Love. Sew. Patch.

Dear friends,

Despite the horrendous Headache Threat Level that has nuked my entry into the new year, I have managed to rack up three — that’s THREE — quilt finishes so far in 2014.

I figured my head hurts whether I’m up or down, so save 14 hours spent in bed on Dec, 31-Jan. 1, I’ve been sewing through the pain.

As for the first finish, I can’t tell you about it until it arrives at its new home, later this week or next. Same for the third.

But the second finish was for Kate, and she’s headed back to college in possession of one of the cutest and warmest quilts I’ve made.

Take a close-up look:

tenniscu

Last spring, I attended some pretty chilly college tennis matches (where chilly equals wearing a coat, hat and gloves and still being cold). I noticed some of the girls carried blankets to wrap around themselves in between matches and that’s when I got the idea that my CupKate needed a tennis-themed quilt to take on the road.

I purchased the fabric nine months ago and even cut it into the proper size squares. And then I got distracted by other projects and the tennis quilt has sat unattended all this time.

I vowed to get it done before she left home in January, but two commissions kept me busy through December. By Jan. 3, I knew I had less than a week to get it done so I sprang into action, spending all of last weekend sewing, squaring and arranging 122 blocks of green, yellow and black fabric. (Kate’s college colors are green and black.)

I failed to take a photo of the entire quilt before she packed up and left home, so here’s one she took with her phone from her apartment. It’s not great quality but you get the gist:

tennis

On Black Friday, I just happened to score some extra-soft white flannel with tiny lime polka dots for $1.75 a yard. It made a perfect — and extra warm — backing for the quilt. And while shopping the day after Christmas, Kate tripped across some black fabric with miniature tennis balls and multi-colored racquets that was perfect for the binding.

I’m so glad to get this one off the sewing table and into heavy rotation. Kate’s tennis season starts Feb. 4 and, if January has been any indication, she’ll need every ounce of warmth she can lay her hands on.

With gratitude (for deadline-induced productivity},

Joan, who’s relieved to report she’s been headache-free for a couple of days, though her energy level is still in the basement without liquid stimulants

PS: If you are at all interested in the quilt pattern, it’s called a disappearing 9-patch and you can find a tutorial here

MUDandSTUFF.

Dear friends,

Because I couldn’t wait — and because I just KNOW you are as excited as me about my big reveal — I finished up my Mud Room Friday evening so I could show it to you today.

I couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out.

And because, of course, I want the biggest ahhhhhh possible, I’m going to make you sit through two “before” photos one more time.

Here’s the space before we bought the house:

mudroom

And here’s what it looked like for the first two years we lived here. (This photo is taken from the opposite side as the previous photo. The reflection in the mirror is the view of our laundry room, which sits just to the west of this alcove.)  And, yes, all I did initially to “improve” this space was hang a mirror and throw a bucket in the corner as a catch-all for shoes and other junk. It’s clear it wasn’t much of a catch-ALL, as most of our junk ended up on the floor.

before2

I have only one word for this photo: YUCK.

But all traces of yuckiness have been banished. And here’s what it looks like now, after my flurry of online shopping and with Mr. Mom’s help:

MRlight

This photo is a tad underexposed so you can get a sense of the new light fixture, which I love, love, love.

And here’s my very favorite part:

MUDandSTUFF

I knew I wanted something to really give a punch to the accent wall and I had my heart set on individual letters that spelled out something appropriate for the space. I decided on MUDandSTUFF because it just seemed so . . . so perfectly descriptive.

This addition was my biggest expense. The letters are custom fabricated from aluminum and painted in a high gloss paint. I chose this professional sign company as my source because they offered many font choices, virtually any size, and custom colors. They are adhered to the wall with a fast-setting epoxy glue that was a pain in the butt to use. As you can see if you look closely, we messed up a little on the capital D. And Mr. Mom hung the lowercase n upside down, but figured it out about 30 seconds later and managed to pry it off  the wall just before the glue set so hard we would have had to take a sledgehammer to it. In total, my MUDandSTUFF art cost just over $300 — definitely a splurge but worth it, I think.

By the way, the coat racks (there are two of them hung side by side) are from Bed, Bath & Beyond. I thought they were a bargain at $29 each.

Here’s another view of more wall art. I bought a $10 poster from Urban Outfitters and a $25 K-Mart frame. It helped offset the cost of the custom lettering.

