take a little trip....

I mentioned a few posts ago that I'm preparing for an overseas trip.  Well, the trip is almost here - I leave on Friday.  Destination Far-Far-Away. 

Yeah, yeah - I know that's anti- climactic and all, but the truth is I've been asked not to tell.  And in this particular situation, I'm going out on a limb and doing what I'm told...so please forgive my secrecy.

So - even though I can't give you all the details, there is one thing I can tell you.  Here's a hint...

I will be handing out Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes!  [insert squeal here!]

If you aren't familiar with Operation Christmas Child, they are an awesome ministry of Samaritan's Purse - headed by Franklin Graham - that delivers gift-filled shoe boxes to children around the world.  People in nine countries, including the US, take empty shoe boxes and fill them with small gifts, toys, clothing, school supplies... you name it... and they are collected, processed and shipped all over the world.  Last year over 8 million children received a shoe box and, for many, it was the first gift they have ever received. 

Check out this short (only a minute or so) video... 


Did you see the smiles??  I get to do that!!  [**breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out**]

I'm still amazed that I have been given this opportunity.  It's a dream come true, for sure.  My family has participated for years, filling a shoe box or two, but this year I really got to jump in.   A few years ago, we began attending our current church, which has been a Collection Center since the mid-90s.  This past November, I helped out in the collection process and we handled over 34,000 shoe boxes from our region.  Then, I had two opportunities to travel to Charlotte, NC, to help at the Processing Center, which handles millions of boxes.  I can't tell you how many shoe boxes I have touched - either collecting or processing - boxes from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and who knows where else. 

Now I get to give them away.

The collection and processing experience was almost overwhelming for me.  To think that every shoe box I touched was a gift destined for a child in need frequently brought me to tears.  A seed of hope.  A spark of love.  A reminder that they are not forgotten.

Now I get to deliver that hope.


(It's getting hard to breathe again.)

So, back home - wherever your home may be - pray for my team.  Pray for OCC.  But most of all, pray for the kids.   Pray that they will know they are loved.

Please forgive my silence for the next couple of weeks.  In return, I promise to share lots of pictures when I get back.



so stinkin' busy

Ever had those periods in life when it seems everything is happening at once?  Yeah - I'm there. 

A snapshot of May, so far...

Study start-up at work.
GRE studying (done now, thankfully).
Yard work.
Car repairs (read "borrowing car from parents").  Twice.
A out-of-country trip to prep for.
Meetings for said trip.
Cookouts with friends (love!!)
Shopping...for said trip.
Operation Christmas Child activities.
Vaccinations (again, for said trip).
Birthdays (not mine, which is too bad).
Doctor and dentist visits, both involving pain.
Mother's Day.

And it's only May 11th.

Unfortunately, because of this job thingy that I have (don't worry, I'm grateful!) all the non-work activities have to be shoved to the evenings and weekends.  On top of typical maintenance work...cooking, grocery shopping, coasting into the gas station for a refill.  You know, that stuff.

Which leaves next-to-no-time for sewing.  Boo.

At least all the work stays here when I leave for foreign shores.  But that's a whole other level of work...humanitarian work.  Can't say much now, but I promise to show pictures later.  It's gonna be good, but I'm gonna be exhausted.

Through the years, June has become a respite month, and more so this year than ever.  Two weeks at the beach with friends.  Really good friends.  Waves, sand and quiet.  Ahhhhhhh.....


ETA: Blogger is weird. This post disappeared (along with it's comments), came back with screwy labels and no comments. When I updated the labels, it published it as today's post (the 16th). So for all of you wondering why the double post - I don't know, but I'm not crazy - really. Well, not this crazy at least. :)


the weekend is upon us...

...and for me that means BASEBALL.

Lots of this...



And, with any luck, a few more of these... 



This time, I'll remember the sunscreen. Though if the clouds stay like this, I may not need it.

Y'all have a good one!



Christmas Tree Block tutorial

A few weeks ago, my friend Katherine asked if I'd like to join a Christmas Tree block bee. I've always wanted a Christmas quilt, so I jumped in quickly. This was our first month, and Jodie sent out some wonderful fabrics...Be Merry, by My Mind's Eye for Riley Blake.  She let us go free and make whatever blocks we wanted and only asked that we not use any other fabrics.

I immediately choked - the thought of such freedom froze me in my tracks - and then scoured the internet for ideas.  I knew I wanted one of the blocks to be a tree, but I didn't have much luck in finding tutorials, so it was graph paper and pencil to the rescue.    Below is what I came up with after some fussing and a practice row or two to be sure the measurements would turn out.


Now, a small disclaimer - I cut a bit extra beyond the measurements to be sure my block would be big enough.  The measurements work, but you'll need to be careful if you're going to be exact.  I'm all for making things a bit bigger and trimming down.   Feel free to do the same.

What you'll need:
A selection of 2.5" wide fabrics (a jelly roll will work)
A 14x8 or so piece each of background and trim (the white and blue in my block)

Play around with your printed tree strips to get them in the order that you like.


Starting with the strip at the bottom of the tree, cut:
1  -  2-1/2 inch square (dots)
1  -  10-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (snowflakes)
1  -  8-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (blue bkgd snowmen)
1  -  6-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (pink bkgd snowmen)
1  -  4-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (green/pink dots)

The blue trees strip at the top of the picture is a piece I thought I was going to add, but didn't... just ignore that one...sorry.  **grin**

From the white, cut:
 2  -  6-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
 4  -  5-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
 2  -  4-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
 2  -  3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips

We'll cut the blue trim in a bit.  :)

In keeping with the bottom-up approach, start by sewing two of your 5-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch white strips to opposite sides of your 2-1/2 inch square, using a 1/4-inch seam; press. This is your tree trunk row. 

