Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Decorating

I love decorating for Christmas, and look forward to it every year.  For the past few years, though, we haven't made much of a deal of it for a variety of reasons.  We were going to do the same this year, until I got a call from my sister asking if her daughters could help me trim the tree.  I was a little surprised since her children are being raised Jewish, but apparently they love ornaments and Christmas trees.  But, could I please have a real tree (we always had artificial ones), and could the ornaments also not be too Christmas-y.  Ummm...okay?  Can you tell that my family is a little demanding?

Since I used to make such a big deal out of Christmas decorating, I had enough ornaments for 3 large trees.  So these "requests" were easily granted, and my nieces had a large selection of ornaments to choose from.  I decided to make this a family event and had my brother's children join the fun.  I figured, let's celebrate early with the kids and then have a quiet, peaceful Christmas week with the rest of my family.

Some lessons I quickly learned when decorating with 2 six-year old girls and 1 independent toddler:
  • Give kids under the age of 10 shatterproof ornaments only.  Most of my ornaments are glass and very delicate.  I thought that the six year olds could handle them carefully, which they tried their best to, but they're also a little uncoordinated and like to cluster a bunch of ornaments on one branch until all the ornaments fall.  My toddler niece was the only one who didn't break anything because she was given shatterproof ornaments that I purchased just for her.
  • Have a nice glass of wine before decorating a tree with kids. I can't tell you how traumatic it was to listen repeatedly to shattering glass, particularly since some of the ornaments broken were those that I had collected during my travels.  I had to take deep breaths constantly.  
  • What you give to one, you must give to the other.  If the broken ornaments weren't enough, try listening to two girls arguing over who got to put up what.  I had to separate the ornaments into two equal piles to get a little peace.
  • Take a nice, long nap to recover.  Who knew decorating a tree could be so exhausting?
When the tree was done, I really earned the title of Awesome Aunt!

The finished tree:

The other tree:

The Christmas quilts I made for the occasion:

Hope your holiday season is fun and stress-free! :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

What is this? An actual post?

It's been a while, over 5 months since the last time I posted.  I tried to keep it up, but my father had died on Father's Day, and July was a blur of making arrangements so that we could take his ashes back to Vietnam as he had wished.

I was born in Vietnam, but left when I was very young in 1975. We left on the same day that Saigon fell, not intentionally, our plans just happened to coincide with that event on that day.  I don't remember any of it, not even the family members that I was very close to when I was young.  Going to Vietnam was scary for me, made even more so since I don't read or write the language, and speak very little of it.  I understand a bit of it since my parents always spoke to me in Vietnamese, but my understanding is far from fluent.

The trip was also scary because the flight time was 23 hours, and I'm a horrible traveler.  I can't read, watch movies or do anything on any flight.  I just sit there, squished by the people next to me, feeling miserable and looking like the walking dead.  It's not an attractive picture.  But since I hadn't been back to Vietnam in over 30 years, we decided to splurge on the travel plans.  We flew with one of the most comfortable airlines and booked a room during our layover in Singapore's airport while we waited for our connecting flight.  Did you know that you can rent a hotel room in this airport by a block of hours?  Get your mind out of the gutter! LOL! It made our trip much more comfortable because I was able to catch up on some sleep that I didn't get on the flight.  Overall, the trip wasn't bad, especially since Singapore's airport has the most awesome shopping - 3 terminals full.  And no one wanted to touch the ashes, not even the bag they were in, so we went through customs at warp speed (of course we had all the proper documentation!).

Vietnam was an explosion of the senses.  It was really hot and humid because August is in their wet season, but thankfully, we had beautiful, sunny weather for most of the trip.  I was stressed before even leaving because since I started working after college, I had never taken a full month off to go on vacation.  So I had to condense 2 months of prep for the new school year (I'm a principal at a high school) into one month and trust that all would be well and ready to go when I returned.  Needless to say, another reason why I was a wreck.

