Sunday 20 December 2009

Christmas Is Coming - EEEEKK!!

I've stopped visiting some of my favourite blogs at the moment, not because they've upset me or because they're not interesting ... but because they're showing me the Countdown To Christmas ... AND I'M NOT READY!! EEEKK!! We head off to the beach for just over a week tomorrow and there still seem to be a LOT of things left un-ticked on my "To Do" list, even though I've been buzzing around all weekend like a bumble bee on caffeine injections! :0) I HAVE finished a gift for one of the nieces that I thought I would share with you ... the gift ... not the niece! :0)

No, no, no!! You're not hallucinating and you haven't had too much Christmas cheer (or HAVE you?!?!?! And where's mine!! Tee! Hee! Hee!) You really are looking at a photo of a purple monkey! :0) This is from a pattern by the clever clogs Melly of Melly & Me designs, although the pattern is for a boy monkey named McGoo. I've had this pattern tucked away for a while now, ready to pull it out to make a whole tribe ... troop ... squad ... flock ... hmmm ... what DOES one call a group of monkeys?!?! I was intending to make a few of them for Christmas presents for some of the younger nieces and nephews, but time has got away from me and this is the only one finished. I MAY get another done in between our beach trip and getting together with my beloved Geek Boy's family (the source of nieces and nephews!!) but the way THIS week has gone ... I'm not holding my breath! I had fun making this little lady monkey, though and found she was very quick to make. My dancing buddy, Lynda made a boy version a little while ago for her son, too ...

Isn't he handsome! I promise to take photos if more monkeys manage to be born.

The other thing I've been madly trying to finish is the quilt I'm making for my Mum. I've had it and the wedding quilt back from quilter-extraordinaire, Rosalie, for a couple of weeks now, but life just kept interfering to keep me from getting the bindings on. So yesterday, I locked myself in the sewing room ... well ... not LITERALLY, cos that would make me sound like a klutz! :0) I managed to cut and machine stitch both bindings and although I'll take the wedding quilt on holidays with me to finish, I really had hoped to get Mum's done so I could wrap it and keep it a surprise for Christmas. Well ... the best-laid plans of mice and men ... and silly stitchers whose ambitions outweigh the time available to her!! It's not quite finished - one and a half sides left to stitch down, but I pinned it in place and got GB to hold it up for a photo so you could see what it will look like ...

Ta Da!! I'm really happy with how it all came together! I managed to find some meterage of the same range of fabric as the charm squares I used for the coin stacks and joined it together for the binding to tie all the colours in. And of course, Rosalie's machine quilting has come up A TREAT!!! It really makes the quilt pop! Thanks Rosalie!!! Here's a close up of the quilting ...

I LOVE the Celtic design in the outer border!! and the dainty rosebud design in the white borders fits in with it so well. I was a bit stumped when it came to what to quilt in the coin stacks, but Rosalie picked the swirly vine (bit hard to see) that ties in perfectly with the other two quilting designs. In fact, it's come up so well ... I'd love to keep it!! Ah well, at least I'll get to visit it when I go home to Mum and Dad's place! :0) And I have two items I can add to my OPAM list - Mum's quilt WILL be finished for Christmas day, I'll just have to stay up and stitch a little after every else is in bed so it stays a secret ... just like the Christmas elves! Tee! Hee! Hee! In amongst the busy-ness of Christmas, don't forget to list your finishes - May Britt will be conducting the prize draw at the end of the month, because, as she pointed out, lots of people will be stitching over the holiday break. And when I come back from my beach break, I'll be sharing some exciting news about NEXT YEAR's OPAM Challenge! Yes ... it will be on again, but there's a few changes and a surprise or two in store, so stay tuned!

So there you go ... the week became a little more productive once it hit Friday - which is good or I'd only just be ready for Christmas when the Easter Bunny was warming up his hippity-hop!! Tee! Hee! Hee! We head for the beach tomorrow for 9 days (the house/dog sitter popped in to collect her destructions ... er ... INstructions this arvo!), which we are SOOOOOOOOOOO looking forward to! And I can't wait to catch up with my family - that's the BEST part of Christmas for me! Although I won't be blogging for that time, I will have access to email, so I'm sure I'll catch up with a few of you. But just in case I don't 'chat' to you before then, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of my bloggy buddies a very happy, safe and joyous Christmas. May you be surrounded by lots of friends, family, love, laughter, good food ... and PRESENTS! :0) And remember to take time to say a "Thank You" for the PERFECT gift given on the very first Christmas! Til next time ...



