Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gluten Free Is Do-Able. Or So I Keep Telling Myself.

There are very few one-size-fits-all solutions. –L. Tom Perry, Obedience Through Our Faithfulness, April 2014

My tummy has always been a little fussy. I was tested for Celiac in December of 2012 and it came back negative. I knew that dairy bothered me so in January of 2013 I decided that it was time to give it up completely in hope of easing the discomfort. And for a couple of weeks, things seemed better. But it wasn't long before the the gastrointestinal distress returned. Since I'd tested negative for Celiac I was sure it couldn't be gluten, and I stubbornly refused to give up my daily bread. I mean, I'd already taken the cheese off my pizza. If I took away the crust too, I'd be left with sauce and pepperoni and that just didn't cut it in my book. I figured that I just had a more sensitive digestive system and that it was something I was going to have to live with.

About five weeks ago things became pretty unbearable. My stomach hurt all the time. It hurt so much that it woke me up in the wee hours of the morning, and as I laid in bed tossing and turning and waiting for relief, I started to worry. I got up and started cutting scraps into 2" squares, and I worried some more. And I was convinced that something was VERY wrong. I e-mailed P., who is dairy-free and also gluten free. She also tested negative for Celiac, but is gluten intolerant and feels much better without it. We've discussed our intestinal woes on occasion and she urged me to try giving up gluten for a couple of weeks {as she has done on several other occasions in the past}. I figured that the only thing I had to loose were a few worrisome symptoms, so I did. And I made an appointment with the doctor who took some blood, did a bunch of tests, including for Celiac {which was negative again}, and then sent me to a gastro doc where I was subjected to more and less pleasant tests. Everything is normal. Except it's not, because my body doesn't tolerate gluten.

Within just a few days of giving up the stuff, I started to feel better. A lot better. And I got to wondering why, suddenly, so many people are gluten intolerant or have Celiac disease? I mean, wheat is the staff of life, and all that. Why would our bodies suddenly turn on us? I followed a few rumors, like that hybridized wheat was to blame, or genetically altered corn, cotton, alfalfa and papaya {among other foods} were to blame. And someone to throw the blame on is just what I was looking for. I wanted to buy into those rumors, because they were on the internet, so they must be true. After more consultation with P., she pointed me in a different direction, and it would seem that lectins, gluten and phytates are just plain hard to digest. I suspect that, coupled with a diet high in the grains that contain these components, would eventually lead to rebellion. And it looks like the rebellion has won in my body.

While stubbornly refusing to believe that gluten was an issue, I thought giving up bread was the worst thing in the world. Now, almost five weeks on the other side, I can't believe I spent so much time eating myself sick. My tummy is SO much happier and I feel a lot better. Before, my brain felt like I should always be eating, even if my stomach was full. Now, my blood sugar stays pretty steady and my stomach is in charge of when I eat and it knows when I'm full too.

Granted, it is a more work to try and come up with interesting and tasty things to eat. The first week was a snap. I was so anxious for relief that I happily met the challenge. The menu I already had planned for that week lent itself nicely to being gluten free. All I had to do was pick up some GF soy sauce and I was set. The next week was much harder, because I was pretty sure we'd eaten all the things that are gluten free the week before. Somehow, I managed to scrape together another menu. It was seriously lacking in imagination. The week after that I put together another. And then another. We've only had a few repeats {the Not-So-Little Bugs love chicken tacos, and I'm good with having a crunchy corn tortilla and leaving off the cheese as long as there is plenty of salsa, homemade guacamole and dairy-free sour cream}. I'm hoping to develop a fairly well-rounded répertoire of menu items because fast food is quickly becoming a distant memory {although I've had some very lovely salads lately from Wendy's, Chick-fil-A and a local cafe. And I really love an "unwich" from Jimmy John's – think lettuce wrap sandwich}. I've made quite a few Asian recipes because they're mostly dairy-free, and if you've got the right soy sauce then gluten isn't an issue either. Potatoes and rice and quinoa have made appearances. We even tried gluten free pasta and I was pretty impressed. I tried a loaf of gluten free bread and wasn't impressed at all with that. When I left dairy behind, I discovered that it really is best not to try to substitute ingredients, but rather to find new recipes that don't require those particular ingredients. Although I am going to try P.'s gluten free double chocolate chip cookie recipe. I haven't had chocolate for five weeks, people! Five weeks! Almost. {Sidebar: did you know that Oreos are dairy free? Makes you wonder what is in that creme filling, doesn't it?} Eventually, I'll get around to trying homemade gluten free breads. Perhaps when I no longer have to go to work every day.

