Saturday, December 31, 2011

auld lang syne . . .

I completely cannot believe that today is the last day of 2011. Not that I mind ... I'm rather ready to be done with this year and start 2012, new and fresh, with its new promises, new goals, new experiences. :)

To that end, I've been thinking about my goals for the coming year. I always hesitate to make resolutions. I like goals instead. Why? Look at the definitions . . .
resolution: 1. A firm decision to do or not to do something.

goal: 2. The end toward which the effort is directed.
With the first, one wrong move and your so-called 'firm' decision is gone completely awry. But with the second, there's leeway. There's opportunity for gain and the ability to correct a misstep. The first is so harsh and unforgiving, while the second applauds my efforts toward the end, not just the achievement. Yep, I'm a goals girl all the way.

One of my goals is to become more organized. In all aspects of my life . . . family, ministry, quilting . . . I function so much better when order is prevalent. One of my Christmas gifts is going to be a big boost to this goal. A new, incredible 2012 Planner!

Isn't it pretty?! And it's personalized!! My Jocey got it for me for Christmas. It's from erin condren and I just love it! Joc had gotten herself one earlier in the year and fell in love with it so much that she got one for me and one for Kim, too.

It's set up very nicely with plenty of pages for notes and lists and whatnot. At the beginning of each month, there's a spot for monthly goals and to do's (which fits perfectly into my idea of setting goals for the year).

There's also a month-at-a-glance page at the beginning of each month. I really like this for birthdays and anniversaries ... dates I need to be prepared for (with cards or a gift), not just reminded of.

And then each week is spread over two pages, giving lots of room for appointments, daily notations, etc. And, each week has its own spot for weekly goals and to do's. I swear this book was created just for me!

At the back of the planner is the requisite 'important numbers' list (which I do fill out because --*gasp*--what would I do if I didn't have my phone with me, or worse yet, lost all the numbers in my phone?!?!? (Just a side note here . . . in the spot for the Babysitter's number, I wrote in, "I am the babysitter!")

There's also pages of stickers for marking special days. There are pre-printed stickers for birthdays, doctor appointments, parties, games, hair appointments, etc., and lots of blank, create-your-own stickers. Fun stuff.

There's also a folder page, to tuck in important documents or receipts, as well as a zipper pocket.

And Joc got me some really cute return address labels that match, too! (That's what is in the big pink envelope.) I think this planner will be an important tool to helping me stay organized and on track. But, like any other tool, it's only useful if it's used, right? :)

That's a pretty nice goal for now. I want to think about where I want to be at the end of 2012 and make some more goals. I'll share them as I make them. :)

Todd and I went gallivanting about town yesterday. We both needed some cards, and we needed to exchange a gift (for a smaller size -- yay!), and we had Princess Buttercup (my pretty yellow PT Cruiser) washed, and we had a nice lunch out together, and we needed a new skillet. Badly. So we headed over to Bed, Bath & Beyond and picked up this beautiful thing . . .

It's 12" wide and 5 quarts deep. If you'll look closely, you'll see that it doesn't even fit all the way on the stove, with another pot back there! For it's maiden cook, I made homemade spaghetti sauce in it last night. Yum. And to go with the spaghetti, fast and easy garlic bread knots.

Tonight we're headed to Lighthouse Baptist Church to enjoy fellowship with some dear friends. Todd works tomorrow, so we won't stay until midnight -- just long enough to visit and wish folks a happy new year. We'll probably ring the new year in, in our dreams . . . which is fine with me!

Happy New Year; here's to 2012!


Friday, December 30, 2011

totally tea-lightful . . .

I do believe my family knows me to a "tea"! I was thoroughly spoiled in the tea department over Christmas; I really did score big! Todd, among (lots of) other things, got me two tins of Harney & Sons teas that I'd wanted ... the Chocolate Mint and the Holiday teas. Yes!

I fell in love with Harney & Sons teas after trying their Royal Wedding tea, which is marvelous.

My sister, Julia, included a box of mulling spices for tea in her gifts.

