Monday, April 29, 2013

Scrappytripalong finished!

January 1 this year there was a funny trend that began on Instagram for those of us who are into modern quilting. A couple popular quilters decided they were going to start to sew along together using a tutorial called the scrappytripalong.
I was up in Mammoth and far away from my sewing machine for the weekend but I joked that it was January 1 and I had already missed out on the biggest trend of the year.  When I came home I immediately started on my own scrappytripalong.  I decided to cut into some of my very favorite fabrics (from many different lines) designed by AnnaMaria Horner that I had never been able to decide how to use.
Soon after I started this project Mimi got a new bed and it was queen-size. We didn't have a quilt for her so this quickly became the quilt that I was making for her.
I am absolutely in love with the way this quilt came out and so is she.  J was jealous of how heavy all the seams make the quilt and now I have a second scrappy (all red and white!) scrappytripalong in the works.
This pattern is super easy and lots of fun I can't recommend it highly enough. You can find a link to it here:

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lots of Jewelry made this weekend

Last weekend I pulled out my beads to give a bunch to my sister and a friend. As I was looking through them I was reminded how much I enjoyed them. I decided it was time to make some jewelry again... Not necessarily because I feel the need to start any business right now but simply because having all these beads and looking at them unused made me kind of itch to get my fingers on them and make something new.
Mimi started begging me this weekend to pull out my beads so that she could make earrings and once I got them out I sat down next to her and started working myself. By the end of the weekend I had made 8 necklaces and she had made about 20 pairs of earrings.
The thing that I found most interesting about the creative process this time around was that I was really improving as I designed the necklaces. This is something that I haven't done before and made me think a lot of the process when I'm collaging or doing improv quilting. I really liked that a lot better than making patterns and just repeating them a hundred times.
Little Miss Ambition is all into having a store of her own which I have to figure out. I really don't know what to do with these extra necklaces. Maybe I will list them on Etsy just to get rid of them.
In the meantime it was fun to play and she and I had a great time together.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Asian sesame pasta recipe - a staple around here

Some recipes are so yummy they become family staples and need to be shared. Here's on of our favorites for many years.
My mom discovered the Al Dente spice sesame noodles (and their back label recipe) a long time ago and now a new generation of our family has come to love this dish. It's a fantastic dinner to serve to guests and tastes great cold the next day too - Jay and I fight over leftovers.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Zane's cozy quilt

I told you I am trying to burn through these WIPs... Here's another one that's been half finished for a year or more. (Ugh!) it was a while ago when my friend, Ramona, gave me some of Robert Kaufman's modern cheater prints to play with. I loved them and sat there trying to figure out what to do with them... Here's how I know this was so long ago... I'd just started to drive down to Yolanda's house every week to sew with her as she had learned her cancer was serious. I noticed she had a couple of her own WIPs that were this easy pattern... A 5" square with a 5" border around it. Simple. But really pretty! So I decided to try that with this cheater print for a fast (haha!) baby quilt I could give away. But when I made the first four squares and laid them out, Z started saying, "I WANT THAT QUILT!" (What? Really?) "yeah! I love it!" ("Um, okay... I've never made you a bed sized quilt"... Remember this is last spring, before the Christmas quilts, which were also languishing in the WIP pile)
So I planned to make it bigger. But then it sat there for months while we moved houses, remodeled, and I dealt with all of Yolanda's unfinished projects and dreams. So Z's quilt was in a pile at the bottom of the box.
November last year was our retreat and I pulled this puppy out - all four squares of it and asked my friends, "how do I make this baby quilt into a bed sized quilt?" I had all sorts of border options - all of which were lame until we all pooled our resources and realized that I had enough of each of these fabrics to make an additional 8 squares for a proper repeat. I love generous friends!!! (I think Hollie and Ramona especially contributed to this one)... XOXOXO!
Thanks to the retreat and my pals, the top was completed before Thanksgiving.

This is Z we are making this for. The kid is so into how things feel. I realized he would love it regardless, (he's also very sensitive and sentimental) - but it would mean SO much more to him if it was super soft. Ahhhh. I bought some super nice gray dotted flannel for the backing and then I decided to hand quilt it so it would have all that yummy give.

I kept losing interest in quilting this quilt. The hand quilting was boring this time; repetitive and I did most of in white thread on white fabric (snore) ... At quiltcon, however, I picked up some awesome variegated yarn that had the exact match of colors - primaries plus aqua (what are the chances?) and that finally got me excited about finishing this quilt. I used that in the middle sections (which I forgot to mention, are 8" not 5") ... Finally got all the quilting done during this horrid flu I've had....
And the binding is something that Zane saw floating around my office the other's an adorable postage-type stripe called "Handle with care" - also by Robert Kaufman.

