Wednesday, May 28, 2014

don't pass out: I finished a quilt

It has been ages. This is actually my first quilt finish for 2014, aside from my Basic Binary mini.  This one is nothing fancy at all- basic patchwork using a sweet Parisian double gauze fabric gifted to me by Alison ages ago.  I pieced the top in about 30 minutes back at Loon Lake, along with some other tops that are all still sitting in a Tupperware, unfinished, in my messy sewing area.

But I thought it was time to complete SOMETHING, so I dug out this one, meant for a baby girl born last fall, and basted it.  I quilted it with cathedral windows.....

....and backed it with an adorable Alexander Henry Monkey Bizness fabric that had the perfect colours and style with its cute flea market scenes.  Love it.  Panicking and wishing I had stashed more ;)

I also had one of those blissful moments that only quilters can understand, when you look in you stash for binding and find the perfect match, not knowing where or when you bought it, or what the heck it even is, other than PERFECT.  See?  Stashing justified.  I hand bound it while enjoying a quiet, rainy afternoon on the deck at the cottage.

A simple quilt, just perfect for a little baby girl with a French Canadian heritage.  Baby Renee was named for her departed grandmother, who had an inspiring 4 year battle with inflammatory breast cancer, but did it all with grace.  She passed away in 2010, but had a blog about her journey, which has since had some entries by her eldest daughter.  Renee was an amazing writer.  The link is here if you would like to read it- bring a tissue. A great quote that stuck with me:

"It's like getting into a boat that is just about to sail out to sea and sink. There are no life rafts, no floats and no one gets out alive. Rather than trying to ward off the inevitable, why not accept it and enjoy the trip?"
Pema Chodron
A Buddhist nun describing life

A lovely sentiment that fits in rather well with my less stress project, I think. 

Have a great day and enjoy the trip, my friends!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Week 2 of less stress project: 50/50

This week was not as stellar.

It's the sleep thing.  Normally, I was getting 6-7 hours a night, which was not enough for me. I was chronically tired.  So I vowed to bump it up to 7-8 hours.  One hour out of a 24 hour day- no problem, right?

Well, turns out that that one hour, while only 1/24th of the day, accounts for 110% of any "free time" I might have had.  Because I can't really take that hour away from work, kids activities, etc.  And I am trying to keep on top of groceries, laundry etc.  So that hour basically was taken from my reading, sewing, knitting, visiting, etc time.

This week I felt that. I was reading a good book (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- a real tear jerker!) and I tend to get all OCD when in the middle of something that captures me, and I just wanted to stay up late and read it, darn it!  So I did, and as a result I gave up some sleep and had a couple mornings of being overtired, oversleeping, skipping exercise, snapping at the kids and feeling generally miserable.  But on the flip side- I really enjoyed reading that book :)

Food is also a problem for me- apparently I lack self discipline in that regard.  This week I will strive to fuel my body with healthier choices.

But I have to say, despite these set backs, I still had many moments of really feeling connected (especially with my kids), in the moment and that my overall stress was reduced.  I caught myself a few times when I was starting to become stress over inconsequential things, and nipped it in the bud.  I approached each day with a positive attitude- when asked "How are you?" I would reply with an enthusiastic, "Great, thanks!" and that often set the tone.

I am only human, and have learned some valuable things this week.  This is a process and perfection is unlikely, but I am getting there!  Just need to sort out the balance that allows for all the pieces to fit.

Have a GREAT week, friends!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

personalized tote

My friends's daughter is a crafty little thing (and by crafty I mean likes to make crafts, not devious).  I had previously sent her the Crafty Chloe book, illustrated by Heather Ross, as a gift, and decided to make her a Crafty Chloe tote, filled will art supplies, as a birthday gift.

A band of crafty Chloe fabric across the top, and some girly echino polka dots for the body.  Lined with Crafty Chloe, too!

I personalized the tote with her first initial for added fun.  A sweet, quick gift!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

soy amado blocks set sail!

Starting earlier this year, Alison at Little Island Quilting started a quilt charity to benefit street children in Mexico, inspired by a recent visit she had taken to their group home.  She started making and collecting quilted blocks to assemble into quilts to gift to these children, to add a little colour and something special in their lives, something just their own.  To date, she has made 23 (!!) quilts to send!

I decided I wanted to contribute, and Alison and I both blogged that I would collect blocks from other Canadian quilters who wished to as well, and I would relay the blocks to her.

