Saturday, January 17, 2015

Michael Miller MQG Fabric Challenge

Last year I made several minis and used those opportunities to stretch my creative wings.  It was not easy and often I found myself coming up with an idea which then proved quite difficult to execute.  I have a half finished mini sitting in my sewing room for that very reason. I will finish it one day but suffice it to say, it reminded me to consider my skill in these bright ideas, too.

One mini I DID finish however was the one for the Modern Quilt Guild Fabric Challenge (see winners here).  Using the Petal Pinwheels line of fabric from Michael Miller and some solids from my stash,
I drafted a mini quilt design which I felt had a modern feel and highlighted the fabric.  After printing it, I modified the design just a little further.
Then I got to sewing.  I love foundation piecing and that is the technique I used.


I pieced the binding and the back with leftover bits of fabric.
I kept the quilting simple because I felt there was no need for anything more, the mini was busy enough and the fabrics were what needed to show.
I love how this came out.  I am hoping that this year, I can try this pattern with some other fabrics and if it works again, who knows? Maybe I'll share the pattern with you all (of course, that might require more organization than I actually have.)

Cheers!
Beck

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Minis and Friends

I am really missing my blog so I am will be making as good effort to come back here and be a regular poster and reader again. I love Instagram, where I spend most of my time with quick photos, etc. (you can find me at @sarcasticquilter there also) but I like posting about my finishes and seeing what is up with all of you, too. 

So here I am, looking back a little to 2014 to share a couple more things I worked on.  Since 2014 seemed to be the year of mini quilt swaps and meetings/sew dates with friends, I couldn't let a post go by without showing you two ladies who played a big part in my sewing adventures last year.

Here we have Amy who occasionally blogs over at amylouwho. I met her first at Sewing Summit a few years ago and told her then she was my first "celebrity" meeting. This is because she was blogging regularly, had a good following and was a person I was hoping to meet.   Of course, she has no recollection of the meeting at all. ;-)
We kept in touch and got to know each other on line fairly well.  When I attended the first Stash Bash event, she was in NC and half-heartedly asked if I could swing by and pick her up on my way down. I said "sure" and a real life friendship was born.  6 hours in a car together will cement a friendship or teach each person it's not meant to be.  Amy, ya'll, is a gem.   On our way home we were discussing fabric likes and dislikes. I am not a fan of big florals and Amy is. It lead to her handing me a fabric scrap and challenging me to make something with it.
I sat on this thing for about a year and a half. In that time, Amy moved nearer to where I live and we started getting together to sew whenever schedules permitted. She convinced me to join a local quilt guild and we co-chair newsletter duties.  
And still, I sat on this fabric. I really wanted to make something to give back to Amy but just couldn't figure out a design which highlighted the floral until one day the light went on. I made this for her. 

She loved it. :)



This next lady, I met on Instagram sometime within the last year. She is hysterically funny and we just "get" each other. As it turned out, she was coming up to VA from NC and was planning to stay with Amy. I caught this on IG and told her I was closer to where she was going and she should stay with me. She agreed without having ever met me before.  All this was done in the space of an hour or so with Amy returning to Instagram to see I stole her house guest.  (All is good, she's forgiven me.) 
Karie is a pattern designer (TwoKwikQuilters) and she sells her patterns, has trunk shows and teaches. While she was here for one visit, she gave me one of her newer patterns, Kwik Trio of Stars and true to its name, I whipped it up over the weekend. It probably would have gone faster except I had kids soccer games to attend and such.
I am donating this puppy to charity, since I have no home for it. I think it is bright and happy that a child somewhere will like it, don't you?

The other one I whipped up of Karie's is PERFECT for a winter throw. I backed it with flannel, added batting and quilted it up loosely. So cozy and perfect.  Super quick and her patterns read so well, if you've been considering one, take the plunge and get it.  (No, she didn't pay me to tell you that but I might ask her for some chocolate now that I have!)  Here I have Kwik Geese.
I'm blessed to have these two ladies in my life and know, without a doubt, they will not only keep it real for me but laugh with me (or at me, and that's okay), too. 

Cheers!
Beck


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Meal Planning

On December 29, I started the new Beach Body program Insanity Max 30 with a challenge group and I've really enjoyed it despite it being as flipping hard as the original Insanity, maybe even more so!  I am two weeks in now and working out consistently, only missing one day.




