Winter Wonderland – Wordless Wednesday

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Winter, 2014

He who marvels at the beauty of the world in summer will find equal cause for wonder and admiration in winter…. In winter the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~John Burroughs, “The Snow-Walkers,” 1866

Paper Tie – Wordless Wednesday

What’s a child to do when he finishes his lessons early?  Perhaps design a tie by folding, coloring, and taping the paper art to his shirt?

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And the reverse must be a different pattern…

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Created by the now ‘Sharp Dressed Explorer’, 6.  ;)

Please send prayers or positive thoughts…

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For my young nephew who has a rare medical condition and will be undergoing surgery tomorrow (Thursday). He is understandably a little scared. I’m grateful that his family is near him during this difficult time. Thank you. ~Fractalgal

Update: Surgery went well. He’s recovering. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers!

Wordless Wednesday – Hungry Hummingbird

I was fortunate to capture this image of a hummingbird last summer.  These tiny creatures are not that easy to photograph; they move quickly.  I took many photos in a row without pausing, hoping that one of them would turn out.  And one did.

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Hummingbird at Feeder

Fabric Art: North Woods Quilt Quest

There is an artistic side of me seeking to be remembered by the other side of me.  You know, the busy side.  Beyond the many responsibilites I have, I want to carve some time out of my day to be creative.  And so that is just what I’m doing.

I took advantage of some free time over the holiday break, and I’ve begun my lastest fabric art project.  Ever since I finished the Explorer’s Colorful Cars  quilt in November, I’ve been planning in my mind.  This will be the first of several posts regarding the North Woods quilt I’m making for the Architect, 8.  You’re welcome to follow along with me during my journey to develop this quilt [and remember my artful side] through both its trials, and hopefully, eventual success.

Design Decisions:

My son loves all things outdoors like trees, moose, bears and cabins.  I was inspired by several North Woods quilt patterns I’d seen over the years, and I’ll put them all together into a design for this twin-sized quilt.

About 8 years ago I designed this baby quilt for him, also North Woods themed.

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North Woods Baby Quilt, 2005

I prefer hand-quilted quilts, and some of my favorite quilts are those made by the Amish.   I enjoy browsing at Amish Country Lanes, and I am a big fan of their applique quilts.  The care taken in every stitch by these ladies really shows.  (I admit that the quilts I make are not quite as carefully quilted. ;))

Similar to the Amish, I also construct my larger quilts with a pillow fold, where you fold back the head of the quilt to tuck the pillow in.  Though this may add an extra 11 to 16 inches to the quilt top, I don’t mind.  Then I don’t have to make accompanying shams.

Fabric Finding:

My son and I recently made a trip to the local quilt store.  I’m fortunate to live about two miles from the coolest quilt store in the state!  Really.  The selection in this store is amazing.  We wandered around a bit, but were soon drawn to the fall colored woodsy-themed patterns.  The owner came over and helped us with choosing between a few different reds, and I was impressed with her knowledge.  For example, she advised against a lined fabric, because she said it’d be more difficult to line up the lines when piecing.  She also special ordered for us some soft fabric backing to make the quilt especially warm.  The colors of this quilt will be mostly greens, browns, and a little orange and red.

Preparing the Fabric:

I always wash my fabric before using to shrink it right away and test for color bleeding.  I just throw it in with some gentle deteregent and take it out when it’s a little damp to iron it to prepare for cutting.

Cutting With Care:

This quilt will be a combination of both machine piecing and hand applique.  Machine piecing is relatively simple, IF you are careful with cutting and 1/4″ sewing.  I fold the fabric, line up the ends, fold once more, and then I cut.  A wise person once said to measure twice, cut once.  Speaking from personal experience, I’ll tell you that that’s great advice.

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Strip cutting

Here are some of the items that I’ve found useful for cutting, especially the pizza cutter looking thing (a rotary cutter).

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Border fabric

I cut for a for about an hour or so, of course with a little music playing in the background.

