McCulloch County Courthouse

Designed by Martin & Moodie of Comanche, Texas, the McCulloch County Courthouse was completed in 1900. It’s in the Romanesque style, and it’s really very beautiful. Just five miles from the designated center of Texas, Brady (the town where the courthouse stands) calls itself “The Heart of Texas.” It has a clock tower, but no actual clock, which is sort of weird. I don’t think one was ever installed.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful example of architecture …

McCulloch County Courthouse

Clearly something is missing here ...

Clearly something is missing here …

Coryell County, Texas

Wesley Clark Dodson was obviously well respected in the Texas county courthouse scene. He designed the Coryell County courthouse and it was completed in 1897, some 20 years after the McLellan County Courthouse was completed. Coryell County was done in the Victorian style, and while it isn’t nearly as big as McLellan, it’s still very pretty. Judge for yourself:

 

W.C. Dodson, Architect

Coryell County, Texas Courthouse

 

It’s a little difficult to see because of the trees, which has me thinking that I might need to make a winter season trip to get a better shot or two so that the architecture can really shine. It’s such a sacrifice to go back and see all these courthouses again, ya know. ;-)

Time to Start Thinking About Christmas Gifts

Christmas-Tree-008

This year, I’m going for a (mostly) handmade Christmas. I’m doing a quilt and some soft blocks for my new grandson (I mean really, does a five month old NEED a bunch of toys?), a quilt for my daughter and son-in-law (they already know about it, so I’m not spoiling the surprise), and some other stuff that folks DON’T know about. I know it seems early, but when you’re making gifts, you have to get an early start, and honestly, I probably should have started a long time ago.

I’ve been looking around for gift ideas, and I’ve come up with some things I think would be great. I have this sudden obsession with aprons, and I love the vintage inspired aprons that seem to be so popular lately. Ones like this, and this are perfect gifts for the ladies, I think.  And for someone who’s just starting out in their own place, how about some cute place mats? Feeling green? How about some cloth napkins that can be tossed in the wash instead of killing trees buying paper towels?

For the guys in your life, how about some homemade beef jerky? Or turkey jerky, if that’s his thing. There are dozens of different basket ideas you can do – BBQ baskets, snack baskets, toolbox baskets … really, depending on your guy’s interests, there are limitless ideas. Does he like beer? How about a beer making kit, where he can make his own? Ok, that’s not really a handmade gift, but it will be once he’s done with it. ;-)  Also, you might consider putting together a car safety kit. This would also be great for a young driver.

Most years, I try to make at least some of my gifts, or give gifts that will inspire the recipient to make something themselves (last year, I gave my quilting mother a box full of fabric & thread). I think that when someone puts the time and effort into either making a gift or putting together a basket/kit for someone on their list rather than picking up a gift or card that the person may or may not use or like, it’s more personal and shows that some serious thought went in to the gift. I will admit that I still give my dad gift cards to the sporting goods store, but that’s what he WANTS, and he uses them throughout the year. I’m fortunate enough to have family members who DO give consideration to what they’re giving each other, and I’ve yet to have a gift I can’t use. But I hear from folks all the time about the gifts they received for Christmas that makes them wonder what the giver was thinking. One very memorable gift I remember hearing about involved a 12 year old bottle of Scotch given to a recovering alcoholic! While he really appreciated the gift, he had to give it to someone else, because clearly, he didn’t want to relapse!

I have a list of things I want to make this year, and I’ve already started on some of them, but I guess the best way to make progress is to actually get moving on getting them done, so I’m off. If you have anything on your list that you’ll be making, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section!

McLellan County Courthouse

One of the most surprising courthouse examples we saw on our trip was McLellan County. It is just beautiful, and we really weren’t expecting anything like it. We thought we’d find another small-ish courthouse, but clearly we were way off base. Completed in July 1877, this is another structure designed by Wesley Clark Dodson. It is the fourth courthouse that McLellan County had built, and it is by far one of the most impressive, beautiful courthouses in Texas.

