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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My First Commissioned Quilt

So I completed my first commissioned quilt a few months ago:

The days were already getting shorter when I went to photograph this thing, so I apologize for the weird lighting.

I went TOTALLY outside of my comfort zone for this quilt.  You've heard me say before that piecing isn't my strong suit, but this pattern seemed "pieceable" enough.  It's from Natalia Bonner's and Kathleen Whiting's book Modern One-Block Quilts.  It whipped together quickly especially quickly, because I grabbed some charm packs to make it with:

My customer's intended recipient loves color, so I immediately though, "Kaffe."  Confession time: I cannot stand Kaffe.  I've yet, to this day, encountered a Kaffe print that I thought looked nice.  It's too much color in unconventional color combinations for me.  Yet, it works:

All that color, all those combinations, and it somehow all works.  I neglected to take a close up photo, but I did some nifty free motion swirly flower quilting edge to edge on His Royal Highness.  Gosh, he sews like a dream!  My customer was pleased, so we're all good.  Sometimes it's good to wade out into deeper waters, so to speak.  Linked up to Sew Fresh Quilts this week.  Until next time, God Bless!

Recent Reads:

Swipe Right: The Life-and-Death Power of Sex and RomanceSwipe Right: The Life-and-Death Power of Sex and Romance by Levi Lusko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of those books that you wish you had read earlier.

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Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in HistoryFlawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History by Scott Andrew Selby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It took me a while to get this one done, but it ended up being a fun listen. I don't know about you, but I enjoy watching heist movies--it's fun to see the level of detailed planning that goes into these (fictional) high-profile thefts, but this was a real-life diamond heist--less glamorous, but still detailed. I don't remember this particular crime in the news back when it happened, so it made it more fun to read without knowing what ultimately happened. Fun read.

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The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust BowlThe Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We all read about the Dust Bowl in elementary school. In fact, you probably read Grapes of Wrath, didn't you? If you're like me, that's all the exposure you got to this trying time in America's history. I had this vague understanding--yeah, it was hard times, but never really understood that it was largely a manmade trial. I truly enjoyed this account--Egan paints a picture of what these lands looked like before we farmed it to death, and how we reaped what we had sown. Gosh, I enjoy history so much more when it's real, and that's what this account does for this particular place and time--make it real. Worth the read.

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On our tabletop:

Catan!  We finally played the "real" version.  
Dutch Blitz.  Quite possibly my favorite.  

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Just the Top

I finished a quilt top the other day.  I was frantically putting together this Amy Bradley applique quilt pattern to put up at Lil'Schep's third birthday party.  My husband, in his infinite wisdom, suggested that I shoot for finishing the top, rather than trying to finish the entire quilt in time for the party.  "You'll be disappointed," he urged, "if you rush the quilting and aren't happy with it."  So here it is:

Yes, there is a pirate ship on the playground!

Proud mama to this quilt top. 

I also got to flex a few more crafty muscles for this birthday party:

Can't go wrong with penguins.

I decorated my first cake!  I bought a cheapo cake decorating set on Amazon and got to icing.  Homemade buttercream definitely tastes better than the canned stuff, so I foresee icing more cakes in the future.  I took a page out of my mom's book and bought a toy to top the cake with, which doubles as a gift for the birthday boy!  I really am proud of all I managed to whip together for this party.  Even my Cricut got some action--those are homemade shark fins and a homemade sail.  It was a good time overall.  Thanks for taking the time to read it.  I'll eventually get around to blogging the commissioned quilt I finished a while back, so stay tuned.  Until then, God bless!

Recent Reads:

Sin in the Second CitySin in the Second City by Karen Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's hard to really like a book about brothels, but this wasn't bad. A true account of one of America's most notorious whorehouses, the story largely follows the two women that ran it. Some of the stuff is so outlandish that I had to laugh out loud. Overall, I thought it was an entertaining account of two colorful characters who strove for excellence in "entertainment."

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An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with DestinyAn Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A bit of an emotional roller coaster ride here. The audiobook was performed wonderfully, so it was a very easy listen. A woman takes a child beggar under her wing, and what follows is a series of joys and heartbreaks. I didn't want the book to end. Read it.

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Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Meth AddictionBeautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Meth Addiction by David Sheff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, this was pretty heartbreaking. It's one thing to read about someone's drug addiction, and it's another to read about it through a parent's eyes. This book made me fear for my boys--I was privileged enough to have been raised in a way that prevented any exposure at all to drugs (I didn't even know anyone who smoked tobacco!), so will I be able to do that for my kids? And will I be able to educate them to make the right choices when I can no longer shield them from this? So many unanswered questions. I pray that God will help me make the right choices when it comes to raising them up.