Next up is the base of the tree.   Take your 10-1/2 inch by 2-1/2 inch strip and set it on your cutting mat.  On either side, place a white 4-1/2 by 2-1/2 strip on the corner, perpendicular to the 10-1/2 inch strip, like so:


As you can see in the picture, draw (in pencil or disappearing ink) a 45-degree line from corner to corner, using your ruler.  (This should seem a little familiar to you if you've ever sewn strips together for quilt binding - same process.)  Repeat on the other side, but with an opposite slant.

Sew just a teensy-weensy bit to the right of the line. 


Then, sew on the other side.

Now, take your ruler and measure about a 1/4-inch from the seam you just put in and cut the excess off for a perfect 1/4-inch seam.


Your strip should look like this:

Press it back (I pressed towards the white, but you don't have to) and it will look like this:


Use the exact same process to make the next three rows as you continue with each strip going up the tree.  Your color/whites will match up like this:

1  -  2-1/2 inch square (dots) +  2  -  5-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips (trunk)
1  -  10-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (snowflakes) +  2 white 3-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
1  -  8-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (blue bkgd snowmen) +  2  white 4-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
1  -  6-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (pink bkgd snowmen) +  2  white 5-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips
1  -  4-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strip (green/pink dots) +  2  white 6-1/2 by 2-1/2 inch strips

When your rows are done, they will look like this:


Starting at the top, take your first row (green/pink dots) and turn it down on your second row (blue trees), centering the print strips.  Pin the strips right sides together and sew; press towards the top row.


Continue down the tree, centering each row with the one before until all are sewn.  Once all together (including the trunk!), trim your block so that you have even edges.

Now, at this point, if you were extra generous and your block is a perfect 12-1/2 after trimming, then you can stop.  If it isn't, you can add trim.  You can event trim it smaller intentionally (like I did) to add the trim.  I trimmed my block to 11-1/2 inches, square.

From your trim fabric, cut two 2-inch strips that are at least 11-1/2 inches long.  Sew to opposite sides of the block, using 1/4-inch seams, and press to the outside.  Take the remaining trim fabric and cut two more 2-inch strips that are at least 12-1/2 inches long.  Sew to opposite sides of the block and press towards the outside. 


Trim your finished block to 12-1/2 inches on each side and give the seams one more press for good measure.

Ta-da!! You're done... your very own Christmas Tree block!



If you use any of my tutorials to make something, please add it to the Stitching by Starlight Flickr group - I'd love to see your work!



a quick update

The end of April/first of May has been a little crazy, but I've managed to get quite a bit done. I'm working hard on two tutorials to post soon, and I hope to have at least one up by the end of the week, so stay tuned!

I had several Bee blocks due at the end of the month, two for TwitterB and two for the 12 Days of Christmas Bee. (The second for TwitterB was actually optional, but I chose to do it.)

Here are the TwitterB blocks, made for Jessica:


They are ticker-tape blocks, and this is my first try at it. As you probably guessed, this is the first tutorial I'm working on. It was a lot of fun, even though it was quite different than any block I have ever worked on.

The next set are for Jodie as part of the 12 Days of Christmas bee:



I made the star by using the Starflower Block tutorial over at Ellison Lane Quilts.  I played with it a bit in that I only made one block and her directions are for two.  Normally, I would have done two blocks for efficiency, but Jodie specifically requested two different blocks and she also asked us to not use additional fabrics.  In hindsight, I had enough of the colored prints leftover to make a second block for myself, but I didn't want to chance it going in.

The tree block is my own, and it is the second tutorial that I mentioned.  It was fun to figure out a block from scratch...I'm slowly developing a fondness for graph paper and pencils...LOL!

My apologies (again!) for the horrid lighting in these pictures.  I hope to have that resolved soon as a electrician friend of mine has agreed to install some lighting for me.  Woohoo!

In other news, I have four more blocks done on Jane's Black and White Quilt and the yard is looking better. Hubby planted all of our new plants yesterday and we'll have pine needles down by the end of the week. He tried to do that yesterday, too, but the man we buy them from wasn't home. Even with the black fabric, though, it still looks better. Will be sure to post a final pic.

Have a great hump-day!



landscaping - the quest begins

I love a beautiful yard. I love everything about it.

But I hate, hate, hate the work that goes into it.  Therefore, since I'm not independently wealthy, either my desire has to go or I have to cowgirl-up and do the work.

Hence yesterday.

I'm almost too embarrassed to put this out here. It's hideous, it's shameful, it is the product of my laziness. It's the walkway to my front door.


We had sprayed Round-Up (as can be seen by the dying vegetation), but the ongoing problem is that we have no plants there. Well, no "real" plants. So in a surprisingly successful bout of afternoon spontaneity, we decided to shape up this area during a visit to Home Depot yesterday.

Here's how it looked as the sun went down.


Already a kabillion times better. Sore back included.

I probably over-did it with the little green stakes, but just like in quilting, pins are my friends. The only thing I hate as much as a weed-infested garden is little flaps of black fabric (or worse, plastic!) waving at me from between the plants.  Yuck.

All in all, we bought nearly $200 worth of perennials (remember the laziness comment?) and I'm likely headed back soon as they are on sale here, 3 for $10. Not bad for plants that will keep coming back. I see it as an investment, really.  :)

Oh, and for the record - beyond the overgrown forsythia in the top left corner is a neat little shade garden that I planted a few years ago.  So, I know I can do this, I have proof.  It's just a matter of willpower and persistence...things that often run as low as my patience.

Hubby is helping a great deal, and between the two of us, I think we have a good chance of getting this job done by the end of the week. Stay tuned for more pics.