Feeling Recharged

For six years now, I have traveled to Waite Park, MN in July to spend a few days with some of the best friends I have ever known; a group of women that felt like forever friends almost immediately after our first meeting. My Grubers Retreat is a non-negotiable event on the calendar. I’ve written about the joys of this retreat in the past; but really, words cannot explain what this week means to me and does for me emotionally. Group8                               L to R: Amanda, Rene, me, Mary, Michelle, Terri, Cindy, Shelly, Stephanie

Amanda produces like crazy every year–many things with her new fabric collection for Connecting Threads this year! She free-motion quilted like crazy, and she and I made micro quilts. Amanda2015CollageRene worked on a scrap vortex quilt most of the weekend. Her 51 Kisses quilt, made for her sister, Michelle, is fabulous. Go check out her MUCH better photos!Rene2015CollageI finished up my Rock Pools quilt top from a class I took in May (it’s Christmas fabric), and worked on my Quick Curve Ruler project from last year’s retreat! My micro quilt is at the bottom left:Doris2015CollageMary made us the adorable egg-cup pincushions (top right photo) with the smallest EPP hexies I’ve ever seen. She worked diligently on a Moda Bake Shop pattern most of the weekend. Mary2015CollageMichelle first joined us for retreat in 2011 (year two). She is Rene’s little sis, and at the time she was just a newbie to quilting. She has come a long way! The girl is obsessed with foundation paper-piecing (and the movie Pitch Perfect, which we watched as a group Saturday evening). The quilt on the top right is the beauty she made for Rene this year:Michelle2015CollageTerri is fun to watch work; she makes the most of her time at retreat. She goes back and forth between projects, starts new ones when inspired by something she sees (see the blocks at bottom right, inspired by one Michelle shared-in my collage above), her creativity is inspiring. She came prepared with her suitcase of fabric (LOVE IT!)… Also, she made us those beautiful Dresden coasters this year:Terri2015CollageCindy accomplished much more than I took photos of. I couldn’t resist snapping the pic of her with the matching Hello Kitty sewing machine! She made us all one-hour baskets with fussy cut license plate fabric–so fitting! A friend made the cute bag at the bottom for her, it’s just too adorable not to share:Cindy2015CollageShelly and I share a ride from Des Moines to Waite Park, about 5 hours in the car (each way). She’s afraid she talks my ear off, but I love the laughs, the sharing, the brainstorming…and she tells the BEST stories. She was working on some top-secret stuff, so not many pics of her work, but she was very productive! I’m still tickled pink that she made us those perpetual journal calendars in the pint box (it’s one of the first projects I ever added to Pinterest and I have YET to make one–don’t need to, now!):Shelly2015CollageStephanie sat next to me this year, I was amazed at how quickly she made the Mini Disco quilt in the Allison Glass fabrics (the back is just as beautiful, photo on bottom right). She worked on a Quick Curve Ruler project as well, a current QAL on the Sew Kind of Wonderful blog.Stephanie2015CollageEach year we make (or “outsource”) happies for each other. Seriously, it’s better than Christmas:Happies4I gave the Cotton & Steel charm packs and scissors key fobs this year, Anna Maria Dresden coaster from Terri, Perpetual Journal Calendar & flashlight from Shelly, Egg Cup pincushion from Mary, Work in Progress bag and pattern, and mini-charms from Amanda, fabric tray and chocolate from Michelle, Her OWN honey and “Sew Sisters” bag from Stephanie (and fresh Michigan blueberries!), License plate basket from Cindy, and Mug and mini-charms from Rene.

Every year I come home feeling recharged and inspired–Love my Grubers gals!

If you can’t find what you want…

…make it!  I’m a DIY kind of girl, always have been. I’m frugal, and learned many skills from my mom; ours was a big family with a limited income, she made do, did a lot of the projects around the house, figured out how to fix things herself. I still tend to do things myself rather than pay someone to do it. Last weekend, I tore the mantle and fireplace surround (with trim all the way to the high ceiling) off my fireplace by myself rather than pay the contractor to do it. Last Fall, when I moved, I wanted a jewelry case to hang in my walk-in closet, that would protect my silver pieces from tarnishing. There are lots on the market, but they were not for my frugal self. And, I decided I didn’t need a large one.

So, I went to Hobby Lobby, bought a 10″ x 20″ shadow box frame, and pulled out the poorly installed canvas backing. I couldn’t find a white frame, so I bought a black one and spray painted it with white enamel that I happened to have on hand. I didn’t take the glass out, I just very carefully taped newspaper over both sides of the glass.