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Tweak: Growing Up on MethamphetaminesTweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked it, didn't love it. After reading his father's book, Beautiful Boy, I was really looking forward to hearing about their shared memories, and to fill in the gaps for those times where the two weren't in touch.

You know, Nic mentions "dark" books and movies a few times in this book, and how they weren't really the best things to be reading at those points in his life. For me, this was a "dark" book. I've never been exposed to drugs and have had minimal contact with those under the influence of drugs, so this world was (and still is) completely unknown to me. Hearing Nic describe his highs was rather disconcerting--having listened to this book at an emotionally trying time in my life, I kept thinking that I could use an escape like that. Of course, I wouldn't even have the first clue where to find them, but the fact that these thoughts even crossed my mind is a testament to how dark this book is.

The book ends flatly. Of course, you should expect it to, because apparently addicts are always addicts, even when they're in recovery. I don't know that I would ever share this book with my children. Yes, he's honest about the lows he hit, but he doesn't sound all that ashamed of what he's done in the past, and now, he's doing okay. I don't want my children thinking that they can throw away several years of their early lives and ultimately end up okay, because so many addicts end up not okay.

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Against Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical MysteryAgainst Medical Advice: One Family's Struggle with an Agonizing Medical Mystery by James Patterson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, not great. It was eye opening to see what this family endured with their child's incurable condition, but I felt that this could have been a much longer, much more detailed account. That may be me being nosy, but I don't feel like I got a sense of how this impacted the family day to day, which is fine, but hence the three stars, instead of four.

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Code Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALsCode Name: Johnny Walker: The Extraordinary Story of the Iraqi Who Risked Everything to Fight with the U.S. Navy SEALs by Johnny Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neat book. It falls in line with books such as American Sniper, so if you didn't like that, don't bother with this one. This book, however, is told from an interesting perspective--an Iraqi translator that worked with the SEALs during the war. I was hooked from the first page. The narrator reads the book with an accent that makes me feel as if it were read by the author himself, and I found myself empathizing with him and his family at every twist and turn. It's no spoiler to say that he is now living in the U.S. with his family, but I felt something akin to suspense, waiting for the moment when he would finally be permitted to come to his new home in the U.S. Worth the read.

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The OutsiderThe Outsider by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two stars because it was read by Will Patton. Mark my words, this is the last time I let anyone talk me into reading another Stephen King novel. This new book was just as long and unbearable as his old stuff, and the only reason I finished it was Mr. Patton's delicious drawl. I'm done.

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On our tabletop:

UpperDeck's Legendary, Marvel Edition

Vegas Dice Game.  Surprisingly fun. 

Hasbro's Risk Legacy

Milton Bradley's Shark Tale Shark Attack, a remake of my childhood favorite!

Friday, October 5, 2018

BabySchep's Monster Quilt Complete!

Sooo, BabySchep's birthday party was back in July, but I've only just now gotten around to photographing the quilt.  Am I the only one who's that bad at this?  I really need a photographer friend! 

Well, here it is hanging on the wall at the party:

I opted for cupcakes instead of a big cake this time.

The birthday boy.  (With Abuela!)

Super cool birthday boy.
I've managed to put together a few progress posts along the way, but this finish was so frenzied, I neglected to take the last few block photos. 

Matching seams!
On the wall, ready for borders.
Basted on the dining room floor.
Pin basted, ready to quilt.
His Royal Highness, adding the final stitch. 
I love doing handwork, so these applique quilts are special to me.  Here's the finished product:

The hubby is always a big help.
These monsters play well together!
The other monster peeking out.  
Draping an applique quilt is just not the same. 

 Linking up with Finish It Up Friday.  Have a nice weekend!  Until next time, God Bless!

Recent Reads:

The ChildThe Child by Fiona Barton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not as good as the first one. In fact, this is only a serial because of the reporter investigating the story, not because of the mystery itself. In a nutshell, they find a baby's skeleton at a construction site, and you follow multiple story lines, Kate Waters being the common thread throughout, until you figure out who the baby is. I did enjoy the audiobook, particularly because it was read by a full cast. It would be a great roadtrip listen. Slowly but surely, I'm becoming a fan of Brit lit!

