Saturday, July 29, 2023

A Quilt Finish, Garden Pix and a Weight Loss Tale

Oh, there’s so much to share with you this week! But first I want to thank you all for the kind comments and personal emails on my International Sisters quilt that I shared last week. I appreciate your kindness and support more than you could know. 

In this post, I’m going to start with my quilting and Rainbow Scrap progress for the week, continue with a few fun happenings from the week, some pictures from the garden, and finish with a relatively long (for a blog post) narration of my weight loss journey to date. Each section will be separated by ******** lines, so if you don’t want to read about them, you can choose to skip along. No hurt feelings on my part, LOL.

I finished sewing my red scraps for July for the RSC, and will link up as usual to Scrappy Saturday. Here are 10 crumb blocks that will finish at 6” each.

Eight Split Nines blocks that will also finish at 6”. 

Additionally, I finished quilting Red Ribbons, but it still needs its binding, so that reveal will be next week.

I also basted five kid-sized community (group) quilts and have begun quilting those. These tops are donated to me through Jo’s Country Junction Community Quilts program. I provide the backing and quilting/binding, and get to donate them to my local Quilts for Kids chapter. Here’s a sneak peek of the pile I intend to finish and reveal in my next post.

But I did have one actual quilt finish this week. It’s the light blue scrap quilt from last month. Better late than never!

It finished at 44x58”, so it’s more of a youth size than a little kid size. The backing also helped me use up a lot of scraps and chunks, a double win.


This week we had the opportunity to join my son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, plus her boyfriend  and a couple family friends to attend a Beatles tribute band (Rain) concert in downtown Salt Lake City. 

They were very good, and one could *almost* believe we had time traveled back to the Sixties, 

L-R: Granddaughter Lauren, boyfriend Graham, 2 family friends R and R, Daughter-in-law Kim, my son Ryan, me, Bruce 

The next day, my friend Ruby and I went to see Oppenheimer, the movie. The movie was long (3 hours), and I have to admit I felt a bit lost at first. But the story is tight and masterful, and the various pieces are skillfully woven together as it progresses and things become clear. The acting was a master class of talent. If Oppenheimer doesn’t win all the awards for acting, screen writing, directing, producing and sound editing/engineering, there is no justice in the world! 

In the garden, the blackberries have started ripening. They are monsters, but very sweet ones! I’ve been freezing them and see a batch of blackberry jam and lots of yummy fruit salad in our future.

And here are a few photos from the front flower beds at the end of July. Yes, you’ll see weeds in the flower beds. Just keeping it real. I limit my weeding to once per week. 

Front planter under living room window


My Weight Loss Journey to Date

Last September 2022, early in the month, I had my first-ever bout of sciatica. At the time, I had gained back 20+ of my 35-pound pre-Covid weight loss. I was miserable physically and disgusted with myself overall. In the emergency room (the sciatica was that bad), they x-rayed my hip because I was sure that’s what it was - my bum hip. Well, it did show that I had extreme osteoarthritis in my left hip, but the pain itself radiated from the spine on the right side and was diagnosed as sciatica. 

I was determined that I was too young to feel that old, and embraced the physical therapy sessions with such gusto that I was released from physical therapy after three visits feeling much improved. Side note: I continue to do those core-strengthening exercises regularly. At the same time late last summer, I determined that it was now or never to get healthy. No more excuses; my health was and is too important. While I have been a Weight Watchers member on and off for most of my life (and continuously for the last 7-8 years), I re-dedicated myself to really working the program this time. It’s basically just healthy, common-sense eating. The workshops teach us everything from nutrition, to coping skills for various dining and family situations, and mindset adjustments. I’ll get into that more below. 

So, I was off and running, and by the end of the year had dropped another 15 pounds, in addition to the few I had previously managed to keep off, bringing me to approximately -25 pounds down at the start of 2023. I was fiercely determined to keep it going. 
Losing weight the right way is not fast. But think about it - we don’t gain it fast either. It usually just creeps on over the years. Good things take time, especially if your aim is to make it a lifestyle change. The time this journey is going to take me, whether weeks or months or years, is going to pass regardless of what goes in my mouth. So why not just take it slowly and steadily. I’ll get there. The weight loss wasn’t going to happen if I threw in the towel, so I just decided to keep going.