Thursday 17 December 2009

Computer Chaos & Creative Procrastination!

Well ... what a shocker of a week I've had at work!! As you can probably guess from this post title, it had nothing to do with my JOB as such - which I love - it was all computer-related!! GRRRRRR!!!! It all started last Thursday when we got a phone call to say that the department's network was showing that we were off-line. So, I rang our IT department at Head Office to get them to talk me through getting it back up (had happened several times in the last month, annoying and time consuming, but do-able). NOT THIS TIME! After nearly two hours with the phone clamped between by ear and shoulder, sitting on the floor with my head stuck under my desk trying to make sense of the upturned-spaghetti-bowl of cords and cables, they decided I needed to send the server to Head Office to be replaced - it was dead. OK ... so I had a crash course in how to put something on a courier and blithely went into a busy weekend of activities, thinking the computer would be back on Monday, good as new. BARP!! WRONG!! I shall cut a VERY long and involved story short (OK, a BIT shorter!) by saying that during Monday and Tuesday I spent another four or five hours on the phone and under the desk, following instructions to pull this cord, plug that lead in, type this, press this key ... my head was awhirl!! And at the end of all this frustration ... they FINALLY decided the problem couldn't be fixed over the phone ... they'd send a tech the hour and a half to fix it!! AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHH!!! Why didn't they just do this last Thursday!! It would have saved my already questionable sanity, saved me getting a crick in the neck and shoulder from being under the desk with a phone tucked under my ear ... and my workload wouldn't have backed up like the Red Sea in front of Moses! SIGH!! So followed two very long days of catch up so that I can start holidays - today was my last day. My boss is now very careful not to mention the "C" word in my hearing - you know the Fawlty Towers catch-phrase, "Don't mention the war!", well, in our office it is now, "Don't mention the computer!"

So ... with all of the extra time spent at work trying to sort out the "C" word, you can imagine that nothing has been crossed off my "To Do" list at home. Oh dear! And Christmas is just over a week away and we leave for the beach on Monday! EEK!! So, of course with such a long list of jobs to accomplish before Monday, I got stuck straight into the list when I eventually made it home from work ... right??? NOPE!! I PROCRASTINATED! :0) Today's form of procrastination (I am a master of sooooo many! Tee! Hee! Hee!) was of the culinary variety - yep! I played in the kitchen and made Sugar Coated Peanuts. Not only are these YUMMO, they are a great, quick idea for Christmas gifts for the sweet-tooths in your life. And it's such a simple recipe, I thought I'd share. Here goes ...


Ingredients: 500g raw peanuts (with the red skin still on); two cups of sugar; two cups of water; 1/2 teaspoon of red food colouring.

Step 1. Place water and sugar into a large frying pan.

Step 2. Stir sugar/water mix over a low heat until sugar dissolves completely.

Step 3. Add red food colouring and stir until combined.

Step 4. Add peanuts to the mix and stir until they are completely coated.

Step 5. Bring to the boil and boil for about 12 minutes, uncovered.

Stir a few times while mixture is boiling so all peanuts cook evenly.

Step 6. At around the 12 minute mark, to check whether the peanuts are ready, dribble some of the toffee mix into a saucer of cold water. If it cracks and goes brittle, it's ready to have the heat turned off. The mix looks a little like bubbling lava at this point.

Step 7. Turn the heat off and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar crystallises and goes to a powdery consistency as it sticks to the peanuts.

Step 8. Turn coated peanuts out onto a tray lined with baking paper to cool

Once these tasty, sugary morsels are cool, you can either tip them into a nice jar and tie a ribbon round the lid to give someone as a gift, or, my personal favourite ...


So ... there you go ... how to procrastinate the afternoon away. On the up side, I WILL be bottling some of these yummies to give as gifts ... if there's any left by the time I'm ready to bottle them! :0) Hmmm ... Maybe I'll just buy some more peanuts and do up another batch! Tee! Hee! Hee!

Hope your week has been less stressful than mine and that your afternoon has been more productive than mine .... though I'm not sure your results could possibly be as yummy! :0) I'll be back at least once before we head to the beach on Monday, so til next time ...