The end result is something I am really happy with and I hope he loves it long enough to take it to college with him.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another finished WIP - knitting

I think I mentioned that my pal Lori recently gifted me with some amazing yarn. Knitting was starting to sound fun to pick up again, but the cost was prohibiting me, so when I asked my knitting pals if they had any scraps, she volunteered a little stash shopping at her house. Yippee! I couldn't believe how beautiful her yarns were. And she was SO generous.

This was one of my favorites from the beginning, it was a super soft variegated gray yarn called "Baah" - and the pattern was a free download from - it was a little difficult finding directions for how to do a left handed brioche stitch that I could understand, but I did eventually figure it out. I now have a second hat in this style in progress (for Mimi) with plans for two more for gals in my guild who liked mine when I wore it to my guild meeting and begged me to make them their own versions. My knitting pile is stacking up!

At first, I wasn't sure if I could pull off the hat with my glasses, I thought it looked weird, but my friends told me I was wrong. (I wore it to my guild meeting to get votes) ... It's pretty darn cute, so I car wait to see it in the other colors too - and a brioche stitch is fun to do...

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

School Auction items - 2013

I really feel like I struck gold this year with our class projects for the school auction this weekend. Last year I spent about 30 hours on those two quilts that I made with the kid's signatures on pennant flags, and they didn't sell for prices that I was happy with so I opted this year to make things that would appeal to a potentially larger crowd...

For each of my kids' classes, I took artwork from each kid that was already completed and hanging in the classroom, I scanned them in and played with them in photoshop until I had a pattern I liked and then uploaded them to where I was able to order these pillows ready made. The third project was inspired by a field trip that I took with Mimi's 3rd grade class. The entire 3rd grade has spent the past trimester learning about cameras and photography ad all their field trips were walks around LA where they got to take pictures. Adults were assigned to small groups of kids and we kept track of the kids' pictures. As you can imagine, a kid's eye view of Hollywood and downtown LA can be awesome. I made it my job to collect from the teachers one great pic from each of the 62 third graders at our school. I turned these (with a little editing) into a super cool photography book for our auction. I also got the kids to autograph their page (each kid got an entire page with a profile picture, their name and a cool photo). I'm so excited about all of these items, I want to bid on them myself!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thoughts about laundry

Years and years ago I was in a boutique and saw a little plaque that said something to the effect of the bit that I wrote here. I can't remember it exactly, but I often think about it when I'm doing laundry and thought I needed to make a pretty version of it so that I can print it up and stick it in my laundry room (which is really just a closet).

It's a good reminder... (Feel free to print a copy out for yourself - just if you post it anywhere, please give credit where it's due.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Neighborly quilt

I've been sick for weeks, and too wiped to sew other than a few spurts here or there... But I have had a few inspired moments and basically I've used this time to work on works in progress (WIPs) - trying to get the pile a little less daunting. This quilt was one I started last year right as we were in escrow for our new house. I wanted to say thank you to the next door neighbors who told us about it being for sale... The same neighbors who watched our kids when the sitter showed up late, the ones who took my kids for dinner last night while I was sick and Jay was at work, the ones who helped out with our housewarming party and a bunch of other random times. How do you say thank you for what else is to come? I made a quilt. (Of course)
Yolanda gave me the charm pack from Urban Cowgirl about a year ago and o had no idea what to do with it until I came up with the idea for this quilt. I made sure to use up a bunch of neutrals that I had lying around and Yolanda's and my own favorite brown herringbone fabric that we each stocked in multiple yards. I think my favorite part of the quilt is the binding... It's this fantastic brown diagonal stripe that I wish I had more of from Connecting Threads... The pic of it in close up is while it was on my lap while I was wearing a Frida Kahlo skirt (no frida fabric in this quilt!)

When I gave it to my neighbor, she was so excited... Apparently she's been waiting on a specific quilt from her mom since high school. (Well, a year late doesn't seem so bad now!)

Keep posted for more sickie WIP progress....