In February I shrunk out of most of my “jumbo” sizes and had to go shopping for some new things. I bought new season-spanning jeans and a couple tops. I reasoned that I was in interim sizing, so I didn’t want to invest a lot of money. So, Old Navy and Amazon to the rescue! I also started watching some select and carefully-screened fashion influencer You-Tube channels for women over 40 or 50. After being out of the workplace fashion loop for over a decade, and being retired, obese, frumpy and not really giving a hoot, it was fun to learn again how to dress to flatter my newly-emerging figure, put on makeup, and take care of myself with moisturizers, SPF, and other skin-care basics. I started taking an interest in ME, and it was eye-opening.

As moms and wives (and grandmas or caretakers - pick your hat) women are typically the last in line for our own attention. That was changing for me. It reminds me of the flight attendant admonitions on every flight to put your own mask on before you help others. Common sense. Self-care. To be sure, having a husband with an amputated arm who had to work hard to get his driver’s license back (independence, autonomy), to say nothing of all the adaptive things that go into everyday living, it was still very much on my to-do list to assist him. But he’s done it and is now independent again.

Throughout the winter, my mantra had been that I went into the winter as a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, and would emerge in the spring as a butterfly. Cute, eh? Screeeeetch!  First of all, here it is, mid-summer and I’m still metamorphosing. Thank goodness!

The analogy of my journey is better described not as a butterfly, but as an old space capsule re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. I picture myself as a passenger inside the capsule, being tossed and heaved by unseen forces, flames on the exterior, with a very hard splash landing in the ocean at the end. So much more apropos! I’ve had night sweats from Hell. Women store estrogen in fat, so as the fat melts off, the Days of Wine and Menopause return. Cue the estrogen therapy again. Previously plump skin is now looking decidedly crepe-ier. I moisturize, from the inside with loads of water-drinking and on the outside with 163 different moisturizers and skin care products (only a slight exaggeration, LOL). My taste buds have changed. I can barely stand artificial sweeteners now. And all of a sudden I like the taste of watermelon. But tea and cucumbers still make me gag.

Health-wise, my doctor is really pleased with me, too. He is totally an enthusiastic supporter of WW. I used to have to get cortisone shots in my knees every 4 1/2 -5 months, depending on how long I could tough out the pain. My most recent shots were at the beginning of July, fully ten (almost eleven) months from the last round. That’s progress. To date I’ve lost 57.6 pounds. Six more to goal, and then another 12 for good measure and to bring my total loss to 75 pounds. I’ll be in a healthy weight range and BMI, with all the attendant health benefits. My CPAP needs to be adjusted and serviced as it tends to overwhelm my smaller person. Sometimes I even sleep without it.

I’ve learned to like and respect myself and sometimes do a double take when I see my reflection in a window. I’m in in a position now to put my own needs first moving forward. I can do hard things, and I am strong physically, mentally and emotionally.  I will not go back. I feel some major changes coming in my life and I am so excited. Stay tuned. (And if you made it through this post, congrats and thank you!)

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Happy Summer Days

Happy Saturday!  

The International Sisters quilt, which I dearly love, is finally finished and photographed! When my friend Ruby was over to sew last weekend (along with Cousin Kim), she happily agreed to be my quilt holder. She is way taller than Kim or me, and has one more arm than Bruce (wink). 

Without further ado, here are the “glamour” shots … and I use that term verrrrrry loosely. 

It was necessary to take the photos in the shade of a tree, so correcting the color to warm up the “blue” shade hopefully presents a more accurate color depiction. And if not, I think our brains can adapt. 

International Sisters is a free pattern drafted by my friend Preeti, who with permission from the original maker of a block called African Queen, used her talent to bring this lovely maiden to the masses. You can find Preeti’s post HERE.

The block name of International Sister was suggested by me, and Preeti thought it was a good fit. She had used so many varied fabrics for dresses, hats and skin tones, that these lovely ladies can easily represent our friends and sisters worldwide. In fact, as I was making these blocks, I named most of them. Names like Malala, Rosa, Coretta, Greta, Winnie. Come to think of it, Preeti and I are in there too. Hint: we’re the “twins” sporting Kaffe fabric.