In the meantime, I think it has been a very positive change. I still have days here and there when I can't figure out why I've got a belly ache. I wonder if I forgot to read a label, if there are other items that my body doesn't like or if there were cross-contamination issues. But I'm not going to let it get me down. And I'm not going back to a pizza filled life. To be honest, I remember pizza and garlic bread, ice cream, cookies and cake with fondness, but I don't crave them. I don't even really want to eat them. Jimmy John's put cheese that I didn't ask for on my unwich a few weeks ago and I didn't notice until I'd eaten about ¾ of the sandwich {it was wrapped tight in lettuce, you know}. Within a half-hour of eating, I felt uncomfortably nauseated, and my tummy was pretty unhappy for the next 36 hours or so. I'd rather eat a nice salad or some beans and rice and fresh fruit makes a delightfully satisfying dessert.

Yes, I suppose gluten free is do-able, after all.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Stitch In Time: March Finishes Giveaway Winner

If you take responsibility for yourself, you will develop a hunger to accomplish your dreams. –Les Brown

Here we are again, a good way into the month and I'm just getting to posting the winner for the March Finishes Linky Party. The first of the month has always been particularly busy at work, but more so since we had two software change-overs at the beginning of the year. I keep hoping we'll settle in and things won't take so long, but we're still figuring things out {read: making things up as we go}, so here I am, late again. It is an improvement from last month {by five days}, and my goal is to continue that trend. In other news, I've been enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having and loving all the spring bulbs in bloom. In the category of finishes in March, I did two aprons {Honey Bees II and Groovy Garden} and a baby quilt in March! It was awesome to get a few things done. Since then, I've been working on a few {read: seven, because if one is awesome, seven are beyond spectacular} tote bags. I still have to cut the linings and I'm at about the half-way point in assembly. I have been enjoying puttering along with these. I hope to pick up the pace, though, and get them finished by week's end, because about twelve different quilts are calling my name and begging to be worked on.

And now, what we've all been waiting for, the winner of the March Finishes Linky Party Giveaway, a charm pack of Kona in Bluegrass, sponsored by The Fat Quarter Shop. Thank you to everyone who linked up! It is so fun to visit the frequent-linkers and see what they've been up to since the last time and to visit bloggers who haven't linked before and see their amazing work. Seeing your amazing projects is a highlight for me. This month Grasshopper pulled the winning number – 19!

Kona Bluegrass Charm Pack

Congratulations to
:partytime: Lisa Maria :partytime:
at Quilts by Lisa on Flickr

Lisa usually links a quilt or two up each month, but she was extra busy this month. In addition to her winning entry, Geometry School, she linked up and adorable set of hot pads, Shop Cook Eat, and three other quilts this month, Owl, Favorite Colors and Oldies. And if you're looking for some other fun projects, check out this Geese in a Circle pillow at Made With My Two Hands or the Chess and Checkers Game/Pillow at ShannonMac Designs.

The April Finishes Linky Party is open, so you can link up as you go throughout the month. Remember to include the April Finishes button {code found in the April post} somewhere in any post you link up. Code for a button for your sidebar can also be found at the bottom of the April post. The giveaway this month, sponsored by The Fat Quarter shop, is a Dottie Charm Pack by Moda.
Dottie Charm Pack

Today's post brought to you by:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Stitch In Time: April Finishes Linky Party

If you can't figure out your purpose, figure out your passion; for your passion will lead you right into your purpose. –TD Jakes

I love spring! The longer days and the pretty colors just bring contentment to my heart. All the extra daylight and plants coming to life gives me a bit of renewed energy, too. There are about 50 things I want to work on. Finding the time is the only problem. I'm working on a few tote bags right now, which I hope to have finished soon. After that, two or three different Ph.D quilts are begging to be worked on and I need to put together signature blocks for a quilt for a woman in my neighborhood who is turning 100 years old this year {I decided on the flower layout, if you were curious}. At any rate, I'm hoping that April will be full of finishes for both me and you! Let the linking begin!

To participate in this month's linky party:
• Your project must be completed sometime in April 2014.
• Once you've got your project finished {as in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away} with some sort of stitching in it, blog about it or post a photo of it on Flickr.
• Scroll down to see what other bloggers are up to and link to your own finishes.
• Please include the April button in your blog post. Copy the code in the text box below and paste it somewhere in the post you link for this month's finishes. The button is a link to this specific post, so that other bloggers can find their way over and link up too. If you'd like a button for your sidebar, the code is at the bottom of this post.

• Each time you link up a finished project, you're entered to win the April giveaway, a Dottie Charm Pack by Moda.
Dottie Charm Pack

• Thank you to The Fat Quarter Shop for sponsoring our giveaway!

