Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last big construction project is done!

My goal for 2012 was to finish all major construction projects on my house.  I'm happy to report that the final project was completed the last week of December.  Now I can finally relax and begin to enjoy my new home.

The last phase of construction made my home more energy-efficient, replacing two doors to the garage, replacing single-pane windows in the living room, master bath, and quilt studio, and installing a programmable thermostat.

Living room windows.

Quilt studio windows. Once I get the construction dust cleaned up, I can put up some wall quilts downstairs.

Rain glass window in my bathroom.

One of my new doors to the garage. The old doors had spaces between the frames and doors letting in the freezing air.  I'm so happy that my downstairs is warmer now!

I also had the finishing touches added to the newly-painted guest bathroom - new white lights and a new sink faucet. Much more pleasant for guests now!

Time to think about goals and New Year's resolutions for 2013.  What are your plans for the New Year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

One brave moment?

Looking back over the past year, I'm not sure where I found the courage to leave my entire old life behind and make a new start at age 55.  Perhaps "bravery" is just another word for taking the plunge on faith alone without over-analyzing the consequences.

Last December, I accepted a job offer at CLIC, and one year ago this week, I was house-hunting in Minnesota.  In the past year I found a house, bought a house, moved into a house, had many overnight guests, sold my Michigan house (phew), and started the never-ending process of fixing up my new house.  At the same time I was learning a new job, new people, new church, new neighborhood, new doctors, new dentist, new hairdresser, new vet, new stores, new lakes, and new restaurants. As well as attending my niece Catherine's plays, musicals, and concerts; meeting my cousins' new babies; and making a few unexpected trips to take Mom to the ER/hospital along the way. Some good times, some bad, some energizing, some exhausting, some overwhelming and some underwhelming. Life goes on.

All in all, I'm glad that I had "one brave moment" to make the decision to move closer to family. And I'm looking forward to what next year has to offer.

Happy New Year, friends and family!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quilts on the walls

In early November, the painters finished painting my walls.  I spent this past weekend putting quilts and pictures on the walls - finally!  Here are some photos of my newly decorated home.

The following three are my bedroom and bathroom - painted a light blue (no more dark brown walls!). The Hmong quilt in the bathroom was pieced and hand-quilted by my sister Debbie.

The following two are my study. This room is still not put together as I'm waiting to get Dad's rolltop desk from Debbie someday.

The following are of the guestroom (unfortunately, still brown) and the hallway.  Notice the beautiful "going away" quilt on the guestroom bed!  The red-sashed quilt in the hallway is my Happy Quilt made from blocks that quilter friends made for me depicting "things that make me happy."  It is a cheerful quilt.

The following are of the dining room and view from the living room. The two quilts in the dining room both won ribbons at the Sauder quilt show.

And the kitchen.  I still haven't decided what I want to do furniture-wise in the seating area.  No rush.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Loon Country Quilt Show, Grand Rapids, MN

This weekend, Mom and I drove up north to visit my cousin Holly and to see the Loon Country Quilt Show at Itasca Community College in Grand Rapids, MN. I think that this might be the first quilt show I've been to since I moved to Minnesota.

Here are some of my favorites from the show.

Below - Blocks in a Block is a simple pattern that creates a striking, graphic quilt.

Below - Wizard of Oz uses the printed panels of scenes from the movie in a creative layout, with the scenes in order from the movie with quotations quilted in between on the yellow brick road.

Below - Burst of Light uses a pattern (Blooming 9 patch) that has been done many times, but I thought that the colors and fabrics in this one were particulary lovely, especially the glow from the center radiating to the corners.

Below - a simple pattern that creates an illusion of circles. I would like to use this block pattern in a quilt soon - maybe in greens and blues.

Below - I'm not fond of the colors in this one, but I liked the lines of diagonal squares separating the star blocks and the use of the log cabins to form the border.

Below - this one reminded me of a Pepper Cory quilt, with Drunkard's Path pieces and big-stitch sashiko.

Below - this bear quilt is from a commercial pattern but I've always liked the effect of the bear looking at you.

Below - the photo does not do this quilt justice.  Beautifully pieced in teals and peach, plus an interesting border. I voted for this one for best bed quilt. :)

Below - I liked the sashiko turtle hand-quilted in the center of this wall quilt.

Below - I like the colors in this wall quilt and the use of circles, plus exquisite quilting.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Autumn in Minnesota

I've been here seven months - can you believe it?  I've lived here through spring and summer, and now fall has arrived.  Here's the view out of my kitchen windows.

I have a gorgeous red maple in the backyard and a beautiful view of it from my kitchen.

Above is the view through the window over my kitchen sink. The suncatchers are from Tish (the heron), Ellen (the woodpecker), and Debra (the penguin). And in the photo below,  the penguin cookie jar was given to me long ago by Cindy, and it now holds the dog treats. I'm so happy to see these reminders of my friends every morning in my new home.

Above is a photo of my kitchen now that I've finally found a place for everything (and I now know where everything is in my kitchen - a miracle). The kitchen has been repainted Autumn White (a pale peach) but unfortunately this photo doesn't really show the true color. And check out my snazzy new lunch bag on the counter.

I wish that I could say that the rest of my house is finally "in order" but I've got a long, long way to go. Baby steps, baby steps. :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

House Freedom!

It is August, and I am so happy to announce that my house in Michigan is finally sold.  I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it is to own only one house.  Although I loved living in my Lansing house for twenty-plus years, it feels so great to say farewell and move on to life in Minnesota.