Wesley Clark Dodson, Architect

McLennan County, Texas Courthouse

Tower View, McLennan County Courthouse

Tower View, McLennan County Courthouse

Vacation – Texas Style

This week, I’m on vacation. I’m not a big fan of vacations in the summer – they are usually hot, often muggy, and always too crowded. But this year, I made an exception. My daughter lives in the Killeen, Texas area, with her soldier husband, and she was expecting their first child – my very first grandchild! A week past due, the plan was for her to go into the hospital on Sunday and be induced, so we drove up on Saturday so we could spend a little time with them before the Big Event. Unfortunately, like all good plans, it didn’t work out quite the way we had expected it would. Even as Chris and I arrived in Killeen, a water main was shooting water 60 feet into the air, rendering everyone in that area with severe water restrictions, and no water at the hospital on Fort Hood. Sunday turned into Monday, and Monday was looking like Tuesday, so Monday, Chris and I took off to see some sights. The kids had to hang around the area just in case Kerstin got called in for the induction – she had an hour to get there after they called – so they didn’t accompany us. And honestly, it’s not really their “thing” to go off driving around Texas. But for Chris and I … well, we love it.

Over the course of Monday and Tuesday, we were able to visit 14 counties in the central Texas area, and I got photos of every one. I will admit, there are some I need to go back and re-do, because they just didn’t turn out quite as well as I had hoped. But overall, I got at least one decent shot of the exterior of each courthouse. This is the first one – Lampasas County, in the city of Lampasas (as we go through these over the next few weeks, you’ll find that the naming conventions for counties and county seats aren’t exactly original).

The courthouse in Lampasas County, Texas, was built in 1884.

The courthouse in Lampasas County, Texas, was built in 1884.

 

On Tuesday afternoon, Kerstin finally was admitted to the hospital to be induced. And on Wednesday morning, at 8:25 am, my beautiful little grandson came into this world. He is sooooooooo cute, and looks just like his mommy when she was a baby (and really, she hasn’t changed too much LOL).

My super cute grandson!

My super cute grandson!

 

I still have today and tomorrow off, so I’ll probably just hang around the house (we came home last night, as my daughter will be in the hospital for two days and BOY are those rooms SMALL!), and do some sewing. But we had a fabulous time in Killeen!

Peanuts Quilt … or is it a Marilyn Quilt?

This is the quilt I’ve been working on for the last several months, ever since I got George in March. I finished it last week, and it was presented to Sarah by her husband Erik for her birthday. She knew there was a quilt coming her way, she knew I was making it, but the theme was a total surprise. To be honest, the quilt took so many twists and turns, it was a bit of a surprise to me as well!

I found this adorable Peanuts fabric last year and immediately thought of Sarah, because she’s a big Peanuts fan. I was telling my husband about it and I said I’d like to make a quilt using the fabric but I was short on funds. Erik is his best friend, so Chris called him and told him about the fabric. Erik thought it would make a great birthday gift for Sarah, so he funded the quilt. And I was off … Originally, I was going to make all the pieced blocks pinwheels but I quickly found out that I’m not a big fan of pinwheel construction, so I changed it to making half of them pinwheels and half nine patch. Then I had to get an embroidery machine to do the characters (OK, I had planned to buy the embroidery machine anyway, but doesn’t it sound cool to say that you bought a machine for a particular project? :-D ).

Peanuts

As I neared completion of the top, Erik requested that I incorporate camouflage fabric into the quilt. I wondered how the heck I was going to do that, then decided to use it as the backing. But when the “camo quilt fabric” showed up at my door, it was anything but quilt fabric. I knew as soon as I touched it that it would never work. So Chris called Erik and explained the problem. I told them, “Leave this to me; I will take care of it. Trust me to get this right.”

Around that time, I had found some Marilyn Monroe fabric and thought it was really pretty, but I had no idea what to do with it. I mentioned it to Chris and he said, “Sarah is a HUGE Marilyn fan, you know.” Well, no, I didn’t know that but the idea was born …

Marilyn back of Peanuts

 

I added some stars for quilting, and bound the whole thing by machine.

Quilting Detail of Peanuts Quilt Detail of Marilyn

In the end, I think it turned out pretty well, and I think Sarah likes it, too. And that’s one more for the history books, folks. :-D

My next project is a quilt for my daughter and son in law for Christmas (they already know about it, so I’m not giving anything away here) and a throw quilt for … I don’t know who it will go to, but I’m sure it will make a great gift for someone!

