Wednesday, August 13, 2014

WIP Wednesday: Hadley

Today I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced for WIP Wednesday.

My WIP this week is the Hadley Challenge for my guild, Southern CT Modern Quilt Guild.  Denyse Schmidt so generously gave us each a FQ bundle of her new line, Hadley, and we are to finish our quilts by the end of the month so that they can be displayed.

I'll be quilting and binding it this weekend and then moving onto a super-secret commissioned quilt that I need to finish up super fast.

Here is a sneak peak of Hadley:

(This may or may not just be the back...)

Finished project to come!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Farmer's Market is Making Me Eat a lot of Veggies

One of the blogs I've been reading the longest is Melanie's over at Melanie in the Middle.  I originally started reading as she wrote a couponing blog under a different name, but in recent years she switched to a more general topic blog.  I'm a loyal Melanie follower as has a knack for writing and occasionally our interests overlap.  I also had the chance to meet her a few years back and she's such a sweet lady!

A few days ago, Mel wrote a post on the lack of affordable farmer's markets in her neck of the woods.  This got me thinking about how lucky we are to have a nice, affordable farmer's market right down the road from us.  It runs on Saturday mornings, 8am-12pm, from mid-July through mid-September and it takes place on our town green - which is only about a 5 minute walk from our house.  It's actually a nice way to kick off a relaxing weekend.  There are breakfast sandwiches made to order, music, vendors, and of course, the farmers.  There are usually three farmers present for fruits and veggies, plus a number of flower, honey and sometimes even fresh seafood vendors.

Not only is the market a great place to buy produce at reasonable prices, but I always find something new-to-me that I've never seen before.  This last Saturday brought purple bell peppers and a few different varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Purple and green bell peppers.
Heirloom tomatoes.
GIANT heirloom tomatoes.
We've been eating a large amount of produce lately, which is typical for us in the summer.  Veggies in the winter are just so "eh" to me and usually consist of frozen veggies or anemic offerings from the grocery store.  This produce, however, makes me WANT to eat my veggies.  Popping cherry tomatoes like candy.  Biting into a juicy plum.  It's all good.

There are some less-than-stellar options around here as well, don't get me wrong.  David stopped at a farm stand the other night and came home with very little produce after dropping a twenty.  And the blueberries were bland.  How do you mess up blueberries?  So, I think for now, we will stick with what we have right under our noses and enjoy the yumminess of the season until it's gone!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Quilt Odyssey 2015 - Part Three

The third and final post on our Quilt Odyssey trip will be about all of the fun activities we did while in Hershey, PA that were NOT quilting related.  I did drag David out there with me, we had to have some fun together.  

Chocolate World!
The first stop was Friday night after our adventure getting to Hershey.  We knew that Hershey’s Chocolate World was open until 11pm, so we figured we could squeeze in a few fun activities before the evening was up.  We were able to get tickets for a Taste Test, 4D movie and a Make Your Own Candy Bar that night and tickets for a Hershey Town Trolley Tour on Sunday morning.  Here are my thoughts on Friday’s activities:

Taste Test: Anything that gets you chocolate is A-OK in my book.  They gave us five chocolates to sample and taught you how to really taste and enjoy chocolate - similar to wine tasting.  It started off ok (despite some EXTREMELY annoying people sitting behind us).  Unfortunately, I thought what was a great experience was then quickly rushed.  Worth it, but could have been slowed down a bit.

Taste test wheel.
4D Movie: This was similar to A Bug’s Life or the Muppet Movie at Disney, except they used names from the audience.  A cute idea, but a bit hokey unless you have kids.  Sadly, this experience was ruined for us by some of the WORST behaved children I’ve ever seen with no effort on the parents part to correct it.  I get it, kids are hyper, but they shouldn’t be running around, stepping on peoples’ feet and screaming during a show.  :-(  They do give you a full sized candy bar at the end, so not all bad!

Make Your Own Candy Bar: This was my favorite paid activity on Friday.  You get suited up in these pretty horrible aprons, hairnets and BEARD nets (if you have a beard), pick your chocolate and three additions and watch your candy bar get created on the assembly line.  It was definitely a unique experience and you get a yummy candy bar in a custom tin at the end.  We also were behind the sweetest family (you could tell they genuinely liked each other and the parents had a great sense of humor), which makes things so much more fun.

