Monday, June 30, 2008

New Web Site

I have spent the bulk of the last 2 weeks re-doing the Piece O' Cake web site. That meant learning new software (Adobe's Dreamweaver). It has been both infuriating and exhilarating! It's been nice to find out that my brain is still capable of learning a new trick :-).
In re-doing the website (which I hope you all like), I changed every page. Most of the url's changed. What this means is that your old links to places on our site are not going to work.
If you have been to our site before, the old pages are probably stored in your computer's cache. When you go to the site now, you'll need to hit your refresh button - a lot. On just about every page. I'm very sorry about that. My goal was not to make things harder, but easier. But once you have the new pages in your cache, you won't need to hit refresh as often. 
FYI - We just sent out an eNewsletter that many of you may have received. In it we announced that the patterns for A Walk in the Mountains, our 3rd block of the month quilt, are now available on the site! If you don't get our eNewsletter and want to sign up, there is a link to do so at the bottom of each page of our site.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My New Table...

Here is my new sewing table - custom made by Steve Goldsmith. Believe it or not it took longer to make this table than to remodel the back wall of the studio. It is 30" x 85 1/2" and is on casters so I can roll it around... although my studio really isn't big enough to do that much. 

I plan to do the majority of my cutting at the end of the table without the sewing machine. I have cut on surfaces both high and low and, for me, I've found I have more power and control of my rotary cutter on a lower surface. Of course, it is harder on the lower back. Everything is a trade-off.

The cabinet doors open to reveal two wide, roll-out shelves. They are just wide enough to hold the three sewing machines that I use the most. I do have a little almost-featherweight still in the closet that just won't fit here. The 4 narrow drawers hold a lot of  "stuff". 

You might be wondering about the finish. I like that distressed look and have it on the furniture in this room. It's a finish that hides a multitude of sins. Pencil marks, cutter knicks, etc., are really hard to spot.

He's Finished!

Steve has finished this summer's house project! The studio wall is done and my new sewing machine table is in place, inside. I'll post a couple of photos of the finished piece next.

This is how the outside of my studio wall looks now. Part of getting the outside in shape entailed Steve fixing the fountain (the vase that may or may not look like a fountain to you). It's heavy! Last year when we put it in, we set the vase on a plastic milk crate in the tub that is in the ground. The milk crate broke! So he had to take it all apart and replace the crate with cinder block. It's gurgling happily now.

Steve does have an actual job so I only get to put him on for one project per summer. That's actually a good thing for both of us. Neither of us really wants to do this sort of thing all summer long.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Sewing Machine Cabinet...

My wonderful husband is turning into a very fine cabinet maker! I wanted a sewing cabinet made to fit my studio. I can sew at one end and there is a place to store my (4) sewing machines, plus other stuff, under the cutting end. It will be on casters so I can move it - although I don't really have the space to put it anywhere but where it will be.
At any rate, I just went out to see his new contraption that is sort of like a vise that he's using to hold the wood straight up so that he can construct the drawers and it hit me: "Why have I not been photographing this?" (He's pretty pleased with this new vise idea. It is pretty slick, and very simple.)
So, here's the cabinet in progress. I'll upload a photo of it in place in my studio soon (in 2-3 days he thinks). I'm really going to be sad when he has to quit with the projects and go back to his real work on campus.
FYI - We are just about done with the studio remodel. I'm waiting on the blinds before I take another photo. The outside part is very close to being done. I hope to be able to upload finished photos soon.  

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jack's First Haircut!

My daughter-in-law, Lorna, and Jack and Elanor got haircuts today. This was Jack's very first haircut! 

I was there to take care of the kids while Lorna got her hair done - which meant that I was also there to take a photo of this particular first. Henri, who cuts all of our hair, is really good with kids (and adults). Jack almost enjoyed the experience!

It is true that Jack has very little hair so his haircut took a total of about 3 minutes. But Henri says this is a good time to start getting a child used to the idea (and the feeling) of having a haircut.

