Wednesday, February 29, 2012

High Rocks Hike

A couple of Saturdays ago, Nick and I took advantage of the warmer winter weather and drove up to Ralph Stover State Park to hike along the High Rocks. The park is in Plumstead, PA, about 40 minutes north of our house. On the way there, we stopped at Luberto’s Bakery & Deli (on Durham Rd shortly before the turn onto Swamp Rd, which leads into the park) to pick up some lunch to eat during our hike. If you’re going to Ralph Stover I highly recommend stopping here to pick up a picnic lunch. We split a turkey and cheese hoagie and it was the best hoagie I’ve had in years. The bread was delicious and was equal parts soft and crunchy. It was pretty much perfect.

From the parking lots, you cross the red bridge, which looks deceivingly like a covered bridge from below, and then hike up the road a bit before you get to the trails. One of the houses that we passed along the road had a rooster that kept crowing, even though it was 11:00am at that point. It reminded me of the crazy roosters we heard in Guatemala that crowed throughout the entire day! They also had this handy sign that let us know we were going in the right direction.


Right before the trailhead, we came across this fallen tree that looks a lot like an animal skeleton. See what I'm talking about?


We took the trail marked with yellow paint blazes for most of the hike but veered off onto the white trail for a little bit. They run parallel for much of the hike anyway.


The hike is listed as moderate in our Philly hikes book, but other than a couple of steep hills, I’d say it was pretty easy. The white and yellow trails run along the High Rocks which are popular among rock climbers. No thanks for me. I like my time outdoors to be relaxing and for me there is nothing relaxing about hanging off the side of a cliff.


As all of the blogs that I have read about the High Rocks have said, pictures just don’t do them justice. It’s hard to get depth perspective, especially when an iron fence is obstructing your view. But if you’re in the area I highly recommend visiting for a hike or a climb if you’re into that kind of thing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Productive Days and Training Evenings

Wow, I can’t believe that it’s Monday again already! Having burned out on sewing while finishing my last quilt, I decided I needed a little distance from my sewing machine. I finally got back to sewing last week and actually finished a project! Thanks to the lovely lack of light during the winter, I haven’t gotten a chance to photograph it, but hopefully this weekend. Stay tuned!

Despite being crazy busy over the weekend I was able to get some sewing time in. I finally got around to taking in two sweaters that were super boxy. I used the Adventures in Dressmaking tutorial and it worked out great! Unfortunately I forgot to take before and after pictures, so you’re going to have to take my word for it. I also started working on my Minoru again and then during the Oscars I started piecing together the panels for my afghan. All in all, it was a productive day.

Today marked the official start of training for the Broad Street Run (BSR). The BSR is a 10-mile race that starts in North Philly and ends in the Navy Yard in South Philly. The race caps at 30,000 runners and this year it sold out in 5 hours! Thankfully Nick and I were able to pre-register the day before because our health insurance company sponsors the race. Here we are at the end of last year’s BSR. I was on the verge of delirium. I love how it looks like we are all walking. We were running, I promise!


Here we are doing our last high five of the race. We high five at each mile marker to congratulate ourselves. My favorite part of this picture is the couple all of the way on the left. People get very emotional after running for ten miles!


So far this year, Nick and I have focused on getting back in shape so we would be ready for training. I’m happy to say that this is the best running shape that we’ve been in at the start of official BSR training. Running 10 miles doesn’t come easy to us, so we definitely need to take the next 10 weeks of training seriously. We use SmartCoach on to plan out our training schedule and then try our best to stick to it. Basically you plug in the time of your last race, the distance of the race that you’re training for, and how many miles you run per week, and it formulates a customized training plan that won’t kill you. Here’s a peek at what ours looks like. Don't be alarmed: we run slowly!

Best of all, this service is free!

Once Daylight Savings hits we will be able to do most of our running outside, but until then we’ll be confined to the gym. Hopefully the weather will cooperate on Saturday so we can run our first long run outside. Otherwise I’ll be queuing up a couple of episodes of This American Life to keep me distracted on the treadmill!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

New Blog Header!

Happy Sunday! You may have noticed that I finally got around to making a proper banner for the header of this blog. As much as I love the headless pigeons picture that I took in the Halifax Public Gardens back in 2008, it just didn't have anything to do with this blog other than it perfectly displayed my sense of humor.