Our lovely hair (and beard) nets.
My bar headed down the line.
Our custom bars!  Can you guess which one is mine?
Hershey Ride: This is a free attraction and is really nice for a freebie.  It was a ride similar to the Haunted Mansion at Disney where there are singing cows ala-Stew Leonard’s and an explanation of how chocolate is made, bean to store.  Plus, more chocolate handed out at the end.  This was one of my faves and it was free!

Chocolate World is really well done.  Large and colorful and something interesting everywhere you look.  The sheer amount of chocolate, candy and merchandise is impressive and while it promotes consumerism, you can’t help but get sucked in to at least looking around.  We were there late at night and let me tell you - the kids must have been on a MASSIVE sugar crash because everyone was cranky.  Our fault for going so late, but wow...I felt bad for the parents as I’m sure they were also kinda done for the day.

David found his Mecca.
Saturday after the convention, we headed to ZooAmerica, which is a small zoo attached to Hershey Park.  We didn’t have time to go to the park, but we did want to check out the zoo since you can do it in about an hour.  I’m really torn on zoos in general.  While I hate seeing animals in captivity, I think that responsible zoos do some amazing conservation, breeding and rehabilitation work.  Sadly, I don’t think ZooAmerica is that type.  Some of the exhibits were small and a few kinda run down and dirty.  We of course saw some really neat animals (the ocelot was my fave), but the semi-depressing scene along with our tired moods made for just a lukewarm experience.  Glad we did it, but we know not to do it again.

Sunday was yet another early morning.  We headed over to our 9:30 am Trolley Tour of the town of Hershey.  This was the first activity we did where we learned about Milton Hershey and it was also my favorite activity of the weekend (minus quilting).  The hour long tour takes to various sites that were vital to the Hershey story.  The highlight were the two tour guides on the trolley - one of which who plays the role of different people in Milton Hershey’s life.  A little cheesy, but cute and entertaining for sure!
The Hershey Homestead.
The next activity was heading out to a Flea Market that I had read about.  What a bust.  Tiny on a Sunday and all we bought were some (not antique) veggies. However, we did find a lovely and large antique barn on the way back to town. David and I both LOVE these! He collects albums and I'm always on the lookout for certain things: sewing notions, antique sewing machines, fabric, pyrex bowls and whatever other cutesy stuff strikes my fancy. We spent a good 2ish hours there. David picked up a small stack of albums, including a Deep Purple one he's been hunting for a while. I didn't get anything, but enjoyed looking. I did find this tiny, toy (working) antique Singer machine, but with a $50 price tag, I had to leave it there. Now that I know they exist, my eyes are peeled for a deal on one. How darling is this thing?!?!?!

Antique baby singer.  TOO CUTE!
Next up, and our last stop on the trip, was a visit to The Hershey Story.  This is a museum that focuses on Milton Hershey’s story.  There was so much to look at and so much to learn.  The one thing that struck me between the museum and the trolley tour was what an amazing man good ol’ Milty was.  He was a huge philanthropist - he left his fortune to the kids that attend his school and he pays for every single one’s college education!  But he also demanded perfection in everything he did.  The chocolate had to be perfect, the students had to be well-rounded and get good grades, etc.  He took a not-even-a-dot-on-the-map town and built an empire out of it, which ensuring a happy and solid way of life for the town and everyone he touched.  Really remarkable!

We had plans to stop at Amish Country on the way home.  I was SO looking forward to this not only because the Amish had always intrigued me (even with my sinner ways), but also because they have some fabric for sale.  :-)  I was about to look up times Saturday night when it hit me!  Amish = religious.  Religious = not open Sundays.  I was letdown.  My own stupid fault.  Now we just have another reason to head out there another time.

All in all, the trip was a whirlwind, but lots of fun with tons of stuff jam-packed in a short amount of time.  We were already making plans in case we head back to Quilt Odyssey again next year!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quilt Odyssey 2015 - Part Two

Now that you’ve read all about our adventures in arriving in Hershey, PA, I can tell you that we had a great time once we arrived!  “Part Two” of the story will focus on the Convention itself. This is a photo-heavy one - bare with me.

