Ode to Bonnie, and Labrador Love

 

On January 3rd 2011 I had to put my dog Bonnie to sleep. She had been my companion for almost 14 years, from the time she was 5 months old. Considering a friend of mine gave her to me only a couple of months after I arrived in this country in 1998, she was a constant presence for most of what I know to be my “adult” life. It happen very suddenly, she went from normal to slowing down in about a week. The irony is that I had a doctor’s appointment for her that same fateful day. I thought she was developing arthritis, and wanted to see if the vet could prescribe something to ease her pain. When I got home from work with my then 3 year old son, and she could barely breathe, I know something was terribly, terribly wrong.

I had vowed to myself not to get another animal ever. Besides the pain and the life changes after her death I have to consider the reality of both my husband and I working full time, having a young child, and a pretty crazy routine. For a very long time I could “hear” the sound of nails in the hardwood floor, and I would jump out of my bed in a very specific way so not to step on her. After almost 14 years I realized I was as conditioned to her as she had been to me. I’m not the kind of person that compares dog companionship with human companionship. Dogs (thanks be to God for that one) are NOT humans. That’s to me is the beauty of a relationship with a canine friend. Bonnie was not my “child”, but she stuck with me through the worst times and the best ones in the 14 years I had been in this country. There is no way to deny the connection of affection, and the bond between a human and a dog, and she knew when I was in distress and never left my side. If that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.

After one year I now find myself dog sitting for a friend.

 

So gorgeous!

Out of the blue. I overheard him in need of finding her a place to stay because he was leaving in a couple of days, and because my son talks about Bonnie a lot I thought it would be good for him to have a dog around. I realized how much my son misses, and remembers, Bonnie. Small details, like the color of her favorite bone, which for the life of me I cannot understand how could he remember. The impact Bree (the name of the gentle Yellow Lab girl we’re hosting) has had in Kaiden, and in me, has left me wondering if I’ll be able to keep my vow… My son has shown a wonderful ability to handle a relatively large dog, and is completely in love with her. As you can see from the pictures, it’s not very hard to fall in love with her. Add to her great looks one of the best personalities I’ve ever seen in a dog and voila, I find myself looking at Lab Rescue websites… Must pray about this one!

Really good friends!
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The Weekend Party (and drama!)

I have not posted the results of my freezer jam experiment because my Friday and weekend were completely absorbed by something really important, my son’s 4th birthday party! This was the first real party he’s had, so he was beyond excited. Last year we were under piles of boxes because of the move, and had no energy (and no money) to have anything but a small cake and only family. But of course Murphy’s law being one true fact of life,  displayed itself in all its glory this time around… The party had already been reschedule due to the weather. New England, as most of the country, has been hit hard with heavy rain. Thank God nothing as serious as in many parts of the country, but certainly enough to dampen, no pun intended, any plans for a backyard party. We had lost about half of our guests with the rescheduling, but as the days grew closer to the new date the weather just kept getting worse. The really annoying thing is that it’s almost the end of June, and we’re talking about not only rain, but also really chilly weather. We’ve been having lows 50’s at night!

What says "PARTY" better than a 15' moonwalk?

It poured all night long on Friday, and until around 7:30 Saturday morning. My husband, my mom, my MIL and I were beyond panicking at that point. I went off to get the cake and the food, and they stayed home waiting for the moonwalk and the food machines. When I get to the bakery I realized the woman put the wrong order, so we got the wrong cake… Of course my son loved it anyway, he has no idea about the original plan. But I paid for a Thomas 3D cake, made with fondant, and got a buttercream, plain sheet cake style with some, pardon my language here, stupid decor. What breaks my heart and makes me angry is knowing that the bakery was equipped to make the cake I wanted, and (even bitter to me) I could have made the cake I wanted.

On top of everything the food machines arrived in the filthiest condition possible… The popcorn machine looked like the glass was yellow and not clear. The hot dog steamer was even worse, and I dare not describe it. The shaved ice was OK, but of course it got a major scrubbing from us. It took almost 3 hours to clean everything. Needless to say we will never use this company again.

The big hit with the kids: the chocolate fountain!

 In the end though the weather turned out just perfect. It was not too hot, and we had sunshine and blue sky! All of the kids and their parents enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed spending time with good friends and family. Despite all, I am looking forward to having another party next year! My friend Diane was talking to my son and she comes to me smiling telling me that he said “My mom made me the perfect party!” What else could I hope for?