Preeti also had several extra blocks with gray background colors that we both felt detracted from the Sisters. So when she sent those blocks to me, I carefully unpicked them and restitched them with the consistent Kona White I had been using. So my Sisters and some of Preeti’s Sisters are all chilling together. That makes me very happy!

Several of the Sisters are wearing African fabrics, and several are dressed in fabric donated by friends (thanks, Sally!) I quilted the white sections in a smaller stipple. The dresses were each quilted uniquely, and less densely to allow them to pop a bit. I had several close-up photos of some of the dresses, but they’ve disappeared from my photo gallery, so dang.  Finished size is 56x70”.

Here’s the back. These were some of the fabrics I bought while I was in Kenya about five years ago (at the same time Barack Obama was there!). I’d been saving it specifically for this quilt back. 


My sewing focus this week was on beating back my red strips. To that end, I sewed 54 red string blocks that will finish at 6”. 

In the bottom right corner are the blocks left over from last year, so I will have enough blocks total to put together four 15-block bundles for our Quilts for Kids kit assemblers to pair with other fabrics. 

Speaking of Quilts for Kids, our workshop last Saturday was so delightful. I can’t tell you how many sweet friends came up to tell me how “cute” and skinny I looked. And then when I went to the Nordstrom Anniversary sale, the sweet young personal stylist helping me kept saying “cute” too. Of course, she gets paid to be nice, right? But it made me wonder if “cute” is code for “sweet little old lady”. LOL. Oh, and it was near tear-inducing when I kept having to size down in the clothes I tried on. I now have a beautiful basic wool blazer in a single-digit size!  

Next week I’ll recap my July weight loss highlights, goals, medical benefits and, well, we’ll see…

But getting back to red, the July color of the month for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, I also completed the top of my Red Ribbons quilt (a free pattern from Jordan Fabrics). It is perfectly square and flat, although pinning it to the design board (sideways) tends to distort it and make it look wonky. It’s not!

The backing is prepped, and I hope to spend today in a quilt-basting frenzy! There are at least 7 quilt tops that need to get layered up, and I’m going to put on some upbeat dancing music and see how many I can knock out in one afternoon! Wish you could be here joining in the fun! 

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Red Scraps and Green Beans

What a fun and hectic week!  The vegetable harvest is in full swing, which means too much time in the kitchen for me getting things processed. The weather has been hot, hot, hot. As usual, lots of errands this week. But Bruce passed his physical driving test to have his full drivers license issued with all the new adaptive equipment in the car as well as the requirement that he (naturally) wear his prosthetic arm. That’s been a huge relief for both of us. He is independent once again, and I’m not needed to be his chauffeur. Win-win. 

Bruce took this picture of the large basket of beans (wish there was something there to indicate scale) that he picked yesterday. This is the second basketful this week. He thinks we’re probably over half done. 

So, I’ve been sharing them with neighbors and my Weight Watcher friends. And I’ve been blanching, vacuum sealing and freezing them by the bagful for us. We’ve been getting peppers, too, but they’re easy to use and save. The Next Big Crop will be the blackberries, and I’m hoping they’ll wait their turn until after the beans are done!

There was a lot of red scrap sewing in the studio this week. First there were 6 Four in Nine blocks, all made this month with a navy constant and Kona White. 

And then six red Chaser blocks. 

As well, I finished up the last of the 19 large (12” finished) stars for the Christmas Stars quilt that will be sewed steadily over the next three months. 

That star center on the block second-from-left on the bottom row will be replaced. I lost a major point there. But I’ll wait until the end when I see what kind of scraps I have left over before I worry about it. Next up are the 40 stars in the 8” finished size. Those will be sewn using the 4-at-a-time method for making the flying geese star points. I’ll get all those cut out - and hopefully begin sewing them this week. Green beans willing….

All of these blocks fit neatly into the Rainbow Scrap Challenge’s color of the month. I’m linking up at our usual fun Scrappy Saturday party. 

Also on my sewing schedule this week is to finish the Red Ribbons top. I started this in August of 2021, and here is a reference photo from the blog from January 2022 when I finished the interior portion of the top. 

