Updating Blog to Reflect Life

Hmm…. It seems to be a while since I’ve posted. And a good while before that since I’ve organized my blog to reflect my current life! The time has come to change my blog, get with the times. This is a screen shot of my current blog, hopefully it will look different by the time you are reading this.

Current Blog
Here are my ideas to modernize my blog and make it more fun and friendly:

– Welcome page when you land on it to introduce myself and what I’m all about instead of directly onto my blog.

– Separate page for blog so people only go there if they choose to.

– New page with quilts with my best quilts and stories about them.

– Updated header photo to something more recent, this one is of the Blasket Islands from June 2016

I also challenge myself to write a fresh blog every month. Something happy and fun and interesting. It could be a quilt, it could be a recipe, just something. I’ve been slacking!

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Fun Quilt Exhibition

There is a quilt exhibition currently on in St. Patrick’s Hospital in Dublin through June 23, run by Modern Quilters Ireland (MQI). The official opening is next week on June 6. I’ve seen photos and I must say it truly looks Fun! Two years ago the MQI put a similar exhibition on with the theme of Happiness. It’s inspiring to see a quilt show displayed on the corridor walls in a hospital.

When I saw the quilt show two years ago, it was one of the first times I felt a sense of a deeper kind of community within a group of quilters. Several Quilt Bee quilts were on display, where everyone within the bee contributed specific blocks and the “queen bee” finished the quilt. I loved how the bee members went up to the quilts and pointed out which ones were their blocks. It inspired me to join the MQI Bee myself in 2015 and again this year in 2017, and now indeed I have contributed my first MQI Bee quilt to the Fun Exhibition. I look forward to meeting some of the MQI bee members who contributed to this quilt next week. This is my Christmas Bee quilt:

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The other quilt I put into this show is one I finished specifically for Fun. I played with some stripey fabric and came up with this finished product. Clearly I find stripes fun! This is a baby sized quilt and I call it Fun With Stripes:

Quilt for Fun Exhibition

Quilt for Fun Exhibition

I learned two years ago that art does serve a purpose to brighten people’s lives, and quilts are indeed art. Quilting can bring people together. I look forward to the opening event next week!

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Kitchen Sunburst

This quilt represents a huge breakthrough for me. Paula Rafferty designed this for a class I am taking with her, it is the middle block of an extremely large sampler quilt. I decided that I wanted to make it for my new blue kitchen, so I picked the colors for the sun in the sky. I picked fabrics from my growing stash as the different color spikes. There are no two pieces the same size, and I spent many late nights at work getting all the pieces cut and organized and eventually pieced together. I sewed it in 5 sections, then fit them together and got that middle yellow in using a reverse applique technique so it would be solidly in.

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Paula took the quilt top back at this stage and she did the quilting on her longarm machine. This proved necessary as it was not pulling evenly – that is a nice way of saying that it was quite wavy! Paula worked wonders with the quilting, she did a magnificent job.

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I’m very pleased with this piece and I love that I see it all the time. It is always a sunny day in my kitchen!

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Flash of Inspiration

Do you believe that you ever have a “Flash of Inspiration?” I love the phrase but I’m not so sure that I believe. In the time since I committed to writing a book for kids, I’ve focused on reading more of that genre and also started reading a book on how to structure and write a Classic Mystery Novel. Now technically I won’t be writing a classic murder mystery, and in fact I’ve been horrified by the books I’ve read for kids that involve death and destruction, but I’ve learned a lot by reading the “how to” book.

Last week it came to me, my “Flash of Inspiration” or whatever you want to call it. The idea for my book world gelled. The names and personalities of most of the characters came clear in my head. Hours and hours of thinking about it, trying out different scenarios in my head, and now I’ve written it down. All the basics of my world. A world that I can picture in my head, every little detail. It’s quite fantastic.

