A little of this, a little of that …

Well, another month went by and I didn’t post. But this time, I think I have a pretty good excuse … well, I guess you’d say it’s multiple excuses, but here goes. First off, Chris and I set off on a whirlwind adventure in the middle of April. We took a road trip vacation to New Mexico and Arizona. Then we went east to see my grandmother in Alabama. When I returned to work after a two week absence, I found that a deadline that was supposed to be the middle of May had been moved up to the end of April! So I spent the rest of the month (and the first week of this month) working on that. And finally, this weekend we had our grandson, as my daughter and her husband pack up their home in Killeen and move back to Houston. So see, I haven’t just been slacking off – I’ve been legitimately busy! Every time I’ve thought about sitting down and writing a blog post over the last month, I either haven’t been near a computer, or I spent hours in front of one for work. It just wasn’t in me to get a new blog post out. But I’m back, and I have a lot to share over the coming days!

First off, a quick run down of our vacation. We were gone for a week, but we could have easily spent a month out west checking things out. We had a blast, and we ate a lot of good food while we were making our rounds. Our first stop was in Amarillo, Texas. People who aren’t from Texas don’t seem to understand that it takes me a full day to drive out of this state going any direction but due East, or South (and right now, Mexico isn’t where I want to be). So it took us about 10.5 hours to get to Amarillo from home. Of course, we stopped a few times for bathroom breaks and meals, but the majority of that time was driving. While in Amarillo, I really wanted to see the Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon. Can you believe we FORGOT Cadillac Ranch?! We didn’t even realize it until we’d made it across the state line into New Mexico! So we’ll have to go back and see that sometime soon. But Palo Duro Canyon! Oh, it is amazing! The second largest canyon in the United States, I can say it doesn’t really rival the Grand Canyon, but you can drive down in to it and it’s amazing.

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the US, behind the Grand Canyon

Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the US, behind the Grand Canyon

We really want to go back and spend more time there, because we really only scratched the surface. It’s just beautiful; the pictures really don’t do it justice!

From there, we headed to New Mexico. We were following the old Route 66 as much as we could, and we went through several small towns. Unfortunately, we did this on a Sunday, so it looked like a lot of things were closed. We learned that it’s probably best to do that on a weekday. And that works well for us, the next time we want to go that direction, because when we got to Albuquerque, we found that the trolley tour doesn’t run on Monday! I believe that if it did run on Monday, we  would have had a much different vacation, but as it was, we stayed in Albuquerque on Sunday night and then checked out Old Town Monday morning.

The San Felipe de Neri Church is now several shops.

The San Felipe de Neri Church is now several shops.

We made a decision on the fly, since the trolley tour didn’t run on Monday, to head out to Arizona and go check out the Grand Canyon. Confession time: I didn’t think I would like the Grand Canyon that much. I thought I’d walk up, look at it and go, “Yep, that’s a really big hole.”

I should have known better.

On the way to the Grand Canyon, we made a stop at the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Oh. My. Gosh! I was under impressed with most of the Painted Desert, but there were parts that were awe inspiring.

The Painted Desert wasn't really what I expected, but it was still beautiful.

The Painted Desert wasn’t really what I expected, but it was still beautiful.

Then we learned about the Village on the Rio Puerco.

The Village on the Rio Puerco

The Village on the Rio Puerco

Base of walls for the rooms of the Native Americans who lived here.

Base of walls for the rooms of the Native Americans who lived here.

Hieroglyphics everywhere!

Hieroglyphics everywhere!

But then we got to the Blue Mesas …

Our first glimpse of the Blue Mesas

Our first glimpse of the Blue Mesas

Beautiful, aren't they?

Beautiful, aren’t they?

I could have stayed here for hours, but we didn't really have hours ...

I could have stayed here for hours, but we didn’t really have hours …

Then there was a lot of petrified wood. I mean a LOT …

Petrified wood

Petrified wood

More petrified wood

More petrified wood

One more ...

One more …

Next time, I’ll share some photos of the Grand Canyon, Carlsbad and Roswell, New Mexico!