Wednesday 9 December 2009

Checking In & Christmas Mail!

It's OK!! You can call off the search parties! I'm not lost or MIA ... just flat out trying to meet a deadline and juggling all of the pre-Christmas busy-ness ... you know ... the same thing EVERYONE is doing at this time of year! :0) So I thought I'd just better check in with you all so you know I'm still here and reading about your exploits via RSS Feeds and a few quick blog hops, even if I haven't had time to leave comments.

Now, I can't show you photos of the project I've been working on with the deadline, but I CAN tell you it's a bit exciting, as it is a project to be published in "Handmade" magazine in the new year. We really are spoilt here in Australia with such wonderful craft/quilting/stitching magazines on offer! I've been hard at work in my sewing room to meet my Friday deadline and this afternoon got stuck in to tackle my "FAVOURITE" part of designing (NOT!!) the instruction writing. So, I'm on the home stretch and hope to get back to my Christmas stitching on the weekend ... AND catch up with all my blogging buddies, of course!! :0)

And while I've been slaving away in the sewing room, my postie has been making a few stops at my front steps to deliver yummy Christmas parcels - I've been VERY spoilt!! Before I show you what has been winging it's way to me, I'll confess that all Christmas gifties are being opened immediately and not kept until Christmas ... but I have a REALLY good excuse ... err ... I mean ... reason!! We're going away to the beach for Christmas (the house-sitter/dog-sitter is booked!!!) and since we only have a little two-door Ford Festiva hatchback ... there is NOT going to be much room to pack, so any gifties that arrive before we go will be opened, 'ooh-ed' and 'aaah-ed' over and the givers thanked. That's MY story and I'm sticking to it! Tee! Hee! Hee!

Right ... the first surprise to arrive via the postie's usual gentle delivery ... NOT! ... was from Deb. Do you remember in the middle of winter when I was complaining about being cold? (with 40 degrees recorded here today, that seems a loooong time ago!!) I commented that my fingers were a bit frosty when typing and perhaps I needed to find some rainbow coloured fingerless gloves. Well ... the Lovely Lilly Linda sent me a lovely blue pair of fingerless gloves that helped keep my fingers warm and now ...

I have a RAINBOW pair as well to keep my fingers warm! Thanks Deb! Aren't they lovely and cheerful!! Now, even on the cloudiest, coldest day, I'll have a rainbow ... and toasty warm fingers! Tee! Hee! Hee!

The second parcel to arrive was a bit exciting too, as it had this sticker on it ...

Ooooooohhhh!! I was pretty sure it had to be my SSCS parcel!!! How exciting!! It was from Shiree in New Zealand! And when I opened it up I found ...

Ooooohh!! How spoilt am I!! A wonderful little bag with a Christmas bear stitchery that I'm going to use as a pretty storage spot for all my gifting bits that get lost - sticky tape, ribbon, gift tags, Christmas Cards etc - so that whenever I go to wrap a giftie ... I know where everything is, in it's pretty bag! And there was a gorgeous Christmas cushion/hanger with a couple of angels - must be Shiree and me! Does one have a slipped halo - that would be ME! :0) And I don't know if you can see it well in the photo, but Shiree also popped in a cute "Noel" Christmas tree ornament that looks like it was made from candy canes. Thank you so much Shiree!! I feel very spoilt indeed!

Now, there was a couple of funny things happen to Shiree and I during our SSCS venture. The first happened when Swap-Mama Chookyblue first sent out the names of our swap partners. Shiree thought she'd try to trick and tease me a little by sending an email under a different name ... but my email program recognised her address from where we'd emailed each other during the OPAM Challenge sign up etc and it TOLD me it was from KiwiShiree! Tee! Hee! Hee! THEN ... poor Shiree had a little hiccup in her very organised plans to get swap gifts out on time while in the middle of moving house. She was incredibly organised and had all swap gifties ready well before their due postage dates, then somehow, they accidentally got put into one of the boxes packed for their big move! OOPS! After frantic searching failed to reveal the whereabouts of said packaged, poor Shiree then had to RE-DO all her gifties!! So, she really does deserve an extra pat on the back, I think. The funny part is ... when I was doing my blog hopping to collect the end of month finishes for the OPAM Challenge last month, I read the post on Shiree's blog where she explained that her swap gifties had been misplaced ... not thinking that it involved me at all! :0) So I hope your swap partner spoils you rotten, Shiree - at least you'll have a head start on NEXT YEAR's Christmas swaps! Tee! Hee! Hee!