This past week I sewed the Seminole-pieced borders. Unfortunately I made the side borders all the same size, when the two sides should contain 9 red squares instead of the 7 that the top and bottom have. I don’t know how or if that will affect the assembly, but I’ve got plenty of fabric to use if I need to fix it. And a seam ripper. Blessed be Jack the Ripper, right?

The inner 2” border is shown in the picture, and after the Seminole border will be a final red outer border. I’m thinking this will be a good project for my Sunday Sewing. 

This morning - Saturday - is a Quilts for Kids workshop from 10-1:00. I’ll be sewing 6.5” red string blocks. 

Oh! I finished the International Sisters Quilt, but I’ll have to wait until next week for the unveiling. I haven’t been able to find a quilt holder or a good time or place to take some decent photos. I’m crossing my fingers that Ruby can help me with it on Sunday. 

And I’ll leave you with some garden pictures. In high summer, it’s difficult to get outdoor pictures that aren’t glaring, even in the early morning or the evening. 

Backyard corner: pink hollyhocks. They are biennial, and this is their “off” year. Last year there were three times the blooms and many more colors. But as long as they continue reseeding, we’ll enjoy what comes up. 

The echinacea on the side yard is blooming.

The flower pots on the front walkway are looking amazing!

And new flushes of blooming perennials have stepped up to take their turns as stars.

The only sad note of the week was when I accidentally knocked and broke my grandparents‘ old Delft vase. 😢😢  It happened in slow motion, as these things often seem to, accompanied by my cry of  “Noooooooooo!” But the universe isn’t giving me a do-over.

I think that wraps it up for now. See you back here next week, OK? Have a good one!

Saturday, July 8, 2023

An Almost-Finish, A Dinner Out and (Lack of) Fireworks

It was another great week of summer here. We only spent one day in the yard because it was hot and there is less to do. Maybe I can get out there again this week, weather and obligations permitting. I do want to repaint the white wicker rocker and the backyard wrought iron railing, but I need to have a perfect set of circumstances come together for that - (1) having supplies on hand - check! (2) having a nice summer early morning with no breezes, and (3) getting my lazy butt out of bed before 8 am to get outside and just do it. I’ll let you guess where the problem lies…

Friends Ruby and Cousin Kim were over on Sunday, and we had our usual fun sewing, chatting, and listening to music. I sewed these Little Bricks squares, which finish at 6”. It’s Red July for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, so I’m linking up to Scrappy Saturday

I also sewed seven more Sawtooth Star blocks with a red background for the Christmas quilt I’m making this year. I have seven more of this 12” size, then I can drop down to the 8” stars.

Monday was the day for my doctor appointment to get cortisone shots in my knees. When I was heavier, I was getting them every 4.5 to five months. Apparently losing weight really does help, because it’s been 11 months since my last shots! In the afternoon, I began a lot of batch cooking. I seem to get a wild hair to do this sometimes. This time I made a large pan of lasagna (4 meals), a ham and broccoli quiche (2 meals) and lots and lots of strawberry-rhubarb (from our garden) compote. It’s all tucked safely away in the freezer. Well, except the quiche, which was safely tucked away in our tummies!

Tuesday was a quiet Fourth of July for us. Even the neighborhood fireworks were tame. This was a nice, cooler day which we spent outside working in the garden. We harvested all the peas, and the sorting and shelling commenced! Here is a recycled photo of Darla on one of our patriotic quilts.

Wednesday happened to be another sewing day with Kim, and I got all the white background of my International Sisters quilt quilted. Later in the week, (Thursday and Friday afternoons) I was able to finish up quilting the Sisters and their dresses. Here’s a peek. It’s trimmed but not yet bound.

The background is just a small meander with white thread, while the headpieces and dresses are mostly varying patterns and more loosely quilted so they will hopefully stand out a bit more. I’ll give all the details and show some close-ups next week. I’m intending to get some “glamor shots”  of this one. But for now, here is the backing - fabric I bought in Kenya when I was there five years ago. 

The fabric is a heavy cotton Dutch wax resist, and in Africa the fabrics are put up and sold in 6-yard bolts. In this case, it was three yards of each of these two coordinating prints.  I saved some of both of these prints specifically for this backing. I also sent some fat quarters to friends at the time, so now I only have a few scraps left. And that is how it should be. 

