Finished: Escapade

In July, Jerry and I took a trip away for the weekend, just the two of us. This wouldn’t be significant, except that we have been been so occupied with the business of living and parenting and working that we just kind of have forgotten to do that for a while. The last weekend trip we took away from our kids was in January– of 2006. Almost a decade. This is not good, and we have decided to be very intentional about getting away more in the future, because being away from the daily distractions like that is a good way to remember why we got together in the first place. We’ve been lucky in the almost-decade since our last escape that the adversities we have faced have brought us closer together, instead of pushing us apart. Many couples aren’t so lucky. But it hasn’t always been easy.

We went to Chattanooga, and stayed at the Chattanoogan in the Warehouse District. It’s a neat hotel with a courtyard outside, live music on the weekends, and many great places to eat and shop within walking distance. Champagne was waiting in the room when we arrived, and we had dinner at the hotel in the restaurant downstairs.

On Saturday morning, we had room service for breakfast, which was an indulgence that neither of us had ever had before. It was outrageously expensive but fun anyway, and the food was very good. After that we went to Spool and picked out a huge stack of fabrics — some for a quilt I was going to make for a friend getting married, and some because I loved them and they just needed to come home with me. While we were there visiting with Maddie and Flaun, we mentioned going to a glass studio in Fort Payne, which was going to require quite a bit of driving time during our day and so we needed to get on the road. Maddie suggested instead that we go to iGNiS Glass Studio downtown. We did, and we were able to help make two hand-blown glass ornaments for our home!

The owner at iGNis directed us to Taqueria Jalisco, a teenytiny little Mexican restaurant in Chattanooga that had the most amazing tacos I have had in my life. I came home and tried to recreate them, but only came marginally close to the originals.

For dinner on Saturday night we went to Urban Stack, a bourbon-and-burgers restaurant. Fantastic food, but the real hit of the night was our discovery of the Whiskey Smash, a mixed drink that I *have* managed to figure out since we’ve come back from the trip — after a tremendous amount of recipe testing, I must admit. (Ahem.) My recipe is close but not identical to the one I linked above.

Our conversation during dinner wandered, talking about what we’d like to do again when we came back to Chattanooga in September for the AQS show, since I had just been notified that A Semma Tree had been accepted into the contest. We talked about quilt design ideas for the fabric we had bought that morning, and I thought of the Double Wedding Ring quilt pattern, and Victoria Findlay Wolfe‘s recent book, which details the design and construction process of some utterly fantastic double wedding ring quilts. I ordered the book from Amazon while we were sitting at dinner, feeling inspired. I knew I’d need templates or the dies for the AccuQuilt cutter that my mom has, and I wanted to get started right away. Then I realized that I already own the Quick Curve Ruler from Sew Kind of Wonderful, and the Metro Rings pattern would be a great (and fast!) facsimile for the Double Wedding Ring — and I wouldn’t have to wait to start it. My mind was abuzz with the possibilities, and Jerry was intrigued by the idea, because he wanted to remember the trip, too.

Sunday morning after sleeping in (UNDISTURBED BY PETS! OH! THE LUXURY!) we went to Tupelo Honey Cafe and had a yummy brunch before driving home. Everything about the weekend was perfect, and I wanted to be sure to always remember it — and especially to remember how important it is in a marriage that you sneak off together to remember why you liked each other in the first place. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant room service experience — just an escape.

So I started making pieces when I got home, and tossed some sections up onto the wall. After a few pieces were up, I decided that Jerry needed a ring to represent him, and I needed a ring to represent me. Using the colors in the fabrics as my inspiration, I chose blue for Jerry and a poppy red for myself, and created a pair of interlocking rings for us.

As more sections were put on the wall, I started having fun making the rings more erratic and the backgrounds low-contrast, especially as you moved away from the interlocking solid rings. The idea I was exploring was having double wedding ring pattern easiest to see when you were closest to the interlocking rings, and deconstructed and harder to discern the further away you got — to represent how focused on each other we were on our trip, and how chaotic life can get when it’s been too long since the last trip.

I discovered that when I’m playing with blocks or block parts on a design wall I open my eyes SO wide that they dry out very fast. That’s … weird. I kept having to leave the room to make myself blink.

I started raiding my stash for fill-in backgrounds for the left-most side of the quilt, because I needed lots of white/off-white/taupe/low-contrast backgrounds and cornerstones to achieve what I wanted. Originally all of the cornerstones were acid green, but I decided that I liked the effect better when those were a bit mixed as well.

