Thursday, January 29, 2009

What a Wonderful Wednesday!

My Aunt Sue is one-of-a-kind. You know that amazingly fun, caring, make you laugh unitl you cry adult character in kids' book that you always wished you had in your life? That's my aunt Sue.

Growing up spending the day with Aunt Sue was always something I looked forward to. We'd go to Detroit Tigers baseball games, the water park, the mall anywhere and everywhere our hearts desired. Aunt Sue even took my friends and me to the Detroit Pistons 3-Peat Championship parade in Downtown Detroit. We were so excited on the way home she worn out her car horn on the way home. I love my aunt Sue.
Several years ago Aunt Sue became a missionary in Brazil, where among many other duties, she teaches the missionary kids. Obviously I see a lot less of her, but the bond is just as great. She was able to come home almost a year ago, but she is soon to be on her way back to Brazil. As part of her journey back, and to warm up her blood as to not shock her system when she hits the Brazilian summer weather she has come down to visit with us for a few days. Last Wednesday I got the day off work and we went to spend a beautiful January day together.

We loaded up the bikes and headed to a great historic place. We parked outside of the main area and road into the action. We ate lunch at a little cafe with great sandwiches. Having fueled our energy for the rest of the day, we walked around the touristy historic area and stumbled on an art gallery displaying works by Dr. Seuss. There were several statues, many painting both from his books and from his brain. His sketches for the book illustrations were my favorite. I like the little detail notes he added to the sides of the paper. I also really liked the wall hangings of his crazy animals. They were simulating how big game hunters will stuff and mount the heads of the animals they shoot. It was very interesting to see his imaginary animals as trophies on the wall.

It looked like it was about to rain, so we hopped back on the bikes and headed back to the car. I couldn't help but stop at a cute looking cupcake shop on the way. Luli's Cupcakes is a fun little shop with fresh made cupcakes daily. The lady behind the counter was as sweet as her cupcakes. Luli's offers day-old cupcakes 6 for $7.00 (half off) which was just what Aunt Sue and I were looking for.

We mixed and matched (each row left to right):
  • The Resolution-A rich sugar-free Vanilla cake with sugar free cream cheese frosting (a special for January) chosen for my mom

  • The Godfather-a tiramasu sponge cake layered with a marscarpone cheese frosting and an espresso syrup garnish chosen for my guy

  • Fire Engine Red Velvet-A Red Velvet cake with a crushed pecan cream cheese frosting, Aunt Sue's pick

  • The Razzie-A chocolate cake with a cramy raspberry filling topped with a delicious raspberry frosting (another special for January) for me

  • What's up Doc-A traditional carrot cake with a sweet cream cheese frosting for my dad

  • PB & C-Peanut butter frosting atop a rich chocolate cake that my guy and I split Thursday

These cupcakes were are you kidding me good. If you're ever in the area, go to Luli's'll thank me.

Luli's also makes pupcakes for dogs, 2 for $1. They smell great and you can see little bits of doggy goodness in the batter. I snagged some for my dogs and brought them home is a special "doggy bag." Suffice it to say, they were well received.
After the quick rain shower we headed to the beach. The breeze was warm and the sun was actually shining, though this picture doesn't show that. Several crazy girls in bikinis waded in the surf. Aunt Sue decided they were vacationing from Alaska. I agreed.

One of my favorite things at the beach are these sea gulls. Not just any sea gulls, but the ones that stand on the sand balancing on one leg. I think they wish they were flamingos and they are just practicing for when they move to Miami.

All in all it was a really great day. I got that same feeling I had when I was little and I spent time with my Aunt Sue. I'll really miss her while she's in Brazil, but she is spreading her infectious smile around the world and I admire her for that.


Monday, January 26, 2009

HJS Week in Review


Here we go, Steelers! Here we go! Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl!

Oh, how I love the Steelers! Troy Polamalu is by far my favorite player of all time. He is a smart, quick, passionate athlete. Ben Roethlisberger, Fast Willie Parker, James Harrison, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, the entire offensive and defensive lines...awesome game. I have three words for the Arizona Cardinals: Defense wins championships.

Super fun day. My computer at work wouldn't load Windows and the hard drive nearly had a complete meltdown. After being on the phone for 4 hours with Dell technical support, we got the computer operating. Then I spent 6 hours backing up all the files on my computer. My computer happens to be the main computer for the company and has TONS of important data on it. Lesson learned: Back up much more frequently so you don't have to stay at work until midnight holding off a heart attack for not backing up files.