Another early morning for me.  David drove me the 20 minutes to Hershey Lodge and dropped me off (so he could have the car and not go insane with boredom that day).  I hit the sign in desk.  Surprise - I forgot my badge that was mailed to me a few weeks prior.  Remember how especially hair-brained I was this weekend?  The cost for this transgression?  $20.  Twenty less dollars I could spend on fabric and goodies.  Sad face.  Oh well.  I then headed down to my classroom.

I found my seat and got all setup.  The class I was taking was a quilt design called Buffalo Bubblegum, taught by Linda Hahn of Frog Hollow Designs.  The pattern included paper piecing and sewing curves - both of which I’ve been meaning to add to my quilting skills arsenal.  The whole quilt is built around the New York Beauty block, which is a standard quilting block that can be used in many different ways.  Linda promised it would be easy, didn’t require precision or perfection and we would become addicted - SOLD!  I also used the pattern as a change to purchase some fabric I've been coveting hardcord - the Grunge line by Basic Grey for Moda. I thought that line, along with a basic gray background, would make the pattern nice and modern. The Grunge line is just to DIE for - it's the best "read solid" line out there, in my opinion!

I won’t go into too much detail on the class, but I will say I enjoyed it for the most part.  I picked the technique up lickety-split and charged through a set of blocks.  You could chain piece these blocks (which I love) and let me tell you, the people who chain pieced got SO much farther than those that didn’t.  I cranked out four blocks before lunchtime.  Speaking of lunchtime - apparently you get 2 hours and the room has to be locked during that time - makes sense with all of those expensive machines in the room, but I wasn't expecting that.  This might be normal for an all-day session, but I was disappointed.  Rarely do I get a whole day to just sew and I wanted to crank through the quilt.  But, off to lunch I headed.

I ate at a restaurant in the Hershey Lodge.  It was a typical grill & bar type place.  Food was what it was, but I was hungry at that point.  I sat at the bar with a rum and coke, watching sports on the big screen (why wouldn’t they play something quilty considering nearly every person in there was from the quilting convention?).  I did sit next to the only two guys in the whole place - those poor dudes seem so confused and out of place - in a sports bar - lolz.  After lunch I headed up to the Vendor Marketplace.  At this point, I wasn’t too sad about the 2 hour lunch anymore because I would be able to fit my shopping in at lunch time and spend more time with David in the evening.  Let me tell you - I love visiting places with lots of vendors - The Big E, craft shows, antique and flea markets, etc - and this one didn’t disappoint!  Granted, again, most of the vendors had a very traditional slant to their products and wares for sale, but I found some yummy, more modern booths.  And let’s face it, many of the tools for quilting are used in both traditional and modern quilting.  Here is a look at some of the things that caught my eye:

Those animal quilts are so adorable!
Fat Quarters for as far as the eye can see!
Some tasty rainbow quilts, with a more modern feel.
Some gorgeous antique quilts!
A mermaid-green, sparkly longarm.  SWOON!
A cat quilting pattern done on a longarm machine.
I kept the purchases on the small side since this was a pricey weekend and the goodies for sale were definitely sold at a premium price.  They KNOW quilters will spend that much, so why not?  I like to be a bit more thrifty with my hobby when I can, so I just stuck with things I thought were reasonable or caught my eye.  The one thing I absolutely fell in LOVE with with this fabric with the GROUCHIEST cat on it - it reminded me so much of my fav kitty Pearlie.  I had to have it.  It’s from the “Ghastlie” line by De Leon Design Group for Alexander Henry Fabrics - and I think the cat is named Sebastian (squee!).  I think at some point I’ll invest in the whole line, because the prints were just too perfect (and a bit dark).  Here are my goodies from the Vendor Marketplace:

From top: pretty floral fabric that I'll use for baby dresses for my Etsy store, my cat fabric, bunny fabric, 3 nautical FQs for a quilt I'm planning (shimmery gold and green, lobsters and anchors), Retayne, Purple Thang, mini-seam ripper and a "surgical" seam ripper (which sounds like something Hannibal Lecter would have owned if he quilted).
This silly guy is my favorite from the cat fabric (sorry he's sideways).  TOTALLY looks like Pearlie.
After the break, I headed back down to my classroom.  I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed in the afternoon.  Again, this might all be normal at convention classes, but since I had some high expectations, I think I was a little let down.  The class picked up where it left off and I cranked through 2 more blocks.  That was good.  However, the teacher was pretty “salesy” with her items.  Now, I can’t blame the woman, I guess.  She does this for a living and she’s got to support her family.  But I just wasn’t in the mindset to spend - and if I was, there was a whole marketplace upstairs.  So I get it, but I wasn’t interested.  The other thing that was disappointing was that people just kinda left.  Only about an hour after we returned (3pm), people were heading out.  The class was supposed to go to 5pm.  I stayed until about 4pm, but then most people were going.  It just broke the mood at that point, so I packed up.

Here are some pictures from class:

The pattern
Messy workspace
In Progress
A finished New York Beauty block
I checked my gear into the “coat” check (which was holding sewing machines almost exclusively).  I headed back into the Marketplace and bought the bunny fabric above - I wanted it before, but the line was WAY too long at that point.  I then checked out the Quilt Show - some insanely amazing work there - just incredible.  The art quilts were my favorite - the amount of time and detail that goes into them is just awesome.  I like to crank out a quilt - I can’t imagine spending a year or more on one, so I can truly respect those who can.  I didn’t take pictures since it was unclear if you could.  The antique quilts were definitely a no-no for photography, but I wasn’t sure on the rest.  

By then David had picked me up - I had texted him and asked him to pick me up an hour early since I would clearly be done sooner than planned.  We headed out and hit the zoo and dinner.  We were tired after that.  It was 8pm.  Early for us night owls, but we were spent.  We lamely decided just to head back to the hotel and enjoy some cable (since we eschewed cable about a year and a half ago).  David wanted some more time to work on his blog and I wanted to sew some more, so while it probably seemed like pathetic night, it was relaxing and enjoyable for us.  Just what we needed after the hectic pace of life as of late.  Then bed and up again early the next day!

My progress from the day - 6 full blocks finished in class and the rest back at the hotel.
Even though I was a little disappointed with the afternoon, I would attend Quilt Odyssey again.  At least I would know what to expect.  And while not cheap, it is an affordable convention given the fact that we can drive and the classes aren't TOO pricey.  Maybe again next year!

Stay tuned for the 3rd and final installment of our mini-trip!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Quilt Odyssey 2015 - Part One

The Modern Quilting Community was all abuzz about a month ago when the sign ups for QuiltCon 2015 opened.  People were facing long “wait times” online to sign-up, not getting into classes they wanted and battling for volunteer hours.  Me?  I was reading along, feeling a tab bit sorry for myself that I would not be attending.  Quiltcon 2015 is in Austin, TX in February.  While I could probably have attended had it been a “not able to live without” type thing, I just couldn’t see spending the money on it right now.  We need new front steps, we need a new garage door, hubby and I want to take a trip this fall, etc.  And while he’s super supportive of my quilting addiction, I think spending ALL of our disposable income for the year on the trip, classes and supplies might be a bit beyond his patience point.  And I’d honestly rather take a trip with him this year anyway.  So QuiltCon gets added to my bucket list - I WILL get there one day!

Around the same time that I was feeling a bit jealous, Gail from my quilt guild (Southern CT Modern Quilt Guild) posted about Quilt Odyssey on our Facebook page.  I was intrigued and clicked to learn more.  It was being held in July 24-27 in Hershey, PA. which is a reasonable car ride away, versus a plane ride.  This convention has a definite traditional slant to it, however I noticed that a few classes/patterns could be adapted to a more modern feel - and there was a spot open in one of those classes!  Hubby and I quickly scrambled at our respective jobs to see if we could make a day off happen on short-ish notice.  While it was not the ideal time (work is super hectic for me right now and David is basically always busy), we managed to secure Friday July 25th off, plus David wasn’t on call that weekend.  So I cashed in some Marriott free nights, bought my ticket and signed up.  

I’m going to post about our whirlwind weekend getaway in three parts.  First up: Getting there.