Sewing Machine Review: Brother DreamCreator VM5100

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator

Brother VM 5100 Dream Creator – AKA George

I’ve been sewing on George, my new Brother DreamCreator VM5100 for almost three months now, and I’m ready to talk about my initial impressions. Keep in mind I still have some things I want to try out with the machine, but I’ve done a fair amount of piecing on it already (I’ve pieced two 70″-ish square top on it in the twelve weeks or so since I’ve had it). What I haven’t really done much of is free motion quilting, though I’ve done a good deal of embroidery on it. So with those disclaimers … here we go.

This is my fourth Brother sewing machine. The first one was my PC-8500 which was purchased used, the second was a Brother SQ-9050 I bought at Walmart and the third one was a “refurbished” 2500D. I still have all but the 2500D, and I’m still kicking myself for selling it in 2012. I would love to have that machine back, but that’s not going to happen. As a matter of disclosure and if you’re uaware, I also have a Janome 8900 that I purchased in February 2013. Up until I purchased George, the Janome (Ricco, by name) was my primary machine. Since I bought George, however, Ricco has seen almost NO sewing time. More on this in another post.

I brought George home and unpacked him almost immediately. Since it had been nearly two years since I’ve had an embroidery machine, I decided to give embroidery a go first. Of course, I first had to buy embroidery thread (I’d let all mine go with the 2500D), and then I found a design to use on the Green Eggs and Ham quilt I’m working on for my friend Julie. This embroidery design is meant to be the quilting. This is actually one design, stacked to be embroidered twice.

Star Overload

 

So far, the embroidery I’ve done with this machine has been wonderful!

But what I’m REALLY thrilled with is the stitching this machine does. It is so nice and pretty! I mentioned earlier that I’ve put together an entire quilt top on the machine in the weeks since I got it, and the machine really sung through the whole thing. I did run into a small problem, as one of the blocks in the quilt was a pinwheel, and George sort of bogged down where all the seams intersect, but I did a little reading, made a few adjustments to the automatic height adjustment (the machine’s default from the factory is to have that feature turned off), and voila! No more problems. In my research, I found that the little black button on the side of the J foot is actually there to be pressed in to help you get over those tougher seams. In more than 10 years of sewing, I never knew that. When I told my mom about it, who’s been sewing for more than 40 years, she didn’t know it either, so I didn’t feel so bad. LOL

The machine comes with a good variety of feet, including a 1/4″ foot with a guide. However, I’ve found that I much prefer the J foot and the use of the 1-29 stitch, which makes the perfect quarter inch seam. The reason why I like the J foot over the 1/4″ foot is that the feed dogs don’t make enough contact with the sole of the 1/4″, whereas the J foot’s sole is making full contact with the feed dogs. It really makes for a much more even feed and a lot fewer problems with fabric shifting.

In the three months I’ve had George, he and I have made a quilt top, made a pair of elastic waist dress pants, a couple of t-shirts, and repairs to a pair of my husband’s jeans. In every case, George has really done a fabulous job. I couldn’t be more happy about his performance.

The only thing I was not really happy about – and this is totally my fault – is that I didn’t do enough research before I bought this machine. If I had been more thorough, I would have chosen the Brother DreamWeaver VM6200D instead of the VM5100 for two reasons. First, when I bought my machine, the difference in price between the two at my particular dealer was about $1100. I thought I didn’t need the laser seam guide nor the V-Sonic pen, which seemed to me to be the primary differences

between the two machines. There were also two other feet included with the 6200D – the MuVit digital dual feed foot, and a droplight embroidery positioning marking foot. I was told the cost of each of these feet were about $150 each. To be clear, this information did NOT come from the dealer where I purchased my machine, but when I actually got my machine home and decided I wanted the MuVit foot, I found the cost is actually $400. The droplight foot is about $250. If I’d known that two features I did want would cost me $650, I would have just paid the extra $1100 and gotten ALL the extra features at once. But overall I am very happy with my machine – so happy, in fact, that I’m considering adding another one next year.

Really, three months isn’t long enough to give a full review, so I’ll post another review in a year or so, once George and I have been able to get even more familiar with each other. But I want to spread the word that this machine is FABULOUS, and if there’s anyone on the fence about buying it, DO IT. You will NOT regret it!