Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 364 of 365

An amazing thing happened yesterday. Something that might appear commonplace to everyone else was big for me.

I took a shower in the morning.

For all the years and years I worked, I always took my showers in the morning. Then when I hurt my back at work I spiraled into the pain-filled life. Then the arthritis got worse, the knee had to be replaced, and both shoulders had to be repaired. For all that time - over two and a half years now - the pain and stiffness consumed my mornings. It was debilitating enough that I couldn't get myself showered. I resigned myself to only showering in the late morning when the joints warmed up or in the evening before bed.

But not yesterday. I got myself in that shower. For the first time since 2009 my body let me take a shower in the morning.

I wanted to jump for joy. I wanted to laugh. I want to cry. I wanted to run around the house saying I took a shower out loud. I did none of those things. I kept it inside. I went to work, knowing that I had accomplished something I never thought I would ever get to do again.

It's amazing how I took life for granted. I didn't know how good I had it before I got hurt. Taking a shower in the morning. Such an inconsequential thing to most made my day.

Unfortunately, I didn't get to do it again today. After sitting in meetings for nine straight hours yesterday, my body isn't happy. But that's okay. I got yesterday.

And today I got a picture of something that, unfortunately, survived winter. Hubby's kale.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Apricot Shortbread Cookies Recipe - Day 363 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

Today's tutorial was born out of necessity.

Hubby wanted dessert. Usually his first choice is a pie but we had no frozen pies, no cherry pie filling, and he wasn't interested in turning the red delicious apples into a pie or our frozen peaches into a crisp. We've had a cake mix in the cabinet for months now, but cakes typically don't tickle his fancy.

Which left cookies. While he enjoys eating the rejects when I make sugar cookies, they're not his favorite. I went through the whole list of backup alternatives - peanut butter, snickerdoodles, gingersnaps, oatmeal, chocolate chip. And with only one egg left in the house (yeah, grocery shopping is looming over my head again) the choices were limited.

Shortbread cookies, a recipe that requires no eggs, won out. Shortbread cookies with the leftover dried apricots. He loved them (yay), but once I dipped them in melted chocolate they became one of the best darn cookies we've ever eaten.

Unfortunately, the dipping in chocolate part didn't make it into the tutorial. But you've seen me do enough chocolate to know how that part works.
Click on the video below to see how they're made:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 362 of 365

It's getting closer, except...

I didn't count on there being a February 29th this year. That means to complete a full year I need 366 days. All these days - all 362 of them - I've been claiming "Day ___ of 365".

So that leaves a quandry. Do I celebrate on Day 365 or make it an official year at Day 366? Do I celebrate for two days? Do I celebrate on Day 365, take Day 366 off (like a bonus day), then start on Year Two the following day?

Decisions, decisions!

At least it's a cheery decision, cheery like the yellow crocus blooming in my front flower bed.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 361 of 365

On this Sunday last year I was living at my daughter's. Two months out from shoulder surgery, I was still in my sling and could only use one arm. My daughter was at work and I was doing what I usually did when I was at her place. I was sitting where I slept - in the recliner - and flipping through the local channels (no cable).

I came across the Daytona 500. I rarely ever watched car races, but knowing I was heading home the following week and would need something to talk to my husband about when I returned, I chose the car race. When I got home, I did talk to him about it.

That conversation started our NASCAR routine. Our weekends from March - November began to revolve around race time. And here it is, Daytona 500 day again. Our schedule was going to revolve around the race today, but it was postponed due to rain.

I wish my car was getting that Florida rain. After driving in snow and rain and then a couple days of huge windstorms blowing dirt from the farmers' fields around, my car, even though it has been under the carport, is a mess.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 360 of 365

I hesitate to say it. I'm afraid if I say it, it won't really come true. It's almost too impossible to believe.

I think this new medication I started after last week's visit to the rheumatologist is working. I think the pain is decreasing.

I first noticed it these past couple days. Over the past several years, stiffness in my joints has prevented me from getting dressed in the morning. The excruciating pain has kept me from doing anything for a few hours until the joints get warmed up. During this entire school year I've had to be up several hours before work time so I could ease into everything. Lots of wincing occurred every morning.