The reason that I have trouble believing that it was a “Flash” is that to me flash denotes sudden, lazy, popping up in your bed at night saying “I got it!!!” However, this book idea is one that I’ve nurtured, with many hours of active thinking time. I do believe that art takes hard word. People will turn around and comment on how talented you are as they take a 30 second glance at a piece that took weeks to finish. That’s not fair. Because it’s not talent. It’s the weeks that went into it, and indeed the years of work before that. My book will not be just something that I’ve written in the space of weeks. I know it’s going to be a long process. I’ve started writing the world down, and possible plot elements. I only now have the first scene set in my head. I’ll begin to write that down soon. I look forward to seeing what will happen in my new world!

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Swim a Mile

Last month I did my first swim event in 10 years. I swam a mile in an organized charity event, 1600 meters in a 50 meter pool. The swim was 32 lengths, which I broke into 4 x 8 lengths, 400s. It was a “fun” event but I did some training, I worked on sprints and 400s to try to get my tempo up. My baseline was 31 minutes, that is what I could swim before I trained, and I got my final time to under 29 minutes. Swimming that mile was a great personal accomplishment.

I swim regularly and have for most of my adult life, starting with a Masters team in my 20s which is the first time I did any serious training and learned to swim the Butterfly stroke. Right now I swim a few times a week, but not with a team. It’s nice to swim just because I enjoy it. I do a bit of swim instruction too.

The main problem with swimming is just the ability to get to the pool and to have the time, as it’s also the time before and after you swim that you need to allow for. I see it myself that full time jobs and indeed mom or dad duties get in the way. In fact my biggest drought was the two years after my child was born, I just didn’t have the time or energy to swim.

Swimming is an incredible sport, it’s a full body workout and meditative too. There is also far less risk of injury than most other sports. I feel lucky that I have the time and energy to swim, and I can swim a mile in under 30 minutes!

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American Vision Quilts

I finished my American Vision quilts today. These are two quilts that I started on the day Trump was elected. I was very surprised by the turn of events, as I had not been paying very close attention to the American election. So I turned on the radio and listened to endless radio commentary, both American and Irish, as I started piecing these quilts.

The majority of the patterned fabric is from an American friend of mine. She collected it over the years but never used it, she is a terrific friend and is the one who first introduced me to quilting. She said the fabric wouldn’t be good for a single quilt as it’s all quite unrelated. But that’s perfect for this pattern – no two fabrics touch each other! Plus it’s balanced out by the solid colored fabric, literally balanced 50/50 – quite like the American election.

The idea was to make one in plum color for her, as that’s her favorite color, and one in turquoise for me, my favorite color. However, now that I see them together I don’t think I’ll be able to separate them. The question now is how to get them to her. I don’t know if I can put them into the mail, I’d be too worried about them!

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Some say quilts are like babies… so I suppose these are my first twins.

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Reading Books

Reading books is a great pasttime of mine. I always find time to read a bit. I posed a challenge to myself about a year ago to start keeping a book journal, and I’ve kept one on my computer with notes on each book I’ve read. I am happy to report that I read about 24 books in the space of 12 months, and they cover a wide arrange of subjects from non-fiction to bubblegum fiction. I am now posing myself a new challenge this new year, to read books of the genre and type that I want to write myself and keep a book journal on those books.

Way back when I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write kid’s books for kids of about age 8 – 14. I actually feel more strongly than ever that it is important to write for this age group now that I have a kid of my own. Most kids are reading less as they have more access to electronics with video games and other passive, time eating activities. It echoes in my head “be part of the solution.” The more books that are out there that kids want to read, the more likely they are to get into the habit. Because in the end, reading is a habit and we are all creatures of habit to some extent.

Here are some of my favorite books of the year. In no particular order:

Bounce by Matthew Syed. This is about the myth of talent and the importance of practice. I am a strong believer in working hard. This book is quite empowering, and Syed has a very engaging back story. I still can’t shake the belief that there is an element of talent – I could never have been a champion ski jumper! But I really did enjoy this book.

Evensong by Gail Godwin. This is an extremely dense book with complex characters. I found the ideas of this book particularly strong, and enjoyed the humor as well. My favorite quote from a very transient character is “At some point you have to decide whether you want to live dying or die living.”

Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. I am a big fan of Sue Grafton, as this is her autobiographical work. In it she writes about Kinsey who is the main character of her alphabet mysteries and her relationship to her own fictional character. I found it fascinating to see how Sue and Kinsey are different yet alike, and how she actually feels the presence of Kinsey in her life.