I can't wait to brew a pot of black tea and give this a try -- I bet it smells heavenly!

My sister, Cynthia, gifted me with these *darling* tea spoons (which I've shared before, but they're so cute they're worth a second mention) . . .

Aren't they pretty and feminine?

And I love the messages inscribed on them: Hi Tea, <3, and Good Morning Sister. So sweet -- I love stirring my tea (and coffee) with them!

And my sister, Laura, gifted me with this pretty little box from Williams & Sonoma:

And what do you think was in it but the sweetest little Christmas petite fours!

Chocolate, vanilla and jam filled little cakes -- yum -- I need to get the girls over here pronto for a tea party!!

My Sawyer-boo knows his Neesey, too. He gave me this darling wreath of teas!

His mommy made it. Isn't it nifty? And full of some of my favorite Twining's teas -- I'd had a hankering for a good cup of English Breakfast tea, too!

Kim and James also got me the Hot Cinnamon Spice tea I wanted from Harney & Sons.

Mary, from Quilt Hollow, turned me on to this particular blend and got me hooked!

Kim and James also got me a new book . . .

I've had this on my wish list forever. I already love Emilie Barnes' books, but to have one illustrated by Sandy Clough is a real bonus! I've followed her Sandy's Tea Society site for quite some time ... I even did Secret Sippers back in the day when they did that! Such fun and very sweet.

In addition to all that, my Secret Santa (who I found out just last night was Kris, from Lavender Quilts) gifted me with some lovely tea and tea cookies (which I blogged about here) and then I gifted *myself* with a renewal of my Tea Time Magazine subscription.

I just read today on facebook that they are making their magazine available for the Nook reader. *sigh* But not the Kindle ... not yet. Oh well. This tea enthusiast has been collecting Tea Time Magazine since its premier issue in the Fall of 2003 ... and I've kept every issue since! They're small and don't take up *too* much room in the RV.

Okay, so there you have it ... my tea immersion therapy! It should be enough to last me through to Mother's Day, at least! *giggle*


Thursday, December 29, 2011

happy and bright . . .

So another hodge-podge post from me today. Since that's rather like my life, I guess I shouldn't be surprised! First I wanted to do a little housekeeping (so to speak). I had a number of lovely comments on my Holly Jolly Topper tutorial post and quite a few requests for the pdf of the template, which pleased me *greatly*! But several of the folks who left a comment requesting the template were the dreaded "noreply" bloggers. I can't tell you how badly I feel when this happens! So just in case any of you are reading, I wanted you to know that I didn't ignore you, I just had no way of contacting you! If you are: astitch, rwallis6, or whistlebet57 (Elizabeth), please e-mail me at denisepanter (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll send that template off to you right away!

Next, I wanted to share this little gem:
This is the 'happy light' I referred to in yesterday's post. My sister got this for me for Christmas. It's AWESOME! I tend to struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) in the winter months, particularly in January/February. I know how much I need LIGHT in order to feel ... effective. That's tough enough during the winter months with it's short days and gloomy skies, but even tougher in the RV with its tinted windows. My happy light is just the thing I need to boost my spirits and give me that sense of 'bright' I need!! I'm really loving having it!

You know what else brightens my spirits? Freshly painted toes!! Joc and Jason gave me some lovely peppermint foot scrub and cream for Christmas and I put it to use last night. I scrubbed to my heart's content and then lathered up with the cream and put my socks (and boot) on before tucking in for the night.
This morning my feet were so smooth and nice, they definitely deserved a fresh painting in my favorite hot pink! You'll just have to trust me that the toes on my right foot are as pretty in pink as those on my left foot. LOL! And the hot pink Tweetie Bird pj pants are a gift from Todd -- the perfect thing to wear on a quiet, stay-at-home, chilly day!