But these last couple days the wincing has subsided. While the stiffness remains, the pain associated with it appears to be diminishing. Not gone, but lessened. I want to be optimistic, thinking I'm going to head into my 365th day feeling unlike I've felt before. (At least unlike I've felt in 10 years or so.) I want to be excited, but I need to wait and see.

I can't even imagine what path my life would take without pain.

I don't know what to think about it. I do know what to think about the blackberry buckle. Yum.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Day 359 of 365

Things are getting wrapped up.
  • The curtains are up in the den. No more complaining about the sun in my eyes.
  • A new roof is on. No more putting off calling for estimates, no more complaining from the cat about the noise.
  • I'm starting on the re-do of my sewing room.
  • We've started shampooing our carpets. No more dirty socks.
  • I'll be filming my last tutorial here in the next couple days. Unless I come up with some brilliant ideas, the tutorials are taking a break.
  • I'm into my last week of the 365 picture-a-day project. The plans are coming together for what the next 365 days will hold.
  • The last batch of kids' quilts (at least for a couple weeks) are heading out the door.
  • A new roof and facia and soffit are on the shed. No more woodpecker issues or blackbirds nesting issues. But now it looks like I need to paint over my old artwork to make it really look sharp.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Day 358 of 365

Kitty is mad.

We made her sleep outside last night.  But she's not mad about that. We didn't give her any treats this morning. But she's not mad about that. I finally put curtains up in the den and she can't jump in the window anymore. But she's not mad about that. She lost the ponytail holder she plays with in hubby's pjs that he left on the floor. But she's not mad about that.

She's mad about the roof.

Since she stayed outside last night she was looking forward to a nice long doze in the house today. That little cat nap lasted all of two hours for her because right on the dot at 9 AM, the noise began. The footsteps turned into scraping and ripping. Then it was rolling. Then it was hammering. And she was scared.

The roofers came to replace our roof today. They tore off the old shingles, put on new paper, and re-shingled half the house so far.

Poor kitty couldn't stand it. She slinked into my sewing room and climbed as far back under the table as she could get. Behind the plastic containers, behind the polyester fiberfill, back to where no one could get to her. Even that didn't offer enough protection. She slinked out and away, down to hide somewhere in the basement. She didn't return until after they were gone for the day.

And she has been mad ever since. (I don't dare tell her they'll be back tomorrow.) Even without knowing that, tonight she'd rather glare at us instead of eat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Day 357 of 365

My husband and I are always on the lookout for articles that talk about ways to prevent dementia (it's on both sides of our families). Everything we read and see has one thing in common - keeping the mind active.

The other day hubby was talking about taking classes when he retires as his choice for keeping the mind active. I told him to go for it. But I won't be taking a class with him.

We first met in the college library 29 years ago. We wound up taking a couple classes together after we were married, but I found out we take classes for different reasons. He takes a class for the social aspect; I take a class for the knowledge aspect. Those two don't necessarily combine when you're sitting next to each other in a classroom.

So no classes for me. Quilting is mentally challenging enough, especially when I'm trying to figure out measurements for a quilt. My Keepsake Quilting catalog came today and my mind is already swimming with possibilities for the next quilt. I don't buy the patterns, but rather look at the pictures to create my own custom-made size that fits the requirements for the different charities. I've already decided that the next quilt will be one from some of the fabric Paula generously donated to me on Day 336. (Thanks again, Paula!)

I only get to start on that next quilt because this batch for Quilts for Kids is ready to head out the door. It only seems fitting that the first donation quilt I made for a child on Day 11 was heart-themed and the last one I'm making during my 365 day run is heart-themed as well. (I even used some of the same fabric in both.)

Boy, how things haven't changed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie Recipe - Day 356 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

Our daughter doesn't come home all that much, but when she does we're always glad to see her. And not just because of the cookies she likes to make. In fact, this time when she wanted to make her cookies we only allowed it because she promised to take them to work with her. (Don't need extra cookies around here!)

So today's tutorial was filmed as she made the cookies she makes 99% of the time - her Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies.  Here's her recipe and her tutorial:

2 c. sugar
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1/3 c. cocoa
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. quick cooking rolled oats
1/2 c. coconut

Combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla; stir until peanut butter melts. Add oats and coconut. Drop by spoonful onto wax paper. Cool before eating.