 As for the freezer jam, I do want to post a quick, but proper review this week. AND… I was also able to take a bunch of pictures for the Etsy store, and just listed this one this morning!

I love this one... then again, I love them all!

 
 

Love is in the air…

I know I’ve been out for a long time again… this time though is all about wonderful things. The biggest of it is our new home! We moved out on June 26th, and hosted the 4th of July barbecue in our backyard. We still walking through piles of boxes, did not have hot water until yesterday (new heater =  2000 dollars!), but we could not be happier. My little one and his cousin have been enjoying every second of summer in our backyard.

Is this the picture of summer or what?

 

My husband and I are trying to finish the family room in the basement. We removed the old carpet AND the original linoleum floor (very messy job), put new subfloor, and new engineered hardwood. I’ll have my computer and podcasting equipment set up in there, so I’m very hopeful that podcasting will be a lot easier. I’ll post before and after pictures once we’re done.

New house, new hair for me also. I’ve let my hair grow since I moved to this country in 1998. Up to then I’ve always kept it very short, actually shaved in the back military style! It was taking way too long to care for it, and I was tired of my looks. So I’ve donated it to Locks of Love, a wonderful charity that provides hair pieces for kids suffering from long-term hair loss. If you feel like it’s time for a change in looks also, and have some length of hair to spare, please check them out. For a hair piece they need a minimum of 10 inches, but they take shorter hair also, and they sell them to help offset costs.

Before

 

Ready, set, cut!

All done!

I’m doing great with my hand pieced Civil War Tribute, I brought new machines into the family, and I can’t wait to set up all my treadles. I hope all of you are also having a wonderful summer. I’ll be in touch with a new podcast soon!

I’m around!

I have been gone for a while because my son got sick for about 3 weeks… On the week of February 8th he started with diarrhea. That was shortly followed by vomiting, which made this super high energy boy turn into this scared and lethargic kid. I kept in touch with his doctors office, and they kept telling me it was a stomach bug going around. On February 19th he came home barely walking. My husband and I took him to the emergency room, and he threw up really badly on the way to the hospital. Once we got there he looked a bit more comfortable, and ate 6 crackers. Once again the doctor told us that this was a very strong bug that had been sending many kids to the hospital.

I know it is very normal for kids to get sick, and Kaiden does get the occasional cold. But in almost 3 years of this kid’s life he’s never been broken down by any diseases. Typically we find out he has a temperature when changing his diapers because you feel the hot legs. Even then he’s never had a fever higher than 102… I have been really blessed, and I’m very thankful that he is such a healthy kid. But over the weekend he showed no real improvement, so I was back to the doctor’s office Monday night. It was not his pediatrician, we took him to a place in the same hospital we took him to the emergency room because they have late night appointments. He was seen by two doctors that thought he looked very thin, that his belly looked huge, and that they suspected celiac syndrome…

Ok, back to Kaiden being so healthy… He had only been to the pediatrician for shots, and the regular check up. When we moved to Franklin last year he saw his new pediatrician only once, because I set up an appointment for them to meet. He had not seen him in over a year. So I was finally able to take him to see his doctor… and everything changed for the better! For all of you that are mothers or that have contact with small kids you know how fast, and how drastically they change overnight. Kaiden’s doctor is also a father of a boy about the same age, that actually has weight issues. He is very calm, very knowledgeable, and took the time to explain all that was going on.

On the weight issue, he showed me on the chart (what I already knew cause he’s my son) that Kaiden has always been on the 50% percentile for height and weight. He is a picky eater, but he’s always been what I call very “squeeeeezable” , and one could see no bones. Apparently sometime in the past few months he jumped from the 50% percentile in height to the 80%, although his weight remained the same. I am a very lean person, and the shortest in my family at 5′-6″, and 113 pounds. My husband is very tall (6′-3″), and he is the only one in his family with tendency to gain weight. Kaiden has two aunts that are 5′-10″, one that is 6′-2″, and an uncle that is also 6′-3″. So my little guy’s body is defining itself like most of the family, tall and lean. The doctor also cut in half the amount of milk he consumes, and for the first time in his life he is willing to eat, and boy has he been eating…

Sooo, besides not sleeping, not eating, working like crazy, washing mountains of puked and pooped up laundry, running to hospitals and doctor’s offices, and having a clingy kid attached to my hips in the past 3 weeks, I did not do much else… well, there is the possibility of buying a home, but this is another post altogether…

I’m around, will still work on more pattern reviews and hopefully tutorials, and of course the podcast. I hope all of you have had a more peaceful last few weeks!