Guess what? ANOTHER bright spot! When Todd brought in the mail the other day, there was a sweet little package ... for ME!
C. Joy, from Joy & Comfort, had won a giveaway from Cat Patches' Occupy Your Sewing Room giveaway. When she won, she e-mailed me to say that since she'd learned of the giveaway from reading my blog, she wanted to share her prize with me!
It was charm squares in this darling Little Apples print by Moda! Is that not the sweetest thing? So very generous and kind! I'd found a cute little pillow on another blog ...
Little Bluebell. Isn't this darling? I think the Little Apple charms will work quite nicely in this cute little pillow top!

You know what else brightens my day? The thought of starting a new quilting project. Or projects!! Barbara, over at Cat Patches, had the brilliant idea of a creating a challenge where you started new projects ... dipped into your quilting bucket list, so to speak!
I've been thinking about some things I want to try and here's the list I've come up with so far:
1) A tee-shirt quilt (for my niece).
2) A rag quilt.
3) A faux applique quilt.
4) I want to do something with photos on fabric.
5) I'd like to do a piece that's artsy.
6) I have a darling pattern for a quilted football I'd love to make in my favorite team colors! And I'd really like to make several of them to giveaway!
7-12+) I want to design a table topper (preferably in EQ) like my Candy Corn and Holly Jolly Toppers, so I have a different one for every month. This would be about nine different quilted toppers I'd need to create!

I know there are other processes out there I'd love to try, but this will do for a good start! I'm going to link up with Barbara on her What's on your 2012 NewFO To Do List?. Be sure to stop by and check it out ... you may even want to play along! I understand there are some fun prizes for participants!! (And that's a day-brightener for sure!)


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

traveling treats . . .

Yesterday Todd and I had lots of errands to run, among which was drop off cookie plates to our neighbors. We'd planned to do that on Christmas Eve, on our way to Joc's house, but the day got away from us and there just wasn't time. So yesterday we went a calling!

This year I tried some new treats in addition to some old favorites. I always include Apricot Shortbread Thumbprints, because those are a family favorite. I also do sugar cookies, chocolate chips, and candy cane cookies as stock favorites. This year I did no-bake cookies (because they're easy and so good) and I added the ginger oatmeal cookies I first made HERE. Yes, I thought they were that good! And I tried a new recipe ... one for Praline Graham Crackers ... which was SO good (and so stinking easy) I know I'll make it again! I try to put a nice variety of shapes, textures, tastes and colors on the plates. One went with us to our family Christmas Eve party and one went with Todd to the fire station when he went in on Monday (that's a long standing tradition). I do love the holiday baking!

I tried another new recipe this holiday season -- appropriately enough named Firehouse Crackers. Todd and I had never had them until the open house event at the MBA. Todd fell in love with them. He likes saltines anyways, and these were nice and SPICY! I got the recipe and made them to go with a cheese ball (another new and great recipe I found) for our family party. He took the leftovers in with him on Monday and brought home none. These will go into the recipe book for future (and frequent) use!

Yesterday was dreary and grey (a right smart day to use my happy light) and we didn't see the sun all day long ... until it set.

If you look closely you'll see a bright red speck center photo, just beneath the tree tops. Finally the sun made its appearance. I barely managed to capture a shot of it before it disappeared completely. It was a big glowing ball and Todd and I sat watching it, entranced, before I thought to grab my camera.

Today is filled with ministry work and putting some normalcy back into place!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a tad different . . .

So it was *going* to be a quiet, stay-in-your-jammies kind of day, but around 11:30, I got a better offer. Seriously. James called and wanted to know if I wanted to hang out with them ... and then he added the clincher ... "Sawyer would love to spend time with you!" LOL! Do you think I wanted to stay home alone after that?!?! NO WAY!

I don't know what I was thinking, though. I left the house without my purse, which meant I didn't have my camera. Just my phone. And while Sawyer can be entertained for quite a while with the phone, the phone's camera doesn't take the greatest pictures. Of course, that doesn't stop me from taking (or sharing) them!

He had just gotten up from his nap. He was very intent on eating his snack of apple slices and vanilla wafers. Very intent. He's still holding his "puppy" closely, too.

