Friday, December 30, 2011

a Look back at 2011

remember to go here and vote for your favorite Swag Bag remake.

Looking back at the year from a creative and blogging perspective
2011 was FANTASTIC! 
2011 was the year that I discovered the quilting/blogging community. 
I joined my first blog tour
The One World One Heart Blog Tour.
This is where I gained my first followers (that were not family members)
and then the rest is history.
One of my New Year challenges was to learn how to crochet, so crocheted granny square slippers were  being created like crazy. 
I also learned how to make market bags.
You will see a trend here, as I think bags and pouches
were my most abundant creations this year.
First Quarter Creations
The second quarter of the year I discovered quilt alongs, Flickr, charity quilts, postcard swaps, mug rug swaps,  and Moda Bake Shop.
I jumped on board the Farmer's Wife Sampler quilt along, but have put that aside for now.
More bags and little girl's skirts and embellished t-shirts
were made to give to loved ones.
I joined 2 swaps on Flickr, the New Bee on the block and the 3x6 bee.
I have enjoyed making quilt squares with other people's fabrics and also using my own fabric to make blocks for the 3x6 gals.
I really enjoyed making my Circle Me Back to Amsterdam quilt with fabric I bought in Amsterdam a long time ago. It was also my first time to use the  Quilt as you Go method of quilting.
Second Quarter Creations
The third quarter I celebrated my blogaversary with a month of giveaways.
I was honored to be accepted into the Pretty Little Purse swap on Flickr.
The Rockin Robin QAL was so much fun. 
(I'll be finishing this quilt soon. I just have the binding to do)
I read about the Sewing Summit being held in Utah in October and signed up to go.
I started the Swoon quilt and sent off my charity quilt, which was the first quilt I had ever hand-quilted.
Blogging became almost a daily obsession and reading all the blogs just spurred my creativity.
I started bonding with several of my readers and authors of the blogs that I read.
I entered many giveaways and actually won several.
I wrote a tutorial, oh my that was difficult!
And I sent a block to Japan to be sewed into one of several quilts created to 
be sold to help the earthquake victims.
Third Quarter Creations

Fourth quarter started with a wonderful trip to the Sewing Summit.
I was so happy to meet some of my favorite bloggers in person and to experience their sewing and creative talents first hand.
The Across the Seas QAL (thanks to Jennifer and Sarah) was great fun and I was so happy to send this finished quilt off to my sister-in-law, to give her a quilty hug as she battles breast cancer.
I learned how to make a framed clutch, a wonky star, actually machine quilted my first large quilt.
Zippered pouches, pillows and fabric baskets were all made as gifts.
I ended up making everyone on my Christmas list at least one gift.
For that I am very excited.
Fourth Quarter Creations

The best part of 2011 was finding a community where I actually fit in. 
Everyone in this online quilting and sewing community is so loving and giving, helpful and just plain NICE! I feel a special kinship to so many of you. The kindness of everyone to help with sewing problems, lend a listening ear to a non-sewing problem and offer virtual hugs when life gets tough...these are the things I like most about all of you.
I made 9 quilts this year. I didn't reach my goal of one a month, but that's one of the drawbacks about the online community...
I am constantly being influenced and challenged to make something new, so I change my mind a lot and start a new project instead of the one I thought I was going to make.
Our son is arriving tonight with his family. I finished their handmade gifts this afternoon, with about 3 hours to spare.


I'm so honored by all your comments and the fact that you take a little piece of your day or your week to read what I have to say.
Thank you all!
Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Swag Bag Remake, Time to Vote

Remember when I showed you this bag?


I wrote about making it here.
The gals over at the Sewing Summit are having a contest and there are some lovely creations to see.
Hop on over to the Sewing Summit blog and vote for your favorite, which I hope will be mine.
If not, I'll still be your friend.


Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spoiled brat...that's me!

I've already showed you the highlights of our family Christmas weekend celebrations, but now I would like to show you my lovely gifts.
Remember when I posted this post about the beautiful ribbons on real wood spools in the Sundance catalog? Well, someone reads my blog and took the hint. Evan's lovely girlfriend, Lauren, gave me these beautiful ribbons.
I was so touched that a simple blog post could inspire such a lovely gift. 
Sometimes just the box is a beautiful gift. I've saved these for a re-gift for sure. But, I think I'll re-use them and keep them in the family. 