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Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His HomelandBest. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland by Dave Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Entirely too short, but laugh out loud funny. Every Floridian should read this, because we can all totally relate.

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Born SurvivorsBorn Survivors by Wendy Holden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, I need to stop reading Holocaust books. The title says it all--three babies born into captivity, who against all odds, survive the Holocaust during WWII. It was simply heart wrenching to hear these women's stories about how their families were torn apart, murdered, and yet somehow found the will to not only survive, but to bring these babies into the world. Amazing. The audiobook was superbly read, but try not to read this if you're already depressed. I am continually in awe that this happened in recent history.

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I Found YouI Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

More Brit lit. More missing memories. I guess I never tire of this genre. This book generates suspense through faulty memory--this guy turns up on the beach with no memory of who he is, or how he got there, and no one seems to be looking for him. Simultaneously, a new bride in a foreign country is missing her husband. Surely these story lines overlap--the thrill is in finding out how. Fun read, but nothing earthshattering.

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Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian by John Piper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Very convicting read. I guess Piper usually is. I listened to this audiobook, but I wouldn't recommend it in that format. Just go buy it in print so you can mark it up at all of those "ouch" moments. Seriously.

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On our tabletop:

SmashUp by AEG.
Charterstone, by Stonemaier Games

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

We're back! (And a pillowcase finish)

We've returned from our wonderful vacation to Maine, and gosh, all of my pictures look like postcards!

I think this is the first ever panoramic I've taken on my now four-year-old iPod touch.  Pretty sweet, huh?  I guess I'll get a smartphone eventually and take pics like these all the time.

The Scheplings had a wonderful time visiting their uncle, tia, and cousin.  It helps that grandma and grandpa came along, too! 

We visited several wonderful quilt shops while in Maine--everyone was so friendly, it was (almost) like being back home in the South. 

While in town one day, I picked up this fun little fat quarter bundle:

With all of its cute jungle animals, it was begging to be fussy cut.  While in Freeport, I picked up this pattern for a reading pillow:

I apologize for the lousy pattern photo, but I could not find a stock photo of the pattern anywhere online.  That's probably for good reason: simply put, the pattern is no good.  My first problem that it wasn't written for the U.S. Market, so I had to use my sewing experience and some common sense to grab the materials I thought I needed.  My second problem was the lack of diagrams or clear instructions.  I had to blindly cut the pieces (which were thankfully in inches) and figure out where they went after the fact, which makes color planning a little more difficult.  To be fair, the pattern explained quite a bit about English Paper Piecing, which I already do a fair bit of.

To save time, I glue basted the hexies for the front of the pillow:

I photograph layouts so I don't forget!
My two year old thinks the sloths are raccoons, and I think that's just adorable.  Here it is all stitched together:

Front panel completed:

I chose to topstitch the hexies to the front panel, rather than slipstitch by hand. 
This was the first project I finished from beginning to end on my new machine, who I have dubbed His Royal Highness, the Juke of Mulberry.  I'll be designing a custom decal to adhere to the bed of the machine. 

I'd like to add some additional lighting, but for now that lamp in the background will do.

And here it is, finished:

The patterns calls for a tie closure.  Without a diagram, I'm not entirely sure this is what it should look like, but it seems to make sense.  I think if I make this pattern in the future, I'll use a traditional envelope closure instead.

See?  I'm not the biggest fan of the pillow form peeking out from the back.  While the ties make the pattern fat quarter friendly, I almost always buy yardage anyway.

I love the little carrying handle.  I hope my nephew enjoys toting this around!
Okay, by the time I've actually finished this blog post, we've been back for like, two months!  We've actually gone on another short, though unplanned, little staycation since our proper vacation. 

If I can be a bit vulnerable here, I've really been struggling with being a good wife and mother lately, and I know that this is a direct consequence of my self-imposed distance from God lately.  If you're a fellow believer, pray with me, please?  This Proverbs 31 journey has its ups and downs, and I'm in a valley right now. 

I've got more to share, so hopefully I'll update y'all soon.  Linking with Sew Fresh Quilts and Finished or Not Friday.  Until then, God Bless.

Books I've read:

Every Last LieEvery Last Lie by Mary Kubica
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is it just me, or do all these books about delusional women make you feel a tad bit crazier than you already are? So this lady's husband is killed in a car wreck, and she immediately starts on this crazy trail of maybe-it-wasn't-just-an-accident. The question is, how crazy is she? This is another broken timeline book, and I can't seem to get enough of those. Great audiobook--well read by the actors.