Click on the video to see how they're made:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Day 355 of 365

Between complaining about my medication regiment, making cookies for work, having my daughter home, Mr. PJ man, going to work on non-work days, teaching the kitty tricks, getting a new computer, and re-arranging the den, I actually have done something else. Something I deem as the most important thing of all.

The kids quilts. I had the top for this one put together using Quilts for Kids fabric on Day 347, but now it's quilted. I did some tight meandering and I think it's my best quilting work so far. I don't know if it shows up in the picture, but I really like how it puffed up after washing - it looks like it's textured.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How should I celebrate?

Tell me how should I celebrate Day 365. Please leave a comment below - I'd love to hear your ideas!

Day 354 of 365

The other day my daughter told me not to be like Grandma (my mom).

My mom came into a bit of money recently and has been making some purchases. A new laptop. A new sofa, recliner, end tables. A new TV stand and a new TV (darn, that thing is big). She bought new bedding, new curtains, a bedstand, a lamp, and a new phone. (At least those are the things I know about.) Her place looks very nice.

But it's the computer thing that made my daughter give me a warning. Our home computer is probably 10 or so years old and it is showing it. It spins and whirls and freezes. Trying to edit and upload videos take several restarts. Even pictures throw it a curve sometimes and my husband has a hard time doing his grade reports on it. So we bought an external hard drive and moved everything we could onto it, hoping the problem would be cured. No such luck.

When my daughter found out we were contemplating a new computer she said, "Don't be like Grandma".

My daughter changed her mind. When she was home last week she did her taxes online on the old computer. And the computer froze for a while, whirled and spun just as she was submitting. After a brief period of panic, we now have her blessing to replace it.

Today's picture has our new computer, but also the work I did today in the den.  Some things to know (or maybe they're excuses)...

  1. The before is a bit messy as I had started moving things then stopped and realized I should do a before and after.
  2. The after is a bit messy with the cords and some of the shelves. I'm pooped out from working on it so I didn't get it all finished. Moving a rolltop desk and bookshelves is hard work!
  3. Still no curtains up yet.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Day 353 of 365

I've been watching this show on Animal Planet called My Cat From Hell. It's about a tattooed guy named Jackson who visits homes where cats are out of control. Biting, attacking, hissing. While our cat has none of those issues, it's quite an interesting show. I've learned a lot about cats in general just by watching it. What I find surprising is that you really can train cats. (Too bad training doesn't work to get you-know-who out of his pajamas today.)

So I started training our cat. We have bags of treats we never wind up using, so I decided to use the treats as, well, treats. I'll hold the treat over her head and she'll stand on her back paws. I've trained her to use her front paws to grab my hands and pull the treat into her mouth. She gets the treat along with a "good girl" from me.

My daughter was excited that kitty responded so well when she tried it, too.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Day 352 of 365

I read a blog today that talked about what people liked in blogs. They liked blogs that had:
  • lots of pictures. Check.
  • stayed with their true focus. Check.
  • tutorials. Check.
  • sewing and quilting projects. Check.
They didn't like blogs that had:
  • music. Check.
  • posts that were complaining. Oops.
  • people talking about their illness. Oops.

Guess some of those folks won't like my blog tonight.

I still have been processing my rheumatologist visit. Here's the deal - he wants to switch out one of my medications for another one in hopes to try and get insurance to see that we're trying different things. The two medicines are almost identical, but manufactured by two different companies who have named them two different names. But we have to get insurance to approve this new, highly similar and highly expensive medicine too, so I'm not crossing my fingers. Then he wants me to start on another additional medication and possibly add another one after that.

The thing that has been bugging me these last couple days is the other thing he had to say, though. With the intensive and extensive medication regiments, my symptoms as well as my bloodwork should have shown improvement. So he thinks I need to go to Salt Lake City for further testing and treatment. The hospital at the University of Utah. Something is missing. Something in my treatment is not working and there are no facilities around Idaho that can do what they can do in helping to determine what is going on.

I didn't ask a lot of questions when he talked about it. I didn't ask about the number of days my first initial visit would be. I didn't ask about how often I would have to return. I didn't ask any questions at all.

Because I'm not going.

I'm starting the one new medication he put me on today, but that's it. (Although I said that about the medicine before this one, and the one before that, and the one before that.)

I'll give it some time. No heading to Salt Lake, but also no going off all meds right now. I'll give it a few weeks and if this new cocktail doesn't work, I AM going off everything.