I think I got a good shot to convert to a silhouette, too. I love playing with those! I saw a craft on Pinterest for a silhouette ornament. I'd like to give that a try!

Sawyer had a pretty good Christmas. James & Kim said he didn't know what to do with the wrapped presents ... he mostly played Santa, delivering boxes and packages. Until they were unwrapped and then he was ready to PLAY! Another funny thing? Evidently he was most interested in the clothes he received. Especially a new pair of shoes and a couple of hats. This boy will be GQ! :)

Me? Oh I had a terrific Christmas! I'll share photos and commentary later on this week. A nice mix of gifts this year -- some tea things, some women's ministry things, some candles and nice-smelling things, some quilting things, some books, DVDs and a planner, and some clothing things. Really a well-balanced and well-rounded Christmas haul!

I never really shared my Christmas decorating in the RV. Life has just been so hectic with the leg and all. (And besides ... it's an RV ... I decorated it pretty much the same as I did last year. LOL!) But I did want to share this one little corner . . .

The tree is a tree my Pop made out of tin cans, many moons ago. The Santa was given to me when I was a young, young thing -- like forty-something years ago. And the PUMPKIN is red. And the Alabama Crimson Tide are headed for the BCS, so I had to leave up my tribute! Yes, I'll have had a pumpkin on display through four months, when it's all said and done. And if Alabama wins on January 9th?

I'll put heart stickers on that bad boy and leave him up through February, too!!


Monday, December 26, 2011

last one of the year . . .

So today is the last Design Wall Monday of 2011.  I cannot believe how quickly this year has passed.  Wow!  This week I just have some odds and ends on the wall ... wrap-ups, if you will.  First, I've still got a little fleece project I'm working on.  I'm using my Fancy Fleece ruler on it.  See my fun triangles?!?
That ruler is the bomb-dot-com!  There are so many fun things it makes easier!  I'll use a couple of them on the above project. 

I've also got to finish cutting out the sashing and the backing for My Orange Crush quilt.  I keep saying that, don't I?
Okay, so my goal is to have all the blocks ready for quilting before the year's end.  There.  I said it.

Joc delivered a last signature block for her wedding quilt.  Her cousin and his wife had been here for the wedding, but for some reason had missed signing a guest block.  We sent one to them to sign and Joc got it back over the summer, and just got it to me.  This is why I haven't finished that quilt.
Yeah.  Anyway, if you read my UFO for 2012 post, you know that this quilt is on the radar for a wrap-up, in the very near future!

I hope everyone had a happy and merry Christmas!!  Todd and I enjoyed a lovely, quiet day together, after spending a marvelous Christmas Eve with Kim, James, Jason, Joc and Sawyer.  What a  sweet family I have; I love spending time with them!  I can tell you I was thoroughly spoiled by my family, my husband and Santa!  I'll post more on that later in the week . . . for now I wanted to share my two favorite light displays of the season.  These two yards were side-by-side:
Haha!!  Gotta love it.  And you've also gotta love all the industrial quilters out there who've got stuff up on their design walls this Monday morning.  Head on over to Judy Laquidara's Patchwork Times to check it out.

Today I'm going to curl up in my *new* Snuggie and have a quiet day.  Peace be with you!!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

all i want . . .

Todd and I spent yesterday getting our ministry's holiday newsletter printed and out for mailing. I love working on our newsletter ... we're so busy! LOL! If anyone's interested, here's the link:

It takes a second to load, but it's an eight page pdf, so that's probably why.

Today, after enjoying the staff Christmas party at the Madison Baptist Association, we got all the newsletters off and in the mail. Now all I've got left is a little shopping, some baking and some wrapping. In the event I don't get back on here before Christmas (which is really hard to imagine), I wish you all a truly Merry Christmas, filled with the light of Christ and the peace that passes all understanding.

Joy to the world! the LORD is come;
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart, prepare Him room,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n and nature sing,
And heav'n, and heav'n and nature sing.

Joy to the earth! the Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He come to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

Third Day - Joy to the World


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

tah dah . . .