Unintended consequences...

My studio wall is finished - oh happy day! There is still work to do outside, but that is waiting a few days.
I learned new things on this remodel. We upgraded the windows in our house 12 years ago — from single-pane aluminum windows to double-pane metal/vinyl windows. Windows have changed since then. The window that seemed to be the best choice this time was an energy-efficient, wood, double-hung window. Very nice, works like a charm. Except that when I looked close, I realized that the window itself fills the whole space. There is no room to mount blinds inside the window frame.
We have 2" inside-mount blinds everywhere in the house but that isn't going to work in this window. Oh my. That's when it dawned on me that the small window, the door, and the big window are on the same wall and they all need the same (or very similar) window treatment and the thing I like the most isn't going to work on the door or the big window.
So, yesterday I went to Lowe's and special ordered "paper" shades. I really hope I love them because they cost enough that they're going to be there for quite a while. FYI - There is a cool innovation in shade technology - the no cord option! Hard to explain, but if you need shades, be sure to check it out.
I sat down to work later in the morning and realized something else... my new computer has a very glossy screen. My new window lets in a lot more light - just exactly as it is supposed to. Oh my - the glare on the computer screen is not good. I turned down the brightness on the screen and I taped fabric up on the window and door. It helped some but I am really looking forward to the arrival of the new shades!
Steve came home from lunch and mentioned that he had seen an anti-glare film made for computer screens. Yes, in fact there is a film and it comes cut to fit an iMac! So the need for more light in the studio combined with the new computer screen led to the need for a way to cut down on the light in the studio. Unintended consequences...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Studio remodel... part 3

We have been oh so busy! I've been telling my husband at the end of each day that I feel like I've been hit with sticks. He tells me that that can't be true since I've never actually been hit with sticks and being hit with sticks is way worse. However, I've been pretty sore the last few nights.
But the hard work is paying off. Yesterday I got the primer on the outside wall. Steve got the inside wall mostly finished. I was able to get the first coat of paint inside late yesterday afternoon. 
Painting in the studio is complicated by the fact that the first time I painted my studio I made a mistake and got oil based paint. You can't just paint over an alkyd paint with latex. Since I didn't want (or need) to paint the whole room I had to get more alkyd paint this time. Boy oh boy, does alkyd paint put off fumes. We have my studio sealed off with plastic so it's mostly not smelling up the house but it's no fun. I spend most of my time at home in my studio and not being in there makes me a little crazy.
This morning I got the 2nd coat of paint on the inside wall and then moved to the outside wall. This is not that big of an area so I got 2 coats of paint on the wall and 2 coats of trim paint. I've got the paint (chartreuse!) for the outside of the door but am going to wait a week or so to paint it. It's hot and humid here so I'll need to tape plastic over the outside door opening and I need to wait for the paint to cure so that the tape doesn't pull the paint off.
Steve finished the inside trim, finished the electrical stuff, and saved a juvenile wren that was sort of lost in our garage. He's a field biologist, has nets, and knows how to use them! 
We went to church this evening so tomorrow I'll be back at work early (after I get the paper read) getting my studio back in shape! Oh happy day! Maybe the fumes won't be so bad and the plastic can come down. I do hope so.
And - I keep forgetting to post an answer to a question on the granola but I'm remembering now and since this where I'm typing, here goes... I use whole flax seed in the granola itself. I grind a big spoonful of flaxseed each morning and sprinkle it on my bowl of granola. I will add this info to that post as soon as I have time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Studio remodel... part 2

This morning the little window (that used to be over my sewing machine) moved to its new location. And I decided I wanted a light on the outside of this wall with a switch in the inside. And I wanted it where I wanted it to be, not where it was easy. I'm so lucky to have a husband who smiled and said OK. It did slow us down a bit but the window made it into the wall. 