The first thing that blew my mind was the traffic.  Apparently, there are no traffic laws and with the amount of motorcyles on the road, I am surprised that there aren't more accidents.  Crossing the street is terrifying.  You have to look for a break in the traffic and begin walking and not stop.  The motorcyles will swerve around you, but if you stop, you will get hit by one.  It took a while to get used to, but my relatives usually had to tell me when it was safe to begin crossing.

My father's memorial was beautiful; he would have been very happy to see all his family together.  His ashes were placed in the family's tomb, next to the church that he attended when he was young.  After the memorial, my sister and I traveled to Cambodia and then back to Vietnam, beginning in the north and traveling south to all the places that my father described to us when we were growing up.  It was an amazing, unforgettable trip.

I have a very stressful job, but spending time exploring two beautiful countries and learning more about my heritage was incredibly special and relaxing.  I felt comfortable, which was surprising.  In Cambodia, we had a guide and driver as we explored Ankor Wat, and everyone spoke English.  In Vietnam, people had a good laugh when I spoke, but I still felt comfortable.  I didn't even have the initial anxiety that I normally do when I travel to another country where I don't speak the language.  It just felt comfortable, aided by the fact that the hotel staff in the various places we stayed at were very helpful and accommodating. 

When I returned to New York, family and friends and co-workers joked that in addition to the nice tan I acquired, I also had a very nice Zen buzz from Vietnam.  It was an unforgetable trip, and one that I want to repeat.  I'm thinking of returning to Vietnam next August, not only to visit my father's ashes but also to explore some more places. 

Here are some of the highlights from the trip:

Ben Thanh Market, Vietnam: the place to shop for tourists!

An open market in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam:  No supermarkets in Vietnam, so people generally go the markets daily to buy their food.  Better to buy earlier in the day because there's no refrigeration in these markets!

Halong Bay in Vietnam: One of the seven wonders of the world and the most beautiful, serene place. The cruise on Halong Bay was my favorite part of the trip.


Angkor Wat in Cambodia:  Where all the famous temples are; some are in amazing shape, while others are in disrepair.  Countries all over the world are helping the Cambodians restore the broken temples.
The Floating Village in Cambodia: The village consists of houseboats which are moved based on weather conditions and height of the water.

I took tons of pictures, but I figured that showing a few was way better than showing a lot since many of them don't have much meaning to others.

Well, I'm back and have been sewing furiously to catch up, which I finally am.  Got lots to share, but will do so in other posts ....

So happy to be back!

Monday, July 16, 2012

My problem child!

Whenever I'm quilting, I constantly have to move Lola around because she likes to sit on top of wherever I'm working, which causes a lot of problems.  Once I was cutting fabric and she swished her tail at me, almost making me cut her tail.  I nearly had a heart attack.  Another time, she sat on top of my sewing machine and jumped down unexpectedly, nearly getting her tail sewn in the process. 

Lola has decided that the sewing room is her domain and that she has to keep an eye on me, at the same time keeping the other cats out.  You can often hear me yell, "LOLA!!!!" at her antics whenever I'm sewing.  She probably thinks it's a term of endearment, she hears it so frequently!


But it's hard work trying to disrupt the sewing process.  Sometimes Lola has to rest, right in the middle of my ironing table!  LOLA!!!!

But no matter what trouble she causes, I adore this little girl and her brand of wreaking havoc! :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

It's been a while ...

Happy 4th everyone!

It's been a while since I've posted anything.  June is always one of the worst months for me at work, so there hasn't been much free time.  Whatever time I had, I worked on all the swap blocks that I committed to and for the first time, I was late on a couple of blocks.  It was not a good feeling!

You can check out my Flickr photostream to see the recent blocks that I've made.  I made over 60 blocks for the various swaps because for some of them, I had to make multiple blocks.

When I played hooky from making the blocks, I've been trying out a new technique with dyeing.  I saw a quilt in which the quilter used washable Elmer's glue gel as a resist for the dye, and it was beautiful!  A resist keeps the dye out of wherever it is applied so that you can apply different color dyes in the same area.  Once you wash out the glue, anywhere where it is applied stays the color of the original fabric. 