It seems my boys know me pretty well. Evan, the chef, knows I love collecting beautiful cookbook and this one is no different. Fresh from the Market should give me lots of inspiration when the summer garden is over-flowing again. A bottle of delicious olive oil will make those veges taste even better.
Michael and Jenny are also quite aware of what I like...I am a sucker for a kitchen gadget and this measuring cup is so cool. One side is for liquid measurements


and then you turn it upside down and it measures dry/solid ingredients. It's a really cool double lined sliding gizmo that should be fun to use. And the tiny little spatula is perfect for serving brownies and bar cookies.
Kyle followed through with a request for new slippers. These cozy, lined slippers should keep my feet warm all winter.

It seems Mr. Romance was listening too. Ok, I was circling things in catalogs and leaving them on his desk, but he did well choosing for me. He always does. He is a great gift giver.
A new robe with just enough cashmere to make it soft, warm and cozy, but enough cotton so it does not itch. Perfect!
 These pajamas are so soft and such a pretty color.

 I'm still going through withdrawal since Regis Philbin is no longer the host of my favorite morning show, so his new book will help wean me off my Regis obsession. Can't wait to read this, sitting in my cozy new pajamas, robe and slippers.
 Here's my Santa, who had one more surprise up his sleeve. He said he really fretted if he should buy me this non-returnable item.  But in the end he did it!

 Yes, that's me opening a brand new sewing machine. A Bernina 440. Trying not to act ungrateful, but really secretly wishing it was a long arm sewing machine, I was so happy that he was able to pull off his surprise and I had no idea!
But, my inner, greedy self was saying, darn, it's not the 820.
So we had a good conversation about how my 7 year old Bernina 153 is a perfectly capable sewing machine. It runs great, I keep it well maintained and it does exactly what I want it to do, except it does not have the longer throat for stuffing in large quilts to be quilted.
So the day after Christmas, Mr. Romance, Mr. Wonderful. my Santa...said let's go trade in your machine for the one you want. We had to trade in a car, cash out our 401K and sell a few kids (just kidding, of course)....but I got the sewing machine I have been dreaming about now for about a year. I am not as ungrateful as it sounds, but more practical. Why have two machines that do the same thing?...
So here she is. What shall I name her?






I warned you with the title, I am a spoiled brat. Now to tackle the manual, take a few hands on classes and see what this baby can do.

Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blogger's Choice Fat Quarter Bundle

I have always been horrible at choosing fabrics to go together so why am I even attempting to do the Blogger's Choice Challenge over at the Fat Quarter Shop? That's easy...I love a challenge and the chance to win fabric, so why not try.
Laura over at Quokka Quilts had the idea to have us try our hand at choosing a FQ bundle of 12 prints and 3 solids. Wouldn't it be great to win and have others buying the fabrics that you have put together. There are prizes too, you can win a 1/2 yard bundle of your choices, if your bundle is chosen as the winner. The judges are some of our favorite bloggers and very talented quilters.
Here are my choices. What do you think?
1. Circa 52 Organic Cream Cars
2. Bella Soft Yellow
3. Bella Solid Orange
4. Bella Solid French Blue
5. Far Far Away III Plum Guitars
6. Decided Things Yellow Tonal Oblong
7. Yard Sale Cantaloupe Dots
8. Circa 52 Organic Sky Pebble Lines
9. Echino-Nico Yellow Scooter Stripe
10. Bot Buddies Navy Bot Fishes
11. Treasures and Tidbits Orange Floral and dots
12. Puttin on the Ritz by Bunny Hill
13. Super turquoise and Cream Ring Dots
14. Power Pop Orange Pinkerton
15. Pajama Party Orange Dots and Stripes


I wish I would have paid more attention to Jeni is her In Color Order class at the Sewing Summit. That might have made this challenge a little easier.
If you think you want to try, allow a lot of time. This took me about 3 hours to complete. Check out Laura's blog to get all the details.
Next post I will show you how I was spoiled with lovely surprises for Christmas.

Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Monday, December 26, 2011

Highlights of our Christmas Weekend

We had a AWESOME Christmas weekend. As you can see from my photo collages, we took a lot of photos. These are a few of the highlights of our celebrations.
After a busy week of last minutes baking, sewing and shopping we enjoyed a relaxing Christmas Eve at our son and daughter-in-laws home. We went to early mass Christmas eve and then headed to their house for our traditional Polish meal of mushroom soup and pierogies. Jenny and Michael did a beautiful job of hosting and preparing for the dinner. Uncle Kaka gave the kids their gifts and we played Taboo. Lots of fun. 