This makes me super proud of myself because after all that hard work last year, I slacked off. I felt good, watched what I ate and stayed moving periodically. Then I did it less and less and found that weight I had lost again.  Oops, that wasn't what I wanted.

So, I started and stopped a few other programs and eventually, this one by Shaun T came out and caught my interest.  Even better, I know I can do this program physically so to maximize my results, in week 2 of the program I committed to creating and following meals that fit with the program's recommended meal plan.  It took me a long time to do that. It's hard to get the  right amount of protein and veggies and carbs when you aren't familiar with it but I was determined and it eventually came together. That's what this post is really about. What meals I planned out, my prep for the week and whether I followed it.

First off, the plan in the program is relatively easy to follow. I just like a lot of variety in my eating so wanted to give myself that through the week.  Below are the meals I set up for myself. I eat 4-5 times a day so I can keep my metabolism moving (and because, let's face it, I get hungry!)

    
    


I have to say, I did deviate from these just a little bit but I managed to stick with it for the whole week. (Some recipes and photos below.)  Meal prepping for the week helped. What did I do as the weekly prep?
1) I made egg muffins instead of cooking eggs each morning. 

  
2) I pre-baked the chicken meatballs and roasted the spaghetti squash (I also removed the squash from it's skin. 

3) I cut all the veggies I could precut for salad and cooking (carrots, cucumbers, onions, mushrooms) and labeled the bags so I knew how much to use for each meal and what meal. (FYI, a paper towel helps keep moisture at bay and keeps the veggies longer in your refrigerator.)




4) I made my almond milk (I use that in the shakeology or smoothies)
I could have prebaked the pork and precooked some of my vegetables but I don't like eating leftovers more than a few times and the egg muffins were enough for me. I wanted to cook during the week. As it is, what I did do took a couple hours but will go faster each time I do it. Mostly, I was trying to figure out what worked best for me.  That time was well spent b/c actual meal prep/cooking time during the week was next to nothing. I enjoyed yummy meals! 

Seriously, yummy.

Now, did I stick to this? Mostly. I find it REALLY hard for me personally to have pre-planned meals.  I think for me, I need to have a more generalized plan and then fill it in with my day to day needs (sometimes I want protein over veggies and sometimes I want all veggies). :)  I will be better about tracking my macros and following a little more closely to a plan during the week. Like a category of foods rather than actual meals.  For me, I can still prep veggies, etc. for meals but I don't have to eat the meals at exactly the same time I originally suggest to myself. Does that make sense?

I am going on and on about this, I know but it is an important part to our health. We eat so many prepared and processed foods that we don't realize how poorly we do eat simply by not knowing what ingredients are in the food.  I don't want that for me anymore. I love the taste of fresh food with 5 simple ingredients. These chicken meatballs? Just look at the recipe below to know how simple and yummy they are.  I will stick to my plan, 6 more weeks and I will proudly come back here and post my successes once again. I'm so excited. 

I hope, if you are thinking you need to make a change, you take a little time and think about why you haven't started and then start.  Or, if you are making a change toward healthy and fit, you continue on your journey. You are all so worthy of being healthy, fit and happy! 

If you are interested, here are the meals/portions I planned.  Part of this helped me prep and portion out the meals.

Per Serving Meals
Eggs w/veggies: 2 lg eggs (or 4 egg whites & 1 lg egg) plus 1 cup worth of veggies (tomato, onion, asparagus, mushroom) - Need 4 servings
Avocado & Tomato on Rye Bread: 2 slices tomato , ¼ c. mashed avocado spread over rye bread – Need 4 servings
Mixed Veggie Salad w/Turkey: 1 c. veggies (mixed greens) plus tomato, cukes, 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds, 1 Tbsp Dijon Vinagrette, 3oz turkey, ¼ cup avocado (only for 1 serving) – Need 4 servings (only 3 have turkey)
Berry Banana Shakeology: strawberry shakeology, 1 banana, 1 c. almond milk – need 4 servings
Bananas Yo Shakeology: chocolate shakeology, 1 c. almond milk, 1 tsp. peanut butter, 1 banana - Need 2 servings
Chicken & Veggie Meatballs:  chicken meatballs (see recipe p. 2), 1 ½ c. spaghetti squash, ¼ c. tomato sauce – need 1 serving
Beef & Veggie Stir Fry w/rice: ¾ c. brown rice, 1/2 c. steak cubes, 1 c. veggies (use broccoli, peas, carrots, onion, water chestnuts), 1 egg, olive oil & sesame oil – need 1 serving
Avocado & Shrimp bowl: ¼ c. avocado, ¾ c. shrimp, 1 c. brussel sprouts (or 5 md. sprouts) w/shrooms & onions – need 1 serving
Roasted Pork Loin w/carrots & Couscous: 1 c. carrots, ¾ c. pork, ½ c. couscous – need 1 serving
Chicken Breast w/Veggies: 1 c. veggies of choice (leftovers?), 1 chicken breast, ½ c. couscous –need 1 serving
Grilled Steak w/brussel sprouts (cream corn for M) & mashed taters: ¾ c. steak, 1 c. sprouts (or 5 md.
sprouts) sauteed w/shrooms & onion, ½ c. mashed taters – need 1 serving
Green Smoothies: see recipes below – need 2 servings