And then I ran out of some critical fabrics. I ran completely out of the solid taupe background fabric, the plaid background fabric, and the polka dot fabric. I was very low on one of the off-white fabrics that I had picked up at Spool, so I sent them a message to see if they still had yardage of those four…. and a few others, maybe… They took care of me, shipping fabrics right away, and I was able to make the bottom row and finished putting the quilt together. Hooray!

Of course, Friday had to test it. Note that Ella is nearby, waiting for her turn.

I was very pleased with how it turned out.
Then I decided to quilt it so that the traditional ring pattern would be visible on every block even if the pattern had been deconstructed. This required a lot of use of water-soluble pens and rulers to make all of the markings, but a little bit at a time, I got it done. 

Feathers and ribbon candy, two of my favorites. Initially I didn’t stitch-in-the-ditch around all of the arcs, but I ultimately went back and did that. It made a huge difference to the overall look of the quilt.

The back was really fun to look at, since the quilt pattern was so consistent. I used rulers for the markings but not while I was quilting, since I don’t have a way to keep the quilt AND a ruler stabilized while I’m machine quilting. But even so, it looks very even from the back — I was pleasantly surprised about that. 


When I finally got to the left edge (I start quilting in the center and work my way out in a kind of spiral fashion), I could barely wait to rinse out the markings so I could see what it would look like finished. That spurred me on to keep quilting!



The cornerstones each got a curved crosshatch, which was really fun to do.

Ella would appear instantly anytime I spread the quilt on the floor to admire it. She knew she looked awesome on it.   

Of course, Friday didn’t want to be left out.

Another little detail: all of the quilting was done in one color thread: Aurifil #2600 (light sand), except for the interlocking rings. They are quilted in their own matching color, so that they can be found when you look at the back as well. It’s a very subtle detail, but I loved the look. Ella brought her fish toy and sprawled right next to the block where the rings interlock.  

The quilted texture must feel really good to cats. When I finished hand-sewing the binding to the back, Ella materialized on the center of it.

Then she channeled her inner Twyla Tharp and did some modern dance.

And the finished Fence Photos! There’s a little over-exposure in the left corners, but since those were mostly white anyway I decided that it didn’t matter — the fact that they’re over-exposed just adds to the design.

Escapade, started and finished in summer, 2015.

At 7:30am the light hits the fence just right.

Mmm, delicious. Can you see the interlocking blue and red rings?

There they are!

All finished and ready for our local quilt show in 2 weeks!


We did go back to Chattanooga again last weekend. We stayed at the Chattanoogan again, had lunch at Taqueria Jalisco, dinner at Urban Stack, and bought some fabric at Spool. And we had “Escapade” appraised at the quilt show. I don’t have all of my quilts appraised, but the ones that mean a lot to me and would be hard to replace, yes — after getting only $75/quilt for the ones we lost in our fire, I’ve learned. Insurance companies just have no concept of the worth of these treasures.


And we are already planning our next escapade.

I added a Works In Progress page to the masthead — go look!

I know that there are more UFOs from pre-2013 in here somewhere, but these are the ones that I could immediately identify. The ones from 2013 aren’t up there yet, but I’ll put them there soon.

In other news, I’ll leave you with this funny picture:


This is from a few years ago (2011, I think?) when my dear friend Sue (and others!) came down from Michigan to retreat with me at the Red Rooster Retreat on Smith Lake. She and Jerry are friends too, so he came down to say hello. This pic was taken during the group photo session outside that always seems to happen on the Saturday of a retreat with a bunch of women. It always makes me giggle when I see it. I’m the grumpy one in the background.

There you are

Remember in Hook, when the Lost Boys finally realize that Peter Panning really is Peter Pan?

Probably my absolute favorite moment in that movie, and I remember sobbing when I saw it the first time.

Tonight, Jerry called from Wyoming. He went fly-fishing today. He loved it. He sent me a series of text messages that made me feel like the little boy in that video.

Oh, there you are.

It’s been a very long year. And who would have thought I’d find him in hipwaders in a river in Wyoming?

Always the last place you look.

All work and no play makes Elaine a sick mommy

I’ve been in Teacher Mode for a month now. I love it, but at the same time it’s just too much for me to be taking on right now — the impact on the rest of my life hasn’t been so stellar.