Christmas morning we picked up my mom and headed to Michael and Jenny's again where we got to see what Santa brought for the kids and then had a yummy breakfast of crepes, potato and ham casserole and fruit. After a short visit there we came home to do the last minute preparations for Christmas at our house.
We opened gifts with Kyle, Evan and his girlfriend, Lauren. No matter how old the kids get, it is still fun to shower them with gifts, especially gifts they asked for but did not expect to get. This year it was an ipad for Evan. He was so excited!
It's also fun to give a handmade gift. Each of the boys received a Dr. Suess Grinch Christmas pillow that I made from the scraps received in a giveaway. Hop over there and see what Jennifer got for Christmas!
I also made Lauren a make-up bag with a waterproof lining and a mini-clutch.

The grandkids were sure excited about the crocheted slippers they received. It was a special blessing to have 4 generations here today, but I think it was a little too much for my mom. She has become used to her quiet life at Senior Living and total Christmas chaos at the Stanley home(s) was exhausting for her. Now we know a few hours of Stanley fun is enough for her.
Kyle and Michael were super tired and nodded off for a nap before dinner.
Our dinner of Prime Rib Roast, Yorkshire pudding, rosemary roasted potatoes, brussel sprouts and cranberry jello was delicious and well liked by everyone.
A last minute fix to Makenzie's slippers...I forgot to crochet the finished trim on one heel, oops!
One of the highlights of our giving was to have the grandkids read through a series of hidden clues to find their big gift. This video snippet shows their reaction.
Mr. Romance likes his pillow I made using a tutorial for the letters. I can't remember where I found the tut. If anyone knows, please tell me so I can give her credit. edited to say thanks to Katy for letting me know the letters are by Kelly at Kelby Sews. I made a few mistakes on the paper pieced letters, but it still turned out great and is a good size for lying around on the couch.

Although this quilt is NOT a Christmas gift, we gave it to Michael as an early graduation gift from the Fire Academy. He has been dropping hints that it is freezing in Bakersfield, so he got his grad gift about 6 weeks early so he can stay warm and cozy on those cold, winter nights at the fire house.

And the reason why I used the word AWESOME at the beginning of this post...Uncle Kaka's annual Christmas gift to his nieces and nephews is a song just for them.
in Kyle's own words, here is a description of the video: "For the last few years I have been making my nieces and nephews a music video for Christmas. Here is the video for this year entitled "I'm Awesome!". It is a song about everybody being different and positive about life. I am lucky to have some amazing friends who are also professional musicians who were kind enough to help me write/record/mix this during the busy pre-Christmas season (and even on Christmas Eve!!). Big thanks to Brandon Saller (Atreyu, Hell or Highwater), Ian Fowles (The Aquabats), Grant Arnow (Betawolf), and Christian Buenaventura (Emmy nominated editor of True Blood for his music mix at 3am Christmas Day) for taking the time to help out and make this happen. Feel free to spread the message to your little ones so they can say "I'm Awesome!!!"
This post is super long and I want to show you how I was spoiled too, but will save that for another day. I hope you all had a blessed time with your loved ones and that you will be able to relax now that all the preparations are through. I still have several gifts to complete this week. I gave myself some extra time because our eldest son and his family don't arrive until Friday.
Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Wrap

I could have titled this post "A Day Late and a Dollar Short", but really I have one more day to be ready for Christmas, right? I have procrastinated long enough. I have never been this late for Christmas prep, ever! My list of to-do's was a mile long. First on the list was a trip to the Polish deli. I always go to the deli to get the dried mushrooms, imported from Poland, to make my mushroom soup for Christmas eve. But I usually go earlier in the week, not on December 23rd! The line was out the door. It literally took me an hour to stand in line to pay for the mushrooms, and other things I discovered while perusing the shelves in the tiny little store. It is the only place in my area to buy real imported Polish specialty foods. But it was a wonderful hour. I spoke with a man  and his wife the entire time I was in line. Walter was from Krakow. He was giving me lots of information for our trip next summer. By the time I got up to the cash register I didn't want to leave. I wanted to talk with Walter and Nancy longer. We exchanged phone numbers and plan to get together again in the new year.
Then it was a trip to the grocery store. But today, nothing is quick and everything is crowded. I finished all my errands and was home to bake the final cookies and wrap gifts with Mr. R.
I baked these cookies and they are both delicious and pretty. White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread cookies dipped in white chocolate and red sprinkles...so festive! If you turned them so the sprinkles are on the top they could look like a Santa face, don't you think?
I made the  mushroom soup and baked a batch of Cranberry Pistachio biscotti. The day was progressing nicely and I was crossing things off my list like crazy.
The amaryllis our friends gave us as a gift is blooming. Another Christmas beauty.