The response was wonderful!  Today, I am mailing out a huge box, containing ONE HUNDRED blocks!!!  Enough for 5 more quilts.

(and a wee little moustached gift on top for the puppet master for all her hard work!) 

Thank you to those who contributed: Michele, Suzy, Becky, Felicity, Janet, Christine, Joy and the members of her Thunder Bay quilt group!  You guys are super stars!!

If you would like to contribute to Soy Amado, you can check out the project here and can still send blocks to Alison directly in the UK.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 1 of the less stress project: Everything is Awesome!

Happy Monday, everyone!

So, last Monday I rambled on a bit about some realizations I had made and some changes I wanted to introduce to help reduce the daily feeling of stress I had in my life.  Not Big Event Catastrophe Stress (which, fortunately, I do not have at the moment), but just the daily grind stuff that slowly eats at you and makes you miserable, even though on the whole, all the "big stuff" of life is safely in place. And thanks to all of you for your support about this!!  Your comments and encouragement were so great.

I took this endeavour pretty seriously this week, really tried to adhere to the spirit and main principles of the project.  And it paid off.  I feel great :)

The hardest- getting enough sleep.  Getting up early was not so bad, but I found it hard to GO to bed at a decent time, with things left "undone".  Or without time to unwind.   And though I didn't perfect this, I did feel the benefits of the extra sleep I did get.

Getting up early in the mornings had to be my biggest benefit.  Oh, to not feel rushed!!  I was pleasant!  I hardly yelled at all!  Things ran smoothly!  It was brilliant.

Being outside and exercising was also SO good for my psyche.  I didn't get to it as much as I had planned, but every bit it a bonus.  I took in fresh air, listened to birds sing, noticed the buds on the trees.  Medicine for the soul.

I also relieved some stress by ticking some annoying things off my to-do list. Put some things in order.  Cleaned house a bit.  And yes, even did the laundry to completion one day. Did a good grocery shop and used one of my afternoons off work to do the prep work for my work night dinners.  So nice to come home to meals that were quick to assemble!

Did LOTS of cuddling and focusing on my kids.  They made me laugh.  Best therapy.

Exercised Rule 10, where moderation was abandoned for a night of debauchery with friends involving too much food and drink and staying out too late.  It was spectacular :)

And all these things in the same 24 hour days I have always had!!

Imagine that!?!?

All in all, I feel like I am on my way to a better quality of life.  One step at a time!  

How did your week go?  I hope you all had a great one!  Enjoy a less-stress week ahead!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Liberty fun

While in Toronto I visited one of my besets friends, Samantha, who has a wee thing for Liberty of London fabric.  She is heading to London in a week's time, and is visiting the Mothership itself.  She mentioned she bought a new iPad mini to take on her trip, so I thought I would put something together.

I started by using scraps and neutrals and put them together to look a bit like flying birds...

Then brought it all together to make a cover for her mini, with birds on front and back.

Did some accent stitching around the birds.

And lined it with Liberty, too!

And easy project and so much fun.  I think I need to make a mini quilt with some Liberty birds for me!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

mother's day make

I hope all you moms out there had a fabulous day Sunday!  I started the day sleeping in at a hotel in Toronto after a fabulous weekend away and ended it being welcomed home at the airport by 3 sweet kids (and their Daddy) waving signs and giving me lots of hugs and kisses.  It was perfect.

I made a wee something for my own mom, who recently got a Kindle.  Just a slip case with a button enclosure to keep it protected in her purse.  I was pretty psyched about my Victoria and Albert books fabric choice ;)

And some green text inside.

Big hugs to all the moms out there, who have the hardest and best job there is!

Monday, May 12, 2014

a new project: making a stress free life

I am sure I am not alone- schedules, work, family, friends, life, all moving at breakneck speed and never seeming to get enough of your attention. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed.  To feel like you are failing.

The other day I came to the realization that, right now, these are The Good Old Days.  And I am missing them.  I am going through the motions but not truly participating, absorbing or enjoying them.   There are many reasons why, most of them my own fault.  Overextending myself.  Not taking care of myself physically. Being distracted.  Multitasking. And then I feel stressed out, like, ALL THE TIME.  Then I yell at my kids and act in ways I regret.  And I am pretty sick of it.  And frankly, I think I am making myself physically sick.