I'm maxed out on daily medication. At 46 I shouldn't have to do this every day.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 351 of 365

I'm still processing. Processing how the doctor's visit went, processing how my work day went when I didn't even work today. I should have know when the first line of my horoscope read: You are not the first person to have problems at work...

Being that today was a day off I thought I was in the clear. I received a phone call after my doctor's appointment that required me to drive to work (which is about 25 miles out of my way) and drop something off. Not long after finally returning home I received a second call that required some more immediate attention. That call necessitated making another call, which led me to having to ask our school secretary to find something in my office. That called turned into a return call to the original caller. Not long after that call, an important e-mail requiring a quick response came across my BlackBerry. Which turned into a couple more e-mails and now has turned into needing to make some phone calls first thing tomorrow morning (on another day off). Several hours spent just on work-related fires to be put out. Hours I really didn't have.

But probably a distraction that I needed. I needed something to keep my mind off what I was thinking when I left the rheumatologist's office. I have to let my mind settle from the conversation. I haven't even told my family about what happened. I can't deal with it or think about it right now. It just needs to sit.

On a got something else checked off my list note, my daughter, mom, and I went shopping at Costco yesterday. I loaded up on lots of berries again, of course. My daughter cut some up and served them up on some soft serve ice cream I picked up at Frosty Palace. Yum.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Day 350 of 365

My capacity for listening to others has greatly expanded in the last year or so. I don't know if it is because I was away from everyone and everything for so long, or the trials and tribulations and surgeries and pain I had to endure. I don't know if it is because I lost my confidence, my zest, my passion and became more introspective. But it's different.

I ask more questions than I ever have before. Questions about people, their families, their lives. And I'm learning things I would have never known otherwise.

I have someone I work with who has rheumatoid arthritis. She takes the same chemotherapy shots every week. She's been on the anti-malaria drug. She goes to the rheumatologist frequently and has a battery of tests at each visit, just like me.

I have someone I work with who had a knee replacement (like me), but this person has also had both shoulders done recently (like me). We have gotten to know each other a bit better by going through the same kinds of things.

Just today I found someone I work with who quilts and does crafts, too. I never expected she would be doing those types of things in her free time. If I hadn't listened and asked questions, I would never have known.

I like listening and I like knowing about other people's lives. It's good for me to stop thinking so much about myself and start focusing on others. And it certainly more interesting to hear others' stories than dwelling on my own.

At dinner I did have to dwell on my own. With our daughter home tonight, my hubby wanted us to have a family conversation. I had mentioned to my husband last night about wanting to tell the rheumatologist I want off the merry go round. I want to stop all treatments. I want to stop putting heavy-duty toxic medications in my body. I want a treatment that works, but it is painfully clear that my only option at this point is my twice-denied by insurance infusions. My husband didn't think I should be making the decision on my own since it has the potential to affect them. We left the conversation with the agreement I would discuss it with the doctor, not make any decisions ahead of time.

So we'll see what tomorrow holds.

As for today, it held surprises at work and surprises on the road. A bit of snow dusted the roads and made things quite slick. But, oh so pretty when the sun came out. The bright sunshine made the picture not nearly as pretty as what I saw in person.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Powered Sugar Frosting for Sugar Cookies - Day 349 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

As an elementary teacher, classroom parties can be kind of a hassle sometimes.

Halloween is typically the first one that happens during the school year. Combine kids in costumes with gobs of candy and the anticipation of trick or treating later and you have quite a lively (and exhausting) party at the end of the school day.

Then comes Christmas. Craft projects and lots and lots of goodie bags and half eaten cupcakes make teachers thankful Christmas Break begins the moment the students walk out of the room.

Valentine's Day? For me as a teacher it was the easiest. It takes some up front preparation - getting the list of classmates to kids, finding extra time in the days ahead to make envelopes or boxes to hold the valentines. Being available in the classroom before school, after school, and during recess times so kids can deliver those valentines. But once the party started, it ran itself. Kids opening valentines, reading every single one. Going over to each student, personally thanking them for the valentine card. Lots of oohs and aahs and cools and awesomes floating around.