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WIP Wednesday

Well, it’s been quite a while since I did a work in progress (WIP) post, but I really want to start posting more often, so here goes …

Today’s WIP is the quilt I mentioned in my last post that I’m working on for my husband. Unlike most of my projects, this one does have a deadline – I’d like to take it on vacation with us next week! I know it probably seems crazy to take a quilt on vacation, but that’s only because you’ve never spent any time in a vehicle with Chris, who is always warm. Since I’m always cold, and I don’t feel like wearing a parka on a spring vacation in the South, I decided we needed a quilt for the trip. Also, the quilt I made for Chris a while back is way too big to be used in the den as a throw, so this very manly quilt will fill that need, too. 😉

I found this motorcycle fabric online a couple of years ago. It’s part of the “Man Cave” series by Bernartex, and it is really beautiful. If you’re looking for some masculine fabric, I would suggest this series. I believe it’s ongoing, as there are images on the website now of cigars and such. Anyway, I combined that with some fabrics I had in my stash, and some Kona Solids to come up with the quilt top …

Motorcycle quilt top completed

Motorcycle quilt top completed

I guess I wasn’t really paying attention, because I didn’t notice that I had quite the pattern going here. LOL If I were to make this quilt again, I would probably replace the grey fabric with black, but Chris says he likes it just this way, so if he’s happy, I’m thrilled.

By the time you read this post, I will probably have the backing put together and the quilt sandwiched. And with a little luck, I’ll be well along in the quilting process. I mean, I only have a week and a half before I need it to be done. Here is the backing fabric …

Motorcycle quilt backing

Motorcycle quilt backing

Chris is a HUGE Texans fan, so I found this fabric a while back at Hobby Lobby and decided it would make a great backing for the motorcycle quilt – two of his favorite things in one quilt! The black and red will be borders around the Texans fabric, because it’s neither wide nor long enough without it. I haven’t decided if I’ll do two red borders and two black borders, or if I’ll do it like the front and run one and then the other all the way around. At first, I thought I’d do two red and two black, but I’ve been thinking it might look cooler to do the red and black together like the front of the quilt.

I have some ideas on how I’m going to quilt it, but I’ll save that to share once the quilt is completed.

Until next time, happy sewing!

My week in review

Last week, I was on vacation. It was glorious and wonderful. I enjoyed every single minute. It was heaven! But we didn’t go to Hawaii or Vegas, or Europe. Nope, we stayed home. And I loved it.

I had all these plans – visit a dozen quilt shops, clean out and organize my closet, clean out the pantry, get ahead on homework … the list was practically endless. And of all the things I had planned, I got exactly two accomplished – I visited several quilt shops, and I did some photography. I didn’t think about the gameroom I want to paint before the holiday season begins, and cleaning the closet out only flitted through the transom of my mind briefly. I did get quite a bit of laundry done, though, and Chris and I drove halfway around Texas on Wednesday. I am completely and totally non-apologetic about those things I didn’t accomplish, though. For my money, enjoying the time off, spending it with my family and being able to relax completely far outweigh the benefits of cleaning out the pantry. And most of the stuff I didn’t get done this time around can be accomplished over weekends.

One of the things that we did that I enjoyed the most was the drive we took on Wednesday. Around the first part of September, I went to my local quilt shop, QuiltWorks and found out that there is a statewide shop hop going on for the entire month of September. I didn’t know it, but this shop hop actually takes place every September. This year it involves nearly 100 shops around Texas, all of whom are selling Quilt Across Texas fabric. Yes, I have bought a fair amount of it, and I plan to make a quilt using it. 🙂

So far, my favorite store has been Quilter’s Crossing in Tomball. It’s a smaller shop, but I really like the fabric they carry, and the people were warm and friendly. Since it’s not too far from me, I will be visiting them regularly. I really like the selection of pre-cut fabrics they carry – lately I am a HUGE fan of pre-cuts, because it seriously cuts down on the time I have to spend cutting strips. The colors in the store were bright and vivid, and fit very well with my usual quilting style.

I also liked the Hen House in Spring. It’s a decent sized shop, and while I wasn’t crazy about all the fabrics they had (the shop stock seems to gravitate toward darker, more primitive type fabrics like Civil War reproductions), it is still a nice shop and had some beautiful quilts on the walls. They also sell yarn, so knitters and crocheters will enjoy this store as well.