I tried to find a tutorial, but couldn't find anything that was detailed.  So I tried out what I thought was the process and tweaked it until I got the results I wanted.  Here is the most successful of my attempts:

I used Kona White as the base and applied the glue in a wavy grid pattern.  Once the glue dried, I painted each section with Dye-na-flow silk paint, which works like dye.  Some of the paint flowed into other sections, so I have to figure out how to fix that, but I really liked the white outline caused by the glue.  I want to try a drawing next to see how it goes. 

First, though, I need to get all the June swap blocks out of the way ... :)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sewing Room - Finished!

My sewing room has been almost finished for a while, but it is only recently that all the finishing touches like painting, organizing supplies, etc. have been completed.  Here it is, small but packed!

View from the stairs:

The industrial serger that we have had for over 30 years.  This machine is sturdy!  It can serge any number of fabric layers easily, which is why we haven't replaced it.

I love peg boards, so I had a small one put in for the scissors and square rulers.  On the left is the magnetic bulletin board.

Wall shelving that holds my favorite quilt books, supplies, and sound system:

Since I'm involved in many bees/swaps, every month I write the name of each bee on a post-it.  The little post-its are individual blocks, and the larger ones are for the 3X6 quilting bee.  When I'm done with the block and it's packaged to go, I remove the post-it.  I love it when all the post-its are gone - it means that I finished the blocks for the month.  Now, if only I can stop signing up for new ones ...

My ironing table, which used to be one of my dad's work tables. It's not in the best condition, but has a strip of outlets in the back and is just the right size to hold the TV that I got for Christmas.

The smaller design board:

The pegboard that contains the majority of my tools and threads:

My two favorite sewing machines:

My scrap containers:

The shelf that contains my craft magazines and dyeing supplies.  It's also great for hanging smaller quilts:

The fabric closet that contains my current fabrics.  The shelves are 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep and fabrics are sorted in two rows on each shelf.  The containers have fabrics that are sorted by color and/or type and are 1/2 yards or less.

I love this space and try to spend as much time as I can in it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vote for me!

I've participated in Sew Happy Geek's Play Competition, and the voting has just started.  It's my Ghastlie Queen of Spades quilt (see post).  If you like the quilt, please vote for me!  I know that I'm shamelessly lobbying for votes, but it's my competitive nature. LOL. 

Actually, all the quilts are great, so visit the site to check them out anyway.  The link is:


Monday, May 21, 2012

Modern She Made Swap - Finished!

May's been a busy month!  I signed up for a bunch of swaps and didn't realize what I had committed to until I made a list and saw what had to be done.  What was I thinking????

Every spare moment I've had this month has been working on projects.  This quilt is one of them.  It's for the Modern She Made Swap, in which you make an item for a secret partner and I'm very happy with the end product.  My partner didn't have a preference on what item she wanted, and based on her Flickr photostream, she likes rainbow- colored quilts.  As a result, my choice of fabrics was pretty easy.  The only stipulation of this swap is that there needs to be something circular in the quilt.  I thought this was a good opportunity to practice the 6 minute circle.  I love this technique - it's so easy! 

I hope my partner likes this quilt because it's on its way to her country, with a few treats.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ghastlie Queen of Spades

I finally finished my entry for the Play - A Miniquilt Competition hosted by sewhappygeek.  For this competition, you select a playing card and interpret it in a miniquilt.  My entry is:

Close up of the spider web quilting:

The Ghastlie Queen of Spades, Mathilda Ghastlie, is attended by her niece, Cordelia.  I wonder why Cordelia needs a hammer?  Must be to knock the competition out of the way. ;)

The miniquilt was inspired by this version of the Ace of Spades image that I found on Google.  Is there anything you can't find on Google?