Cut a piece of mat board to fit, and covered that in batting and fabric to match my paint color:JewelryCase1 First, folded in and glued the batting…JewelryCase2 Then did the same with the fabric. The front side looked like this when I was done:JewelryCase3 I glued this into the bottom/back of the shadow box, then drilled holes for cup hooks that I had also spray painted white. (If I were to do this again, I would have used an awl to make my pilot holes–the drill bit got wrapped in batting each time and was a bit of a pain):JewelryCase4 Once the cup hooks were all screwed in:JewelryCase5 And voila! The finished project hanging on the wall of my closet:

JewelryCase6 The wire rack below it is what I have used for years for my necklaces/chains, but anything silver always tarnished quickly hanging out in the open air. Really, a fairly easy project that cost me about $22 total. JewelryCase7Now to get that fireplace surround re-done…

Happy creating,


The thing I hope you never understand

Today was a very sad day. My “little” cousin, Becky (she’s five years younger, so she will always little in my mind) passed away from metastatic breast cancer. She was diagnosed in March of this year, 40 years young, and gone so soon. She left behind her husband of 20+ years, and three children, 20, 16 and 13. We received news last week that the prognosis was grim, but I’m not sure anyone expected her to pass away so quickly. My heart goes out to her husband, Jason, simply because I have some understanding of what he is going to face in the coming months, and beyond. And he has three children to care for on top of his grief.

Monday marks 15 months since my sweetie took his final breath, and this week marks one year since we buried his mother. It seems like it was decades ago when I think about the last time Frank and I talked, laughed, held hands. And yet, I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember every day in the hospital, little details I would NEVER remember of an average, every day event or encounter. I remember entire conversations with nurses and doctors and strangers sitting vigil in the ICU with their loved one. I remember so clearly my trip rushing back to the hospital the night the nurse called and told me I needed to come back, what I said and what I prayed in the Jeep, the walk from the parking garage to ICU… what I saw and felt and heard when I hurried into his room. He was already gone. I remember almost everything of the following days and that first week. Some of it, I’m glad I remember, some details I wish I could forget.

It took a little time for the shock to wear off, and the intense pain of grief to take over. Had you asked me back then, even a few months ago, I would have told you that I would feel this terrible, wretched pain until the day I left this world. Because truthfully, it only got worse as the year went on, NOT easier. Do not ever tell someone that time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. Period. It doesn’t. It CHANGES over time, it doesn’t go away, it doesn’t get BETTER and it is never healed. I will miss Frank every day, FOREVER. Jason and the rest of Becky’s family will miss her every day, for the rest of their lives. (Also, never say “they’re in a better place”, it doesn’t help, because, even if it’s true, in that moment you ONLY want them to be standing next to you… but I could go on and on about what not to say, but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

For much of the past 15 months, I believed my life was over, because I was alone and single again, and nothing was as good as it was sharing it with him (it still isn’t). And what would be the point of trying to find someone to fill the void, because he was the PERFECT person for ME. I was convinced that I would live in that dark, painful place, forever. There were times I wanted nothing more than to join him where he is; not because I had a death wish, or was suicidal, even, just because it was so damn unbearable being here without him. It still is at times. This is the one thing I hope you never understand, or at least, you never have to understand until you are a very old person; unless you have experienced it, you cannot understand what it feels like to have to live without your chosen partner in the world. I thought I understood what it must be like for my Mom and others to lose their spouse. But I really didn’t “get it”. It’s hard to lose any person you love; grandma, parent, child, friend… I know what it’s like to lose a parent too soon, and to lose a child, I cannot even imagine how gut-wrenching it must be. I’m not writing any of this for sympathy, or to diminish or dismiss anyone else’s loss. I’m simply saying, that losing your PARTNER, your spouse, the person you shared your home with, had dinner with and slept next to every night, and planned to GROW OLD with; It’s like lost half of myself. It’s a different loss, because it literally changed every single day of my life from that point on; every plan, even the simple one of tomorrow, to say nothing of the next holiday, the next year… simply because he would have been the one constant contact every day of my life. He was the one, solitary constant of every single day of my life for the past 8+ years.

I still feel the pain (and in case you’re wondering, it is an actual, physical pain that has been in my chest for 15 months. Non stop.). I focus on one day at a time, because the present is all there is right now. In the early days, I focused on getting through the next 10 minutes, and then the next, and then an hour. Now I focus on getting through each day. Some days are good, some days are still as emotional and hard as they were six months ago. You never know when a grief trigger is going to pop up unexpectedly. And the grief didn’t stop, or even change, when I hit that magical “one-year” mark that everyone talks about (you know, “getting through all those firsts is the worst part”) it is every bit as present as it was three months ago on the anniversary of his death. Try to remember that when dealing with your friends or family that have experienced a loss. It takes every person as much time as it takes. Give them time, be patient with them.