One good bit, my parents stopped by my work on a whim and dropped off a box of fat quarters!
Inauguration Day! I listened to the inauguration ceremony on NPR. I was on the way to the airport to pick up my amazing aunt. She is a missionary and a teacher in Brazil. She was back in the states for about a year, but she is on her way back to Brazil. She is staying here for about 10 days before she flies off to summer weather. Unfortunately, she wasn't feeling well that day, so we are going to spend a day together later this week. YEA!

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
All these days, thankfully, were pretty normal days. Nothing too exciting. Nothing too traumatic. It was unseasonably cold here, several days in a row with hard freezes overnight. Due to this I was able to make some progress on the socks.
The weather warmed up significantly, but we had to work all day. Usually we only have to work until 12:30 pm. This Saturday was followed up by an estimate for a prospective customer. There are several areas around our city that have been run down in the past, but are part of a resurgence lately. This customer has recently bought an old brick market building that was transformed into two "lofts". (I am using lofts because that is what the owner called them. To me lofts are in multi-story building. This is just one level, but it does have all the exposed brick and ducting inside the building.) Hopefully, we will get the contract to acid stain the concrete floors. It will be a great transformation and a wonderful addition to the portfolio.

No football to watch today, but we still had Chicken Wing Sunday. The weather was nice again, so all the dogs got a bath. None of them really care to get a bath, so this is always interesting. Usually it takes twice as long to get them on the porch for the bath than it does to actually bath them. They are oh so pitiful...

My guy also replaced our worn out propane grill tubes with a really cool H burner. It took some modifications, but it heated up the grill nicely and helped make some delicious wings!

I also did some cleaning, blah. Jeffery T and I got to relax a bit and check up on some blog posts we have fallen behind in reading.
He must have had a pretty rough day holding down the bedspread... In my next life, I want to be a cat.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I am a proficent frogger

For the last two weeks I have been trying to knit my first pair of socks. More specifically, the first of the pair of socks. So far I have cast on 6 times. I had to frog 5 times so far. Hrmph!

It is the first time I am starting a piece with double pointed needles (which I got for my birthday...thanks Mom and Dad!) and starting the round was a little tricky. Starting the round shouldn't have been that difficult, I think I was over thinking it. Frog 1...

Then I really messed up the K2, P2 rib. I think I dropped some stitches off the end of the needles and didn't realize it. Frog 2...

Cast on number 3 didn't have a long enough tail. Frog 3...

The fourth time I cast on I thought I really had it started well. I got about 4 or 5 rounds finished before I purled 4 instead of 2. I tried to slip off the last two purl stitches, but dropped one and couldn't get it back up on the needles. I am using US size 2, which are the smallest needles I have used so far. I tried to save it with a toothpick, but it didn't work. Frog 4...

With cast on 5 I got about two rounds done before I a couple stitches slipped off a needle. I wasn't far so...frog 5...

Last night my guy went to bed early so I sat down to cast on, again. So far, so good. Granted, I am only about 2 rounds in, but, knock on wood, it's going smoothly.

Meghan (of Stitch It!! Podcast and ItsJustMeghan) recommended using Silver's Sock Class tutorial since this is my first pair of socks. Silver set up a phenomenal website for the sock tutorial. I read through all of it, so I could be prepared. I really appreciate the photos. Very helpful. I am using Patrons Silk Bamboo yarn in Coal. I love the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers while knitting.

Did I mention the socks are for my guy? Well, they are, so they have to be knit well.

I have had a little knitting success lately. After the first fiasco of the Dumb Donald Hat, I made sure to swatch and check gauge before knitting the Brother in Law Basket-Weave hat designed by Kody May Knits which I found in a search on Ravelry.

This knit up pretty quickly, even for a beginner like me and I really like the pattern. The weather is finally winter-like so I've gotten the opportunity to wear it all week. I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease in Blue Heather.

After I finish a few UFOs (socks, Swiffer pads, bathroom mat are all in the works...) I want to start a Steelers beanie for me. The beanie will be fairly simple, but I want to try to add in the Steelers logo if I can. Maybe just the steel diamonds...we'll see. I'm also thinking of making the "I'll have one of everything bag" from Anna Maria Horner's book Seams to Me in a Steelers colors, too. That bag is amazing and I need just the right fabrics so I can get a lot of use out of it.

And good luck to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game today. We'll be watching while eating the lucky chicken wings.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

EZ Camper Quilt

Some friends of ours are the parents of Lily, one of the sweetest little girls I know. We know them through the Volkswagen community. They have a 1965 EZ Camper that is beautiful. Every year there is a big Volkswagen Weekend in the Tampa area. One of the shows that weekend is called Bulli Brigade and it's a gathering of VW transporter enthusists. VW transporters are the Microbuses, Single Cabs, Double Cabs, Campers, etc.