This card design was perfect to showcase the Ghastlie fabrics that I love.  In fact, I've been playing with the idea of hosting a Ghastlie art quilt swap with other Ghastlie aficionados.  Wouldn't that be ghastlie fun?  (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Just 3 for May!

Setting a quilty goals for the month was really helpful in getting some of the projects done.  I'll start with my new goals and then updates on the projects that I wanted to finally finish. 

My three goals for May are:

1.  Finish my Oh My Stars quilt.  As you can see, most of the blocks are done, and just have to be sewn together, as well as adding the sashing and border.  I haven't decided how to quilt it, but I'll be happy if the top is finally done!

2.  Finish the Quartered Log Cabin quilt.  I was the Queen bee for 2012 Modern Block Swap in November, and my bee-mates made such amazing blocks for me, with the exception of one person who never returned the block.  Hate when that happens. :(  The quilt will be a wallhanging for my living room, and the layout will be 5 X 3 blocks, so I have to make 2 more blocks to finish this wallhanging.  I plan to quilt this wallhanging and I hope to do so by the end of May.

3.  Finish the Retro Flower quilt.  I hope to finish this quilt within the timeframe of the quilt along.  At first, I was going to make only 12 blocks, but once I started, decided to make 16.  Unfortunately, I only cut enough fabric for 12 blocks, so I have to make the remaining 4.  I still haven't figured out how to quilt it, but like the Oh My Stars quilt, I'll just be happy if the top is done. 

Update for April's goals:

My three goals were to:
a) finish binding 3 wallhangings
b) finish my niece's quilt before she turned 1 (within a week of the original post)
c) making my sister's Braided Star quilt

The biggest accomplishment was finishing Selah's quilt just in time for her birthday!  I was so happy and she liked it a lot, or at least her mother said so. :)  I also finished the wallhangings and either displayed them or finally gave them to their intended recipients.  The only goal I didn't achieve was the Braided Star quilt, but my sister was fine with it because I decided to dye some fabric for the quilt in her favorite colors.  So overall, a successful month! 

Thanks Tracy Jay for setting this linky party up!  My WIP pile is slowly going down!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Bee Blocks Round Up

April is coming to an end and I wanted to share the bee blocks that I made for my various bees this month.  Here goes:

Gone Quilting Bee:  I make 2 blocks a month for this bee, and I was one of the Queen Bees this month.  My block is the Granny Square, and my bee-mates have been sending awesome blocks back:

 The other blocks I made was for Annaleise, which are a log cabin variation:

The 99: Based on the book, Modern Blocks, the block this month is Missing Your Kiss.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think through my cutting and ended up short with the background fabric.  I tried to put other blocks in the center, but it didn’t look right.  I felt really bad, but I hope Katey is fine with this:


Piece Bee with You:  The theme this month is an “I’m sick.” quilt.  What a unique theme!  My block is called, “Headache”, inspired by my nephew. J

We Bee Learning Quilting Bee:  The block pattern is Whirligig, and I love that the Queen Bee wanted girly fabrics:


2012 MODERN BLOCK SWAP: The Queen Bee is making a modern strip quilt and asked us to make a section of it for her.  It’s going to be a cool quilt:


Nubees Quilting Bee: This is the first time that I participated in this type of bee where I have to make 5 blocks and incorporate the requested colors of my bee-mates into a pattern that I choose.  I actually ended up making 6 blocks because the spreadsheet was updated and I didn’t check. It took a while to figure the pattern for this one out because it had a short turnaround.  I decided on this pattern, but I don’t know the name of it:

Wonky Trees Block Swap:  This block swap is a continuation of the Wonky House block swap, which I loved.  I can’t wait to see the trees that I get in return:

It’s been a very productive and pretty month!  May is going to be a HUGE challenge since I signed up for a bunch of other projects.  I guess I have to put sleep on the backburner! LOL

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Braided Star Block Tutorial - Why Reinvent the Wheel?