My least favorite store so far has been the Quilter’s Quarters in Conroe. It was a bit of a disappointment after driving so far. It isn’t a large shop, and the woman hovered over us as if we were going to steal something. There’s a difference between good customer service and hovering. These folks need to learn the difference. The woman followed us around and made me feel so uncomfortable I gave up looking after a very short period of time. I only wanted to get a couple of fat quarters, which totalled less than $7, and they were very reluctant to take my debit card for less than $10. I wouldn’t budge, so eventually they accepted it and I made my purchase and left. If I would have had cash on me, I would have used it, but I only had a couple of dollars. It irritated me a bit that it was even an issue. But the biggest issue here was the hovering. I hate hovering shop keepers. Ugh.

But other shops were lovely. Honey Bee Quilt Store in Austin was great; the shop is beautiful and the people there are so nice. It’s not convenient for me to go there often, but when I’m up that way I will make a point of stopping in. They had beautiful quilts hanging on their walls, and they were one of the featured shops in the Spring Summer 2012 issue of Quilt Sampler. I received a free copy of the magazine when I won the scratch off game that’s part of the shop hop – by far the best prize I have received so far (other prizes I’ve won are a cheap seam ripper and some acid free tissue paper). I would highly recommend this shop for anyone in the Austin area – just wonderful!

On Wednesday, our final stop of the day was in Buda at B&B Quilting & Gifts. The square footage of the shop is small, but it is absolutely packed with beautiful fabrics from floor to ceiling. The staff there is so friendly and nice, and I really loved the displays they have for their fabrics – everything was so easy to see! This is another shop that when I’m in the area, I will stop by and browse. It was a little difficult to find, but I was really glad we took the time to stop by.

In almost every shop, I encountered shop hoppers like me, who were making the rounds and checking out new shops. Quilters can be some of the nicest people you will ever encounter, and my experience this week didn’t change my mind about that. What impressed me most in almost all the shops was how willing the people working there were to take the time to answer questions, help with fabric selection or just chat. Quilt shops always remind me that the best stores are those that are not corporate bound, big box chain stores with impersonal cashiers and faceless CEO’s. The best customer service comes at those places where they know that one unhappy customer can be dangerous to their shop’s health, and as such, are willing to make each customer feel like they are the most important customer in the world. It’s that sort of customer service that brings me back to a store every single time. And so far, I’ve found several quilt shops that make me feel just like that – the most important customer in the world. And they have earned my business for years to come.

School

Yep, that’s my excuse for not posting in so long – school. See, I went back to school, which started almost two weeks ago now, to take some accounting classes to maybe give me a boost to move to the next level in my career, or maybe even to give me the tools I need to start a business. I’m thinking that maybe once I get my classes done, and I pass the CMA and CPA exams, I could maybe do something in the accounting field. I once worked with a company that hired a CPA to do their books for them. He was retired by that point, but he really enjoyed working, so he had a company of his own that he set up to do part-time bookkeeping and CPA work for a few clients. He told me back then that he had more work than he could handle and more clients knocking on his door than he wanted to have. Sounds good to me, so maybe I can start something up like that. I don’t want to wait till I retire to do it, though. I would rather get something going now and maybe eventually be able to leave the corporate world behind. Well, it’s a nice thought at any rate.

And really, with school starting, and the first two weeks being completely insane, I haven’t had much to talk about here. My sewing machine has been silent, and my camera has barely been touched. But next week I’ll be on vacation, so I’m sure I’ll have lots to share then. We aren’t going anywhere, but we do plan to do some day trips to take photos and such. And when I went to the local quilt store last weekend, one of the owners told me about a shop hop going on this month across Texas, so I’m going to try to go see some of those shops while I’m off. Maybe paint the game room, or the little bathroom downstairs. You know, nothing big, but stuff that needs to get done in the house.

I’d like to get several things done in the house prior to the holidays – I mean, Thanksgiving will be here in no time at all. Before you know it, we’ll be talking about costumes, then turkeys and then Christmas gifts! I know it’s only September, but every year it seems like we go from school starting to the first of the new year in no time flat. So next week will also be a bit about preparing for the fall holiday season. I might even have some posts for that next week.

In the meantime, I’ll be busting butt to get my work cleared off my desk this coming week so I can fully enjoy my vacation without work-related interruptions, and trying to get school sorted out so I’m not spending all my time on vacation doing homework. That’s just how I roll. 😉

But right now, there’s some bacon calling my name downstairs, so I’d best get to it. Tell me, how do you like your bacon? Do you like it to be crispy, or do you prefer something a little more fatty? I am always fascinated by bacon preferences …