Next the open spaces got insulation and OSB (a chip board that will be under the Hardy siding). Steve spent time putting in other electrical boxes... don't want to rush that.
He mudded the interior sheetrock before calling it a day (that's not in the photo below). I'm hoping to be painting soon. Well, I will be painting ceilings starting tomorrow morning. I hate painting ceilings but this summer it just has to happen. No one but me knows they need it, but I know that there are several ceilings in my house that need it.
Steve will be working on trim and exterior siding tomorrow...

Studio remodel... part 1

My dear husband, Steve, is re-working the back wall of my studio! This is a project that has been on the books for 2-3 years. Steve is dean of the sciences at Austin College here in Sherman, TX, and he has a pretty small window of opportunity for home improvement projects. This is the week!
My studio is not getting bigger, but the light is being redistributed. He took out the old glass double-french doors and put in a single door that has better insulation. The little window above my sewing machine came out and a newer bigger window went in...

Monday, June 9, 2008

Who thought this up?!

Now I know that Ami Simms has collected some wonderful photos of signs but I think this one is pretty good - or bad depending on how you look at it. A friend, Kim Snipes, saw this in Scotland and shared it. Here is what she says:
"It's from Grantown-on-Spey, Highlands, Scotland. When we drove into town from the Inverness Airport, I couldn't believe the sign. Since we stayed at the same hotel in Grantown for the whole time in the Highlands, we saw the sign at least twice a day. It became a real joke for everyone on the tour. One of the guides suggested that the lady was picking the pocket of the gentleman."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

How-To Photos and Chocolate Candy

When you flip through a quilt book and you see the "how-to" photos, have you ever thought about what goes into setting up those photos? There's more to it than I ever would have believed before we started Piece O' Cake.
It is important to think about the photos as you write a book. We make a note of where photos need to be placed in the text and what those photos need to illustrate. After the quilts are made and the text is complete we go back and put together the "props" for each and every photo that you see in our books. 
Sometimes it's important to show a progression of steps. For example, it takes several steps to make a 9-patch. On photo shoot day there isn't time to cut strips, sew strips, cut some more, sew some more, etc, while the photographer waits. It's just like a cooking show - each step has to be prepared individually, in advance. 
The baggied-up bits in the plastic bags in this box will be turned into wonderful how-to photos in our next book. I'm always amazed at how little space they take up. Of course, the quilts will be shipped in other boxes :-).
In addition to working on the photo samples I had my 5 year-old granddaughter, Elanor, for a couple of days this week. Steve and I took her to the pool yesterday afternoon - to wear her out a little. It ended up wearing us out too! We all slept well last night. 
Elanor and I made some tasty and easy candy today (see instructions below). We played with rubber stamps and pretty paper. And we went shopping! For Barbies and pretty ponies!
I have to admit that I was never a fan of Barbie. Elanor, however, is all girl and Barbie makes her very, very happy. Especially the bridal Barbie we got today. Ken is still at the store so I don't know if Barbie will ever be Mrs. Barbie.
Rocky Road Candy
1-2 cups of chocolate suitable for candy making. In a pinch Baker's Semi-Sweet bakers chocolate will work. Chocolate chips might work, but your candy will be prone to melting easily.
1-2 cups of salted, roasted peanuts
1-2 cups of mini-marsh mellows
Elanor added 1/2 cups of red hots and they're pretty good.
We added 1/2 cup of pecans because my husband likes them.
Add other ingredients to taste.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over very low heat.
Stir in all ingredients.
Spoon out in mounds on waxed paper.
Put them in the refrigerator to make them solid quicker.

We put the candy in baggies for her favorite people after it got hard enough to handle. Elanor made cards to go with each bag. She was very pleased with the gifts she made.
If you have never made chocolate candy before, know that almost anything tastes better with a chocolate coating. Oreos, cornflakes, nuts, graham crackers... you get the idea. There is some really fine chocolate made especially for candy making. Google "chocolate for making candy" and you'll get lots of information.