This past weekend I had a work conference in Toronto with my entire office staff, which is basically a bunch of working moms like me.  We went to the conference by day and at night we had dinner, wine, went to shows, acted silly, laughed, danced, talked.  It was fabulous.  I felt good.  I felt, what is that word?.....RELAXED.  I liked the feeling.  So I decided that, starting NOW, I was not going to be stressed out anymore. I truly think that this is MY decision.  I can take control and not let external factors dictate my reactions to them and my feelings.

How am I going to do that?  Really, I'm not sure.  And I know it will be a learning process with many failures along the way.  But my instincts tell me I need to start by doing these things:

1.  Get enough sleep.
Being rested helps me cope with the external stressors of life and help me deal with them appropriately, with patience and efficiency, instead of react to them in a reflexive and negative way.

2. Get up early in the morning.
This one sucks.  I like to sleep in.  but then I often wake up feeling rushed and behind the eight ball.  By getting up a bit earlier, I can slow my pace and have time to think as I do things. Get organized and plan.  It keeps me more calm.

3. Fuel my body with good food.  
I have noticed in the past few years that I am gaining weight, and much of it in my midsection. This, my doctor tells me, is a common place to store fat when you have too many stress hormones circulating in your body.  Also, when I am stressed I have the bad habit of turning to food for that instant gratification, thinking I am treating myself, but really, it is kind of destructive, isn't it?  I am not talking about that big desert you share with your girlfriend on a night out, or the popcorn at a movie.  Those things are fun and occasional.  I am talking about the chocolate bar I shove in my face but barely taste as I drive from one event to the next because I haven't planned a proper meal. Or the bag of chips that disappears when I collapse on the couch at night for some "me time" while watching tv.  Social eating- okay.  Binging alone- not.  I know that I feel so much better, physically and mentally, when I eat healthfully, but I really struggle to do so.  I need to try, and to do that I need to plan.

4.  Sometimes, "Me Time" is doing the laundry.
I know that sounds downright lame.  But sometimes that pile of unfolded laundry or messy house sits in the back of my mind and stresses me out for days, making me tired and grumpy, when really if I just deal with it, I will feel more relaxed and organized.  No, it is not FUN, but in the end it will make me feel good to have it done, and being productive feels better in the end than a lazy hour on the couch.   It is good to get organized.

5. Exercise most days, preferably outside.
I have seen so many times how being outside positively effects my mood.  It makes me, and my problems, feel small when I am surrounded by big sky and trees and air and nature.  It is a kind of meditation really.  And exercise gives me that rush of happy hormones that makes me feel so good.  It makes me think clearer and sleep more soundly.  But often, because I am feeling tired and sluggish, I skip out on this ritual in favour of another restless hour of sleep.  I need to remind myself that this is quiet time FOR ME and just get to it.

6. Take time to cuddle every day with children and pets.
Nothing better for the heart than a good cuddle.

7. Quit multitasking.
Do one thing at a time, well, and give it your full attention.  This especially includes having conversations with others.  Give them your focused attention. Put down your phone.

8. Cut down on social media time.
This is a hard one for me because I SO enjoy my interactions with my internet friends.  They inspire me, make me laugh, and make me feel good.  So I would never cut it out completely.  But I need to focus on the people in my life who are physically here, too.

9. Remember Dad's two rules of life:
1. Don't sweat the small stuff
2. It's ALL small stuff.
In the end, how much of what we worry about every day really matters? It will all work out.

10. Remember my friend Anna's rule of life:
Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Sometimes you just have to go big. Stay out until the sun rises.  Eat a second helping of cake.  Drink all the wine. Have fun and live life's moments.  That is why we're here.

So I am going to give this a try, starting NOW. I had a healthy breakfast, have laundry in the machine and have my workout clothes on, ready to go for a run outside despite the rain.  I might use the blog as a forum to track my progress along the way, and if any of you out there want to take this or a similar personal journey with me, I am happy to lend support!  Strength in numbers, we can encourage each other :)

Whatever your day brings, I hope you have a good one!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

basic binary pillow

I had so much fun with my Basic Binary mini quilt that I decided to keep going and make this pillow.  I made it for a friend who was such a sweet cheerleader on Instagram as the mini came together.  She and her family recently moved into a new home so I thought I would make this pillow for her:

The grid of tiny 1" x 1" squares spells out their last name.  I offset it in linen and quilted it, adding some hand stitching in Perle cotton.

On the back- the same eyeglass print on my mini, and I used the same binding as well.   I did a zipper enclosure using the tutorial on Svetlana's site.