I used designs from the Craftopia pattern from Sublime Stitching for the embroidery scissors, yarn, and sewing machine. The font is Clementine Sketch, which I downloaded from DaFont for free. I think it better represents what I share on here than seemingly headless pigeons.

  Blog header on tote bag

I embroidered the banner onto a tote bag since I had no intention of hanging this up anywhere besides on this here blog. I think this will be my new knitting bag since the one I'm using is kind of small—my knitting practice turned scarf is getting quite thick these days and I pretty much have to stuff it in.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Put a Bird On It

This was the second year that Nick and I made hearts for the Hearts and STARS fundraiser and our third year attending. Our pals Lauren and Keeva were running the show this year! Even though I had my idea for my heart well before the new year, I somehow managed to wait a mere week before the hearts were due to start it. Thankfully we both finished our hearts on time.

The fundraiser takes place in a really cool space in Trenton called Art Works. It's so much fun seeing something that you made being displayed on a gallery wall! I took inspiration from the hilarious Portlandia and made mine pretty by putting a bird on it. It's the Eastern Goldfinch, the state bird of New Jersey.


Nick took inspiration from the Trenton Battle Monument. His included a silhouette of the monument and an excerpt from the quote that is displayed at its base. The colonial secretary of state for King George III, Lord Germain, told Parliament three years after the battle: "All our hopes were blasted by that unhappy affair at Trenton." Sorry, Brits!


We each raised $30 for our hearts, making our grand total the same as last year. I was really hoping to beat Nick this year since he beat me last year, but at least I increased the amount that someone bid on mine.

We didn't get to stick around too long for the after party this year because I had to rush home and finish MaMotts' quilt. Hearts and STARS is always a good time, so if you're in the area, consider checking it out next year. It's always in the beginning of February and supports a really great cause!


And look what Nick made me for Valentine's Day!

My Valentine's Day Card from Nick!

For those of you who don't know (which is probably most of you), Nick and I met as teenagers working in the gift shops at Sesame Place, the Sesame Street themed amusement park in Langhorne, our hometown. Outside of the shop that we originally both worked at, there used to be a staircase with a giant Big Bird Head on top (it was once the start of an awesome bridge that used to wind through the park). It's hard to believe that was 12 years ago! Isn't he the best? Happy belated Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

MaMotts' 90th Birthday Quilt

Hello, friends. It's been awhile. I was feverishly sewing and quilting last week to get my grandmother's quilt done in time for her surprise party on Saturday and, to my delight, I finished it at about 1:30am on Saturday morning. I wasn't going to have to work until the last minute before leaving for the party! I was pretty excited that I got to take my time on the morning of the party taking pictures and washing the quilt.

Hour Glass Quilt Front

I started this quilt shortly after Christmas. It is the Planetarium pattern from The Practical Guide to Patchwork. I used Elizabeth's instructions for making hour glass blocks for the first few and then I realized it would take me years to complete all 144 of them. I found a much faster method on Red Pepper Quilts and used it to make the rest of the hour glasses. The pattern instructed to make half warm and half cool colored blocks, but I just made a random sampling of hour glasses with a few charm packs of Aviary II in the bark and lilac palettes.

Hour Glass Quilt Back

I was a little disappointed that the quilt top didn't showcase the prints as much as I would have liked, so instead of stacking 16 hour glass blocks going down the center stripe on the back, I instead used squares of the different prints. I really love how the small squares tie the quilt top and back together, as well as the left and right side of the back.


I included one solid square on the back and embroidered a happy birthday message to my grandmother.


This quilt is by far the biggest (68" x 68") and most complex quilt I have yet made. It was a really good learning experience because I now know how long it takes to make a bigger quilt and I learned the importance of squaring off your blocks a few times throughout the process. My quilt top and back are a little wonky, but I don't think you can notice unless you scrutinize it.


I really like the solids that I picked out for the sashing around the larger blocks. I decided on two tones of purple and green after Nick convinced me that using four completely different colors would look a little crazy with all of those different prints. The binding is a light brown with white polka dot print, which I think ties the entire quilt together nicely.


I was a little hesitant about the two orange prints on the back but once the quilting was finished and the binding was on I really loved how it looked.