Because I wasn’t anticipating working, I had signed Helen up for two dance classes that start at 3:30. Alice has a drama class that starts at 3:30 (on the same day as one of Helen’s dance classes, actually, in a completely different facility), and Helen has a drama class on yet another day at 4:30.

Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a problem — I chose the 3:30 timeslot BECAUSE of its proximity to the end of the girls’ schoolday, since going HOME between school and ballet makes things very tough on Helen. I figured we would run a few errands and then go straight to ballet class, so that she’d be able to make the transition without getting too relaxed at home.

Well, it’s an issue, because the high school where I’m teaching isn’t OUT until 3:30. I’m done teaching at 2:42 every day except for Tuesday, which means that I should be able to leave, right? Wrong. I’m supposed to stay there for the full time in case kids want extra help that last period of the day. And frequently, they do want help. So I can’t leave.

This means that I have to coordinate/choreograph/pray/beg/bribe friends and family to come get the girls and deposit them to their particular classes, and hope against all hopes that I’ll be out in time to go retrieve them at the end of their classes (and that has failed on me a few times as well). I have one student “on call” on Mondays — she can pick the girls up from their classes at 4:15 and 4:30 and get them back to my house, and in exchange for this service I’m tutoring her on an as-needed basis all quarter. So far it’s working out pretty well, since she has needed help about as many times as I have.

Jerry has stepped up, my Mom has stepped up, Jerry’s Mom has been great about helping out, and I’ve had offers from other people as well. I feel very blessed, but I’m still stressed out.

One thing I have also discovered is that I’m a 110% teacher — to the detriment of everything else. Alice has been scolded for not doing her miniscule amount of kindergarten homework, mostly because I haven’t gotten into the habit of checking her backpack nightly. Must be better about that. It took me over a week to get Helen’s glasses fixed when a screw fell out. She needs them to read, and has suddenly shown an extreme interest in reading, but I just haven’t had the time. Mid-quarter was Friday, so I was scrambling to get comments written and grades in and everything all taken care of, and my family just suffered.

We’re eating okay; I have managed to hold that together for the most part, but we’re operating out of the front two inches of the refrigerator again because I haven’t had time to go through it all. I’m eating the leftovers for lunch at least, so there’s not as much waste. So that’s good. Laundry is piled to the chandelier in the dining room again, and Jerry has had to manage much more than his half of the housekeeping lately.

And oh, the housekeeping. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say that BOTH dogs (who weigh an average of 70 pounds, thankyouverymuch) have had a gastrointestinal infection of some sort. We’ve had to resort to crating them and/or locking them in bathrooms since every day for more than a week we were coming home to lots of surprises. They’re now on antibiotics and special food and starting to act more like their usual selves. But what a MESS. Stanly Steemer will be coming the first day of Fall Break, that’s for sure. We’ve steam-cleaned the carpet more in the past three weeks than we had in the past three years, I think.

So. This week I was scrambling to get grades done and quizzes made and tests made and plans for the next week and and and so when my throat started to feel a bit raw on Wednesday I just ignored it. I just kept plugging through. Thursday was my birthday and I was miserable all day. Thankfully it was a test day so I didn’t have to talk much; that helped, I think. Friday I felt some better but my throat was still very very sore. I came home and went to bed by 8:30 on Friday night and slept for 13 hours. I had a fever all day yesterday and my throat was (is) still very sore, so I went for a culture today.

It’s not strep, but apparently it’s been going around so she prescribed an antibiotic for me anyway. I also have a cough syrup at the ready if/when I need it.

Apparently I can’t keep up this pace. No surprise — I told my friend Lissa that it felt like tech week of a play, but continuously. And I tend to get sick during tech week, too.

My goal for the next 4 weeks until my teaching contract is done is to stay healthy. And that means focusing more on my family and not carrying the stress of teaching home with me so much.

As I recall, it took me a while to figure that out the first time, too. It’s just that this time the stakes are higher — not only do I have Jerry, I have 2 little girls, 2 big dogs, and a much larger house to deal with than I did last time around. Jerry has been incredibly supportive, but I need to be more attentive to him, definitely.

This has been a good exercise for me, if for no other reason than to recognize where my priorities really need to be at this point in my life. As much as I love to teach, that opportunity will always be there for me. The opportunity to be a mommy to my little girls — who want me around and present in their lives right now — is fleeting. I need to pay attention to that.