Then Mr. R and I finished all the wrapping. It's so great to have an extra room right now to spread out, leave a mess and be able to go back to finish. This is my new sewing room, which I hope to remodel next year.

 

 Mr. Romance changes hats at Christmas and becomes one of Santa's elves. He's a great wrapper!

 A simple box from H&M and a ribbon from Costco make a beautiful presentation.
 I've also decided Costco has the best wrapping paper. I love this harlequin plaid.

 So we are basically ready.


There are still a few gifts that won't be wrapped that need to go under the tree. But I am sure Santa will do his magic and make it all look really pretty.
Christmas Eve day I just need to make the potato and ham casserole for Christmas breakfast and a jello for Christmas dinner. We'll go to mass and then head up to our son's for our traditional Polish meal of Pierogies and Mushroom soup.
I am saying it now, and you are all my witnesses...I WILL NEVER LET MYSELF GET THIS FAR BEHIND ON CHRISTMAS AGAIN! NEXT YEAR, I PROMISE TO BE MORE ORGANIZED! Please remind me of this next year when you are all talking about Christmas in July and I am going to the beach, laughing at you all and wondering why you are talking about Christmas in the summer.
I plan on doing a post next week to show you some of the secret sewing I have been doing over the last month. 
I'm off to take a nice warm bath and watch my favorite Christmas movie, WHITE CHRISTMAS, an oldie but goodie!
I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas or a Happy Hanukah and I pray you all have a blessed holiday and will be surrounded by those you love.


Thanks for stopping by,

"di"

Monday, December 19, 2011

Comfort and Joy

For as long as I can remember, making Nut Rolls has been a part of our Christmas tradition.
Some of my earliest memories of preparing the food for Christmas are my dad sitting on the couch,
watching television, with a huge bowl of walnuts in front of him.


 Mom would buy whole, unshelled nuts and dad would sit for hours and crack them for her. Then mom would use her hand-crank grinder and finely grind the nuts.
Things have gotten a little easier since then. I have switched to pecans, because I like them better, I buy them by the bag at Costco, already shelled. And I use the grinding attachment on  my Kitchen Aid mixer.
The original recipe comes from my paternal grandmother. She was an amazing cook and baker. Grandma was originally from Czechoslovakia, where she was a cook for a wealthy family. I don't know if this is a recipe she made up or brought over with her from her homeland.
 Being originally from Pennsylvania, where there were a lot of Slovak people, everyone seemed to have their version of this recipe. I have included my version in my Stanley Family cookbook, so my boys will always have a copy for themselves. That's my mom on the page, since her recipe is the one I use...with a few changes.

I didn't really know there was a competition in my dad's family until we traveled back to Pennsylvania for Christmas when I was 10 years old. 
My parents packed my brother, sister and me into the family car.
They stuffed the trunk with our gifts from Santa and a gift for all of my cousins. I have 31 cousins! Are you getting the picture, here? We were crammed into that car for 2 days of driving straight through from California to Pennsylvania
Can you say "LEG CRAMPS"?
Of course, we visited all my parents' siblings.  Aunt Mary's nut rolls were so delicious! And then I tasted Aunt Emma's and her's were good too. Uncle George claimed he made the best ones. Hmmm...could there be a little competitiveness among the siblings and in-laws?
  
 Either way I sure enjoyed trying all the different versions and some yummy cookies as well. My aunts and uncles were all amazing cooks and bakers.
We got some sad news yesterday. Our friend's mom passed away suddenly from an apparent stroke or heart attack.
 I wasn't feeling that good anyway, so I needed some comfort and joy.
So a lot of sugar, butter and nuts wrapped in a delicious dough should make me feel better.

 It didn't take away the pain in my head or the sadness in my heart
 but it was therapeutic to do something so comforting as making dough 

 rolling it out
 and spreading it with a sweet nut mixture.
This is a soft dough that rolls out so easily. 

 Just 30 minutes more for the second rise
 a brush with beaten egg yolks
 and an hour in the oven
 a thin layer of dough between a thick smear of nut filling
 DELICIOUS!
 Mr. Romanace and I ate  half of a roll last night.
What holiday sweet brings comfort and joy to your heart?

Thanks for stopping by,

"di"