew off the pattern pieces onto Heat ‘n Bond, she missed one of the three leaves. Victoria was doing the stitching because Miss Martha wasn’t able to and decided to leave our branch with just two leaves instead of three. I don’t think the missing leaf detracts from the finished project one bit. The leaves have a lot of little “fingers” on them so stitching them does take a while which was another reason Victoria was fine with only having two leaves. I didn’t go back and check the kits, but I’m thinking there may be only enough fabric for two leaves. If you want to include the third leaf you’ll probably need to find a green scrap from your stash.

We had pine cone fabric on hand and used that instead of embroidering all the little scallops like the designer did to make her pine cones. If we can find a way to cut down on the amount of work required to finish a project, you can bank on us doing it every time.

So see! There are four things we did differently on our sample to make our owl uniquely ours. We changed the number of leaves, the orientation of the eyes, the pine cones, and eliminated the pieced background. I think our owl still looks just as cute too.

Beginner friendly – If you have a young person, or even someone older, who would like to start creating with their hands, this is a good project on which to start them. The appliqué pieces are large, the fabrics are already put together, and since they can stitch by hand they won’t even need to invest in a machine if they don’t already have one. Of course, it is easier to attach the binding by machine so they may want you to do that for them, or they could skip the binding and use the envelope turn technique instead to finish their project. You might still need to stitch it all together for them to turn, but they’ll be able to save learning about binding for another time. Then again, there’s no time like the present.

If you’re a newbie who wants to learn, we give a free lesson with the purchase of the kit and commitment to the year long program. Each kit is $17.95 and can be picked up at the shop or purchased in our shop on Etsy. I’ve not yet figured out how to set up recurring monthly charges through PayPal. If you’d like to have me ship your kit at the beginning of each month you’ll need to call the shop and we can discuss payment and shipping options. At present, the number of kits is limited so do let me know if you wish to participate.

I’m probably dating myself here, but from the first time I saw this little owl I thought about Woodsy. Are you old enough to remember him? He used to come on TV and say, “Give a hoot! Don’t pollute!” Funny the things you remember when working on your quilting projects…

Mind Boggling!

From time to time I am sent books to review by various publishers. Sometimes they’re quilt related, but most of the time they are not. Such is the case with the book I recently read and will review for you now. I’m not going to give the Flash Point, by Thomas Lockeplot away and hope that I have written this in such a manner that it entices you to read the book as well. It will definitely give you something to think about the next time you find yourself sewing those looonnnggg strip sets together.

If you find yourself intrigued, you will want to enter the book giveaway on the author’s Facebook page that will start at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time, Tuesday, August 2. You could win both books in the Fault Lines techno-thriller series.  Once there just leave a comment on this question:  If a voice from beyond…your OWN voice…prompted you to walk away from everything so you could change the world, how would you respond? #flashpoint

Now for my thoughts on Flash Point

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, flash point is “a point, place, or situation in which sudden anger or violence could happen; a point at which someone or something bursts suddenly into action or being.  That being the case, Flash Point, the latest offering in the Fault Lines series by Thomas Locke, has been well named.

There are essentially three story lines being told that you can sense will eventually converge into a final eruption, and boy, do they.  In addition to returning characters that were introduced in the first book, Trial Run, which I highly recommend you read in order to understand exactly what’s going on, there are several new characters that come on the scene whose lives will intersect with a select few of the original characters.  In some cases new friendships will be forged, in others, old rivalries will be revisited and revenge will be the order of the day.

What one man creates to better the lives of others, another man will exploit and use for his own personal gain, usually to the detriment of others.  Herein lies the main plot of the Fault Lines series.  Two groups of scientists/researchers have the same technology, or elements thereof, at their disposal.  This technology was used in Trial Run by the original developer, Dr. Speciale, and her group with good intentions.  It was also studied by another group to be used for the opposite reason, i.e. spying for personal gain.  The technology is expanded upon in Flash Point and we are given insight into how it can be used to better the lives of various people, those in pain for example, or as a weapon used with the intent to kill by those who are on the wrong side of law and order.  The former reason for using the technology is heartening, the latter reason is extremely scary.

While the whole concept of moving through time without being seen by those around us is both intriguing as well as mind boggling, I hope it is just a figment of the author’s wonderful imagination and never actually comes to pass.  Although, given the opportunity to go back and fix some mistakes or make different and better choices, without permanent physical damage mind, I can safely say I would do it in a heartbeat, or less.

For those who homeschool high school students, I could easily see this series used as a unit study to stimulate interest and studies in various areas of math and science. These studies would create some very deep discussions regarding quantum theory, the ethics behind aiding others in dying, philosophy, etc.  As always, I recommend that you read this book first in case there is something that you are uncomfortable sharing with your child(ren) as there is a little romance included but to the best of my memory nothing explicit.

While I did receive a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review, I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend this second book in the Fault Lines series and anxiously await the next addition.

 

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