Thursday, August 25, 2016

Really Random Thursday, 8/25/16

This will be a short edition. There seems to be a lot going on but not much to show here.

On Mark's first day of retirement, last Friday, we did indeed go to the zoo and have coffee. He studied football rules for a bit while I did some English paper piecing. The view was fabulous.
I saw this in the newspaper. But I don't really think Mark is planning on using any of these signals.
At the end of May, we had our annual family pictures taken. I'll share more of them later, but here is a little teaser...
Tuesday was Mark's actual 65th birthday, and we celebrated at Aaron and Christa's, along with Jason, Jill and the girls. The "littles" wanted to help blow out the candles.
Since two rooms in the house belong to me--one as an office and one as a sewing room--we set Mark up in the spare bedroom. He seems happy to have his own space--complete with music, the laptop, a Starbucks mug for his pencils and pens from Minneapolis (which makes the Minnesota part of him very happy), and as of today, a cute little turquoise stapler (I'm sure he will be thrilled that I described it as "cute".)
While he was going through files, he found our engagement picture, circa 1972. I forgot how long my hair was in college...
Last night we did something atypical for a weeknight (before retirement) because of Mark's long work hours. We went to a baseball game. The weather was perfect.
Someone had even given him tickets to  the part of the stadium where someone comes to your seat and takes your food order. Carnitas nachos...yum.
I even did a little English paper piecing. What a fun evening.
And because I always like to end with some thoughts for the week...
Have a great weekend.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Finish It Friday: A Job Well Done

This is not a typical Finish It Friday post. It is not about quilts, although there just might be a glimpse of a quilt toward the end of the post. It's not about me, although I have been fortunate to witness the journey.

Rather, this is about my husband, Mark. Yesterday he retired from working in kitchen design and cabinet sales for the last thirty years, all for the same company.

First of all, in this day of fast food and short cuts and short attention spans in nearly every area of our lives, the thought that someone would be at the same company for thirty years is mind boggling.

When he started back in June of 1986, our son was 8 years old. And now our son has his own 8-year-old (and nearly 10-year-old, 5-year-old and 3-year-old!). In those first days, it was just two of them, Herb doing the office work and Mark out in the wild, cold calling, drumming up as much business as he could.
Those were the early days of frameless modular kitchen cabinets, and they purchased their cabinets from a company in Canada, Kitchen Craft. People told Mark and Herb that no one would ever buy modular cabinetry here in the Central Valley. Mark felt differently. And, in my humble opinion, he became the face of modular cabinetry in the Fresno area. He developed dealer sales throughout California. He was out of the house and on the road most of every single week during those early days, from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area around San Francisco.

As Lowes and Home Depot opened up, the dealer market kind of dried up, as people would buy directly from the big box stores and often eliminate the middle man--the kitchen design dealer.

He was on the road less, at least out of town, as he developed relationships with all the local contractors in town--the ones who build the big tracts. He has worked with most of them for about 25 years. During that time, he also did countless remodels and custom homes as well.

He has earned customer loyalty because he has remained "old school." What do I mean by that? In this day when most employees work their job from 8 to 5, Mark went the extra mile, often going many extra miles. He was at work early and stayed late. He worked nights. He worked weekends. When customers, who worked full time themselves, could only meet him after they were off work, he didn't say, "I'm sorry. Our business closes at 5 p.m. And no, we are not open on the weekends."

He met them on their time schedule, no matter that it often meant putting in 50 to 60 hours of work per week. If you are in sales, that is what you do. You sell. You don't lose a sale because you are off the time clock.

He still found the time for his family, because they mean more to him than anything.
Mark is old school in so many ways. To him, "customer service" means you are serving the customer, solving their problems, making sure they are happy, admitting when the mistake is yours and not passing the blame to someone else. It means that you actively listen to what the customer is saying and then do your best to make them happy. It was never "That's not my problem. It's not my fault...."  It means you meet them in person, deal with them face to face, do your best to solve the problem.

For 22 out of those 30 years, he was a part owner. But whether he was owner or employee, he gave it his all.
Last weekend, Mark and I cleaned out his office. Wow, so many memories. I always made sure he was supplied with pictures of family, especially grandchildren who are the lights in his life.
We cleaned out shelves, took pictures off the walls, including these two quilts made by me that have been on his wall since 2001. These are actually two quilt blocks that I made and framed after deciding that the gorgeous border print that inspired the quilt below was not actually going to be part of the quilt.

Wednesday night, his coworkers held a party for him. It was fun. Laurel made him a fabulous cake that looked like kitchen cabinets.
They all autographed a cabinet door.
And gave him a certificate of retirement.
Yesterday at 4:30 p.m., I drove to the office to pick him up. For the first time in 30 years he no longer had a company vehicle. Or keys to the office. Such a weird feeling.
I had to wait a few minutes because he was finishing up an order. He literally worked to the very.last.minute.