Today's the day! I'm guest posting at Sew We Quilt. Whoohoo!!

Hop on over there and check out my tutorial for this cute little Holly Jolly Topper.
And if you're over here from over there, thanks for dropping by! Don't forget to leave me a comment if you'd like me to send you a pdf of the project template (or even just to say hello). And I sure don't mind new followers, either!

Happy Holly-days!


holly jolly topper tutorial . . .

As originally blogged on Sew We Quilt, 12/21/2011.

Happy greetings, this fine Wednesday-before-Christmas! My name is Denise, from Count it *all* JOY!!! - my little blog about life in general with a heavy emphasis on quilting, crafting, tea parties and GRANDBABIES! I'm so very thrilled to be here as a guest blogger on Sew We Quilt. Thank you for having me, Madam Samm!

Before I share my Holly Jolly Topper project with you, let me give you some background. I like little projects. My husband and I are full time RVers, which means we have limited space. Small projects display best in our small space. Also, small projects require less 'creative' space! Needless to say, I love decorating our space with little table toppers and candle mats ... pieces that are seasonal and beautiful, but easy to display (and stow) in our RV quarters!

That being said, I found a darling little pattern for a Leaf & Acorn topper in one of my Art to Heart books last year. The process was so simple I thought it would make a cute Candy Corn topper, which became my very first tutorial. Having finished that, my sister suggested that the same application would probably work well with holly leaves. Since 'tis the season, I decided to give it a try and I was so pleased with the result, I knew I needed to share (making it my very second tutorial -- LOL)! Besides that, it's a relatively fast and easy project to put together and makes a lovely hostess gift or exchange for Dirty Santa!
Holly Jolly Topper

I started by drawing out my idea in my EQ software. I drew one large leaf, one small leaf and one berry. I used each of these four times. Using EQ, I printed the actual figures out onto cardstock, for my templates. You can hand draw your templates *or* leave a comment on my blog letting me know you're interested, and I'd be happy to e-mail you a pdf of my templates!
Once I printed and cut out my templates, I went about choosing the fabrics. This is such a great project for scraps -- even scrap batting -- because all the pieces are small. The biggest leaf is about 8" long. Truly less than a fat eighth is needed for each of the respective different shapes, and less than a fat quarter for the backing fabric and batting.
I chose a dark tonal green for my big leaves, holly print for my small leaves, the tonal red for the berries, and the small, red print for the back of all the pieces. I could have gone scrappier (and may go that route on the next one) by choosing four different greens and four different reds. It's nice to have options.

Next, I gave everything a good pressing. I just had to get a photo my beautiful new iron in this post somehow!! Mmmwah, my dear iron! :)

I started putting the fabric together for my big leaves. I layered first my batting,

then my backing fabric (ride side up),

followed by my top piece of fabric (ride side down).
NOTE: This is important -- there are three layers with the batting on the bottom, then the backing and top fabrics layered right sides together.

Once my fabrics are placed together, I take my big leaf template and trace around it onto the (wrong side of the) top piece. I'll do this four times ... once for each of my big leaves ... leaving at least 1/2" between leaves. The drawn line will be the stitching line.

Once all four big leaves are traced I'll separate my pieces, again being careful to keep at least a 1/4" space around the points and edges.

Now there are four rectangles with a large holly leaf traced onto each. Pin the layers together at the points to keep the fabric from shifting.

Now that the big leaves are finished, I'm going to repeat those steps for the little leaves, tracing out four.
Again, the batting goes on the bottom, followed by the backing fabric right side UP, and then the top fabric right side DOWN. Pin the layers together in the corners to secure the fabric.

And finally, repeat the process for the berries.
And even though this shape is a circle, I still cut them out in squares (my preference), leaving at least a 1/4" space around all the edges. I trace and cut out four.

