Spring is Here (finally)

We had a long winter in my neck of the woods. Long enough that my son had a snow day in early April! Now spring is finally here with its rainy days (we are supposed to have rain everyday this week), and on the days of no rain, bike rides, sidewalk chalk, and other outdoor activities abound.

Spring is known for being a time of renewal, decluttering, and cleaning. I have been trying to take some time to think about these things. This winter, I spent a few months in hibernation. Until we had a few sunny days, I didn’t realize how much I had withdrawn from my own life. Apparently it was a rougher winter than I thought. Now that I am feeling present again it is time to get things done.

Years ago I had to simplify my hobbies. I had too many things I wanted to do, and the end result was that I didn’t get much time to do any of them. These days I focus my limited free time on time with my family, sewing, and writing. If I only have time for only a few hobbies, I need to pick the ones that matter most to me. When I sat down and looked at the long list of crafts, hobbies, and other time sinks I enjoyed, theses were the ones that came out on top. I expect they will change over time, but right now my focus is on finding time for each of these things.

For the last month I’ve made a real effort to exercise. As much as I would love to find time for writing and sewing, I know from experience I need to feel good about myself to be motivated to do much of anything. For me, exercise is the key for feeling good about myself (for me! your mileage may vary). Exercise helps me sleep well at night, keeps me strong enough to play with my kid, and allows me to feel productive. Plus it encourages my love of numbers. Now that I have exercise (both cardio and some basic strength) back into my weekly routine it is time to start adding in other things.

This month I want to focus on writing, with a bit of sewing thrown in. I hope to write twice a week for the rest of the month, and get at least two evenings of sewing. I already know what my projects are going to be! I will finish the Jungle Path quilt top, and write a new short story.

What helps you feel motivated? What hobbies are most important to you?

Camp NaNoWriMo – April 2017

I’ve talked before about Camp NaNoWriMo vs Regular NaNoWriMo before. My preference is for regular NaNoWriMo, but I’m doing Camp in April because a few friends are dragging me along for the ride. I set a fairly low goal of 20k for the month. If I meet me goal, I’ll be back on track for the year for writing.

After a lot of back and forth, I decided to continue my NaNo 2016 Sci-Fi project. It has at least 20k left to get to the end, and it is somewhat fresh in my mind. Of course, it wasn’t as fresh as I thought… I spent the first two days of camp rereading the 50k I wrote in November.

On the days I write, I’m making good progress. I write at least two days worth of words when I get butt in chair time. Of course this would be more impressive if I was writing more than every third day. Ya, you might have noticed that math isn’t adding up well. I am currently caught up to day 7… it’s the 11th. My plan is to write another two days worth tonight and then I’ll only be 2 days behind. This in a nut shell is why camp doesn’t work for me. I’m always behind. In NaNo I’m usually ahead by day 3-4 and never drop below par. When I do camp, I’m ALWAYS behind.

I’m determined to catch up. I’m far from out of the game yet. Are you  doing camp this year? How are you doing at meeting your goals?

Critique Group – Part One – Setup

I’ve been thinking about my critique group and how it fits into my writing lately. Before I post about some of that though, I thought it would be helpful to have some background on the group I’m a part of. Please keep in mind I am far from an expert in critiquing. A few things of note:

  • This is the only group I’ve been a part of, and the only one I’ve started.
  • Everyone in this group had met in real life prior to starting the group.
  • We meet in person, virtually, or a mix of both once per month.

Some background
Last January my friend Cate and I set out to start a critique group. We had both hit the point in our writing where we knew it was time to share, but we weren’t sure of the best way to do that. After reviewing our options, we decided starting our own critique group made the most sense. When we sent out the invitation for people to join our group, we were aiming for a group of four to six people including ourselves.

The group started with five people, but we currently have only three members. We’d love another member or two, but we are an acquired taste in some ways, and I think having now been working together for a while it’s harder to bring in another person.

When we started the group we were very deliberate in setting the tone, structure, and expectations. We talked about what people wanted to get out of the group, and how much time people had to devote to the group. We laid out the ground rules and expectations for members. This really helped when we were getting started and means that going forward we have a plan in place. A few things we discussed/laid out included:

  • How long will submissions be, and what is the max number of submissions the group can handle per month?
  • When will we submit, how often will we meet, and how will we meet (in person or virtual)?
  • What types of writing can be submitted (age and genre), and is there anything someone is not comfortable reviewing?
  • What are our guidelines when doing the critique, and how are we sharing our comments with the writer?
  • How will we handle people who ask to join, or asking people to join?

Are you part of a critique group? What are some of the ground rules your group follows?

Mystery Quilt – Yellow Coin Baby Quilt

I can finally show you the Mystery quilt! Yesterday this baby quilt was delivered to the Mama-to-be at her shower. Now that the proud parents own it, I can share the quilt with the world. The finished quilt is about 33×39 inches.