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our marriage tip for everyone

Jay and I have been married almost 13 years. We have weathered more than 5 major career changes, unemployment, some intense church issues, a robbery that occurred while I was at home, a short sale, a loan modification, 3 remodels, 2 cross country moves, living with both sets of parents for 3 months each, surgeries, grad school (for him), birthing 2 very intense kids, fostering 4 other kids - and losing 2 babies that we were supposed to adopt back into the foster system... The final one sending me almost into a nervous breakdown after I spent over a year with my life being threatened by the biological mother. People often look at our marriage and ask us how we are so close, how do we weather everything? We always give the same answer... It was something that we figured out when we were dating.... when we were dealing with struggling with each other and personality conflicts... After one heated discussion in particular, we realized that if we approached each conflict we faced remembering that this person here in front of me is my biggest fan, that everything would go better.
Now we tell everyone that. There are people we told that to years ago who still tell us every time they see us that those words have helped them shape their marriage. I tend to think the whole mentality works really. In all honesty, we don't take credit for this insight... We probably read it somewhere - but we can't remember where that might have been, so for now it's our tip. Share it freely, because we all need a biggest fan, and marriage is kind of awesome when you are married to yours.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Xs and Os quilt

Sometimes hard times strike a friend and there aren't words to say to express your love. This happened recently for a very dear friend of mine. She is one of my quilt guild friends and there were a lot of us who had no idea how to tell her we love and support her. So we decided to channel our wishes into a quilt of X's and O's.
This friend loves bright colors and Japanese prints, so we did our best to dig them out from our own fabric stashes. We had the quilt squares collected in one week - a cross country friend sent the voile for the backing- I had 5 gals come to my house one night and we assembled it the top within 2 hours - two weeks later it was quilted by one friend and bound by another. I had the honor today of delivering it in person to her family and was able to take these photos before driving it over to her. The four squares I show here are my own - I had to include red and white dots, but also made a square from a really hideous blue animal print that she and I fell in love with a few years ago on a fabric shopping trip.

It's just so amazing to be able to make something for someone that can wrap around them, capture their years and laughter and become a part of their family history.

I love quilts.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Re•building joy - Thoughts that came to me on Easter.

It's been a ling time since I posted about re•building joy. Maybe as my grief becomes more and more manageable - it also becomes more normal and less noteworthy. I guess they call that "the new normal." I look at my grief now more as a scar than an open wound.

For so long, I walked around feeling like I was "the lady who had that horrible experience where her adoptive child had to be moved because the bio-mom threatened to kill her[my] kids" - it was so hard to enter any new relationship without mentioning what we had gone through. And in all honesty, I rather value the friends I have who already know the story as opposed to new people who may not know the depths of the despair we faced this past 2 years.
The ache I have for my baby who is gone is still here when I open the emotional door and look in that room, it still makes me cry and feel like I could vomit from the pain. He is two and a half now. We hear he is doing really well. Does my heart pound even as I type that? Yes. I've seen him a couple times since everything went down. It was clear he knew who we are - that we had him from 3weeks-17months. He followed J around crying -clinging to him and begging to be held the first time we saw him - just a few weeks after everything happened. I see pics of people's babies online and I remember that I was never allowed to post photos of him online, so in my online world, no one could see what our family looked like. But every time I have to dig through iPhoto for an old pic I have to scroll through multiple hundreds of pictures that have him in it. I've come to avoid iPhoto because it hurts so much to look back.
And yet, it does feel like a new season. I laugh more than I used to. I need more quiet and more control over my environment than before; I spend a lot of time alone and in silence. But that's okay. That's a part of me now, too. I feel like a tree that lost a limb in a storm. A huge limb. It threatened my stability to lose what I lost, but I've learned to stand. I've dug deeper roots. I have a scar and am not what I was before. I cannot offer the shade and protection to others that I offered before, but I still have some shade and a little bit of protection to spare.
I also have a story to tell. A sad story, to be sure. A scary story. A reason to be discouraged - if you want to look at it that way... But I also have another part of that same story to tell...
I can tell you about a family that survived death threats and losing one of our members. I can tell you about a marriage that is committed to looking each other eyeball to eyeball and never giving up on each other. I can tell you that LOVE is deeper and wider and stronger and more powerful than hate or fear. I can tell you that I still believe in a God who loves me, even if He let me get broken by pain.
People ask me all the time about the tattoo that circles my wrist. It says, "nothing can separate us". Some people think that's a sweet and romantic thing to have tattooed. Others know that there is a spiritual side to the words. When I don't feel like explaining the long version to people, I say "I just wanted a reminder that things can happen, but nothing can just come in and separate us from love." Then other people may recognize that there is a Bible Verse that says, "nothing can separate us from the love of God" - how beautiful is this passage?

