Thursday, June 30, 2011

Circle of Friends

Well, back to the Diary Quilt. The next block up as I take you through my life story is a block dedicated to the little town we lived in just before moving to Brazil.

We had moved far away from home, a whole hour & a half drive from our next nearest relative!, and we felt a bit alone and lonely. It was hard being so far from family.

....I will  pause here for the laughter which must surely ensue, knowing that I now live a 10 hour *flight* away from my family.......

So, now that you are done laughing, it was a  hard time to live away from family. I was pregnant with The Adventurer when we moved, which meant I had to change doctors, deliver in a hospital with no NICU, and we would not have nearby childcare for the two older boys when the time came for me to deliver the little one. What were we thinking???

Oh, right; a job. A very good job, with a small little company, where The Chemist got to do more of what he loved and work for people who valued him, rather than being a grunt worker at a very large company with a boss who tended to credit the female co-workers for anything good and blame the guys for anything that went wrong. Yea, we pretty much wanted out of that work environment, so we moved.

We moved out of the first house we'd bought, we moved away from family, we moved away from the beach, we moved away from the town we'd both grown up in and lived our whole lives near (excepting college). It was a big, big step for us. And a little bit scary.  (yes, you can laugh again.....)

So. We arrived in this small town, population 10,000. In the middle of nowhere. Farm country, ya know? Nothing but corn and cotton everywhere we looked.

We rented a tiny little house, with the most wonderful landlady ever. The house was inexpensive enough that we could pay rent while waiting to sell our house "back home" and was just big enough that we all fit. Barely. But the yard.....we had a double lot, which was heavenly. We had an empty oversized lot next door, and the boys made it their own. We had, for the first time, Space. Not inside, but since we are outside people anyway, this was awesome. Thus the bugs I mentioned in an earlier post, and the stray dogs and cats that adopted us.

But I'm getting sidetracked. The block is not called "big giant yard around a tiny house" it is called Circle of Friends, which sort of implies I'll tell you about those people who make up that circle.

Circle of Friends
pink for me, red for The Chemist and the town
green for Momma 3M, my best friend there
and roses for the friends I kept with me when I moved

The first person who must be mentioned is Sandy, the land lady. She loved us like family. She was the first person to welcome us to that little town, and she really loved on us. She brought us fresh veggies from her garden and her friends' gardens. She made a fabric covered photo album for The Adventurer. She brought over sacks of halloween candy each year, and Christmas cookies, and Easter candy, every year. When we moved out and I showed her the wall where we'd been marking how tall everyone was, but hadn't had time to paint over, she cried at how much everyone had grown in the three years we spent in her house and offered to help me transfer the marks to paper so we could take it with us. She was amazing, and just the thing we needed when we first arrived in town.

The second person is really a group. We found a little church to attend, almost right away. We moved in at the start of October, and found this church probably in November. I was put on bed rest in December or so, and having only attended church there for not quite two months the ladies rallied around and set up a meal schedule. For my entire time on bedrest, people from church brought us meals, 3 times a week, each one with enough food to last us a few days. We were blown away. We had come from big churches and had never been on the receiving end of that. Ever. It was amazing. I have rarely felt as loved on as I did in those months.  This love and care only continued through the seven weeks that The Adventurer spent in the NICU in The Big City where he had to be taken after his early arrival, and even still after we got him home.  I don't know how we would have gotten through that time without the folks at First Christian Church.

Still, while all these people loved us and we loved them, we hadn't yet at that point made any true friends. Wonderful acquaintances, people we'd forever be grateful to, but not anyone that I could chat with on the phone, or share stories with, or get lost talking to, no good girlfriend for those girlfriend kinds of chats, at least no one local at that point.

Until we met the 3M family. Through an acquaintance of mine, we were introduced to a few other homeschoolers in the area, and they and we decided to start a park day/homeschool support group. One of the moms from that group instantly struck a chord with me, and I with her, and we've been friends ever since. She told me recently that at our very first meeting, me wandering around a Mexican food restaurant with a tiny Adventurer in tow, she felt an instant connection which mirrored my own. Our friendship has only grown over the years I've now been in Brazil, which is perhaps the best testament to friendship one can make. Anyone who's ever moved far from loved ones knows what a litmus test time and distance are for these things. Some friendships fade away, some die quickly, some stagnate a bit, but the best kind continue on even in the face of obstacles such as multiple time zones, new countries, new languages, and once a year visits face to face. This friendship, with Momma 3M, is one of those, and I am so glad.