And last night was his retirement dinner. It was a lovely evening. Dinner was delicious, from the spinach salad with fresh fruit and candied walnuts, to the halibut and risotto (me) and filet mignon (Mark) to the super rich chocolate dessert.
We were in a small, quiet room that allowed us to visit with everyone there--the owners (his former partners) and key coworkers, as well as Aaron and Christa.

Herb, Eyon, Will, Chris, Ivette, Mark, Lisa, Miguel, Scott

This is the family Mark has worked with for the past 30 years--the father, Herb, and two sons, Chris and Will. 
Chris, Katie, Herb, Joan, Mark, me, Chrissy, Will

The evening was filled with funny stories, from the first days of trying to get the business off the ground, to memorable clients and incidents that happened in the span of those 30 years.

I can't even begin to put into words how proud I am of this man I have been married to for the past 43 years. He is a man of high principles, integrity and a work ethic that now seems unusual instead of the norm. We have adventures planned...spending time drinking coffee in the morning, on a weekday at the zoo just because it's such a cool place,
  spending time with grandkids during the week,
going on a trip that has been on Mark's bucket list for ever--a cruise through the Panama Canal. He will keep busy with reffing and reviving his fused glass business. I will keep busy with quilting.

And we will enjoy spending extra time together. We have both been looking forward to this new phase in our lives with anticipation.  I can't think of anyone I would rather share that time with.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Really Random Thursday, 8/4/16

Are you trying to keep cool? We had started the week with high temps, in the 109 degree range. This is what it felt like.
So why not go out for donuts?
Why did no one order the flamin' hot cheetos donuts? Probably too hot. I couldn't take a good picture of Ella's donut because it was the last one in the case and she bit into it right away--"squirmy wormy." Appropriate.
I love going on individual "dates" with our grandchildren. On Friday, Charlotte and I went to Color Me Mine and had such a fun afternoon. I had been trying really hard to get the cute vase/cup from Target that I had seen on Instagram. No luck in our local stores. And the search engine online did not reveal any results for "vase" or "planter." Correct wording makes all the difference. "Pencil cup," in case you are interested. However, I decided to paint my own.
Note: I could have purchased three from Target for what it cost me at Color Me Mine. However, the time with Charlotte was priceless. Question: Why is she looking so grown up??
Also, in the "why" category, you could paint the ubiquitous red plastic cup.
I had the chance to do a little pattern test for Crazy Mom Quilts. She made a new and different pincushion for each day in July. Now she has written a pattern, and Volume 1 includes five of the pincushions (available on Craftsy). I tested "Pineapple."
When I posted on Instagram, I decided to get a little artsy, and took the picture on a mirror in order to get a reflection. Boy, is that ever tricky. It's hard not to get the ceiling light, me holding the camera, etc. But it was a fun experiment.
Sometimes I buy fabric with no purpose in mind. I'm sure that never happens to you. Ha. I had purchased a lot of license plate fabric from Timeless Treasures last year and made one-hour baskets for my friends. So I really wasn't planning on buying any this year. But then I saw this: Fresno! Now I need a plan.
And in another late-night iPad session, the kind where you surf from link to link to link, I found this fabric. You may initially be wondering why that caught my eye and I immediately ordered two yards. NOTE: This is from the line Out to Sea, Pirate Girls in gray, by Sarah Jane. I purchased it here.
Do you see the pirates named Amelia and Ella? Here are the real-life Ella and Amelia. These two are best of friends.
Also in a super weird coincidence, Ella's middle name is Jane, the same as the pirate on the right. Now to come up with a good plan...Help me out, matey.

Since I have come back from my fabulous quilting retreat in Minnesota, my sewing room has pretty much looked like this.
So what better time to ignore the sewing room and instead...paint the office and main bathroom.

Both rooms went from green (think Granny Smith apples...) to my favorite warm gray, which we have used in nearly 85 percent of the rest of the house--Valspar Oatlands Subtle Taupe. I found the paint color when I saw it on one of my favorite decorating blogs, Freckles Chick, but I was really thrown by the word "taupe" when I went to Lowe's to get the first gallon mixed. But when it dries, the color is, in my opinion, sheer perfection.

I haven't taken pictures of my office yet, which adjoins the sewing room, but here is the main bathroom. Naturally, when you change paint colors, it necessitates a lot of other changes--towels, bath rug, cabinet knobs, etc. Some things are repurposed from other parts of the house. I'm thrilled with the results. Also, I love the fused glass quilty block made by Mark.

And here is a better shot of the shower curtain, which I have actually had for months after Nicole posted it on her blog.
In the first picture of the bathroom, see the light fixture? It is original to the house, from 1968 or so. I have mostly been too lazy to switch it out and have always kind of liked it. Now I'm SO glad I never changed it, as it goes with the rest of the geometric touches in the bathroom.

And it looks so pretty when the light is on.
I started a new project because....why not? It is the Quatro Colour Quilt by Sue Daley. My friend Deborah (@missluella1) talked me into it. Although I have to say, it didn't take much convincing. I'm excited about this one. My plan is to finally cut into my hoarded Heather Ross fabric, and add Jen Kingwell dots.
And because November seems like an eternity away, with nothing but political ads, this is my new platform/policy. Thanks for posting this, Michelle (@speechquilter).
Lastly, I hope you are reading today,  Robby H. You are such a faithful commenter each week but you are a no-reply commenter. I would love to reply back, so I hope you directly email me. For those of you who aren't sure if you are no-reply commenters or not, here is a great little tutorial.