MRposter

And here’s a close-up of the key rack, also from Urban Outfitters.

MRflowers

By the way, the beautiful girl in the photo is our niece. And the vase is a vintage treasure from my beloved native state.

Here’s a close up of the bench, from West Elm:

MRbench

My West Elm rug is on backorder, so the one you see in the photo is a runner from Urban Outfitters that I purchased for the hallway leading to the kitchen. It’s roughly the same color as the one I’m waiting on, so it worked as a stand-in for this photo.

I’m under no illusions that the space is going to stay this organized. By next week, there will be 25 pairs of shoes strewn around the bench and 14 jackets on the coat rack, but it looks nice for now and that’s what matters when the post-DIY glow is still strong.

And because I just can’t get enough, here’s one final look:

mudfinal

With gratitude {for Mr. Mom who puts the “Y” in DIY and who graciously did all my fetching, toting and hanging for this project},

Joan, who has loved wallpaper since she sold it for $4 an hour at Barlow Interiors, her very first job in 1981, which convinced her a college degree might be just the ticket out of retail hell

When life hands you snow . . . think spring!

Dear friends,

It’s been snowing endlessly ’round my place.

snow

The temps have been frigid for weeks and, just when the sun comes out and we think we might warm up (where warm equals anything above 40 degrees), the arctic air sweeps back in and brings snow or sleet with it.  Today’s snowstorm is the just the latest in what has been a long winter.

I took a couple of days of vacation to bookend my weekend and celebrate spring break, only my break is decidedly un spring-like.

So as the snow piled up Sunday, I did what any pajama-clad, home-bound vacationer would do: I cooked and crafted.

Earlier today I made biscuits and gravy, bacon, and Pioneer Woman’s eggs in hashbrown nests. Right now I’m waiting on the short ribs in my oven to finish braising so I can smother a big dish of polenta with fork tender ribs and their gravy-of-goodness.

In the mean time, I’ve been re-styling my buffet and mirror from a Valentine’s vortex to an Easter epiphany. Here’s a wreath I made after seeing a similar one on Pinterest.

wreath_Snapseed

It took all of 15 minutes to make. It’s just a Styrofoam wreath wrapped with “eyelash” yarn. The flowers are cut from lace trim and held on with pearl-tipped pins. It makes me long for a lush lawn and the opportunity to romp barefoot with the dogs.

In addition to this wreath, I added some paper lanterns, some Easter egg garland, and a S-P-R-I-N-G banner I made from a bit of leftover burlap, rickrack and twine. Here’s an artsy-fartsy photo of all that (where artsy-fartsy equals a Snapseed edit on my iPhone because I’m so lazy these days I hardly ever get out the Nikon).

springinal

The snow’s really piled up now so I think I’ll adjourn for supper. I hear those short ribs calling my name.

shortribs_Snapseed

With gratitude {for any excuse to stay home and putter},

Joan, who wonders what spring projects you’re preparing to tackle

A bit o’ Irish cheer.

Dear friends,

My St. Pat’s Day started early, ended late, and was chock full of Irish cheer.

I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people having a great time. Or wearing so much green. Even the animals were decked out.

I was jealous of this outfit. Next year I will plan better.

And I’m not sure what it takes to get an invitation to the roof party, but I intend to find out. Talk about a primo spot for the parade route.

Not long after I snapped this photo, the best street-side spots filled up. Six city blocks were packed like sardines.

Glad I’m not claustrophobic.

The more crowded it got, the more fun folks seemed to have. Check out this group:

There were floats galore. Two hours worth, actually. And lots of marchers. I haven’t a clue what these parade participants represent, do you?

A gorilla, a green-haired guy, Mario (?) and a gun-toting camo girl riding on a tatooed man — all splattered in blood. It made my brain hurt trying to ponder it all. I’m not that deep.

This guy was billed as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Clearly, they have cold beer in hell.

This one . . . I’m not sure. Three Humpmen of the Armageddon?

I had the most fun watching the spectators. There were plenty of sights to behold.

There’s nothing like a parade in a college town.  Something about the influence of carefree youth makes you want to kick up your heels and embrace the blarney, at least for one day.

With gratitude {for the opportunity to enjoy the best minor-holiday celebration ever},

Joan, who thinks she and Mr. Mom accessorized really well for the St. Pat’s gala