There.  That’s more like it.  All done with my cutting.

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Fabric to be used box

 This is a good place to pause for now.

The next step is to start constructing the lower section.  I start at the bottom of the quilt to allow time to refamiliarize myself (make mistakes in a less noticable place) with what’s next: hand applique.  It’s the hard part.  Hand appliquing trees with inner and outer curves can be tricky, and you can bet that I’ll have to remove my threads and start again at least once. ;)

Please send your prayers or positive thoughts my way for this next step.  Thanks!

Looking Ahead in 2014

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Snowy Day

During the winter months I enjoy gazing out the window at a peaceful snowfall while wrapped in a cozy blanket with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.  It’s an opportunity to reflect on life and how things are going.  And with this being the start of a new year, it’s a good time to focus on where we are headed in 2014.  Here are some issues I’ll be dealing with along with a few goals.

1. Planning High School 

My daughter will be completing the 8th grade in May.  Although I’ve left the door open to the idea of private school for high school, I think homeschooling has been a positive experience for her.  As you may imagine, I’ve been reading everything I can find on this topic since the idea of homeschooling high school does intimidate me a bit.  Also, I’ve been discussing this with friends who’ve successfully home-educated high schoolers attempting to see if this is the best option for my daughter and our family.   I’m still in research mode, so please let me know if you’ve any ideas to help with this, but we are definitely leaning towards it.

2. Maintaining Priorities

Simply having a week where most everything gets done as hoped may be categorized as a success.  Setting realistic expectations is so important when homeschooling (or in life in general).  Our schedule is a balancing act to be sure, and I’m constantly attempting to stay aware of how we are progressing.  At the end of the week I don’t want to feel overwhelmed or worn down, but I do want to feel satisfied with what we’ve accomplished.

3. Math Competitions:

The Artist, 13, has a few more big contests coming up this spring.  I could write an entire post dedicated to this, but in summary the heart of her training requires establishing a strong math base and polishing up specialized math skills that we’ve only briefly touched on in our regular math texts.  Though the majority of her training is problem solving (woven throughout her regular curriculum), we also revisit definitions and formulas to keep ideas fresh as contest time nears.  One fascinating thing about math is how the topics are often connected and interrelated, and her preparation has really highlighted this interesting fact.  I’d like to get her younger brothers involved as well.

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4. Fun extra: Philosophy for Kids:

Last year when we’d have a week where everything flowed as planned, we’d have open, free time available on Thursday afternoons when we’d work on Mapping the World with Art.  Now that we’ve finished, we’ll be starting Philosophy for Kids at that time.  Since one of my goals in education is for my children to be critical thinkers, I’m hoping this will promote insightful, meaningful discussions … you know, an excuse to sit and visit.  ;)

5. Hobbies: Blogging and Quilting

I maintain several unrelated blogs, and I enjoy writing and connecting with others.  I do realize that for a blog to be successful, one must dedicate effort and time for it.  I’m hoping to keep up with these blogs throughout this new year, and I’ve even set up a schedule in my mind of how to make this work.

I’m also planning a twin sized quilt for the Architect, 8.  Recently, we took a trip to the local quilt store to look at patterns and fabric.  Inspired by a North Woods pattern from quilt book I have, I decided to design a pattern instead – keeping some of the elements but changing a few things.  Here is a sketch.  It’ll be mostly applique, but I’ll also put four ‘bear paw’ blocks on the corners of the border.  (The colors in my sketch are off from the fabric I purchased.)  A quilt is a big project, so time will tell how far I’ll get with it.  ;)

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Quilt pattern idea sketched by me for the Architect.

I think it’s important to take meaningful breaks to reflect.  To fill up a glass, the glass must first have some emptiness.  If some goal did not work out in 2013, then now is the time to let go of it.  We then have the mindset to rethink our expectations and revise our goals for this year’s priorities.

I wish you a Happy New Year and all the best in reaching your goals for 2014!

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  ~ Jimmy Dean