One final thought: this block is not just about the friends that I made, but the friendships our family made. My boys and the 3M gang fast became the best of friends, and that friendship too has grown and lasted through the challenges of time and space. So even though this is my life story, I can't mention their mom without mentioning them. The joy a momma feels when her children make true friends, it's something worth talking about. It's worth cherishing, and worth sewing into a quilt square.

Of course I remembered old friends in this block, too; the rose floral that makes the corners is meant to represent the garden of friends I took with me to that small town, and who stay with me even now. That's the beauty of this block, that it is truly about the beauty of friendship, wherever and whenever one finds it.

To all my dear friends, thank you for being you. Most especially in this case to Momma 3M (who I hope likes her newly invented blog nickname....), and to all the folks in that small town, that once upon a time seemed so very far from home.

Have you a lasting friendship? Have you told that person lately what they mean to you? I hope you will; it's such a good thing to hear.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Red, White & Blue...again.....

Phase Two is complete!!

laid out on the love seat
this part is 37" square, more or less.
It was supposed to be 40.5" square. Oops. 

Over the weekend I managed to join all 16 individual blocks into one 4 x 4 (that's four block x four block) quilt top. Now it's just waiting for borders, which have been started.

draped over the reading chair, which I think gives a better idea of size/scale
Will the border be pieced by 4th of July????? Personally I think that's a bit ambitious and I am not going to drive myself hard to get it done by then. But we'll see! Maybe I'll have a fourth by the fourth!

In other news, I also sewed a button hole for a small project I did yesterday. I can't show the full thing, because the recipient hasn't seen it yet, but here's the button hole.
button hole. hand cut. hand sewn.
with regular needle and black thread, no special tools.
No Project Runway was watched during the stitching of the button hole.
and, it's prettier in focus....

I'm kinda proud of that little detail! My first ever button hole, and I think I did okay!

Anything you are especially proud of today, big or small? Tell me about it! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Red, White & Blue....

Just about a year ago, or a little less than actually, I started a brand new (to me)  hobby: Quilt making.

Today, I'm finally finished with Phase One of my first real project -- my red, white & blue.

A year ago, there was this.
starting bits of fabric, and pattern Mosaic Star from Painted Pony 'n Quilts

Which turned into this.

the first block I did

And since then I've made 7 more just like that, and 8 more in the same style but red & navy.

And last night I laid them all out like this....

all 16 blocks, laid out in the mosaic star pattern, waiting to be sewn together
....which is the shape they'll take as I sew all those blocks together.

Sixteen 10" Log Cabin blocks, sewn together until they form one generous lap sized Mosaic Star quilt top.

Sewing them together, Phase Two, starts today. After that, there are borders to be added. That will be a finished quilt top. I get chills just thinking about it.

Then I'll sandwich in a batting and backing and baste and -gasp!- start quilting. This one is small enough that I should be okay doing this by hand, in a hoop thing to keep the fabric taut.

I'm excited to have this much done, and looking forward to finishing it up. If, in my eagerness to sew I forget to blog, well, bear with me a bit. I'll be back, I promise. But right now, I have some sewing to do.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ocean Waves: of beach trips and so much more...

As I continue taking you through my Diary Quilt, we reach the Ocean Waves block.

Ocean Waves block

This block was created with so many memories in mind that it's next to impossible to share them all.

From a childhood spent on the water, my sister and I laughing, chasing, frolicking, splashing in the waves. Swimming together in the canal that fronted our aunt's home; climbing up and down the seawall that kept our grandma's home safe from the bay; scampering up and over rocks, crabbing with pantyhose & chicken, or later, crab cages & chicken. Eating those yummy crabs with  melted butter in Grandma's living room, cooked by our aunt, chef extraordinaire.