A couple recipes I used.

Veggie Turkey Meatball (on yourtea.com)
This lean, clean and green delicious meatball is shared by YingYing Kuang (IG: @yingying258) is super easy to make.

INGREDIENTS:
- 1-1 ½ pounds 99% lean ground turkey (substitute ground chicken)
- ¼ cup chopped onions                                                                     - ¼ cup chopped celery                     
- ¼ cup chopped kale or spinach                                                        - ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed                                                                - ¼ teaspoon sea salt (I prefer Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt)
- ¼ teaspoon of pepper                                                                       - 1 large egg white
- 1 teaspoon of almond flour (secret ingredient)(substituted 1Tbsp quick cook oats)       - Coconut oil/cooking spray
*Note: you can also use any of your favorite veggies as substitutes to the above
 Preheat oven to 325C - Coat broiler pan with coconut oil or cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well, shape into size you prefer. - Bake at 325C for 15-18 minutes (depend on the size of the meatball) or until done.

GREEN SMOOTHIES (from simplegreensmoothies.com)
Apple Pie                                                                               CITRUS CRUSH
serves two                                                                              serves two
2 cups fresh spinach                                                              2 cups fresh spinach
1 1/2 cups almond milk, unsweetened                                  1 ½ cups water
3 apples                                                                                 1 cup pineapple
4 mejdool dates                                                                     1 orange, peeled
1 tsp cinnamon                                                                      1 cup grapes, any variety
pinch of nutmeg

For the egg muffins, I just used whatever veggies I wanted and precooked them a bit before adding the egg to muffin tins and baking.

All said and done, this one week experiment was a success for me and I will take a good bit of it into these next several weeks so I can retrain myself to make better choices and to enjoy the benefits of it, too!

Here's to a healthy and Happy New Year!
Becky

Sunday, December 14, 2014

More mini quilts

I have  made a few more mini quilts for 2 different reasons. The first reason is for another IG swap, actually called IGMini Swap. :)

My partner said she liked rainbow things and improv but wanted something a little more sophisticated. Trying to touch on all three items, I came up with this, It's quilted in rainbow variegated thread.

I sent a little mug rug, too, for the heck of it.
I made the quilting show on the back because I figured if she didn't like the front it would give her an alternative way to hang it.  She seems to like it, though, and the quilting so maybe she will hang it both ways, depending on her move.

This is what I received from someone else in the swap. I love it!

The other minis I created as giveaway prizes to my IG followers. I have been active there while not so much here and chose 5 random followers and made a mini of their choosing from the website fandominstitches.com.  It's great if you know how to foundation piece and like themes!


 The extra "O" is for a friend.
I had some fun making all of these.

Cheers!
Beck

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Being a Swap Mama

I'm in my third round of the Schnitzel & Boo Mini Swap (it just started) & my second round as a swap mama for it. However, before I get into the meat of this post, I wanted to provide a little background.

This swap, originated and run by Kristi over at Schnitzel & Boo, is partly responsible for all my swap sign ups to date and is directly responsible for my volunteering as swap mama.Twice. I enjoyed the large group of people to follow, seeing their creations and listening to their buzz about the ups and downs of trying to make for partners they've never met. I shared in every one of those experiences in one way or another and I made new InstaGram friends and widened the number people I stalk (I mean, follow and praise!) greatly. :)

All that said when I went into round 2 of the the S&B swap, I put on my answers that I would help as a swap mama and lo and behold, a swap mama I became. WHAT A RIDE! 