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39 NASB)

There's another part of my story, that includes the story of our first foster baby that we had in our home as we tried to adopt. We were sitting in church on a Sunday, so happy, so over the moon in love with the idea of our family as it was shaping up. Jay was holding "AJ" (the boys' names are all nicknames as I can't post their real names) as I drew in my sketchbook during church. A woman began to speak out the powerful verses in Romans 8 and I knew that I needed those words tattooed on my wrist. I wanted to always have to remember that no matter what the future held, nothing could keep AJ from God's love. Nothing could tear our family's love from each other. And nothing could ever take me away from the love of God. The next day, AJ was suddenly taken from our adoptive home and placed into his 6th temporary foster home in his 3month life - so that we would not be able to adopt him. I was crushed. Then there was "Ace" a few months later. This time the social worker was set on us adopting him, but every interaction I'd had with Ace's mom told me she deserved another chance - i didn't think she would hurt her baby ... It was so hard. He was a colicky baby and I didn't sleep more than 45 minute stretches for 2 months. When he moved to another home closer to his mom, I pretty much had a nervous breakdown.
We took a few months off of foster care and finally tried again and got our precious baby G. If you've read my blog for a while I think you know most of the story. We were told he was a "fast-track" to adoption- didn't imagine the 18 months of threats and harassment... The social workers bringing him down the back stairs fearing for our safety. I carried pepper spray with me constantly and became paranoid - covering the baby's stroller with his sunscreen everywhere I went because I was so afraid of being attacked.
I also was a regular mom through this. Picking up my kids at preschool and first grade, making dinner, juggling life with three kids, making art, blogging... Trying to keep my kids feeling like life wasn't bordering on insanity.

Then G was gone. We were the ones who had to make the call to have him moved to a home that was top secret to protect him and our children. Someone had slipped up and gave the bio mom our home address and she used it in her threats. So we got to deal with the feelings of failure as foster parents too, as we had to drop off our 3rd child at the home of some kind strangers, hoping and praying all three kids and ourselves might be safe if we made this horrible call.

And that is when I realized that I had nothing left of myself. I was an open wound. A mother with empty arms. I had my own two kids, but my baby was gone. The week he had started calling me "Mom" was also the week he left. I still have dreams that he comes back to me. So do the kids and Jay.

I began my journey to re•building joy. I began this past year unable to look forward even a few weeks. I'd cry if I even walked down the diaper aisle in the store. We trudged forward, stumbling. There weren't words to contain our pain. Our kids had even less words and it was a year of many many tears.
But we have inched forward. I've thrown every ounce of my anger, frustration and loss into places that I felt could contain them. My journal, my therapy sessions, my artwork, prayer. Slowly my burden has become lighter and I have walked on - it feels like so long since this journey started. And yet I still do feel fragile.

Jay and I watched a bit of "The Bible" on the History channel this week. We were struck by how violent history in general has been. How many people have watched violent deaths of loved ones - for whatever cause? How many people have been beaten or oppressed by dictators, enemies, abusers and bullies? How many people have images and fearful situations in their memories that made their hands shake for years?

I have had the luxury of time to heal.
I have been blessed to have a roof over my head and caring friends around me as I faced dark memories and doubts.

My story is not one of pity. My story is a testimony. A witness that I am not ruined, though I felt broken. I will always remember the fears and shame and disappointments, but they do not define me and I do not define myself by the dreams I had which did not come true. I desperately wanted to adopt. I was so happy in the short season where we had 4 kids in 2011 - our two, plus G and a 4 year old girl staying with us. I felt so full of purpose - exhausted in the best way.
But that season is over. And I cannot have what I wanted. There will never be a replacement for G.
But will I wear heaviness and sadness forever? If I do, I'm choosing the road of bitterness. No. I will not. I will put off my heavy coat of sadness and put on joy.
Why? (These are all questions I've asked myself a thousand times)

Because I have my faith that tells me that this life is not what it's all about. Not the house I live in, the art I make, whether or not my kids make me proud. This is all about something else. This is all about nothing being able to separate me from the love of God. Not anything. And if I truly believe that God loves me, then I am not going to live like my losses and failures define me. None of them. Because if God loves me, then I better live in the knowledge of that joy. Otherwise, then why bother saying He loves me at all?

And what about all the other people in this big world? What about their pain? (So much worse than my own) Is there a time for them to walk on? To receive love and put off their sadness and walk into joy? I believe so. I do. We have to walk through the darkness first, for sure. It's not pretty. But I believe if I can see and accept that even still - God might still love me - in spite of the fact that I have scars and I limp... Then that's enough reason to let my sadness have its rest.

Today I felt it. I felt the clock ticking - a little timer going off in my heart that said, "Liberty, it's time to pick up joy again. Empty out your pockets a little more, make some room for joy by letting go of some of the sadness."
And I'm not sure exactly how to do that except by trying to remain open to possibilities and hope. But I'm going to try.



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