So to those teachers who are spending the day with kiddos this afternoon, and to the those parents of those kids, here are some Valentine cookies I made. Then if you are so inclined, here is a tutorial on how to make the sugar cookie icing that you ask about.
Click on the video below to learn how:

This recipe is featured in Valentine's Day: 14 Ways to Say I Love You with Desserts. Pick up your copy today!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Day 348 of 365

Granted it's only Monday, but I didn't get too far on the list I made yesterday.

No coupons clipped, no grocery store run. No quilts quilted.

What did I do? I went to work. I finished the cookies and delivered them to school and to the school district office. I also delivered a batch to the place I lived for a year and a half, a place I really don't miss too much. Physical therapy.

I made dentist appointments. I called the roofer to get on their schedule. (We've been holding out because of the cost, but it needs to be done. Since the lawn is still brown from winter hubby won't be so picky about people and things tracking on the lawn right now.)

 I added something new to my list, too. Curtains and/or blinds up in the den. Months and months of that sunshine coming in over the computer all afternoon and evening has left me tired of squinting and tired of wearing a baseball cap while I'm typing the blog. It's time to get it taken care of. With our tall, limber daughter coming home this week I've picked a good time to tackle that project.

I'm risking missing some pictures by covering up the window, though. Looking out that window over the computer screen I've snapped pictures of a goldfinch on Day 81, the kissing goldfinches on Day 83, a squirrel on Day 89, birds on the telephone pole on Day 268. Evening sunsets on Day 259 an Day 332, sunrise reflecting off the Owyhees on  Day 263, and the early morning moon on Day 344.

And a wayward pigeon(?) up in the tree.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Day 347 of 365

I've learned a lesson about not making plans. That I should live one day at a time. But sometimes I'm tempted to map the week out. Certain things are a given - I have to go to Boise two different days, have an appointment with the rheumatologist, work two days, and my daughter will be home two days.

If I believed looking ahead would get me somewhere - and I believed I was strong enough - this would also be the week that I would:
  • Get cookies decorated for work. There is some kind of lunch thing on Monday so I made up a batch of heart cookies. Here it is 6:30 in the evening on a Sunday and I haven't even started on the frosting.
  • Go to the grocery store. I haven't been to the store since I went with my daughter to Costco a couple weeks back. I ran out of blackberries, strawberries, and lunch meat early last week and I have just enough milk for tomorrow's cereal. My breakfast and lunch choices are slim until a grocery run.
  • Clip coupons. Since I haven't been shopping, I haven't been using coupons. Which then means I haven't been cutting my coupons. I have several weeks worth just sitting in a pile, ready for my scissors.
  • Stand up for myself at the rheumatologist appointment. I'd say the heck with all of it. Stop all treatments. All pills, all injections. No more chemotherapy, no more anti-malaria drugs, no more steroids. I'd say I'm going to start pursuing alternative treatments.
  • Quilt two more quilts to give me a total of four in the mail this week. I need to quilt the heart quilt from Day 345 and one more. The quilt kit from Quilts for Kids is now a quilt top and needs quilting.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Day 346 of 365

Takin' it easy.

When I ask my husband what he's doing for the evening that's his answer. When I ask what he's doing on a Saturday or a Sunday or a holiday, that's always the answer.

Here's how the routine goes on school days. He comes home from school before four o'clock and goes right to the bed to "lay down for a while". He gets up at five for dinner. After dinner he gets into his pajamas and heads down to the basement to watch TV until he comes up at nine to go to bed. Nothing deviates from that routine Monday-Thursday. The only thing different about Friday is that he might stay up later watching TV in the basement.

Saturday. Sleep until whenever. Eat breakfast. Head to the basement and watch TV for the day. The entire day. Maybe take a nap in the bed downstairs, then back to more TV. I see him at dinner, then he's back to watch more TV. All in his pajamas.

Sunday. Up early to read the paper, eat breakfast, then back to bed. Then back to the basement to watch TV for the entire day. I'll see him at dinner and then he'll head right back down to watch TV. Day two of never changing out of his pajamas.

He'll take out the trash on Thursday evening in his pajamas. He'll get the mail on Saturday in his pajamas. He'll bring potatoes in from the garage in his pajamas. When we went to the casino in March and again in July, he gambled in the mornings without changing out of his pajama bottoms.

I've tried to get him to find a hobby. Not interested. I've tried to get him interested in something - anything - that doesn't involve watching TV. No luck. Other than winding bobbins for me, he refuses to do anything with me.