Teen years brought boating adventures, knee boarding and trying skis -- if I remember correctly, Penny managed the skis, though I never did. We all managed the knee board, though; Penny & I and our cousin, Christy. And took turns being pulled on a raft, and watching and laughing at the others when it wasn't our turn.

Those were some fun times, and the seeds of a love for the ocean that is rooted deep in my soul. Perhaps the very reason that so many of my special, favorite memories are beach trips; because I was introduced to the joy of the beach at such a young age, and so consistently through the years, it's forever remained a favorite location for me. Not any one beach in particular, but the beach in general. Give me ocean waves over mountain tops any day, though I love the mountans, too.

Summers when the boys were young, we'd pack up on an afternoon, The Chemist would come home from work a bit early (having gone in early to compensate), and we'd load up and head to the beach for the evening. Even the quite ugly beach we lived nearest looked beautiful at sunset, and during the week the place was nearly deserted.

me, and our first golden, Zoey-girl

a much much younger Writer

and an equally younger Artist

back when I only had 2 boys....

...and later, with a much younger Adventurer....

all my boys watching the moonrise and sunset

Later on, when it was time to say goodbye to friends and family before we moved to Brazil, we took them to the beach. Where else? The beach is the perfect setting for any trip that might become emotional.

the boys, on our farewell trip, with their Yabia (aka, The Chemist's mom)
Several times we spent at the beach with my dearest friend, my college roommate and her kids. Living hours apart, we started spending spring break together - sometimes camping but more often meeting at the beach. There is nothing quite like watching each others' children romp around, together, best of friends despite homes 6 hours apart (back then), and the delight they all took in the sand and the surf. Of watching her delight, as she had never lived near the surf in all her life.

the Chemist

me, watching my boys and her boy & girl, in pre-Adventurer days

me and my best girl, on loan for a moment 

the gang, building sand castles together

a way too dark, but great for the  memories photo of me, my best girl, her momma my dearest friend, and the Chemist looking on

bunk beds!!

crazy "cousins", post-Adventurer....


When we came home to visit the first or second time, we stayed part of the time at the beach. My sister brought her kids to stay with us, and there we all were, our family of five, her family of six + a teen girl & her baby that they were helping out for a while, and part of the time our mom was there, too. Again, the joy of watching cousins, separated by far too many miles, yet buddies in an instant. Of laughing as both our husbands struggled to get the fireplace to light and stay lit. Of playing games, and watching movies, and cooking on the ridiculous pans that were stocked in the place. Not to mention the humor of kids in jeans and winter coats, walking the sandy shore. What can I say, it was December....

my oldest niece

some of the cousins

and more cousins, with  my sister :)

the Writer and his cousin, the littlest girl

the middle girl and my middle boy, warming up by the fire

goofing off
And now, here, in Brazil, whenever we need family time, and relaxation, and rejuvenating, and to be recharged and ready to face another six months of living here, where do we head? Where else but the coast.


The beach, the beach, the beach. The ocean waves, carrying upon their crests the memories dearest to my heart and soul. Forever and forever the beach will be the conveyor of all my favorite, most cherished memories. 

What sort of landscape or setting most speaks to your heart and soul? Are you a beach lover? Mountain lover? Rivers and woods? 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Books: The Diary Quilt Wouldn't be Complete Without Them....

What do you think -- add titles to the books, or leave them blank?
I love books.

I teach my boys at home. With books.

I've been reading since I was four, and have rarely been without a book since.

When we moved to Brazil, one-third of the boxes we packed and shipped over contained books, and that was the barest of the bare essentials; we did, painful as it was for me, leave some behind. Even gave some away.

I read on a Kindle now, but anything I already own in paper form is staying. I still read those, too.

This block is about all of that. About me, about reading, about my passion for reading. About teaching my boys, using books. Real books. Books they read over and over and over again.

It's a tribute to the many people in my life who helped me fall in love with reading. A tribute to the literature rich curriculum we use in our home school. A tribute to the years of bonding over books that I have had, will have, with my boys.  A tribute to the friends, real life & on-line, who've helped me along the way, encouraging me in my teaching endeavors. It's a tribute, most of all, to the single thing I love most in this world (as far as objects go): Books.  