During the entire process, the thing that I was the most worried about was the quilting. Originally I was going to quilt the white squares that surround the printed blocks, but after struggling a bit, I decided to change plans and just quilt straight lines through the white sashing that extended the entire length of the quilt.


The texture that the quilting created on the back is so awesome. At times I like the back better than the front. Is that weird? I especially love the corners. Admittedly I didn't realize that this would happen when I started doing this and it really worked out in my favor.


Overall I'm pretty pleased with this quilt. My grandmother loved it and was so touched that I put so much work into her birthday present. After all, a 90th birthday only comes around once every 90 years!

My grandmother isn't the only one who loved this quilt though! Our rascal cat Flick decided this quilt was his the moment I started working on it. He was trying to prohibit me from getting this thing in the wash after taking pictures by camping out on it. It didn't work even though he is ridiculously adorable. Don't worry, I washed the quilt after he was finished romping around on it. If he's good I might consider making one for his 90th birthday (in cat years).


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WIP Wednesday: Hours of Hourglasses

My lack of posts as of late may suggest that I have been taking my nights and weekends off from sewing and crafting, but fear not, I have been a busy bee behind the scenes. I just happen to be working on a large project that seems to be taking forever.

MaMotts’ 90th Birthday Quilt
Family members: Shhh! Remember that this project and the party are super secret.
I mentioned before that I'm making a quilt for my grandmother's 90th birthday. Most of my work on this has happened during marathon sewing sessions over the past few weekends. I can’t believe how long this is taking me! I don’t think I’m going particularly slowly so I guess I just have no concept of how long it takes to make this type of quilt in this size. It’s my first quilt larger than a baby quilt, so I’m a little scared of how the quilting is going to go.

Hour Glass Quilt Blocks

The good news is that I have all of the sashing cut out so it's just a matter of putting together the quilt blocks and then sewing the quilt top together. I hope to get the quilt sandwich together on Saturday and start quilting on Sunday. The party is on February 11th and I really don’t want to be working on this quilt right before I run out the door!

Sewaholic Minoru Jacket
Most of my Wednesday Sewing Class time has been spent on the Minoru. I put together a muslin and was so pleased with the fit—no alterations needed! I have all of the pieces cut out for the real deal but have been devoting so much of my sewing time to finishing up the quilt that I haven’t gotten much else done. Once I finish the quilt, the Minoru is first on my list to finish up.

Sewaholic Minoru Muslin

Charity Auction Heart
I’ll explain more about this heart at a later date, but the concept is that community members decorate hearts and then they are auctioned off to raise funds for the South Trenton Area Residents’ Society. Our hearts are due tomorrow so I really took this one down to the wire! I have been frantically embroidering during lunch and on train rides this week. Tonight I’ll be tasked with finishing the embroidery and then mounting the fabric on the heart. Then it’ll be shipped off to be hung in the auction gallery. I’ll share the completed heart soon!

2012 Hearts and STARS Heart

Knitted Blanket
I finished the ends of all of my panels, now I just have to block them and then piece them together. Not much progress here!

Knitted Panels

Basic Chevron Scarf
My knitting practice has turned into an actual project. I enjoyed this stitch so much that I decided to keep going and make it into a scarf. I think the tension issues that I was having in the beginning are getting better.

  Basic Chevron Stitch Knitting Practice

I've been holding the yarn a little looser and that seems to be fixing things. Thanks for the tips, you guys! I think I’m going to have to join two skeins of yarn together soon, which I’ve never done before. Yay for expanding my knitting repertoire! (Side note: Isn't repertoire such a classy word? My piano teacher taught it to me when I was little and it always reminds me of her.)

Basic Chevron Stitch Knitting Practice

State Bird Embroidered Quilt
I was almost finished with the first bird when I realized that I didn’t like how it was turning out by using the actual colors of the bird. After some deliberation with Nick, we decided to mimic Martha’s look and use one color per bird. So it looks like I get to start from scratch on this one. At least I figured this out before I got too many of the birds finished. Now I just need to decide on the 4-5 colors to use. Hrm.

Partly Finished Embroidered Purple Finch

No progress:

My Totals:
Completed Projects: 0
New Projects: 3
Currently in Progress Projects: 13

February is looking to be a record-setting month for finished projects! I'm linking up to WIP Wednesday on Freshly Pieced. Head over and see what everyone else is up to.