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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Wednesday Wellness - Going to the Gym

I've taken karate.  I understand the function of a loud, strong "Ai-ya!"  It promotes breathing from the diaphragm and adds power to your move.  But what I sometimes hear at the gym is  more akin to the picture above. 
I've learned to wear ear buds, rather than listen to the testosterone-fueled vocalizations of young males.  But I do find it intriguing that older males don't make half as much noise - even when lifting just as much weight! :)
You'll see other funny things now and then.  Such as a woman on the exercise bike, watching Oprah, barely pedaling, and eating Doritos one after another - chip bag stuffed into the water bottle holder.  She apparently doesn't get thirsty!
Its also good to have a sense of humor about our own diet/exercise idiosynchrasies!  Heaven knows there are enough ways to get off track.  But a good sense of humor makes it easier to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get back on that horse. 
The following story offers some entertaining tips for doing just that.  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

1000 Words Art Quilt Show

In honor of the play 1000 Words, the Madison (WI) quilt guild put together this collection of mini quilts - each depicting an image that would (presumably) take one thousand words to convey.   Pictured here are the quilts that "spoke" to me, though there were more to be seen.  I was able to get the title and credits in every picture, so if you click on it you can see for yourself who made it and what they called it.
I love the girl blowing a great big bubble gum bubble!
This one appealed to my immigrant roots.  I am the third generation to be born in this country, but my great grandparents' journeys have been told to me over and over.  This reminds me of my own family history.

I love the inner and outer borders!
Part of the story 1000 Words takes place during the Great Dust Bowl in Kansas. 
What a powerful depiction.

Here's an original idea!
Very bright and colorful!
These words are near and dear to any quilter's heart.
Hey!  THAT'S not a quilt! 

We were at the Madison Overture Center for two reasons, to see a performance by the Blue Man Group and to check out the quilt display.  The performers came out to the lobby and posed for pictures (for free, I might add) with assorted fans.  I couldn't resist throwing this picture in for fun.  :)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Horicon Marsh, Jan. 2012

The quest to see a snowy owl continues, and so we visited Horicon Marsh, near Horicon, WI.  Not only does the marsh serve as a national wildlife refuge, it's the largest marsh refuge in the country.  It's well known for its astounding water fowl population during fall migration, but there is much, much more to the marsh.  I hope to visit it in various seasons and report back later in the year. 

Much to my surprise and delight,
displayed at the main visitor center we saw Flying Geese:
I was torn between doing some stitching today - and spending time outside enjoying this mild winter and the avian visitors Wisconsin will host for a few short months.  So the quilt made me feel at home!  There was also a fiber art display - this one depicting an underwater scene:
The main visitor center has classrooms and an auditorium. 
In that area we saw this fascinating display:

I've seen deer in the wild, or stuffed and mounted on a wall, but never quite like this!  The story of how they were found with horns locked is quite amazing.

Sadly, after several hours of hiking in 26 degree weather with a strong, cold wind, we saw precious little wild life.  Even where there was open water, we saw a single chick-a-dee and nothing else.  No water fowl, and certainly no snowy owls to hunt fish or small ducks. 

Here is my only snowy owl siting to date:
He was spotted at the gift shop, and will look quite lovely on my Christmas tree next year.  If I haven't spotted a snowy owl by then, he'll remind me to keep my eyes peeled for a siting next winter.  :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January FMQ Challenge Entry

I've been practicing heart shaped leaves for a while.  It was getting a bit dull, so I hopped on over to Sew Cal Gal's site to see what other FMQ quilters have been up to.  Wow - lots of great ideas to be found there!  The sample above, shows some lilac stitching against some lovely hydrangeas.  Pretty, yes, but it's a little timid, isn't it?
Next, I tried different colored threads against some Kaffe Fassett scraps.  Some of the contrasting colors didn't come out well at all.   So I reverted to my usual (a.k.a. boring) similar colored thread and fabric.  Historically, I've done this to hide my FMQ mistakes.  Problem is, when you do something fantastic, that doesn't snow up either.
So I threw caution to the wind, and used some bright, bold colors against a pure white background.  It's easy to do this on a quilt sandwich.  I still get a little nervous about doing it on an actual quilt into which I put a lot of time, materials and tender loving care. 

THAT's why I need to practice, practice, practice.  I want to be able to use bold, colorful thread to create beautiful images to enhance my quilts.  One year from now, I hope to look back at my FMQ and see how far I've come!  :)

Wednesday Wellness - Food Cravings

What's your number one craving? 
Mine is Dove dark chocolate, followed closely by dark chocolate M&Ms. 