We headed up early the morning of Friday the 25th.  Anyone who even remotely knows me knows for a fact that I am the LEAST morning person on the planet.  Ask me to stay up until 4 am - sure, no problem.  But get up early?  Ugh.  No thanks.  However, I knew we only had three short days to cram a whole bunch of “stuff” into our short trip, so I begrudgingly got up at 5:30 am and we hit the road.

We decided to make some stops on the way there and on the way home Sunday.  I have planned this all out when I booked the trip, but apparently didn’t write it down or bookmark the sites of where we wanted to visit...geez.  So I whipped something together quickly on the way.  We headed to the Pioneer Tunnel Coal Mine & Steam Train in Ashland, PA.  What a cool place!  We rode an ORIGINAL Steam Train, which is one of only two of its kind in operation anywhere in the world today.  The extremely bumpy ride (that’s what original axles and wheels will do) took us to an old strip mine where we learned about the process.  We also learned about neighboring Centralia which is a town that STILL has a fire burning underneath the town after a garbage pit was lit on fire in the early 60s - which caught the underground coal on fire.  The population of the town is only around 6 people today who refuse to move (despite a generous government buy-out offering) because then they would lose the rights to millions of dollars worth of coal under the town.  Sadly, we didn’t get to go over there - explanation in a bit - but a cool story.   

Beautiful Views!

Bad Selfie on the Train

Really awesome antique mining train

After the train ride, we took a ride on a coal mine cart into an old anthracite coal mine.  This was my favorite part.  It was a cold, damp ride, but once you got into the mine, there was a lot of neat things to see.  Plus, there were some really nice college aged kids on our cart that made the ride extra fun.  We saw how the coal was mined and transported and got to experience the extreme working conditions of the mine.  Did you know that mules in the mines were given better medical care than the human workers?  I mean, mules are much better than people, so this makes sense to me.  :-) 

After our visit, we hopped into the car and I plugged Hershey, PA into the GPS.  Um….uh…whoops?  I made a boo-boo.  We had been driving for over 3 hours already…and Hershey was still over 4 hours away.  Just to let you know - Hershey is only 4 hours from where we live.  At that point, I vaguely remembered thinking the Coal Mine seemed cool, BUT it was too far off of our trajectory.  Whelp, when I was rushing through things, I must have forgotten that and set us on the huge detour.  Crap.  So, we decided we didn’t have time to visit Centralia since we wanted to arrive at Hershey before midnight!

The drive was actually really nice through some foothills and mountains and we enjoyed it as much as we could while being a bit annoyed.  On the way, I called Quilt Odyssey because I wanted to get a ticket for their Game Night that evening and go with Gail.  Sadly the tickets were sold out, so no fabric/quilting related prizes for me.  I’ll make sure to sign up for that earlier if I go back next year.

When we arrived, we did some of the activities offered at Chocolate World - more on that in my “Part Three” post.  We finished around 11 pm and plugged the address in for the hotel.  This is where it gets embarrassing.  You are going to think I’m nuts.  I’m not always this hair-brained, I promise.  The hotel we booked was THREE.  HOURS.  AWAY.  There was just no way.  Not only were we tired, but we then wouldn’t be near Hershey and I had to be at my quilting class early on Saturday.  So i quickly logged online (thanks to our new Chromebook that came with free lifetime data plan) and found a Marriott 15 miles away that had a vacancy.  I figured we’d have to pay for the old hotel, plus the new and I’d have to forfeit my free night we used.  I called Marriott though in the chance they could help.  Being a loyal Marriott member worked in my favor - the lovely woman that helped us transferred my free night and made sure we didn’t pay a penny extra.  Megan - if you are out there - you are my lifesaver!  When it was sorted out she said, “Just make sure you will stay there as unfortunately I cannot transfer it again.”  Whelp - we were sitting in the parking lot of the hotel at that point - so no worries!

I’m usually a low-level mess at most times.  Pretty clutsy.  But this was a lovely bundle of forgetfulness.  Nothing earth-shattering, but geez!  I have been stupidly, insanely busy at work lately and I think the stress of working every night until 9pm or later messed with my mind!  The weekend away was just what I needed to recharge and that’s just what it did.  

Check back in for the “Part Two” of our Hershey adventure.