To all the friends, characters in print, who filled my teenage years.

To good and untame lions and a world on the other side of a wardrobe door.

To Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern.

To a wise lawyer, raising his tomboy girl & football loving son, teaching them to climb inside someone's skin....or stand on his front porch....and see the world through someone else's eyes.

To a tight-knit band of teenage boys, fighting against society, who taught me what being Golden is all about and then made me cry like never before when a gallant young man was shot beneath a street light.

To a Bulldog and his Prince, now out of print and my copy ruined, who endured much at the hands of a boarding school headmaster who was a little bit "off," yet who found true friendship in each other.

To a young college graduate, who died too young but taught me that love means not having to say you're sorry. Because you're forgiven before the words leave your lips.

To the friends I didn't make until later.

To a very unordinary boy who grows from 11 to 18, learning what it means to do the right thing, to believe in something and to stand for something bigger than yourself.

To a very unordinary grown-up man who died protecting the boy he hated just because he loved the boy's mom. Always.

To Pooh, with no shirt, and Piglet in green, and saying goodbye to Christopher Robin, the most poignant goodbye in literature if you ask me.

To a little Chinese immigrant to the United States, who learns baseball and how to mimic cartoon characters and how to make her American classmates laugh, and who helped me help  my boys learn to live in Brazil.

To a real life mariner who lived a heartbreaking life and made me cry buckets. 

To the Austin family and Charles Wallace and Meg and adventures that moved me way beyond.

To a clockwork man, and the boy who built him, who was introduced to me by my oldest son, a friend that he discovered on his own.

To elves and dwarfs and hobbits and men, who together journey an impossible journey to destroy the greatest evil they've ever known, and to my Chemist who first made me read of their tales.

To so many more, old friends, new friends, yet to come friends. Because nothing's better than books. 

What is your favorite book? And how many of mine do you recognize? And, most pressing, should I embroider titles on the books in the block, or leave them blank.......and if I should, how on earth do I narrow it to six books?? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Pets Tribute: the animals we've loved before....

Quick notice: I've had to revert to my old blogspot address for the time being while Blogger either does, or does not, sort out the issues with my custom domain. I think this will still go out to all your feeds, readers, etc. -- if you see this and are able to do so, please shoot me an email or comment here so I know it's working. Email is musingsonthemove AT gmail DOT com. Thanks so much!

Now, today's post.....Pets. 

One can't really have kids, or at least not boys, without also having a parade of animals come through the house. Over the years, we've had all the traditional pets -- cats, dogs, birds, fish, guinea pigs -- and some non traditional pets as well -- snakes, frogs, insects, snails; all found in the yard, captured, deposited into bug cages kept around just for this purpose, and loved on/watched for days or weeks or months, depending on the life span of the animal in question and Mom's Tolerance Level for said critters. The tarantula, for instance, only lasted a day and a half. The tree frog was allowed to stay much longer.

Because our menagerie has included many beloved animals, most of which we no longer have, and has been a trademark of sorts about Life With Boys, I couldn't make my diary quilt without some slight nod to these furry (or not) loved ones.

The block itself is not my favorite; I found a printed fabric and made a scrappy patchwork from it. I think I need to redo it and add some element that ties it in to the rest of the quilt, but for now, it stays like this.

Pets: The Block
tribute to the dogs, cats, birds, and other pets we've had  over the years

And here are a few pictures of some of the animals that we're paying tribute to. Once I add the setting triangles to frame out the block and turn it on point, I'll embroider their names into the surrounding fabric. I'm just not that far along yet.

Canela then...

...and Canela now.