In addition to no more double-payments on utilities and lawn care (yay!), I'm so happy that I can now focus on making my new Minnesota house my real home.  First step, the kitchen - new dishwasher installed to replace the old broken leaky one, new kitchen faucet installed to replace the old broken leaky one, and new range hood installed to replace the old broken microwave (which very likely was leaking something dreadful).  Here's a photo of my new range hood, with a backsplash that I installed myself. :)

Second step - painting more pleasing colors over the dismal brown paint that is slathered on almost every wall in this house.  First, I painted my study (the third bedroom) a medium green. This experience taught me two things: (a) green is much more pleasing than brown and (b) I royally suck as a painter.  Therefore, I'm now waiting to hear price quotes from a professional painter to paint the front hallway, dining room, and kitchen (phase 1) and my bedroom and the guest bath (phase 2).  There will still be some brown rooms in this house, but they'll be few and far between.

Third step - energy efficiency.  The living room and quilt room windows are single-pane glass in old warped wooden frames, and the doors into the garage have gaps between the doors and frames.  I'm now waiting to hear price quotes from C.L. at Wildwood Builders for new windows and doors and gutter/facia repair.  C.L. also made a point of telling me that my quilt room would be much more energy efficient - and warm in the winter - if he could install a gas insert in my lower level fireplace.  Hmmm, I like the idea of a gas log fire warming me while I sew. Perhaps that will go onto my dream list for later years...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Breaking rules and changing habits

I like living by rules, and I don't like breaking them.  Those of you who know me will attest to this fact.  When I'm with friends who want to look at a house that's for sale and they find that the door is unlocked and go in to check it out, I am the spoilsport sitting alone in the car outside saying to myself, "We should not go into the house unless a realtor or the owner lets us in."  You get the picture.  I am not the fun impetuous free spirit about whom books are written and movies are made.

So imagine my surprise when I moved to Minnesota and realized that many of my long-held rules were being broken left and right ... by me!

For example, before moving here, it was my "rule" when buying a house or getting an apartment not to live any farther than 10 or so minutes from work. And not to live west of work (you don't want the sun in your eyes on your way to and from work).  And not to buy a house with a split-level entry (too many stairs and hard to bring furniture in and out).  And always live in a neighborhood with sidewalks (too dangerous to walk the dogs if you don't have sidewalks). So what do I end up buying?  A house 30 to 35 minutes drive WEST of my work with a split-level entry and no sidewalks.  And guess what - my world didn't end!

Yes, my commute adds up to more than one hour each day.  But thanks to audiobooks, I am reading twice as much as I did before.  Some of the audiobooks I've listened to are:
Scott Westerfeld's trilogy - Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath.
Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.
John Steinbeck's East of Eden.
Arthur Phillips' The Egyptologist (one of my all-time favorite books now).
Jack Wizner's Spanking Shakespeare.
Kevin Kling's The Dog Says How.
Dana Stabenow's Restless in the Grave.
Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children (in preparation to hear him speak this fall!).

Am I keen about all the stairs in my house? Not so much.  But now that I have a walk-out lowerlevel and a lovely quilt studio with lots of daylight windows, could I ever go back to having a downstairs basement?  Probably not. And is it worth it to me to live only 3 minutes away from Mom, Debbie and Catherine if it means I have to drive into the sun on my commute?  You betcha!

These are only a few of my "rules" that I've broken after moving here.  There have been many more. When I sat down and thought through all the things I'm doing differently that go against the grain (or, at least, go against my grain), I decided to look at some of my other everyday habits to see what else I could change.  For example, all my life, unless I'm on vacation, I've never eaten breakfast. Give me black coffee and nothing else. So two weeks ago I decided to try eating breakfast. 

The first week, I cut up strawberries into plain greek yogurt and took a cup to work every day.  The second week, I took peach slices and greek yogurt.  So far so good.  Not sure if I'll keep it up (and, no, I'm NOT giving up black coffee), but it has got me thinking about what else I can change and what other new things I can try. 

It is so easy to slip into a regular routine and get stuck there - what are we missing when we live comfortable structured lives?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

I have a lot of books

As the name of this blog is Quilts, Books, and Dogs2, I thought I should post some photos of my recently shelved book collection at my new house.  Until yesterday, most of the books were packed in boxes.  It feels great to have them in bookcases and easily findable again!

 Above is the bookcase by my sewing machine - French literature, foreign language, and a box of vintage QNM from early 1980s.

 Above are two more bookcases in my quilt studio - Native American, C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and other English literature (Shakespeare, Tolkien, etc.) and miscellaneous.  Some treasures on top of the bookcases include baskets from Debra, Ellen, and Stu & Mel, my Smile plaque from the bell choir, and my "happy place" figurine from Heather - a few of my favorite things!

 Above - quilt books, childrens and oversize books, and more miscellaneous.

 When I ran out of bookcases, I started filling up shelves wherever I could find them.  These are in the laundry room downstairs - Gramma Stafford's books - nature, astronomy, birds, trees, wildflowers - and my Minnesota books.

 Above is a bookcase in my dining room near the kitchen - cookbooks, Canadian literature and history, philosophy, film studies, and more miscellaneous.

 Above is where I started to get desperate for more shelving space.  This is a shelf in the guest room closet - dogs (Terhune), horses, and other childhood books (some of which Debbie claims belong to her).

 Shelves in the den closet for oversize and other books waiting until I get the den painted and buy another bookcase.

And last but not least, the stack of books on my bedside table for nighttime reading.