Isn't she adorable?

In honor of Lily's first Bulli Brigade last November I made her an EZ Camper quilt using the colors from her dad's bus to influence my fabric choices. It's a combination of red, white and black sewn together using the dissappearing 9-patch pattern (which I found through Sew, Mama, Sew's quilting month). Then I made an applique EZ Camper replica out of felt for the front. I used the applique tutorial from oh, fransson! as I am not yet proficent in applique. I even made the VW symbol on the front of the bus by lowering the dog-legs.

The back is lined with 100% cotton plaid pattern to resemble the curtain fabric on the bus windows. (You can see the curtain fabric in the first picture.)

I used the stitch-in-the-ditch method for the quilting. I am practicing my free-motion quilting techique, but it isn't quite there yet. Then I hand stitched the binding. A lot of people do not like to hand stitch the binding and will either avoid it like the plague or just machine stitch all of the binding, but I find the hand stitching really relaxing.

I was pretty pleased with the overall result. Lily gave the best reaction to the quilt. When I pulled it from my bag and handed it to her mom, Lily looked at it with wide-eyes and said, "Ooo, ooo!" That's a good thing! I have seen her say it to puppies, so I take it as a compliment.

Currently, I am planning two more baby quilts for friends expecting boys and a quilt for our bed. I'll be choosing fabric for the baby quilts soon.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Stash busting last minute gifts

Procrastination got to me again this Christmas. I always make the gift list with the greatest of intentions, then reality and life takes over and I find myself still awake at 2 am Christmas morning at the sewing machine stitching up gifts and seriously considering stitching my eyelids open. Throw in a last-minute decision to visit my guy's family (a 12 hour drive) and 5 more last-minute gifts... This girl almost cracked!

Then I got my brain and small stash in order. What could I make quickly with what I had on hand but still had a lot of heart and thought? Aprons, of course!

Crazy 9-Patch Apron Set for aunt, cousin & 5 year old goddaughter
A few months ago I used some fat quarters to practice the crazy 9-patch quilt pattern. The blocks ended up about 12 inches square. I had a few left over and some coordinating muslin. I seamed two blocks together, bordered them with the muslin in a 2" strip on the bottom and sewed on the waist ties. The are also backed with the muslin.

His goddaughter's apron seemed long enough, but not wide enough so I added 2" on each side of the block then stitched on the waist ties. All of the waist ties have a little pleat where the front pieces meets the wrap around ties.

They turned out a lot better than I imagined. Best of all they were well received. The three generations like to bake together so it was a hit.

Simple and Funky Polka Dot Apron

This apron was actually planned a gift for my guy's dad's lady friend last year. Chalk this up to the aforementioned greatest of intentions thing... The fabric was purchased, washed, dried, pressed, cut, placed in a Ziploc and never sewn. It sat there for a full year in the "Ready to Sew" basket glaring at me. It will take you 15 minutes to finish me. You know, she would really appreciate me. Really, you don't have 15 minutes to stitch me together? You already did the hard part, come on!

So at 1:30 am on December 26 she got stitched. Did I mention we were leaving at 4 am for that 12 hour drive? Did I mention that I usually require 8 hours of sleep at the very least to function throughout the day? Did I mention that sleeping in the car is a cardinal sin to my guy and he would never let me get a nap? (Thankfully the aprons were so cute and he saw how hard I worked on them and I was granted a 4 hour nap! I love you! Yea!)

1:30 am or not, this apron rocks! If the recipient wasn't such a sweet and crafty herself that apron would have "accidentally" stayed home. It is (very) loosely based of the "Vintage Apron" in Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol. I used the skirt measurements, but made the waistband and ties about 3-1/2" thick. Instead of gathering the skirt, I added four 1" pleats.

The trip was quick but great! I love the area where he grew up and I love his family. Oh, we gave my guy's dad two bottle of wine from a small winery in New Mexico which was the fifth last minute gift.
Christmas Day here at home was fun, too. We relax at the house, (...well after I finished my mom and dad's gifts when I woke up...) and watched a movie. The temperature was unseasonably warm (about 70 degrees) so my guy surprised me by cooking breakfast on the grill. He made eggs, bacon and jalapenos, toast and coffee.

The eggs are from our local farmers' market and they are the most amazing tasting eggs I have every had. The have brown shells and cook up wonderfully by themselves or in baked goods. The bacon was cooked with fresh picked jalapenos from our garden. So delicious!

It was a great holiday season as a whole. Lots of handmade hotness, lots of good eats and lots of great family moments.