She was surprised and loved it!  I think I am going to make a habit of these....

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

basic binary mini

Have you guys seen the book Quilt Lab by Alexandra Winston of a2(w) yet?  I have to say, it is one of the coolest concepts in quilting books that I have ever seen.  It basically marries science and arts, with a series of science based quilt patterns and projects.  With each project, Ali gives a short "study hall" science lesson on the concept behind the quilt.  After spending 8 years in science based university studies myself, this totally appeals to the geek side of my brain, but even if the extent of your science knowledge is what you've picked up watching Big Bang Theory, you wold still love this book.  Case in point:

Basic Binary pattern.  You can put SECRET MESSAGES in your quilt!!  Now, how cool is that??  I knew I had to start here.  I knew nothing about binary but here is what I learned- all letters are represented by a series of seven 0's and 1's in a specific sequence.  In my mini quilt, I represented the 0's with black fabrics, and the 1's with colours (in this case, aqua, yellow and orange).  So, what looks like random improv piecing actually has an ENCODED MESSAGE!!

I used seven rows (of varying lengths, to add interest) and then the letters line up in columns.  So, for example, the first column is 100010, which is the letter b.  Want to know what my message is?  You can go HERE on Ali's web site and use the table to figure it out yourself......

.........but if not I will tell you.  It reads:

"buy wife flowers"

HA!  I love that I can now use quilting to send subliminal cheeky messages to The Hubs!  Now, I have to say it has not yet been successful, but I have faith.  Just you wait!

To quilt this, I used wonky horizontal lines to add to the random feel, but the vertical lines are planned- "buy" is quilted in blue, "wife" all in orange and "flowers" in yellow, with the two spaces quilted in match stick lines of all three colours.

The binding is a black with metallic gold print called Barcelona.

I geeked out the back using a piece of a glasses print sheet, and I added sleeves for hanging.

It now hangs on the wall, just waiting for The Hubs to decode it......I'm not holding my breath.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Noodlehead Poolside Tote

It was about -40 degrees Celsius when Anna of Noodlehead asked if I wanted to pattern test her new Poolside Tote.  It felt so good to work on a piece of summer in the midst of our epic winter this year.  And it was just the slice of happy I needed! And The Middle Child agrees ;)

A wonderfully large tote designed for toting all those towels, magazines and flip flops to the pool or beach.  The pattern is well written with tons of diagrams and photos for all of the steps- very comprehensive, though I would expect no less from a Noodlehead pattern!  Anna made this pattern as part of the Bag of the Month Club, so it is available there exclusively until July, when she will also release it on her own site.

The pattern comes with directions for a slip pocket or a zippered pocket.  I decided to add both.  The zippered pocket is perfect for keeping little things like keys, wallets and phones secure.  I was so excited to put these adorable hexie flowers to use on the front that were a gift from my wonderfully talented friend Svetlana of Sotak Handmade- aren't they perfectly cheerful here alongside this colourful zipper? I added a bit of hand stitching, too.

On the other side I did the slip pocket option using a fun camping print. As you can see, it is more than roomy enough for magazines, books or e-readers.

Inside, I decided to use some Little Folks laminated fabric, which will be perfect for soggy towels and bathing suits.  I was thinking I was pretty brilliant when I came up with this, I ain't gonna lie.  And as you can see, the three beach towels I have in here barely make a dent in all the space!
(a better photographer would of folded or rolled those towels neatly, 
but I just jammed them in there as I normally would on my way to the beach!)

All in all, I have to give this pattern two thumbs up. Now, just add SUMMER!!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Mother's Day giveaway!

My lovely friend Kathy has opened up an awesome online store, Magnolia Designs, filled with all sorts of gifts from personalized/embroidered items to stationary to paper crafting supplies!

The latest item to add to her shop are the adorable "Buckethead Betties"- a super cute waterproof tote, perfect for the beach or for using as a diaper bag!  And Kathy has decided to reward the moms out there by giving one away to one of my OCD followers on Mother's Day!

To enter- just pop on over to Magnolia Designs HERE and leave a comment on KATHY'S blog post telling her how you would use your Buckethead Betty Bag, or your favourite thing about summer. Then just add "Kristie OCD" to your comment!  Kathy has listed ways to earn additional entries as well in her blog post, so give it a read :)

So head on over and check out Magnolia Designs- say hi to Kathy for me!