OK ... so that was really the only parcel I was expecting before Christmas, so imagine my surprise when the postie dropped off ANOTHER parcel TODAY!! Hmmm ... what could it be. Well, in the words of the Playschool song ... "There's a BEAR in there ...

And what a GORGEOUS little bear it was too!! This little cutey is from Toni at the Red Boot Quilt Co. We chat back and forth and, since we're both designers, encourage each other through the instruction-writing phase of designing! :0) (Hmmm ... is there ANY designer out there who actually doesn't mind the instruction writing phase, I wonder?!?!) Now Toni has been showing photos of her lovely little bears for a while now and I've commented on how darn cute they are ... and now she's sent me one of my very own!! I really AM spoilt, aren't I!! And she knows me too well, since she's chosen some yummy red and white spot flannel to make this cuddly character from. And look at his lovely little snowflake buttons - bet he's wishing for a bit of snow to cool him down in our heatwave weather. I've decided to call my new little critter "Cranbeary" for a few reasons. One ... he's the colour of cranberries. Two ... Cranberries are a perfect match with Christmas turkey and he's arrived just in time for Christmas. And three ... Cranberries are sweet and I looooooove them in a fresh salad and "Cranbeary" is sweet and ...well ... I won't be putting him in a salad, now, will I, that would just be silly! Tee! Hee! Hee! Thank you Toni!!

PHEW!! Now that I've let you know that I'm not MIA and how spoilt I've been, I think I'm going to go and find a nice, cool, icy glass of something refreshing. Hope you're having a great week and feeling spoilt too! Til next time ...



Friday 4 December 2009

A Special Quilt!

I know I promised to be back to share more about the exciting things that have been happening here this week, but I'm working on a bit of a deadline for a Secret Squirrel project, so haven't had time to take photos of the exciting things - I will, I promise!! Today, though, I thought I'd share some pictures of a special quilt with you.

One of my lovely stitching buddies, Ros, dropped in this afternoon to share some photos with me. She bought a copy of my "Fairy Bears & Butterflies Quilt" pattern back in September to help her make a special quilt for her sister-in-law who had been diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, Ros's SIL passed away not long after receiving the quilt, but she loved it and now her family has a wonderful keepsake. Now, Ros's quilt isn't anything like my pattern really, but she used the cute Fairy Bears applique shape on a lovely bright, cheerful background of green and purple. These photos don't really do the quilt full justice, I don't think, but they were taken in a bit of a hurry in the hospital waiting room before the quilt went to it's new owner. Here's a shot of the whole quilt.

You'll see she's used a great hydrangea fabric then matched the bright green and purples and the big butterflies she has used are from the hydrangea fabric. Here's a bit closer look ...

Ros included some lovely symbolism in her quilt - the two bears up the top holding hands represent her SIL and BIL, then below them are two boy bears and one girl bear representing their children and they're 'joined' by the quilting pattern that has pretty swirly butterflies in it. The butterfly above the bear couple's heads is quilted around with a heart shape. The heart, of course is the couple's love for each other and their family and the butterfly signifies hope. Here's a closer look at the fairy bears ...

Aren't they angelic looking?! :0) Instead of blanket stitching the applique shapes by hand like I did, Ros used the raw-edge applique technique on her sewing machine in a gold coloured thread, adding some zig-zag stitching around the bears' faces etc to create a 'fuzzy' look. She's done a fabulous job and it touches my heart to know that she included a little bit of my design in such a special quilt. I love the symbolism of presenting quilts to people going through serious illness or some other difficulty ... whenever they wrap the quilt around them to keep warm, they will be reminded of the love and care coming from their family and friends to 'wrap' them in a great, big BEAR HUG! Isn't it lovely to think that something we create as part of our 'hobby' can mean so much to someone!

OK ... back to the sewing room and meeting my deadline. Hope you all have fun things planned for the weekend and that you're able to make some time to spend with those you love. Remember to give them a big ol' BEAR HUG and tell them how precious they are to you, cos we never know what's around the corner. Til next time ...