Front of yellow coin quilt

I laid out the pattern myself, but kept it nice and simple. The small rectangles are 5×3 inches, the large ones 5×11 inches. For the ‘coin’ fabrics I chose four fabrics I liked, in colours that could work for a boy or girl. My goal for this quilt was to keep it bright and vibrant. From each fabric, I cut two large and five small rectangles. To get the last small rectangle, I used a scrap from a fun print that helped tie together the colours from the other fabrics. The layout was random, except for the little snail below, I knew I wanted him along the bottom.

Close up of yellow coin quilt

When it came time to back the quilt, I selected a fabric from my stash. I wanted a dark fabric that wouldn’t show dirt too easily, but that was still cheerful. This fabric in yellow and black was used in my son’s digger quilt and always gets a lot of compliments, so I went with it. I was a bit worried about how the white quilting thread would look, but I like how it turned out.

back of the baby quilt

For the quilting I did a loopy meandering pattern in white thread. This was my first time doing something other than a basic stipple. I couldn’t find a fabric I liked in my stash for the binding, so I decided to try a scrappy binding made from the four main quilt fabrics. I love it! I want to do a scrappy binding for all my kid quilts now. The label (that I’ve whited out above) includes my name, date, location, and who I’ve gifted it to. I like to keep my labels simple, but I feel they add a nice personal touch.

Edges of the coin quilt

Have you finished a quilt lately? Do you like to follow a quilt pattern or make your own?

March Goals

My goals for February were:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word postsDone!
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent – Done!
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times – Calling it Done!
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt – Done!

I’m going to call this month a win. For writing I wrote more than double my goal, although I didn’t write any 500 word posts. For the biking I did 6/8, but I was sick for the last half week of the month when I would have easily done, and had planned to do, the last two workouts.

My goals for March are:

  1. Workout 10 times (bike, swim, or run)
  2. Write 10k
  3. Clear out at least three boxes/big items from the basement
  4. Use my bullet journal all month

Yearly Update:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 1/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 22k/110k (not including Nov)
  4. Submit to critique group eight times – 1/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 14/96

Declutter Update: I haven’t done as much this month as I would like. I did go through my clothes and get a pile of my son’s old clothes out of the house. I need to move on to paper and the basement next. If I can clear out the basement I have room to put more things in storage down there.

How did you goals for February go? Are you doing anything new in March?

Asian Dramas – Love Stories

I’ve been watching a lot of Asian romance dramas lately. The first one I watched was ‘Good Morning Call’ by netflix. Because I watched it, I started getting recommendations on netflix for other Asian dramas.

Since I’ve been enjoying them so much, and because I’m a writer, I started thinking about why I’m drawn to these stories. First for those who aren’t familiar with Asian Romance Dramas a few common themes:

  1. Kissing (even touching) between couples is kept to a minimum. For high schoolers and in most Korean Dramas a kiss is nothing more than a press of the lips (held for a silly length of time without moving). My understanding is this is in part because of censorship.
  2. The male half of the couple is almost always handsome, rich, very smart, and/or super talented.
  3. The female half of the couple pretty much always has more than one guy vying for her interest. Often for the first half this doesn’t include the male half of the couple.
  4. Fake dating, oops I tripped and my lips landed on your lips, one of the characters ends up in the hospital, rushing to the airport to catch your love before it’s too late, etc are all common occurrences.
  5. Many of the shows are based on manga.

There are a number of reasons I’m enjoying these shows, but I want to focus on why I’m enjoying the stories themselves.

1.)  Friends don’t try and steal each other’s boyfriends. Female friends seem to have more genuine friendships. This makes it easier for me to relate to the characters. They are supportive of each other and don’t tear each other down. They don’t scheme behind each others backs, unless it is to try and get the main couple together.

2.) I like the predictability and over the top story lines. It sometimes feels a bit like watching a fanfic. It is almost always obvious who the main love pair is from the credits of the show. So far I haven’t hit a show that didn’t get a happily ever after ending.

3.) Because every physical touch is a big deal you really pay attention to body language. I struggle with body language in my writing, and while I’m unlikely to write a romance with so little touch, it has made me more aware of other ways people show they like someone.

4.) They are short. They almost always wrap up in a single season of around thirty 45 mins-1 hour episodes.

There are common trends that bug me, but over I can ignore it in favour of the parts I enjoy.

What are your favourite kind of shows to watch? Have any recommendations for Asian Romances I should watch on Netflix?

2017 Resolutions Update – January

My Goals (resolutions) for the year are:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops
  2. Finish at least three quilts
  3. Write 10k a month
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times
  5. Exercise twice a week
  6. Continue to get more out of the house than comes in
  7. Set up the crafting corner in the study

Some of these are easy to quantify. I’ve set up the numbers below for those:

  1. Piece at least three quilt tops – 0/3
  2. Finish at least three quilts – 0/3
  3. Write 10k a month – 0/110,000 (I’m not including Nov in this)
  4. Submit to critique group at least eight times – 0/8
  5. Exercise twice a week – 8/96

Can’t say I’m doing too well so far this year. I must strive to do better.