I even bought chocolate swirled fabric and made a chocolate-themed table runner a couple Februaries ago...
Giving in to cravings has gotten me into trouble with the scale though.  I actually feel my best when I stay away from sweets altogether, so I've been retraining my appetite - and that means conquering cravings!

Contrary to popular belief, we don't necessarily crave foods that contain nutrients we lack.  Generally, we crave foods that contain very few nutrients and just plain taste good!  We have to break the habit of reaching for a certain food at a certain time and place.  For instance, when I'm just working at my desk, my mind wanders to food.  But I could eat the very same breakfast, and have a morning full of meetings and suddenly discover its after lunch time and I'm just feeling hungry now.  Take away my usual routine and cues, and the cravings disappear. 

The following story gives a great overview of how we train ourselves to crave and eat certain foods, and how to go about retraining ourselves NOT to reach for our usual snack.    Great advice as we reach the point where New Year's resolutions are beginning to look less and less attractive.  :) 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The quest to spot a Snowy Owl continues. Many of the Wisconsin sitings occured along the Lake Michigan shore.  Seems an unlikely place for an owl, but we decided to take a jaunt along the lake shore just the same.  No Snowies spotted yesterday, but I added 4 new birds to my life list:
Common Golden Eye,

Barrow's Golden Eye,

Red Breasted Merganser (a punk rock duck!),

and the coolest of all - the Hooded Merganser. 

Mr. & Mrs. Hooded Merganser were fun to watch.  They spend a fair amount of time diving for food, and they don't pop back up where they went under.  They were unphazed by the icy water.  It made me cold, just watching!

Unlike many other birds, we had the opportunity to look at all of these birds a good long time, thumb through the field guide, locate marks that differentiate one type of bird from other similar birds.  What a luxury!  Song birds so often take flight before you can do all that is needed to make a positive identification.  This being Sweetie's first real birding expedition, it was an ideal way to learn how to make a proper identification.

We also spotted Greater and Lesser Canada Geese.  I suspect there were other species mixed in, but we were losing daylight so it became hard to see markings.  That will be a challenge for another day!  :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Birding, In Wisconsin, In the Winter

You know,  I LOVE birds. I love to hear them sing. I enjoy waking up to their pre-dawn chorus. But THIS morning I was serenaded from 4-4:30 AM by a Great Grey Owl - the biggest, loudest owl to grace our state.  This is what I heard: Song #1

He was just outside by bedroom window - having a loud conversation with a neighbor owl.   As I dozed and listened in my toasty warm bed, I thought "OMG - Its BELOW ZERO out there!  Are they nuts???" 

Thanks to this early wake up call, at the end of the day I am utterly exhausted.   So guess what I'm going to do tomorrow?  My Sweetie and I are going to go looking for Snowy Owls!  
Over 100 of them have been spotted around Wisconsin - with many sightings along Lake Michigan.   They're often seen on the ground, on hay mounds, fence posts and sign posts.  One was even spotted on a busy street in Cudahay, a Milwaukee suburb where my mother grew up.  Cudahay is also home to General Mitchell Field International Airport - so its not the quietest place.

The Snowy Owl's usual range is the Arctic tundra.  Think Canada, Alaska, Eurasia.  Only during an irruption are they seen outside this range.  They will travel as far as Russia and the Gulf States of the US in the search for food.  If arctic breeding conditions are good, come winter the younger birds are unable to compete with the bigger, stronger birds for food.  So the young ones range far and wide.  THIS is one of those winters.  So keep your eyes peeled.  They are active by day, are 24" tall and have a wingspan of 52".  Females are larger than males, and more heavily barred.  Only males are pure white.

So tomorrow, out we'll go - into the cold.  I can hear what you're thinking, "OMG -   Are they nuts???"   I'd say that's a definite maybe! :)

For more info on Snowy Owls in Wisconsin, the US and Canada see:

For the Madison, WI area:

For Milwaukee, WI area:

For the US and Canada:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Let the FMQ Begin!

Practice Sandwich 1 - I learned not to get too close to the borders because you'll lose your grip/control of the sandwich.
No. 2 - I'm much better at following a pre-drawn line than quilting freehand.  Purple ink shows areas I missed.
No. 3 - Not too bad.  Individual leaves are more symmetrical.  Again, I traced a line drawn with dissappearing ink.
No. 4 - Tried working on a smaller scale, in a defined shape.  Needs work!
No. 5 - I kinda like this one.  May expand it to make a symmetrical square shape.  Had fun varying the thread color.
Doodles - When you run out of quilt sandwiches, paper and pen can help commit the motion to memory.  On the left I added curliques to help me move from one place to another.  On the right I did it the way we're "supposed" to per the tutorial. :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

No Reply Bloggers

Sew Cal Gal recently ran a helpful and informative post about No-Reply Bloggers.  