Wednesday 2 December 2009

November Winner & Butterflies Released!

Well ... here it is, only Wednesday, still with two days to go in this week and already it's been a big one! Some exciting things have been happening here at the Meares' Madhouse, home of "Tag Along Teddies" designs ... BUT FIRST ... I need to announce the end-of-month winner for November for the One Project A Month Challenge. Before I do, can I just say that, either lots of us have got our sewing mojo happening again at the moment OR ... we're all starting to panic, cos it's less than a month til Christmas! Tee! Hee! Hee! For me, I think it's a bit of both!

The total number of projects completed (either emailed to me or May Britt, listed or posted on blogs - if you didn't do any of those things, sorry, your projects didn't get counted!) for November was ...


That gives us a running total ... SO FAR ... of ...


WOW!! Can you imagine what a sight that would be if we had ALL of those completed projects displayed in the ONE ROOM!! It would be crafter heaven, I think! :0) OK ... drum roll please! And November's OPAM winner is ...

Maria H!!

CONGRATULATIONS, Maria!! If you email me your snail mail address, I'll pop your prize in the mail and who knows - we might even manage to convince our mail systems to get it to you in time for Christmas. And that would be very fitting because THIS is Maria's prize ...

A fun pattern by another Toowoomba designer, Majella Rush of "Kookaburra Cottage" designs that has three versions of a country Santa! I've got a copy of this pattern myself and the flat wall-hanger Santa (a bit hard to see cos the camera flash has hit right on his face!) is very quick and easy to make AND it looks FANTASTIC!! :0) Maria also gets a cute country-style calender that will help her schedule regular stitching days next year :0) AND a groovy laser-cut timber gift tag button created by Lisa at Button Bliss (I have a stash of lots of her fun timber buttons!). I hope you enjoy your prize, Maria.

CONGRATULATIONS to ALL of the OPAM Challenge participants on all of your finishes and CONGRATULATIONS, too, to everyone who has made some progress on some long-term projects, even if you haven't actually finished them yet - every stitch takes you closer to enjoying a finished project! :0)

Now ... a few of you have been asking whether May Britt and I will host the OPAM Challenge again next year. Well ... we're thinking about it! If we do, there will be a few changes to the guidelines and we will limit the number who can join in because we've discovered throughout the year that 276 blogs is a LOT of blogs to visit at the end of each month and keep track of finishes for. So, stay tuned for more news of that later this month.

And on to the first EXCITING thing that happened this week. There was some of this going on here at the Meares' Madhouse on Monday afternoon ...

Yep, HAPPY DANCING!!! Which had to stop when the RSPCE (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Elephants) sent a representative to our house after neighbours complained we were forcing our pet elephant to learn to tap dance! Tee! Hee! Hee! And what led to the tap-dancing-elephant-impersonation? This ...

The long-awaited December issue (No.79 Vol.10 No.12) of "Homespun" arrived on my doorstep. Now although many of your (especially Aussie gals!) will understand that the arrival of the latest "Homespun" issue is USUALLY cause for Happy Dancing anyway, THIS particular issue was a BIT more exciting to than usual because inside ...

... was my "Butterfly Hunt" quilt AND a designer profile on yours truly! OOOOOOOOHHHH!!! HOW EXCITING!!! My quilt-baby arrived home last week - probably the first of my exciting things, really! I know a few of you have already commented and emailed that you had discovered me lurking in your magazine - thanks for your lovely comments! And as if THAT wasn't exciting enough ... my very first quilt design is in the SAME issue as a project by my fave designer ... Bronwyn Hayes!! More Happy Dancing!! Oh ... and if you haven't already heard the buzz, Bronwyn now has her own blog, so you can pop in to see what she's up to. I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to Catherine and her team at "Homespun" for inviting me to share my quilt design with their readers and for being so encouraging and helpful to work with throughout the process.

There have been a couple of other exciting things happen this week, too, but my Beloved Geek Boy has just come home from work and I'm going to go have a cup of tea and see how his day was. I promise I'll be back soon to share the rest of my excitement. And who knows ... with two more days left in the working week even MORE exciting things may happen! Oh dear ... I'm not sure I can take much more! Tee! Hee! Hee! I hope that whatever you're up to today, you find a little bit of excitement to keep your day interesting. Til next time ...



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