It will never be okay with me that he died. It will never be okay with me that I don’t get to have that life anymore, that his girls don’t get to have their Dad anymore, that his granddaughter will grow up with no memory of how much he adored her. I’ve wished I could trade places with him, so he was still here for his girls. I wish this week I could trade places with Becky, so her kids could have their momma back. But God didn’t choose to take me. So the best I can do, the best any of us can do for those who leave us too soon is to honor them by living the best life possible.

That is what has gotten me through the past 15 months without ending up in a psychiatric ward (NOT a joke); I decided a month after Frank died that I was going to find joy, whatever small iota of joy I could find in the day. Believe me when I say, there were MANY days that this was a herculean task. But I made myself do it, and for 100 consecutive days, I documented it. I still choose to find joy every day, even if it’s a day where I end up sitting at his gravesite crying my eyes out. Because he was so good at finding joy in every situation, no matter how frustrating or ridiculous it might be. He always put a positive spin on it, always found the good in everyone. I know he would want those he left behind to be happy, and to live, not to wallow in grief over losing him. So I do my best to live every day with a positive attitude, and determination, because Frank no longer has that choice. I don’t succeed every day, but I try, and I will endure the pain and accept the sad, tearful moments, so that I can experience the life that is to come. Earthly, and Heavenly.

There are days now, when I’m shocked to find myself laughing, enjoying time with friends or family, even making plans for things further out than tomorrow. Because even a few months ago, I couldn’t. My laughs, my smiles were just on the surface; inside I just felt lost and uncertain about everything. I’d make plans and commitments, and then cancel because I really wasn’t ready to face life. I’m not certain about dating again, but it’s no longer the absurd, unfathomable concept that it was just a month or so ago. I don’t know if any of this post makes sense, if I explained myself well enough, but it’s okay if you can’t understand it, because I want you to never have to understand it.

I know so many people who are currently struggling with a loss. I wish I could take it away, or carry it for them, I wish I could fast-forward them through the pain. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. So instead, I pray that they allow the pain and the tears to come when they come, and do what they have to do, so they can get through to the other side. I can finally see it, that little glimmer of light, of hope, that one day, I will be okay. It takes a little time before a person is ready to feel it, to see it, but it’s there.

Thank God, it’s there.

A ghastlie reunion

**If you’re visiting from the Bloggers Quilt Festival, be sure to scroll down, my quilt entry is two-sided, and you don’t want to miss the back!

When we (Row House Creations) designed our Mums for Melissa pattern, I knew I had finally found the perfect design to use my (ahem. cough) collection of Alexander Henry Ghastlies fabrics! I think the first collection was released in 2009; sort of a unique, “Addams family” style novelty print. This pattern is designed to use a 2-yard cut of a print fabric that you can’t bear to cut up too small:

mums_frontcopyThe characters in the Ghastlies fabrics are so detailed and have such great expressions, backgrounds and “props” that they need to be used in larger pieces. I did make placemats with them a few years ago, and I made the quilt top I shared on our Row House Creations site in 2013. Trina quilted it for me in 2014, but I realized I never blogged about the finished quilt. Because, you know, 2014 was my worst year. Ever.

But it did get quilted, and it’s pretty awesome (if I do say so myself), because it’s two-sided, and the back is fabulous, too. This is a full shot of the front:


The “mums” in the center panel include some Ghastlies coordinates, but also just grey, black, pink, and lavender prints from my stash that coordinate well; the center is a dark green tangled lace Ghastlies print. It’s easy to see my fabrics in this photo from before it was quilted:

GhastliesMFMDetail3And the inner border is from a line by Sanae for Mode called Haunted Mansion (I love this print) and looks like a damask wallpaper print complete with spider medallions:


The quilting is done on an Innova long-arm, using their computerized designs, but in a custom manner (a different design for the center flowers, the inner borders and the large side panels of the quilt):


MFMGhastlies4I had a TON of fun making this quilt, I’m a bit crazy for Halloween, I love these fabrics, and I was using a pattern my business parter and I had designed. My fun didn’t stop with the quilt top. The back I had just as much fun making, creating a family “photo gallery” and a wainscoting wall look using some Tula Pink Nightshade fabric that coordinates with this collection very well, and the original Ghastlies, the Ghastlie Family Reunion and Ghastlie Gallery collections:


I started by fussy-cutting scenes from the large prints of each collection and “framing” them in coordinating fabric:MFMGhastliesBack4

I arranged them in rows on my design wall, added the white “wall” around them, then added the “wainscoting” panel below and above the photo gallery:


MFMGhastliesBack2The photo gallery inspiration came from this print from a Ghastlie GalleryMFMGhastliesBack5One of my very favorite quilts–this one stays with me! BTW, the back is a one-of-a-kind design and is NOT a pattern and NOT included in our Mums for Melissa pattern.

