Treats for my Mother-in-Law

The other day's post about the mug rug I made for my mother-in-law's upcoming 81st birthday also spoke about what she enjoys most in a 'gift' from me....  that comes in the form of homemade goodies full of chocolate and sugar goodness frozen in single size servings that make it easy for her to pull out of her freezer to enjoy when she wants.  I thought I'd share with you a few of the goodies I've made so far. 

We begin with white chocolate covered pretzels, (so easy to do with your microwave!), Philly 3-step Cheesecake, Pecan Tassies and 'Easy' Chocolate Fudge.  All freeze well.  The 3 cheesecakes did not make it through the weekend though, we're down to 2 today!  What can I say!  We love cheesecake here!  The remaining two will be cut into slices and frozen this afternoon.  With the pecan tassies and fudge, I used different size muffin papers to keep the goodies separate, and look nice too, before bagging them in a small freezer bag.  The smaller freezer bags are then put into a larger freezer bag and the double-bagging helps keep the goodies fresher in the freezer longer.  The cheesecake slices will be wrapped in wax paper before individually bagging, then bagging as a group.
Tomorrow will be baking her birthday cake - Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake iced with Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Icing, then on to the Lowcountry for the birthday girl to blow out her candles and see her face light up as she checks each goody with delight before placing them in her freezer!  Like watching a kid in a candy store!  Such fun! 


Quilt for Alabama Children's Home 2014
& my next Alabama Chanin inspired top

It was such a blessing to participate in Gene Black's Quilt Angels Project last year, that I immediately jumped at the chance to participate again this year.  Gene asks for volunteers to make quilts that he takes to a children's home in Alabama for kids who need a safe place to stay.  For those who read my blog, you know I was born and raised in Alabama and hold the people dear to my heart.  This particular children's home is in an Alabama city I spent many pleasant summer days on its resident lake as a teenager.  You can read more about my 2013 quilt here.

This is where I'm at on the 2014 quilt today, below.
My plans were to begin this quilt this past summer.  Do you think I did?  Nooooo.  So here it is a week before Thanksgiving and I am just now getting started.  With this being my 4th quilt to-date, I feel like a pro (Ha!).... not really, just had the good sense to chose something that would go together quickly.... or rather more quickly than slowly.... if that makes sense.  Thought a strip quilt would do the trick and used Film in the Fridge's strip quilt mini tutorial to get started. 

Finally figured out the panoramic feature on my new iPhone which was most helpful in deciding which colors should go where.  Colors are a weak area of mine and seeing the placement via a photo image was a great determining factor in their order. This quilt should be pleasing for a boy or a girl, I'm thinking. 
After color order was decided, all the fabrics were cut to size and numbers pinned on to keep them in order.  And it was a good thing too, because the next day I brushed up against them and half landed on the floor!
With strip quilting you sew 2 strips together at a time.... then sew that set of 2, to the next set of 2 then cut to size as you sew the sets of 4 together.  Film in the Fridge explains all that pretty well..... but even then I got 'confused' as you can see below.  9 & 10 should've been sewn to 11 & 12.  Gee whiz.  At least this was easy to correct and no seams had to ripped out. 
When all my strips were sewn together, it was short of the 45" minimum width Gene asks the quilts to be.  So I added a 2 1/2" border in brown.  Hard to see on my floor in the photo below, but the top is done today and measures @45" x 60" - the minimum size Gene needs.
Changing subjects - I really want to share with you my next Alabama Chanin inspired top I've been working on.  Using NEWLOOK 6735 as the basic pattern I have been hand stitching the neckline and sleeve hem bands with double strand button thread using the herringbone stitch....
..... and it has taken me hours.... and hours.... I am such a turtle with my hand-stitching.  But to be fair I am taking my time on this one to use as a skill-builder and painstakingly making sure the thread is sewn just right and my stitches are nice and even.  Still need to cut the excess fabric off the inside  and hand-stitch the hem.  After pouring all this work into this little shirt, machine stitching the hem just didn't seem right.  All the construction seams are machine stitched.
So, things are moving along.  Hope to have the quilt sandwiched this weekend and my sweet husband ordered a walking foot for my Bernina so will wait until that comes in to do the quilting.  Meanwhile, hoping to complete this little top so I can be wearing it soon.  Hope all is having a good week!