Now that all the pieces are traced and cut, it's time to sew.
As you can see in this photo, I mark a starting point and a stopping point, leaving a 1" to 1.5" gap in the seam. This gap is important -- it's where the pieces are turned right side out. And I've found that if I *don't* mark my gap, I invariably sew through it! I also try to make sure I put the gap in a place where I'm going to attach other pieces. That helps hide the the fact that it was not machine stitched.

I set my stitch length to a 2.0. I find the smaller stitch works better on this project. I backstitch at the starting point, stitch a straight stitch on the line I've drawn, all the way around to my stopping point, where I backstitch again.

I flipped this piece over and highlighted my stitches, so you could see what it looks like from the back.
Note the open (unstitched) space at the bottom of my leaf.

Next, I'm going to cut my leaf out, leaving a scant 1/8" around my stitches . . .
Except where the gap is. There I want to leave about 3/8". This will make it easier to fold under and stitch closed once the piece is right-side-out.

Repeat stitching for the remaining eleven pieces. [Then take a Christmas cookie and coffee/cocoa/hot tea break. Trust me on this one!]

Once everything is cut out, it's time to turn each piece right-side-out.

Open the gap with your fingers and . . .

Wrestle and tug Gently maneuver the fabric through the gap so that the right sides of both pieces of fabric are showing, and the batting is now hidden in the middle. You may need to run a finger or blunt object around the inside of the opening (I went between my top fabric and the batting), to make sure the seams are pushed out all the way. This will be especially important at the tips of your holly leaves.
Next, turn the excess fabric at the gap under . . .
And pin it shut. Repeat this process for all of the remaining pieces. You may find it convenient/necessary to take another cookie-and-coffee break. Again,trust me.

Now that everything is turned right-side-out, it's time to stitch closed the openings on each piece.
I match my thread to the top piece of fabric and take tiny, applique-like stitches to close the gap.

I pull my stitches fairly tight, doing my best to keep them hidden from the top.

Once all twelve gaps are closed, it's time to press and quilt as desired.

I did a free motion quilting stitch in the big leaves to look like leaf veins, which gave them a little texture. I used a straight stitch leaf vein in the small leaves. I didn't do any stitching in the berries (although they might be cute with a little spiral action). But again, it's a quilt-as-desired project.

Once the quilting is done, it's time to assemble the topper.
This was the convenient aspect of drawing my design out in EQ and then using that as my template. I knew it would all fit together nicely once it was sewn and laid out.

In projects like this where multiple pieces are being sewn together, it's good to make sure each piece connects to another in at least three different places. This gives your overall project good stability.
I did not compress the above picture so it can be clicked on and enlarged. You can see where the berry attaches in three different places, the small leaf attaches in three different places, and the large holly leaf actually attaches in five different places. I use two pins for each connection, to help hold the pieces together securely.

I purposefully put my 'gaps' at the bottoms of the holly leaves (large and small), where I knew they'd be connected to other pieces. The holly berries need to be rotated so that the closed gap fits up into the connecting point of one of the leaves. This is just the most aesthetically pleasing.

Once it's all pinned together (and it took a little playing around to get it looking the way I liked it), I flip it over.
I flip it because it's from the back side that I'm going to stitch the pieces together. And believe it or not, of all the steps, this part takes the least amount of time!!

I start by stitching each berry at its two connecting points to the BIG holly leaves. First I remove the two pins used to hold the two pieces together. I use the same thread I used to close my gaps. With tiny stitches I make a run of about six to eight stitches up, catching only the tiniest bit of the bottom fabric. Then I run back down the other direction, cross-hatching my previous stitches. The double stitching helps secure the pieces nicely.
Once I've gone around and done each berry in the two spots, I start on stitching the smaller leaves to their three connecting points. This really does move very quickly and generally, on the small leaves, I only took three to four small stitches up and then back.

Once all the pins are removed and the last stitch is stitched, flip it back over and give it a little press. Then VOILA!
A Holly Jolly Topper is born!!

I hope this all makes sense ... please feel free to drop by my blog and let me know if you have questions, or if you want the template pdf. Or even if you just want to say hello and Merry Christmas!!

Denise - counting being here today all joy! :)