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Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long IslandEtched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So sad! It's so depressing to think that children suffer the same fate even today, but I'm sure they do. This book hit a nerve because I'm part of "the system" that let these kids down, and likely lets hundreds, if not thousands, of our kids here down, too. On the flip side, this book reminded me to be grateful for the life I live now and the childhood that my parents were able to provide for me--one that was full of love, and devoid of all need. This book made me hug my children a little tighter.

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The Flight AttendantThe Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, this was the first, and likely the last book I read by this author. The setup sounds suspenseful--a flight attendant wakes up from her overnight layover next to a dead man! Wow! Let's find out whodunit! Immediately, she begins to make a series of enormously stupid decisions (not that her life was full of great decisions to start with) that are almost too stupid to bear as the reader. Then there's the other characters in the book--not very believable at all. Don't get me started about the ending. Like, what? What happened? How did we get from point A to point B? This book was supremely annoying to the utmost, but I liked it, didn't I? Don't read it.

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Sometimes I LieSometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmmm, what to say about this one? I'm writing this a full month removed from finishing the book, and I can't remember much about it--I guess that says a lot about this book. Personally, I like books with broken timelines, because it's a pretty simple way of adding suspense and mystery without having to go off of the deep end. That being said, this book both jumps around AND has an out-in-left-field ending. No, I didn't see it coming, but it wasn't the least bit satisfying of an end, either. It's no spoiler here to say that the narrator is in a coma and is trying to piece together the series of events that led to her state, and that in and of itself is an intriguing premise. Despite its strange ending, I'd recommend it as a quick fiction read.

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The Great Influenza[The Epic Story Of The Deadliest Plague In History]The Great Influenza[The Epic Story Of The Deadliest Plague In History] by John M. Barry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book took forever to listen to. That being said, it was jam-packed with the kind of information you'd expect, and then some. The problem I had with the "then some" facts was that it was stuff I already knew--recaps on the history of medicine, both in general, and specific to the U.S. Granted, I wouldn't have minded the history lesson if this is what I sought out, but I wanted to read about the 20th century pandemic, not 16th century medical textbooks. You finally get to this point about halfway through the book, and boy, is it fascinating stuff. I ended up wanting to read more about it, so in the end, not so bad of a book to read.

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The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and RecoveryThe Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked it alright. After reading Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, this seems like a mediocre follow-up. What makes this particular account stand out is the fact that author has dedicated her career to studying mental illness, only to succumb to it herself during cancer treatment. I grew a bit weary of hearing how physically fit the author and her family are--I get it--this is who you are, but no need to fat-shame the rest of us, you know? Despite its shortcomings, it still serves as a an inspirational account--mental illnesses can be cured, and you can live to write about it.

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Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in BetweenCritical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, the title is pretty self explanatory--this book is written by a new nurse (after a career change from college professor!), and her experiences with all kinds of stuff you'd expect an RN to encounter in a hospital. I read this book to gain a little insight into what my little sister would be experiencing and feeling at her first RN job. Overall, it's okay, if you're interested in this kind of stuff. Otherwise, I don't think it was compelling enough to recommend generally.

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Brain on Fire: My Month of MadnessBrain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great read! It helps that the author is a journalist who can apparently tell a story. Her account is scary--this could, realistically, happen to anyone. This had my attention from page one, and I would recommend this to all of my friends, and not just nonfiction readers. After all, the truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

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Galaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in SpaceGalaxy Girls: 50 Amazing Stories of Women in Space by Libby Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fabulous little book! I didn't realize I was picking up a children's book when this popped up on my recommended books list, but I'm glad I listened to it anyway. Of great breadth and little depth, it serves its purpose: to inspire little girls to reach for their dreams. Of course, I spent half of the book kicking myself for abandoning my own dream, but I would definitely recommend it for any young person who has yet to give up on theirs. It was a little difficult to follow along with in its audiobook form, so this is one I'd pick up in print.

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On our tabletop:

Azul by Plan B Games: What a nifty, beautiful game!

Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective by Asmodee: Still not tired of it.
Pandemic Legacy Season 2 by Z-Man Games: Simply obsessed.
The Rivals for Catan by Mayfair: Fun, but unsure how often we'll play it.
Unlock! The Formula by Asmodee: This was simply amazing.  There will be more of these in our future.
Exit the Game by Thames & Kosmos: This installment was harder than the others.  I think the format might be getting old for us. 
Carcassonne by Z-Man: An oldie but a goodie.