The last two items I can’t track in terms of numbers though. This makes it tough to report in on, but I do want to keep myself accountable. My plan is to include numbers for the first five in each monthly update and then a small paragraph on the last two if appropriate.

Declutter update:
In January we didn’t bring many new items into the house. My husband found a few pieces of clothing and we’ve bought books for my son. We sent out two boxes and a big bag of stuff in January. The setting up of my craft space is still in the get stuff out of the way phase. I need to target the study specifically for decluttering.

Have you made any progress on your New Years Resolutions? Any great decluttering tips that might help me sort out that craft space?

February Goals

In January my goals were:

  1. Write 10k (does not have to be all the same project) – Nope
  2. Exercise 8 times (bike or DDR) – Done!
  3. Quilt the mystery quilt (more on that in an upcoming post) – Nope
  4. Donate three bags/boxes/equivalent – Done!

I got zero writing done, so goal number one was just a solid fail. For the quilt I did get some sewing done, but it was piecing the first two rows of my son’s jungle path quilt not quilting the mystery quilt. Overall score for the month is: 2/4 goals completed. 😦 Better luck next month.

My goals for February are:

  1. Write 10k – including at least two 500 word posts
  2. Sell, donate, etc at least three bags/boxes/equivalent
  3. Exercise (bike, DDR, or run) 8 times
  4. Quilt the mystery quilt

I was going to include an update on the priorities I set at the beginning of the year, but I have more to say than I want to fit in this post.

How did you do on your goals last month? Are you still keeping track of your ‘New Year’s Resolutions’?

 

Planning Ahead

I’m a planner and an organizer. I like to be prepared, and I like to think ahead. Of course I often don’t have time to plan ahead on everything, and sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out. Maybe a better statement is that I try to plan ahead.

As I have begun completing my first quilts, I’ve been looking ahead to new ones. Currently I have two quilts that need to be moved through the next stage. The first is the Mystery Quilt that needs to be quilted and bound so it is ready before the baby it is intended for is here. The second is my son’s bed quilt that needs to be pieced into the completed top.

My lap quilt top is finished, but until I have time and space to quilt it, it will stay as is. What this all means is that very soon I’ll have space in my quilting to start a new quilt top. Making the blocks and putting them into a finished top is my favourite part of quilting. The quilt tops I’d love to make at some point are:

  1. Pow Wow type quilt for my Mother. She likes the look, and I like that it has a flying geese type piece that would be new to me.
  2. Carpenter’s Wheel big block quilt. I really want to try Y-seams. This one won’t come until after the first though.
  3. A Moonlight Starts quilt. This would be made as an upgrade to the lap quilt I made for my husband. I’ll probably end up making this one sometime after the pow-wow and before the Carpenter’s Wheel. He really wants a quilt made entirely by me.
  4. A wrapped in Red quilt. I wouldn’t do this with Christmas fabrics. It would probably be red and white though. Since this one would be for my bed and much bigger than anything else I’ve made. I would make the top, but I’ll pay someone to do the quilting on it. Who knows when I will get around to this one!

Most likely the lap quilt for mom will be the first I make. It will be fun to pick the fabrics with her, and then make the top. The quilting on it will be a little ways down the road, but she is always very understanding of how long projects take me.

Do you plan a few quilts in advance? What projects are you working on right now?

Favourite Summer Salad Recipes

For some reason just after our first big blizzard of the year I started craving salads. The type of salads I usually eat in the summer. I figure I’ll go with it. My meals have been getting a little stale lately, and I’m not eating enough vegetables. What better way to get more vegetables than eating more salads?

Here are a few of my favourite summer salad recipes that have or will find their way to my table this month:

Picnic Potato Salad
One of my best friends introduced me to this salad. They aren’t lying when they say it is the perfect potato salad. A great side dish for a BBQ. I usually use two or three green onions instead of what is called for. For a long time I avoided this salad because peeling and boiling potatoes felt like such a chore. Every time I make it though, I’m reminded that boiling potatoes is far faster and simpler than I remember. Go figure.

Tortellini Pasta Salad
I love the dressing on this one. I use the Dijon mustard as I don’t mind the after taste and don’t find it too strong. Before I put in the red onions I soak them in cold water with a bit of vinegar. I find them far too powerful otherwise. I also use an English cucumber so I don’t have to worry about seeds.

Tuna, Chickpeas and Broccoli Salad
I originally came across this salad because of a blog I read a few years ago. I like this salad, because it’s easy to make, but is different from what I usually eat. I’m also not a big fish fan, but doing tuna like this makes it edible for me. The dressing is fairly light, and as stated in the salad keeps well for lunch the next day.

Mango Quinoa Salad
Adding this one so people don’t think I only eat salads with Dijon in the dressing. I like this one as a main course all on its own. It also stores nicely for lunch leftovers the next day. My son used to love this one and we had it all the time. Lately he hasn’t been in the mood, so I haven’t made it in a while.

What are your favourite salads? Do you prefer salads with lettuce or without?