I guess I don't get the pajama thing. Even on my worst days, even on my post surgery days, I still got dressed. But I don't know if it's the pajamas that are bugging me so much or the excessive TV watching and unwillingness to do anything. It's been going on for years, but it seems to have gotten worse.

I need to get him a hobby. Something to keep him busy. Something for him to look forward to. Thank goodness I have my sewing. If I didn't, he would be driving me crazy.

I did get him to do one thing today. He washed blueberries so I could make a blueberry buckle.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Day 345 of 365

It's Day 345. 20 days to go to 365.

I'm anxious for it to get here. I feel like I'm in limbo. Knowing it's almost over I'm dragging my feet on starting any new changes in my life.

When I started a year ago, I had a clear goal. Take a picture every day to show that I had lived. I've accomplished that goal. Now it's getting time to come up with a new goal. While I'll continue with the picture-a-day, I need something else, too. But right now I don't know what that "else" is. I'm hoping something will present itself to me in the next 20 days. Something that will inspire me to reach another goal.

While I don't have a clear, life-changing goal, I do have some charity goals laid out. I'll do more sewing than I did this year - more quilts for kids, more stockings for soldiers, more turtle pillows for turtle camp. That means more than 35 quilts, more than 80 stockings, and more than 24 pillows. But other than that it's unknown. (Although it probably would be smart to start working on beating this past year's exercise streak of 120 consecutive days.)

So here I sit and wait. Wait and work on another quilt. I took a quilt top from my unfinished project basket and cut it up. I added some fabric left over from the baby quilt I made on Day 11, some crumb blocks from Day 111, and strips I organized on Day 334. A new quilt top is born.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Day 344 of 365

Yesterday I was quite discouraged about my charity quilting-for-kids work. Linda gave me some encouraging words that helped.

It also helped today that I received a large envelope in the mail addressed to me, the "YouTube Video Director". It was from the Stockings for Soldiers organization. (I sent them 80 stockings on Day 222.) On  Day 237 my tutorial for the day was on how to make the stockings for the program. I had sent them the link to the video on YouTube and they used it with their volunteers. In the envelope I received a nice thank you note signed by a couple dozen of the organization's folks and a couple of certificates of appreciation. One was for me and one was for the kids at Marsing High School who had gathered all the goodies for the stockings on Day 252.

The kids almost didn't get their certificate today, though.

The disagreement discussion negotiation started before 5 AM this morning. I was planning on sleeping in since I had the day off, but PJB (AKA Pajama Boy, AKA hubby) decided he wasn't going to school today. Again. So the agreement to get him (and me) through the day was that he would take the morning off and go to school after lunch. He followed through on his end of the bargain and the kids got their certificate.

And since I didn't get to sleep in, I got a picture of the foggy, hazy moon before six o'clock in the morning.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Day 343 of 365

This week I've been feeling like I'm on shaky quilting waters and have started questioning my work. Am I doing the right thing by sewing all these? Is it a good use of my time, is the quality up to par? When I send the quilts off, do they really go where they are supposed to?

I've been making quilts for Operation Kid Comfort. (That's the group where the kids have parents serving in the military.) I make those quilts with pictures sewn into them, but they haven't sent me any more pictures in a couple months. I've e-mailed several times since before Christmas hoping to receive more pictures, but I haven't even received an e-mail response. It makes me wonder if I'm being ignored because they got word from parents that the kids didn't like their quilts.

Quilts for Kids is another group I do work for. Typically I request a couple kits from their fabric and then I make a couple out of my fabric. Every time - and it has been many times now - they send me those kits. This week when I received my kits, I only received one. It made me wonder if they don't trust me with two.

My daughter called the other day when I was working on a quilt and she asked if I was selling it. (She doesn't read my blog so she doesn't know how much time I really spend on making them to give away.) I went through the whole explanation of how many I do and where I send them. She was concerned I was spending too much money on all of it - the fabric, thread, batting, and postage - to continue doing it without any income from them coming in. It made me wonder if I am spending too much money doing them.

And then the Disaster Auction quilt has been in the back of my mind. Since Pajama Boy didn't go, not knowing how much the quilt fetched has been bugging me. My husband has been doing some checking with the folks running the thing and I knew an answer would be coming soon. I fully expected that today I would be writing about how I would never do a quilt for the auction again. That $25 is all that the quilt raised and that it was a waste of my time.