"magrinho" - a stray siamese who the boys loved but was never officially ours
Lia and her newborn kitties
Lia was the Artist's cat; she ran away after we gave away her kittens

Pipa, one of Lia's kittens

Ponkan & Padrao, 2 more of Lia's kittens

Galinha, the last cat to leave our house when the neighbors got crazy.
the Artist's favorite, and the only one of Lia's kittens that we kept

the current crop of birds

Praia, our first Brazil cat, part Siamese.
she ran away after Lia had her kittens.
an old picture of the guinea pigs - Polly (the big one) and Millie (who is now as big as Polly)

Nickel, a stray we had in the US; she adopted us after she had kittens and hid them in our garage
Nickel's three kittens
we kept them and socialized them until time for them to be re-homed
we gave them away at our Moving to Brazil garage sale
There are other pets in there that I don't have pictures of, not in this computer. Zoey-girl, our first dog, a golden retriever/lab mix.  Poochie, a cute stray pup who adopted The Adventurer as his very own boy. Houdini & Nightingale, the first cats we had for any actual length of time. The birds and fish we had before, and the many many insects and critters.  All were dearly loved, for however long (or short) we had them.

Have you had, or do you have pets? What sorts? What's your favorite type of pet? 

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Three Sons, in Fabric

If you've been following along, you are likely not surprised in the least that this blog post is about the three other men in my life, the little (and not so little) boys who once upon a time grew inside of me and now make my life so much the richer by growing in my home (but  not in me anymore, thank goodness!). 

Very very very early on, I gave them nicknames of sorts. Not something we call them, as in, "Hey, Moonbeam, come here!" but a symbol of who they each are. Each one of them knows this, intimately, and they all will often sign cards with their symbol rather than actual name.

A moon, a sun, a star. My three sons. Depicted now in fabric (and before in my tattoo).

A steadfast, ever present, trustworthy beyond all rhyme & reason boy; my firstborn, my moonbeam.

Moon in the Window
pattern created via a freehand paper template I made
center is pieced; outside is pieced;
center is then appliqued to the outside, because I could not for the life of me figure out how to piece the curves....

A bright, cheerful, giver of life, chaser-away of clouds and gloom; my second son, my sunshine. 

Sunbeam Pattern from Kansas City Star paper clippings
Center is pieced, then appliqued to a background square
because I could not get the Y seams to work out right, no matter what.

A bright spot on a dark night, a guiding light when the way seems lost, a flickering, vibrant light when that is what's most needed; my baby boy, my starlight. 

Evening Star pattern, fully pieced
of all the stars, I chose the evening star because he's the last baby,
the only one of our boys born at night,
and I liked the simplicity of the block paired with the busier fabrics needed to truly represent my Adventurer.
My three sons. A moon, a sun, a star. In ink, in fabric, in my heart. Forever.

Do you have children? If so, how would you sum up their personalities? Or, since these names sprung from a lullaby, is there a favorite lullaby you had sung to you or that you sing (or used to sing) to your little ones?

Friday, June 10, 2011

New Home: A block about moving....

No, we are not moving anytime soon. At least, not that I know of. But as I continue on in showing you the squares, now block centers, of my Diary Quilt I've arrived at the block titled "New Home."

One of the suggestions in the book was to include a block tribute to your first home together in married  life, or the family home you built with your husband/children, or whatever favorite abode you had in your life.

I laughed.

Because we've had lots. More than our fair share, really.

In our thirteen and a half years of married life, we have lived:

  • in a converted garage, attached to my in-law's home
  • in a small 2-bedroom "married student" apartment while The Chemist finished his BS degree
  • in a larger 2-bedroom apartment after he graduated
  • in an even larger 3-bedroom apartment in time to make room for The Artist to join our family
  • in a very nice 3-bedroom rental  house
  • in our first ever, very own 3-bedroom house that we owned
  • in a small 2-bedroom + office rental house when The Chemist started with the current employer
  • (in a 2-bedroom hotel suite for a month, but we debate on whether to count that or not)
  • in a 4-bedroom, 10th floor apartment 
  • and now in a 3-bedroom rental home 
Nine homes. Plus the month-long hotel stay that The Chemist says doesn't count. In less than 14 years. I think you'll agree, "New Home" has sort of been a theme in our life thus far. 

"New Home"
the movement suggested by the pinwheel was an obvious choice for our nomadic lifestyle
and the red at the corners a tribute to The Chemist, who holds us all together each time we move

In fact, The Artist used to ask when it was time to trade houses again. He also offers that, still, as a possible solution anytime we complain about any aspect of whatever house we live in at the time. Too many ants in the summer? Why not move. Needs painting? Why not move. Not that we've ever moved for silly reasons like that, but he's developed the opinion that houses are not permanent things. 