I was once a No-Reply blogger - but had no idea.  If you don't get responses to your comments, you may need to review your settings.  Sew Cal Gal can tell you how:

Thanks a BUNCH Sew Cal Gal, for reminding us to check our settings now and then, and sharing how to fix them if needed!!!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Shamrocks are Done

Finished my applique shamrocks this week. 
Each shamrock square will be trimmed and pieced to make up the alternate blocks.
I took my shamrocks to a crafter's breakfast this morning.  Often my sewing is a solitary affair.  How nice to remove the stabilizer while visiting with friends.  My shamrocks will have to wait a bit now.
 2012 FMQ Challenge Badge copy
I'm bringing my FMQ challenge to the front burner this weekend.  This month's challenge is heart-shaped ivy leaves.  I'm glad its a pattern I've done before.  I don't do it often enough, so I get "rusty" between projects.  Hopefully the challenge will motivate me to practice all year long.  I hope to be more confident and relaxed with FMQ.  Stay tuned for further details.  :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Books

Yesterday the weatherman was calling for snow, and LOTS of it, so I zipped out to pick up the books I'd ordered.  If you can't tell by the book, and the dog quilt it's resting on...we kinda like dogs.  
I've wanted to do a pet portrait of my dog for several years, but haven't been able to find a class for it.  Dottie is half black lab and half beagle and has unusual markings that  evoke compliments and inquiries from passersby.  I want to capture those markings in a quilt.

The other book is not dog- or quilt-related.  I heard about it on the radio, and thought I should get educated on Twitter and other media.  I'm not a natural when it comes to technology, but this book is supposed to be helpful in getting one's message out - whatever that message may be.
I was prepared to hunker down with my books.  I dared Mother Nature to do her worst.  Hoping for a snow day, I snapped this picture before bed.  When my trusty alarm clock went off at 5:30 AM, I opened my eyes, thought, "SNOW DAY!!!!",  threw off the covers and rushed to the window....only to see the same green grass I saw the night before.  Curses!  Foiled again!
I wasn't entirely dissappointed though.  It began to snow as I was getting ready for work.   In fact, I was almost late because Dottie loves snow and didn't want to come inside.  It snowed all day, and it's still coming down.  This weekend I hope to hibernate with my books.  Now that Old Man Winter woke up from his nap, I don't think the snow will be going anywhere for a loooong time now.  :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Play, Antique Quilts & (New) Quilt Raffle

A play featuring antique quilts is coming to Madison! 
A Thousand Words will be at the Forward Theater from Jan. 19 - Feb. 4, 2012.  
In conjunction with the play, traditional quilts will be on display
at the Wisconsin Historical Museum thru Jan. 14th.
  AND, a beautiful (new) 1930s style quilt, called Granny's Stars
will be raffled off when the play completes its run.
The quilt is currently on display at the Stitcher's Crossing.  So check it out!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Challenges for 2012

I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but the thought of a challenge intrigues me. Maybe its semantics, but the word challenge seems kinder, gentler, and willing to allow for a deviation (or two) along the way.  Since we often have competing priorities for how we spend our time, that flexibility appeals to my practical side.

 2012 FMQ Challenge Badge copy

I've been wanting to improve my FMQ skills, and the chance to win a prize each month just for practicing seemed too good to pass up. Maybe you'll join me in Sew Cal Gal's challenge?

My current project involves 1" squares.  Believe it or not, I'm really enjoying it.  I've toyed with the idea of doing a postage stamp quilt, and wouldn't you know, there's a challenge for that too!

The Curious Quilter hosts the Postage Stamp Quilt 2012 Charm Swap & Challenge

I've done a little research on postage stamp quilts, and there are several definitions.  Some say EVERY square must be unique - which clearly ain't  gonna happen by my hand.  Squares can be as small as 1", but no bigger than 2.5" in size.  Some quilts show layouts such as Trip Around the World or sections devoted to one color.  I saw one at the WI Quilt Expo in 2010 that blew my mind.  It was done like a mosaic, and was based on a counted cross stitch pattern, and showed two children walking, closely followed by a guardian angel.  The angel's wings were about 8' high.  It looked so real it gave me chills!

But I digress....It would probably help if I settled on one design...but there are so very many options.  I hope to generate some designs in EQ6 - assuming it can handle 1" squares!
Its a new year, and there are new skills to be acquired.  Feel free to join the fun!  :)