(One more note before I forget, Karri over at Karri of Berries has a great post on being a swap participant. Give it a read. I've been guilty of one or two things on that list that I shouldn't do (like "I like everything") but mostly, it's a helpful guideline to get you thinking about answers for the next swap you sign up for.)

You might think being a mama is just checking in with your group of participants here and there and kind of keeping track of their progress and you are right.  It also means being organized (honestly, I don't remember yesterday so remembering who was on my list and who they were making for was always a blur).  For me, organization meant knowing how to read my excel spreadsheet that contained the makers and all their information as well as the receivers and all the answers to the swap questions! It meant knowing where everyone was in the process. Were they on track to finish on time, did they send their mini, did they receive their mini?  It meant answering questions along the way by participants and helping them get more info from the recipient if the maker was having difficulty finding much (some folks are less active on social media).  It also meant keeping track of people who had to drop out or those who did not receive a mini and being sure a Swap Angel was assigned and then that mini was made and received.  There were more, little things in this whole process but that's the gist.

I hated it.  Okay truth, only a teeny, tiny, itty, bitty part of me hated it. The part of me that felt unorganized and out of her depth at the beginning. But then, the part of me that gets a high off of organizing something, making a process and seeing it work, LOVED it.  I liked it so much so that I offered to be a mama again. I'm taking what I learned the first time around, applying it to this round and trusting that it will work so I have little fear of being stressed over this. 

So, if you are ever thinking about being a swap mama, here are some things that work as best practices for me. Modify them, make them your own. We aren't robots and what works for me is not always going to work for everyone else but I'm posting this just to consider, more of an FYI.

What works for me?
  1. Get ORGANIZED - Take the excel list sent with the detailed information & make a new sheet that contains the only info I really need in my quick searches. Add a couple columns for action items such as, confirmed partner received, mailed date, received date, etc.  
  2. RECORD my interactions with my group on the spreadsheet. For example, if Sally tells me she's travelling for work and will be mailing on the 20th instead of the 16th b/c she didn't have a chance to finish binding before she left, I can record it in a comment column and let her partner Jane know that it's mailing a couple days late (also recording by Jane's name). Between work and home life, I won't remember if I told Jane so noting that helps me.
  3. USE the resources available to you. I often screen shot my IG notification feed so I don't miss something I'm tagged on if I can't respond to it right away.  I also use the folders in my email. When I've responded to something, I will file the emails into the folder. That way, only the emails that I still need to act on are in my inbox.
  4. COMMUNICATE proactively with my group. If mail dates are arriving, I will ask my group to check in on how they are doing.  I'm a last minute worker so I tend to think a reminder of an upcoming deadline is a good thing.
  5. Be POSITIVE and PATIENT.  I can usually manage the first one but the second is a little more difficult some days.  I always try to remind myself that while I may be fielding 1600 questions at once, the person asking me one question does not know that and if it takes me 3 days to respond, she's likely feeling her ask has been overlooked or ignored and is reaching out to others. What to do? Figure out your reasonable response time. for me, I like to try to answer IG requests within a couple of hours. That is reasonable for my schedule but email takes longer.  If I know I wont be able to answer quickly, I at least try to respond quickly and give the person asking a time frame in which I will provide an answer.  You have no idea how quickly stress can be reduced for me and the person needing an answer, by taking a moment to do that.   
  6. TALK with the other mamas.  If you aren't sure something is going right or have questions about how you are handling things, ask the other mamas.  Because we are all different, they have invaluable input. Sometimes, you just need to let a little vent out so you can go back to being #4. Other times, the mamas will also help you stay on track with communications to your groups. 
That's it. Pretty simple, right?  Really, the spreadsheet work was the turning point for me last round. Trying to keep it all in email or IG made me go a little mad. As soon as I got smart about keeping it all in the source that came to me, it was simpler.  I hope this gives you ideas about what might work for you if you ever decide to become a swap mama and if you do, enjoy the ride.  It's actually pretty fun to interact with so many people as they stretch their creative talents.

Thanks, Kristi, for being responsible for bringing me so much joy in making minis, swapping them and, yes, in letting me do it all while also getting my "organize on".  

Cheers!
Beck