Moda ABC Book & ABC Game “Tutorial”

ABC Book

I have tutorial in quotation because this is a really simple item, there’s really not much to it, but I thought it would be interesting for people to see the different options. During the holidays I stopped by my LQS to take a look a samples for the upcoming classes, and I saw on the wall these cute ABC panels from Moda.

 Having a 2 and half year old son, and a 3 year old niece I just had to have both pieces. One of the girls at the shop told me I could make a book with it (that’s when I noticed the cover and the back), and that there is a pattern “somewhere”. I hit the internet when I got home, and “found” the wonderful Moda Bakeshop website. They do have a (legit) tutorial for how to make an ABC book, with clear pictures and a downloadable pdf. But they use the letters from the big “I love you” panel, and not the one I had just purchased… The main difference is that those letters are about 4″ square, so that you have enough space around the charm square to apply the letter with the decorative stitch. I also thought it would be too wasteful to cut the frame around the letters in order to use them in that application. I also started to think how I would use the “book” with my son, and how my niece would use hers. In order to keep bulk down the letters are placed back to back, well… like pages in a book! But knowing my son, and the fact that once he saw the metal ring the first thing he would do would be try to open it, and scatter all the letters around, I thought that having them as tiles that we could shuffled, and then rearranged (like a game) could be more interesting to him. On the other hand I can envision my niece sitting down quietly looking at the letters, and the idea of the pink book is a very cute one. This is also a wonderful project to use all of the leftover pieces of batting you collect when squaring off quilts.

So, here’s how I tackled both:

 – One Moda ABC panel in pink

 – One Moda ABC panel in blue

 – (22) 6×6 squares for back of the letters in the ABC game – Decorative thread to match.

 – Leftover thin batting, (24) 6×6 pieces for the ABC game, and (13) 6×6 pieces for the ABC book.

 – (13) eyelets for the ABC book

 – Metal ring

  Cut letters along dividing lines. Don’t worry about using a rottary cutter, you will square them off later while pressing. Actually if you ever wonder what “realigning the fabric grain while pressing” meant this is a very clear example of what a misaligned grain does to the image. Don’t try to be gentle here, you have to coerce the piece into a square. It does not have to be perfect, but you can definitely improve it with a good dose of ironing.

Before ironing

After ironing

 For the ABC Game I used the squares I cut with a rottary cutter as my guide to square the letter. For the book I did some checking using a ruler.

 Lay one piece of batting, one letter right side up, and a letter or a baking wrong side up.

For the game you can choose whatever piece you want, but for the book you need to be careful to keep the letters in order. From this point on the instructions for the book are the same as in the Moda tutorial (stitch around, turn, top stitch, install eyelets.) For the game I decided to free motion around the letters. This is a great way to practice free motion skills, and it makes the letters pop. There, you have two very cute approaches to learning the ABC!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Busy weekends…

Wow, the past couple of weekends where really crazy! I started to feel funky by Tuesday night, and by Wednesday I knew I had a cold. My son also had a stomach bug that prevented him from going to day care. So both of us stayed home Thursday and Friday. The main difference is that despite his diarrhea, he was his same old self, super energetic and non-stop busy-bee… mom on the other hand could barely stand up! My husband could not stay home either day, so I had to manage the best I could. The tough thing is that it’s been ridiculously cold in New England (I guess around the country), so I could not take him outside for him to burn energy. We could not go too far from the house because of his tummy issues, and I would not drive the way I was. AND the boy is the outdoorsy type, I mean he wants to be out and about all the time!

So by Saturday I was pretty beat up, but a bit better from the cold. We went grocery shopping in the morning, and early afternoon I had a meeting at my local quilt shop for a block of the month program called “The Queen and Her Court.” They are offering two colorways, floral and batik.