This is my entry in the Spring 2015 Blogger’s Quilt Festival — entered into “original design” category — would love to have you vote for me for viewer’s choice!

Happy Quilting, and come back again,


Fox in a Box

Trina and I designed this quilt in 2013, published the pattern, and it’s been a best seller! I’m sharing it here again as my entry in the Spring 2015 Bloggers Quilt Festival.

There is an applique and a non-applique version. I’m kind of partial to those cute little foxes on the applique version…


FIAB FullSHot Quilted2

Fox in a Box made with no applique:

Fox in a Box Quilt

Trina did a wonderful job on the quilting of this one, a combination of straight-line quilting, pebble quilting and shadow spirals…

Fox in a Box Free Motion Quilting

Fox in a Box Free Motion Quilting Detail

In designing this pattern, we worked out two methods of making no-waste (or LOW-waste) flying geese; through trial and error, but the methods in the pattern work our lickety-split!

Our little fox friend peeking out from his Fox and Geese Block, isn’t he adorable?

Fox in a Box Applique Fox and Geese Quilt Block

And his little friend gazing up at him from another block:

FIAB Fox 1 Detail

The two quilts side-by-side on my (apparently not-so-straight) fence:


The pattern is available here.

Happy Quilting! …and do come visit again

Doris (& Trina)

From dinosaur to…

…possibly the cutest “up-cycle” project I’ve ever completed.

Over a year ago, I was trying to help my mom sell an entertainment center via craigslist and Facebook. It didn’t fit her new television, so it had been moved to her garage. Well, we couldn’t sell it, we couldn’t even give it away — literally — our local salvage/resale shops won’t take them. So, it became a dinosaur taking up space in my mom’s garage.

But then I saw this, the piece in the before pic is almost an EXACT version of my mom’s dinosaur, shown here:

EntertainmentCenterI sent the pin to my sister and a plan was hatched.

Just before Christmas, we moved the entertainment center from mom’s garage to my garage, and we started painting and remaking it as a surprise for my niece.  We had a lot of fun brainstorming ideas… the sink is a cheap plastic mixing bowl, the faucet is the top of an m&m candy cane that we spray painted, the oven “rack” is a shelf organizer, the burners and stove and faucet knobs are all from the unfinished wood aisle at Hobby Lobby. We used leftover paint from other projects, and  bought kitchen cabinet knobs to use as handles. The inside of the fridge is painted all white, and the shelves are repurposed as refrigerator shelves. The investment in this project in terms of dollars was pretty small.

CollageForBlogWe cut a piece of MDF for the “wall” of the kitchen, my sister didn’t want a cut out (like the Pinterest piece had) in it since it would sit up against the wall in their play area, so I painted an outdoor scene, blue sky with fluffy clouds, flowers and a bunny in the yard, framed it out with 1/2″ trim board for window “mullions”. I also painted a grocery list on the “fridge” door, and a kitty and puppy magnet. (Her grocery list reads milk, juice, candy, bacon — likely a list Zoe would come up with if you asked her what we should buy at the grocery store!)

ZoeKitchen3I made a valance for her “window” out of this yellow Sunkissed fabric by Sweetwater, and trimmed the wash clothes my sister bought for “towels” in the same. The “towel ring” is a plastic scarf ring from Target that I made a little leather holder for. We added cup rings to the opposite wall to hold her utensils.


ZoeKitchen1We moved it fro my garage, over to my sister’s basement play area on New Year’s weekend, while Zoe was napping. When we had it moved it, I went into her room to wake her up, and I carried her downstairs to see her surprise and she woke up in a BIG hurry when she saw it! (Her brothers were just as excited) A few weeks later, I finished the little apron I made her to match–once she tried it on, she wore it the rest of the day!

ZoeApronCollageShe loves her kitchen, our mom loves that it’s not sitting in her garage anymore, and I love that we didn’t have to send it to the landfill. Win-win.

Happy creating,