I'm not so fond of that attitude, and wonder if we've not messed him up for life, teaching him that houses change, no big deal. 

On the flip side, I console myself with the very desirable truth -- that what he has learned instead is that family is what makes a house a home, not location. That family is permanent and nonnegotiable, even if living quarters change on you. To meet change head-on, unafraid, because the family will be together no matter what and that's the part that counts. 

I do still hope that one day we'll settle down, that one day our record length of time in one house will be longer than three years. But I'm glad the boys know that stability comes from family, not from the walls around us. And that is worth memorializing in the quilt, for sure. 

How many times have you moved in your adult life? and are you happy with that number?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sew Busy This Weekend....

We had such a great, but busy-at-home, weekend this weekend.

First off, on Friday I rearranged the room shared by the two youngest boys. We got some great shelves a while back and they do so much to neaten up the toys, but we'd placed them in the only available space -- along the wall that greets you when you walk in the room.

Let me just say, walking into a room and having TALL bunkbeds right in front of you, and then TALL shelves just to your side, it kind of makes the room feel claustrophobic, even though when you enter the room there's loads of space. I decided to fix that.

I moved a small table out of the bedroom and down to the living room. The boys need a place to sit while eating and watching  movies, as The Chemist is not allowing food on the new couches. Sitting on the floor doesn't work so well, not with a greedy golden retriever in the house. So, now the bedroom table and chairs are in the living room, which also freed up that wall in the bedroom, and the shelves are moved over. No more cave feeling when you walk in their room. Hooray! I've no "before" photos, so I won't bother with "after" photos, either. Sorry. 

I also rearranged a little area in the dining room/office/school room/sewing room, which really opened it up. Easy thing, just took these four cubes and stacked them vertically at the end of one of the bookshelves.

now vertically stacked at the end of the bookshelves...

I put the arm chair, which has been floating around the room and getting in the way, in the spot in front of the window where the cubes used to live. Then I switched contents around, so that my sewing things are on a bookshelf, and the boys' "daily use" school items are in the cubes -- one cube per boy, and one shared cube for "mom needs you to be busy with something" small activities approved for school-time use.

I did have to declutter the bookshelves, moving "done with those" books to my storage shelf, in order to make room for the sewing things. It is a clutter free zone, now, rather than a clutter-catch-all surface next to the computer desk.  Love that.

Then, I sewed. I sewed and I sewed and I sewed.

And now, all 25 squares for my Diary Quilt are done. 

Except not really, because I have decided I really want this to be a quilt for my bed, and 25 six-inch squares do not a queen size quilt make.

Luckily for me, I've learned a lot doing this project and figured out a way, almost all by myself, to make the quilt larger without needing extra blocks or infinite-seeming borders added. Setting triangles and sashing to the rescue, and I'll have a gorgeous quilt that will look something like this (colors not 100% accurate). Many thanks to Jules/Mrs. So & So for the mock-up for me (complete with sizing/rotary cutting directions).
mock-up of Diary Quilt
the blank center squares are where the Diary Quilt Blocks will be
but - multi-colored triangles around each, or switch to black??


Because I'm waiting on my bigger cutting mat (which is in the mail, on its way here) and because I'm debating the colors for the setting triangles, I returned to my long-neglected red white & blue quilt. Five squares to go, and then I'll just need to join them into quadrants and then into a quilt top. Scary to think that before too long I'll have my first quilt top done. Even scarier when you remember where I came from, back when I tried to use a scrapbooking paper cutter to cut fabric.


Which brings me back to -- colors for the setting triangles. My original plan was to do multi-colored, as indicated in the drawing above. Each block center would have a color that coordinates with that block.

Then I started thinking, what if I do black setting triangles and multi-colored sashing instead? To give a more unified look, as well as make the block centers really pop?  The black I would use is actually black printed with a white floral print (as used in the Puss in a Corner block, and the Thrifty block, and the Broken Dishes block....). 

What do you think? Too much black? Or worth it, to unify the quilt?? Black, or multi, what would you choose??  And, what did you do this weekend?