With the lack of responses from Operation Kid Comfort, the reduction in quilt kits from Quilts for Kids, my daughter's concern about the pricey-ness of the work, and the $25 thought looming over my head, I wasn't looking forward to going into the sewing room.

My husband's phone call saved the day and saved my sanity.

$150. My wall quilt fetched $150 at the Marsing Disaster Auction. I can move forward now. 

I've quilted waves throughout the sea turtle quilt. It's all done and I'm ready for the next one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Handmade Chocolate Covered Blackberries - Day 342 of 365, Tutorial Tuesday

I love strawberries. I love them with sugar, I love them without sugar. I love them covered with chocolate.

But I discovered something I love covered with chocolate more than strawberries. Blackberries. We still have a few berries leftover from Costco and it occurred to me that if chocolate covered strawberries were tasty, chocolate covered blackberries would be just as good.

I was wrong. Chocolate covered blackberries are even better. They are easier to make, easier to eat, and in my opinion, even tastier. 

Actually, they just might be one of the best things I've ever tasted. So today's tutorial is the quickest and easiest thing I've ever made (and certainly the best tasting).

Click on the video below for the directions:

Monday, February 6, 2012

Day 341 of 365

After much cajoling and encouragement (and harassing) by me, Pajama Boy finally went to work.

A full day at home by myself. Finally, a full day of doing whatever I wanted. Hitting the sewing room for most of the day was the plan. After the way I woke up this morning I was tempted to stay away, though.

When I do repetitive tasks, it's not my muscles that bother me. It's the joints. The swelling in the joints puts pressure on the nerves, which in turns makes body parts numb and tingly. With all the ironing and rotary cutting I've been doing lately, my right shoulder has been getting quite the workout. All through the night my right shoulder was bothering me and by the time morning came around, the shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand joints were so swollen my arm and hand were completely numb. Completely numb and not willing to return to normal. It took quite some time to get feeling back.

But I couldn't give up the sewing. I had to do it.

I did it almost up until that 3:15 run to pick hubby up from school.

When I came home I caught someone napping in my bed.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Day 340 of 365

I feel like I have caffeine in my system or something. I spent yet another day in the sewing room and I again started not long after the sun came up.

While I haven't had any caffeine, I feel like something has gotten me in gear. My mornings are still icky, but starting off the day sewing seems to be helping. Being surrounded by gorgeous fabrics is helping.  I'm sure the sunshine is helping. And probably looking out my sewing room window to see my empty vegetable garden plot is helping, too.

Looking out the window has made me think about spring and planting time. Last year I thought we were going to try raised beds, but we didn't. Then I thought about replacing the landscape timbers in the rose garden and using the old ones to outline the vegetable garden. Now that I'm thinking spring again, I've scrapped the landscape timber idea and want those raised beds.

This entire school year I've felt like I've managed to be able to work without taxing my body too much. I've been able to take my time getting up in the mornings. I wear arthritis gloves to keep down the pain in the hands. I've worked my year around pain and pretty much know what I can and can't do. I know what aggravates my body and how to best relieve it, or at least manage it.

Those raised beds will help. They'll help make my surroundings meet my needs. I remember the difficulty I had last summer pulling weeds, picking tomatoes and peppers, digging potatoes. I'll be hiring some cheap labor - my daughter and her boyfriend - to follow some free plans I found on

My mind is also spinning with quilt ideas, especially after sewing all those blocks on Day 325. I've been busy matching up fabrics with the blocks and designing some quilt tops. Here's the first one I have put together. Next step is quilting it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Day 339 of 365

Sunrise was at 8:01 this morning and not long after I was in my sewing room. Have I mentioned how much I love the sun streaming through the window in there?

With another beautiful sunny day, I couldn't resist spending the day sewing in the sunshine. Plus, I had a good reason to keep working on quilts for charity. After all, today was the community's auction and my husband was heading out at 10. Sitting in a metal folding chair for any length of time could set me back a few days so I rarely go. But finally my husband would leave the house and I would get my alone hiding-from-the-world time I had been so anxious to have. He would be gone all day and would deliver me the news about how much the quilt I made on Day 322 went for. The quilt he guilted me into making. He would come home and I'd feel good about the time I spent on it and the money my contribution raised.

No such luck.