Stay cool, my friends.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Really Random Thursday, 7/28/16: The Grubers Retreat 2016 Edition

Last week at this time I was attending the yearly retreat of the Grubers Girls, in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

I left Fresno early Monday morning, and used some of my time to work on English paper piecing. (In case you are wondering about those scrabble tiles, they are needle minders.)
Usually I am routed through Seattle (using my Alaska Air miles) but this time I went through Portland. I think every time I have been in the Portland airport I have taken a picture of the carpet, thinking I would make a quilt based on it.
They have been replacing the carpeting, but little did I know it was a "thing." So when I texted our son asking if he needed anything Oregon Ducks-related, he said no but wondered if there were some carpet souvenirs. Funny he should ask...and you can actually buy a 12" square of old carpet for $40.
A whole display of carpet-related items!

I ended up only purchasing this postcard. See what it says there? "World famous PDX carpet."
My brother-in-law, Leon, always picks me up from the airport, and then drives me to stay with my good friend, Amanda Jean.
I love staying at her house. Besides feeling like I'm living in a park...
everywhere you look, this is what you see.


On Wednesday, we made the 20-minute drive to Gruber's, where there is not only a fabulous quilt shop, but a great retreat center. So the next four days were spent sewing, talking and laughing.

Amanda Jean gave us a lesson on "squircles" after we fell in love with her quilt based on a project in Carolyn Friedlander's book, Savor  Each Stitch.

Every year we exchange "happies," called that because receiving these little gifts makes us all so very happy. They are always amazing and I cherish each one.
This is what I made.

Rene' and Michelle are both members of the Orlando Modern Quilt Guild, which is busy making quilts after the tragedy at the Pulse nightclub. We each made a block for this one.

This year, for the first time probably ever, I decided to be realistic and not pack too many projects to work on. I always overestimate how much I can actually get done. This turned out to be an error in judgment. I only brought two projects, and neither of them seemed to work out the way I planned.

Project no. 1:

"Find Your Inner Peach."

This seemed like a great idea at the time--working with Kate Spain's new batiks line called Latitude and pairing it with a pretty peach Kona cotton.The single shade of peach made me decidedly unhappy. So in 1 1/2 days, I made about six blocks. And I didn't even takes pictures at this point.

I switched over to project no. 2.

"Quad Control."

I started cutting triangles for kaleidoscope blocks and began working on the blue quadrant. Ran out of white fabric that I will need for the outside blocks, and decided I can't start sewing blocks until all four quadrants are up on the design wall at the same time, and at this point it just looks like one hot mess.

It was getting frustrating. Amanda Jean, who is making one pincushion each day in July said, "Make a pincushion." So I did. It is probably the first improv-y thing I have done and I love it!
It's amazing what a few words of encouragement can do. The pincushion got my creative juices flowing again, but I knew I couldn't keep going on the peachy quilt without making some changes. I ended up adding four more shades of peach and now I'm excited to finish making these 9-patch blocks.
While we eat most of our meals in the little kitchenette right next to the sewing room, one night we always get a little more dressed up and go out for dinner.
From left to right: Rene' (@renecreates), Michelle (@speechyquilter), me, Stephanie (@stephiepeterson), Terri (@terriw), Doris (@madebyabrunnette), Mary (@maryonlakepulaski), Amanda Jean (@crazymomquilts), and Shelly (@prairiemoonquilts).

On Saturday, after a few days of hot and muggy weather, some different weather rolled through. I loved it, as Fresno rarely gets weather like this, and certainly not in the middle of July. But yikes, that was a lot of severe weather in the forecast!
It was raining so hard around noon-ish that cars had to turn on their lights!
A few more snapshots. This is what it is like sitting next to Amanda Jean, queen of scrappy quilting (and endless inspiration). She is always way more prepared than I am, and also she lets me use one of her sewing machines so I don't have to drag mine on and off the airplane!


Among other things, her scraps turned into these:
(I'm not posting a lot of pictures of everyone's works in progress as I'm not quite sure which are ready for public viewing, so I'll wait a bit and show those later.)

I love all these women so very much. These yearly retreats have been life changing. The dates are already on the book for next year, and the countdown has begun.
Sunday was a long travel day. You can tell when you are in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport because you will see Snoopy here and there (Charles Schulz came from this area).
The view from my window before landing in Portland.
And the plane from Portland to Fresno. I was bummed when I had to walk right past the one decorated with the Oregon Ducks, and instead had to board the one with the Oregon State Beaver. Sigh...
Awaiting me was a beautiful vase of flowers. Mark is so thoughtful.
I saw this somewhere.
However, it is not necessary to wait to be cremated. Nope. Just living in Fresno will probably do the trick...

Have a lovely weekend.