On Thursday I had a Weight Watchers meeting in the morning. I usually go on Tuesdays, but with Independence Day being Tuesday, I had to switch this week. I lost another 1.8 pounds, to bring my total loss to 52.6 pounds. I’m 11 pounds from goal, which is the top end of my healthy weight range. I’d like to go ten pounds below that goal number just to have a little flexibility within my range. I won’t be thin, but at least I will not be obese. A healthy weight. 

Thursday was the day that Bruce was asked to attend and present at a special session for Prosthetists, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists ahead of the annual EmpowerFest 2023, which was being held in Salt Lake this year. EmpowerFest is presented by the Hanger Clinics (they’re a national chain of prosthetics and orthotics). EmpowerFest is an opportunity for persons (adults and children) with limb loss to connect, make friends, share resources, learn and to try out lots of new skills - like horseback riding, rock wall climbing, dancing, and on and on. 

Bruce was one of four amputees in this professionals-only session, along with three other locals - friend Sam (the No-Handed Bandit on You Tube who lost both arms in a work-related electrical accident as a lineman); Craig, who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident, and John, who is a quadruple amputee and can sling his left arm prosthetic like a gun from a holster. John was so charming and funny - he just lit up the room! 

L-R: Kyle (Bruce’s prosthetist), Bruce playing the banjo, and Kelly

It was an interesting and enlightening evening, especially for us few lay people. And we made some new friends and had a really nice meal. :-)

Friday was just grocery shopping, sewing and some chores, which brings me current. Now I remember, though, why I don’t get as much done in the sewing room even when the heat of the summer sets in; there is always garden harvesting to process! It won’t be long until I start bringing extra veggies along to my Weight Watchers meetings. It’s more fun to share than to stand in a hot kitchen! 

Have a great week!

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Busy Summer Days

How can days be so busy, and yet at the end of the week I can’t really remember or show what I did? I do know that it included appointments, errands, meetings, shopping, family visits, lunch out, dinner out, laundry (I call it the ultimate ball and chain), quilting and yard work/play. That’s it in a nutshell. Raise  your hand if you did many of the same things! I see I’m sorely lacking in the travel and Fun Things departments. Maybe after next week (more of the same plus Independence Day!) I can do something fun. I’m thinking of the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale, a pedicure, and a trip to the beach. Oh wait, the beach is several states away. Well, two out of three…

In the studio, I reworked my blue scraps into a more cohesive hodgepodge (a cohesive hodgepodge?) of a scrappy light blue quilt top. This is the last project for Light Blue June for the Rainbow Scrap Challenge, and just needs to be given a backing (more scrappy chunk piecing), and then sandwiched, quilted and bound. “Just”, ha! 

Light Blue is my least favorite color to work with in the Rainbow Scrap Challenge. Not because I don’t like blue - I actually love it - but because it always seems so anemic compared to the other colors. Usually the other colors tend to appear more bold and saturated when I use them in blocks. Consequently, I felt the light blue scraps in the above quilt top needed a kick in the pants.  I had a yellow-orange scrap that was willing to oblige. I also think it does a good job of accenting the colorful tidbits in the center waffle blocks. 

But then it was time to change gears and dig out the red scraps. Red is one of the colors I planned to use to frame more jungle print Happy Blocks. These blocks will finish at 10”. 

Now I have four colors done - red, blue, orange and green. Only 10 yellow ones left. The final 50 blocks will eventually make 2 quilts. Here’s what the four colors look like together so far.

It’s also time for me to begin focusing a bit more heavily on the Christmas Quilt I’m making for my son Ryan and DIL Kim. This week I sewed the first 5 (of 19 blocks) in this 12” finished size. Only lost one point in the process!

After this size is done, I have 40 blocks to do at 8” and 109 blocks to do at 4”. I’ll be using the four-at-a-time piecing method for the smaller sizes so it shouldn’t be as daunting as it sounds (she said with absolutely no confidence whatever). 

The front flower pots are loving the summer heat that finally arrived this week.

The day lilies and goldenrod in the flower bed are about to explode!

Someone, who shall remain nameless, has yet to plant her new David Austin climbing rose. 

Have a wonderful week!