Quilted Mug Rug for a Cafe Mocha-aholic

Our next family member's birthday is none other than my sweet mother-in-law, who is known to everyone as Granny.  We'll be celebrating her 81st birthday with her when we go to the Lowcountry for Thanksgiving next week, but in the meantime the card needed to go out and it did not feel right to send it 'empty'.  A quilted mug rug was just the thing to include.
Please meet 'Granny' and her beloved dog Suzi.  This soon to be 81 year old woman, all of 5', is a ball of energy and loves her independence.  Granny drives to her local mall every.... single... day for a cafe mocha... extra hot with whipped cream.... then brings a decaf coffee home to drink later in the day. 
My initial design included embroidering the words 'Cafe Mocha' on my machine.
Lately I've been been experimenting with Instagram and the photo uploaded this morning showed the high-tech tools used to design this mug rug pattern.  I needed a small rounded corner, what can I say?!  Does anybody else love those Dr. Pepper Bonne Bell LipSmackers?!  :)
Anyway, this is what it became. 
Finished size measures 4 1/2" x 4 1/2".  Tiny machine stitched blanket stitches edge the cup with a satin stitch for the 'whipped cream' topping.  The entire outline was straight-stitched with the wisps of 'steam' free motion quilted.
The year '2014' machine embroidered for posterity.
The back shows the simple quilting.   If I'd thought ahead I could've done a simple turn the back over for the binding.... but I didn't.  So this was another skill building time applying the binding.  I thought the polka dots were fun.
So her card is ready to be mailed and I feel much better now!
And her birthday present?  What do you give an 81 year old who loves everything chocolate and sweet?!  You bake ahead lots of chocolatey goodness and freeze in serving size portions so she can pull a goodie out of her freezer to eat while she drinks her decaf coffee she brings home each day that now has a pretty mug rug to rest on.  :)


Sewing for my husband - a pair of comfy pants

My husband had a birthday while we were on our trip out west and my good intentions to make him a new pair of comfy pants for his birthday present fell by the wayside with the mammoth task of finishing the 'Road to Oklahoma' quilt.  Now that we're home and things are settling down, his comfy pants needed to be the first project on the sewing queue.
There's not much of a 'surprise factor' when one has to ask about fabric choices, but good thing I did because I'd chosen a lighter-weight flannel and he wanted a heavier weight, almost fleece-like blue houndstooth flannel fabric.  Picked up both fabric and 'It's so Easy' Simplicity A2116 to use as a basic pattern in Wal-Mart while shopping together a few weeks before his birthday.  Yep, no surprise factor this year.
Not to worry, my husband had a nice birthday celebration while we were in Nebraska visiting his brother and his wife.  We traveled there after leaving Oklahoma.  The pleasant birthday day was spent mostly at the Omaha Zoo.....
....ranked #1 Zoo in the World by TripAdvisor.   What I liked about this zoo is that you were able to get up-close-and-personal with many of the animals walking among their 'natural' habitat(s).
Though the silver-backed gorilla looks none too happy this day.  Later, Tom's brother grilled organic sirloin steaks after he'd taken us for a boat ride on their beautiful lake at sunset with both guys trawling for walleye.  Fish did not bite, but oh what fun!  Nebraska is a beautiful state.
And before I get back to sewing, can I say how much Tom enjoyed Omaha's Strategic Air & Space Museum.  He served many years in the Air Force in the Strategic Air Command division and this was a real treat for him.
It even had the console from his early 1980s days in the missile projects.  Doesn't this look low-tech for today?!
Okay, back to sewing..... luckily Tom has a Chaps rtw pair of comfy pants he loves, so I was able to use that to help tweak this pattern to give him the pants he wanted.  I first made a mock-up pair straight from the pattern, using the fabric he'd chosen, sans pocket, sewing long easy-to-rip-out basting stitches.  After seeing the adjustments I needed to make, or rather unmake as I'd raised the back and I didn't need to.... all the stitches were ripped out to begin again.   And why in the world are comfy pants patterns always so wide-legged?!  He wanted more of a narrow leg and after taking measurements from the Chaps rtw pair I found a diagram with a little explanation at Sew Mama Sew: How to Alter Your Pants Pattern that helped me determine to take a little off from the inside leg, with more coming off the outside leg to equal my overall measurement.  It was hard to actually use his rtw pants as a 'pattern' because he still wants to wear them.
Sewed/serged everything back together with a 5/8" seam allowance.  He wanted in-seam pockets.  The pattern has no pockets.... period.  So I traced the pockets from the rtw pair and then analyzed and analyzed how to put them in.  Even referred to my THREADS book, but they show the sewing machine insertion, and I wanted to use my serger.  So I put them in part-way using the THREADS instruction, then finished them with my serger to mimic the rtw pair.  Each pocket top is top-stitched and bar tacked.
This is my first in-seam pocket application.  I am happy.  Here you can also see that I used 1 1/2" elastic instead of the 1" elastic the pattern called for.  1"?  Really?  How wimpy that would look, particularly for a man.  The extra 1/2" of elastic did not seem to make a difference to the pants top, and I made no pattern alteration for that.  I cut the elastic 36", sewed ends together with no overlap, quarter marked and zig-zagged elastic to fabric, then turned down and zig-zagged pulling everything taut as I sewed each time.
Oh, and this little piece of fabric was fun to turn into....
...the tag to mark the back!  My husband has a great sense of humor and I thought this suited him.  Oh, let's see, I also twin-needled top-stitched a 1" hem.  Trying to jot all my notes down here for the next time(s) I will be making him comfy pants.... 
....because he's already asked for 3 more..... just like these.  Now that I've got the pattern figured out, those should move along a lot faster!  And what a nice feeling to sew something special for my husband, that he likes and will wear.
Next up - finish a top that's been patiently waiting to be sewn together since last season - NEWLOOK 6735, out of a soft charcoal gray knit....
....then back to Make a Garment a Month plans.... a charity quilt for the Alabama children's home is due mid-December.... finish a linen window treatment for our sliding glass doors..... make Roman shades for the hearth-room windows..... not to mention Thanksgiving is a mere 16 days away?.... Christmas?!