Hubby is now past the 72 hour mark of not wearing anything but the same pair pajamas. Three full days of moping around and watching television non stop. Three full days of I don't know what.

So no news on the quilt I worked so hard on. The quilt I made sure was the kind of quality that would make him look good. Maybe it's for the best. If it only raised $25 I don't want to know about it. I don't need anything making me feel any more incompetent about anything in my life than I already do.

I do feel somewhat competent doing kids' quilts. I finished what I'm now calling Rainbow Bright.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Day 338 of 365

It makes me sick to think about how hard it used to be. How hard it was just to get myself to work every single day. I remember the torture it was getting up, showered and dressed. I remember all too clearly the severe pain that filled my mornings. The pain so severe that I cried day after day on my way to work. The pain that stayed with me all through my work day.

Looking back, I don't know how I did it. But I'm sure glad some things have changed.

This part time work is a better fit for me and my issues. There are some days where it is hard to get myself up and out the door, but there is comfort in knowing I can sit when I arrive at work. That I can throw myself into whatever I'm doing - which usually involves sitting - and keep my mind off of it. It's not like it was before when, despite how horrible it was, I was spending the entire day teaching 25 kids. There is also comfort in knowing that I have days off each week for me to regroup.

Today was the second day of my attempt at a five day escape-from-the-world plan. And the second day of it where my husband stayed home.

So I plopped myself in my sewing room and worked the whole day. The quilt top from yesterday is progressing nicely and I freshened up my little plastic drawers with some jazzy labels.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Day 337 of 365

What the hell.

Yesterday those words popped out of my mouth at work. My coworker and I were talking and they just slipped right on out. Hearing those words in an elementary school building is quite unusual. (Thank goodness we were in my office.) What was even more unusual about those words was how loud the one word came out. I had started into a whisper and when I got to that last word it unintentionally exploded from my mouth. We had quite the laugh about it.

I thought about using the same phrase today at home but there would be no laughing involved this time.

My quiet, alone, disconnect from everyone and everything five day respite is off to a bumpy start. My husband picked today to stay home. There's nothing like a mopey, TV-watching husband who stays in his pajamas all day to throw a wrench in your plans.

I was practically giddy last night knowing I would get time to myself. Lesson learned. Back to one day at a time living. Stay away from thinking ahead.

Today's picture is the one I was originally going to post yesterday. The dark border is being chopped to make it a bit narrower and a white border is going on. Hopefully tomorrow's picture will show more progress on it. (Oops, gotta get away from thinking about tomorrow.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Day 336 of 365

I'm going into hiding. I'm dropping off the map.

The huge project I've been working on at work ended today. The preliminary report from the State Reviewers who were on site today was quite complimentary. Now it's time for me to breathe. To rest. To cut back on these 10 hour work days. I'm taking five days off to start anew.

What better way to make a clean break and come away with a clear head but to disconnect from everything. They'll be no working on school stuff from home, no going into work this weekend, no looking at the Blackberry. (Don't worry, the blog will continue.)

Five days of no driving. Five days of no dress pants and no makeup. Five days of nothing but becoming reacquainted with my cleaning supplies (my long days have left my house lonely and devoid of shiny surfaces).

It goes without saying that the bulk of my time over the next five days will be spent working on kids' quilts for the Quilts for Kids organization. I have a couple of quilt tops in progress, and today I finished up a quilt top from the blocks I made on Day 329.

I'm not happy with the dark outside border and was thinking I'd make the border a bit narrower and add an additional white border. I took a picture of it, hoping to get affirmation that my idea was a good one. After picking up my husband from school, using the car for the last time until Tuesday, I was going to post the picture.

But that picture isn't winding up here today. For when we came home and pulled into the driveway, I noticed the front screen door ajar. We usually use the side door that leads to our carport so it was quite by accident I noticed the door.

There was a package in the door. A package from Paula. Paula O. is a reader of this blog and frequently comments. The other day she told me about some extra fabric she had and offered to send it my way. Free. No charge. She wouldn't even accept my offer of postage. It felt like Christmas as I was going through the box of gorgeous fabrics and threads. Of course my mind started racing with the possibilities.

I am so blessed to have caring folks reading along as I wander through my days. 

Paula, thank you, thank you, thank you for your generosity, and boy - am I ever glad I have five days to work on quilts!