The session lasts about one and a half hours, we get to see new fabrics, news from the shop, show and tell, and a raffle. It was very nice, despite the fact that all I wanted was to lay down. I decided for the “floral” colorway, although I am extremely tempted to make the batik also. The program for the block itself it very reasonable (25 to join, then free if you complete the block and show up for the monthly meeting.) The quilt is pretty big too, 96″x108″. The finishing kits range from 133 to 145 dollars, and although reasonably priced for the amount of fabric I know that I will make the Civil War Tribute quilt, and I’m also enrolled on the “Buck-a-block” program… It’s very easy to get carried away with so many beautiful fabrics and designs waiting, but I do like finishing things, so I think I’ll stick to the plan. I also learned that they collect blocks for charity quilts, very easy nine patches the work out to be 12.5″ unfinished, so when I went home I manage to finish 3 of them. A lot more will come.

I spent the rest of the day doing  house chores, because I knew I would have to work on Sunday. You see, I have been crazy busy at work. My project is under construction, and it is at a very fast pace. I have been up to my eyeballs everyday just to keep my nose above the water. I had a ton of emails waiting for me, and the thought of having my Monday spent doing filing, and reading emails was depressing. Besides my little one woke up 6:30 that morning already asking to go out. The nail in the coffin was a beautiful Wheeler and Wilson model 8 waiting for me in Newburyport, a quaint coastal town about 50 minutes from Boston…

She was on the third floor on this house that has seen 4 generations of the family. The grandmother had just passed, and the daughters were doing inventory on the house. The machine is pretty dirty, but it is only dust (please disregard the mess in my kitchen.) One can see it was loved, and they told me she made a lot of quilts. The cabinet is also in good shape, although one drawer, and the drawer’s bottoms are missing. They also have some unfinished quilt tops, and they asked me if I could finish them!

As far as working on the next podcast, I am back to writing a lot of material. Recording time has really been the issue, not to mention that because of my cold I have no voice now… Last weekend was taken by the cake I made for my niece’s third birthday. I love baking, and cake decorating, and a few years ago I taught myself how to use (and make) fondant. It took me 9 hours to complete, and on Sunday we spend the day with her in Boston.

 It’s made with 3 layers of yellow cake, and one layer of coconut ganache, and one layer of passion fruit mousse (my own recipe!). I’ve made all 3 cakes she had in life so far, and the bear you see beside the cake was the topper of her first cake that my sister-in-law kept frozen all this time!  I keep a little “gallery” in my Webshots if you want to check them out.

In the middle of all this I manage to start a scarf to use the beautiful hand-spun yarn from Under the Plum that I won from Craftlit months ago. The lace pattern is from the “Woodland Shawl“, a free pattern I saw on Ravelry, and generously provided by Nikol Lohr, AKA Thrifty Knitter.

I’ve only knit for a couple of hours, but this thing is so quick I am almost done. The lace is beautiful, but very easy and I had it memorized in the 3rd repeat. Like all lacework it’s going to need some mighty blocking, but I’m very pleased with the way it’s turning out!

So I’ve kept busy the past couple of weeks, and I have several posts on pattern review on the way, and I will be launching podcast 3 soon. I can feel my mojo coming back! YAY!

Labor Day fun

Oh my it was a busy Labor Day weekend. I had an unfortunate early start prompted by a food poisoning episode from which I’m not fully recovered… On Friday the family headed out to Connecticut for an overnight stay so that we could go to the 2009 Woodstock Fair, in (guess what?) Woodstock. The first one was held in 1859, and apparently it’s been running every year since then.

This was good old family fun. We’re always attracted to the classic cars display. We saw this amazing Rolls Royce from 1921 that in its found state looked like this:

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If I had not seen that beauty with my own eyes I would not have believed it. This is the car now:

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I just love the details that go into these cars. It does not get any better than a Rolls either…

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This is jewelry!

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My little guy had a ton of fun. He saw all sorts of animals, got to feed and pet a few of them, and fell in love with the bunnies.

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One of the highlights of the day for him was to go in his first roller coaster ride! The kid is fearless (to my despair). I took him once, and my husband took him a second time. He giggled the entire ride. Can one say “Happy Kid” ?

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There where a few quilts… I should have taken pictures… I think the heat and the exhaustion fried my brain. After 8 hours of fair none of us had anything left. We rode the ferris wheel, drove home, and crashed!

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