Wishing everyone a wonderful day!


What to do with a family member's old yearbooks. A creative idea.

My mother passed away 2 years ago and I am still going through her things.  Through her many photographs and memorabilia from her youth, I feel I am getting to 'know' my mother through different eyes.  She was a very private person, and none of us even knew these photographs existed until shortly before her death.  I so wish she'd gone through her things with me before then.  One of her items that has perplexed me was her Sapulpa High School yearbooks from the years 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1950.  She was a real go-getter, even back then, and those yearbooks were full of her beautiful face in so many different clubs, band and as valedictorian of her 1950 senior class.  I wanted her to be remembered, in some way.  I wanted these books to be used.  I did not want these books to be squirreled away to rot on a shelf.
Sapulpa High School is in the small Oklahoma town of Sapulpa, of which I've spoken a lot of recently in this blog.
Though my mother moved away from that area when she married my father, she..... we...... visited out there often all through my growing up years and one of my nicest memories is of visiting the Sapulpa Public Library and checking out books on my grandmother's card.  Somehow, in the recesses of my memory, I remembered they had a genealogical department.  Aha!  Might they be interested in my mother's yearbooks to add to their collection?!  A short phone call later, after speaking to the nice lady in charge of their genealogical department, it turns out that Yes! they wanted..... needed.... these yearbooks!  Their genealogical department is frequented by patrons researching family histories, and these particular years are most requested for research.  Their policy is to put the copy in the best condition in their collection, and if they have duplicates, those are shipped to another near-by local library system's genealogical department who needs that particular year.  In this case, they did not even have a 1950 year - the year my mother was valedictorian. 

So before I shipped the yearbooks to the Library, I scanned all the pages that had to do with my mother.  There was a lot.  I also digitally circled photos and information about her.

I so want my mother to be remembered - I even put a yellow sticky note on her valedictorian page so, hopefully, the genealogy dept. would leave it there and folks who would be using it for research would see her photo first thing.  These were shipped to the Sapulpa Public Library a few months ago.

Now fast forward to our recent trip to Oklahoma..... Sapulpa, Oklahoma.  It was so important to me to see my mother's yearbooks in use, so we made sure to visit the Sapulpa Public Library Genealogy Dept. to find.....  hard to see in the photo below..... but there is a yellow sticky note sticking up from the green yearbook in the middle.....
..... the 1950 Sapulpa High School yearbook where my mother was the senior class valedictorian.  I am cradling her yearbook in my arms and the nice genealogy lady took my photo.... of me with my mother.... trying so hard to make sure she might be remembered in some way.  You can see the yellow sticky note they left in place.
So, if your family member kept their old high school, or college yearbooks, whether they were a go-getter like my mother, or not..... think about calling the library's genealogy department or even the local historical museum..... and let their memories live on for generations to come.