I was going to put together a tutorial for the Braided Star block when I found a tutorial for it from the quilter who originally made the block that I admired.  You can find the Braided Star tutorial from The ADD Crafter, who has created a paper pieced pattern that can be downloaded.  Her technique is more economical since it doesn't waste as much fabric as mine.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Retro Flower Quilt Along - Progress!

Once I figured out the fabrics and cut all the pieces, this quilt progressed pretty quickly.  I sewed the Drunkard's Path blocks without pinning, so they're done.  Now I'm just trimming the blocks and putting them together.  Here are the completed blocks so far:

I'm really pleased with the green background.  It frames the flower petals very well.  Sometimes it's worth it to step out of your comfort zone. :)

The only problem now is that I only had enough green fabric to make 12 blocks, and I think this quilt will look better as a square.  Hope the quilt store has some fabric left with the same dyelot....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Retro Flower Quilt Along - Finally Started!

I love the Retro Flower pattern and joined the quilt along.  But like all the quilt alongs that I join, I'm off to a late start.  This quilt along started at the beginning of April, but it is only yesterday that I finally selected my fabrics.  This was the biggest hurdle for me because I'm using Kona's Spring Green as the background and I couldn't make up my mind which fabrics to use for the flowers. 

Once I decided to use fabrics in deeper pastels, there was finally progress in this quilt along.  These are the fabrics for the 12 blocks that I'm making.

All the pieces are cut thanks to my Accuquilt.  I'll start piecing sometime this weekend, but we're having family over, so I don't expect to make any progress on this quilt until they leave. 

I hope I don't regret the background choice.  It is a departure for me since my backgrounds tend to be black, gray, white or tan (kinda like my wardrobe!).  My fingers are crossed ...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quilting is not a spectator sport!

My two girls, Lola and Minilo (she looks like Lola), tend to keep me company while I'm quilting, and I'm guessing that it's not the most entertaining thing they can do, as you can see!

It's clear that they think the ironing table is their bed.  Love these cuties!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Just 3 for April!

I decided to join traceyjay quilt's "Just Three" linky party.  The premise is to choose 3 quilting projects a month to finish.  I really need to do this! I feel like I have quilting ADD, I can't seem to stay focused on any project from start to finish unless I'm under a time crunch, like waiting until a friend is leaving for maternity leave in a week before starting a quilt for her!

For April, my three goals are:

1.  Put the binding on these three wallhangings.  I always thought I didn't finish quilt tops because I really don't like quilting, but I have now discovered that I hate putting binding on even more.  Got to get over this feeling or I'll never finish any quilts!

2. Finish Selah's quilt!  I started this quilt about 6 months after my niece was born and finished it in a couple of days.  Selah is now turning 1 next week (Happy birthday Selah!) and her quilt top has been neatly folded in a drawer for the past 6 months.  I have to finish this quilt by her birthday so that she can at least enjoy the quilt while she is still a baby!

3. Make my sister's Braided Star wallhanging.  My sister never asks for a quilt, so when she does I take it very seriously!  She likes the sample Braided Start block that I made even though she thinks my background fabrics tend to be too busy.  When we're in Lancaster, PA next week, I'm going to have her choose her background fabric so that the wallhanging will be exactly to her taste.  I'm giving myself a break with this one because I'm not quilting it.  I decided to have it professionally quilted so that I can have something more than straight quilting on my quilts! LOL

These are the goals, and I'll check in at the end of the month to see if I actually achieve them.  I hope I will!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Braided Star

I saw this Braided Star block on Flickr and thought it was stunning.  The quilter made a paper piecing pattern for her block, and I was going to draft one when I realized that the block was essentially 4 quarter log cabin blocks with the background triangles equally distributed on both sides of each block. 

So here is the prototype:

It started as four 6.5" quarter log cabin blocks ...

with a triangle formed from half of a 3.5" X 6.5" rectangle sewn on opposite sides of each block. Once you sew each quarter together, you get the Braided Star block!

I'll post the tutorial for this block this weekend.