Kate Shugak series, numbers 5 and 16 by Dana Stabenow. I discovered this mystery series set in Alaska a few years ago and have read through to 5, and then I found 16, skipping 10 books. This was probably not the best idea because characters die and change over the course of those books! However, I love the writing and small town Alaska comes alive for me, it’s a different world. I find the character of Kate Shugak very likeable even though we have next to nothing in common – the mark of a terrific writer!

I love reading books. Perhaps some day there will be a book out there that I have written, that kids will love reading. I will work very hard to make this happen, as Syed’s book shows, everything worthwhile must be worked towards, and the harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed.

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Piano Teacher

Last month I took my Royal Irish Acacademy of Music (RIAM) piano exam, Grade 8. It is the first testing of this kind that I have ever attempted, as none of my teachers did any testing of this sort. I studied classical piano on and off when I was younger, then when I graduated college I re-learned piano to play jazz and rock’n’roll. I’ve always maintained my love of classical music.

I picked three pieces to learn for the RIAM exam – Bach’s Prelude in F minor, Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, and Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. I began practicing these pieces in September 2015 with some help from my son’s piano teacher, and he also helped me to tackle the long list of scales and arpeggios. It was a bit daunting at first (especially the scales) but I got through it, practice practice practice! Here’s a photo of my hand on exam day, just before the exam.

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I am pleased to report that the test went well and I earned a Distinction, so now I am officially able to put my own students through RIAM testing. My piano studio will just be a few students in my home. I don’t plan to advertise, just find students that I can connect with. Music teaches discipline, and I also think it is important to find the joy in music. Music can enrich your life in so many ways, and I will do my best to provide that as a piano teacher myself.

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Morsbags

I discovered Morsbags from a magazine I picked up at the Birmingham Quilts Festival. I read an interview with the lady who founded Morsbags years ago in the UK. She created Morsbags as an organized way to replace plastic bags with washable, handmade bags made preferably from recycled fabrics. Morsbags have since spread around the world and there are more than 210,000 Morsbags out there. You can read more of the story at their website:

http://www.morsbags.com/

I made my first Morsbags out of a set of curtains sitting in my closet that didn’t fit my windows. They are IKEA curtains with a lovely purple color and I had no idea what to do with that lump of fabric. I made 14 Morsbags from the one set of curtains! I then did a demo in my quilting group where I made up kits to give to my fellow quilters and did a demonstration of the Morsbag technique, sewing one Morsbag live. I gave out 30 kits in all, and I know I’ve inspired a few quilters. Morsbags make great gifts for Christmas.

Here’s what my first cutting session looked like with those IKEA curtains:

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My display of Morsbags on the night of my live demonstration:

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Now I have a new pile of fabric, mostly old curtains, ready to be made into Morsbags for Christmas gifts. I will be mailing them around the world to all my friends and family. I don’t think any of them read my blog so I am not spoiling any surprise!

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Christmas Bee Quilt

In 2015 I took part in a quilting bee, where every month you make two blocks for one of twelve quilters. The “queen bee” gets to dictate the block types each month. I was lucky enough to be queen in December and I mailed everyone green and gold striped fabric. Of course everyone is very busy in December but I did eventually get (nearly) all of them – I received 18 blocks plus my 2 and that was a perfect amount to make my quilt of 20 blocks! I just finished quilting the piece last week and I’m very happy with how it came out. The same stripey fabric worked especially well on the binding.

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I used this as a quilting exercise where every block is quilted differently. I quilted the sashing and border first so that I could completely unpin each square while I was quilting it. That’s not exactly the “right” way to do it but it worked well for my purposes.

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This quilt will be put into the Modern Irish Quilter exhibition called “Fun” next year and I’m hoping that many of the quilters who contributed blocks will be able to come and view the quilt. The last exhibition of the Modern Irish Quilters had many of the bee quilts from the previous year and that’s what inspired me to join the quilting bee. I enjoyed watching everyone go up to quilts on display and finding their blocks!

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