The Fine Print {which might be boring but you really should read}:
• Your project must be completed during the month you are linking to.
• Projects must include stitching of some sort. For example: appliqué, crochet, cross-stitch, embroidery, knitting, practical sewing {garment construction, bags, curtains, etc.}, quilting.
• Projects must be completely finished. As in done, finito, nothing more to add, ready to use/display/give away.
• You can pick something new to do, but projects do not have to be started during the month. If you pick up a UFO, Ph.D, WIP and finish it during the month, it counts.
• Finishes must be completed during this month, but you have until 5:00 pm MST on the 1st of the next month to link your post.
• Post about your finish and then link your specific post {instructions here} above. Links to your blog and not the individual post about your finished project will be deleted.
• Have more than one finish this month? Great! Post about each finish individually and then link the specific posts up separately. Each finish, and therefore each link you add, counts as one entry for this month's giveaway.
• If you've already posted about a finish for this month, there's no need to do a separate post. Just add the button to that post and link up.
• Please copy and paste the code below to include this month's button somewhere in the post {not your sidebar} you link up for this month.
April Finishes

• Don't have a blog? You can link from your flickr account. Just post a picture, include a little note about your finish and a link back here {code included below} in the description. Then join the linky party.

• Want a button for your sidebar? Copy and paste the code below into an HTML gadget for your sidebar. This button is a link to the main A Stitch In Time Linky Party page, which always has the current month's finishes and links to all previous linky parties.
A Stitch In Time Linky Party

• Make sure to visit a few of the other links and leave them some love {ie, a comment}. A good rule of thumb is to visit two links for every one you include.
• Winner of the sponsored giveaway will be drawn randomly from among the links and announced by 8:00 pm MST by the 5th of the following month.
• Kindly consider changing your comment settings to the pop-up window option for faster and easier commenting for visitors to your blog. Instructions can be found here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Signature Block Conundrum

A pretty face will always grow old. A nice body will always change with age. However, a good woman will always be a good woman. –Unknown

The other week, I had the day off of work. It was a Friday and I was happy to start the weekend early. My plan was to meet up with my mom in the big city and enjoy some quality time together while the Not-So-Little Bugs were in school. Unfortunately, LadyBug was sick. So, instead I stayed home with her. I decided that while I had some "extra" time on my hands, I'd do a little on-line shopping for fabric for a semi-special project.

The story goes like this: there is this cutest little old lady in my ward {congregation} who is 99½ years old and still sharp as a tack. Although she can no longer see well enough to drive and she's getting a little frail, she still lives alone in her own home, takes care of herself and spreads happiness wherever she goes. As a matter of fact, last fall she asked if Grasshopper would come over and rake up her leaves. By the time we got to her house the next afternoon, she's already gotten the leaf blower out and blown them into a gigantic pile in the back yard. All we had to do was bag them for her.

I have really enjoyed getting to know her over the last nine or ten years. She is truly an amazing woman. Ever since she turned 99, last September, I've been thinking about making her a signature quilt with, wait for it . . . 100 signature blocks. I'm sure that the people she knows and has influenced could fill about 10 hundred-block quilts, so I'm thinking that all the members of a single family could have one block to sign, and we could keep it to a single quilt at a manageable size.

I've always wanted to do something with 1930's reproduction fabrics, and this seemed like the perfect project. This sweet lady would have been 16 in 1930. I want to do something really scrappy. Keepsake Quilting sells 10" pre-cuts in a variety pack of 1930's prints. Several months ago, thinking of this project, I searched the interwebs for signature block quilts and one particular layout that creates a lattice stuck in my brain, but I wanted to have a plan before I ordered fabric so that I could make sure that I liked the layout and that I ordered enough fabric. I started doodling around with the old {Microsoft} Paint box. {This took me forever. Perhaps EQ should be on my Christmas wish list.}

Lattice Layout

I like the looks of this layout. It is made with the simple block below, which I found on-line. When I went back to my original pencil-and-paper doodle on graph paper from several months ago, which was based on allowing for pre-washing of the pre-cuts and then using the maximum amount of fabric with the least amount of waste to get the biggest block possible, I discovered that the white signature area of the block I drew up was bigger than the one below by about ⅞", which would make the white lattice bigger and the scrappy 1930's reproduction fabrics smaller than in the layout above. I'm not sure if that would be too much white lattice and not enough 1930's reproduction fabrics.

While I was doodling, I decided to try out another layout I'd seen in my previous search. I don't like it as much as the first layout, but maybe with larger white signature areas, I'd like it better.

Diamond Layout

While I was thinking and doodling and searching the interwebs for a refresher on the two layouts above, I found this block.

If the block is turned the right way, it makes pretty flowers. I really like the way this looks, but it leaves the least amount of room for a signature. And a pre-washed {a.k.a. pre-shrunk} 10" square could not comfortably make four 5" blocks. I don't think a 10" block that hasn't been pre-washed could do it. I'd need to take a different approach to getting a variety of fabrics with enough of each fabric to make all four blocks for each flower. On the plus side, the signature area is completely finished and there won't be a problem with people signing into the seam allowances.

Flower Layout

My original plan was to do 5" blocks. That makes a 50" square quilt with either the lattice or the diamond layouts, before borders. The flower quilt has 2" sashings, which makes it 62" square before borders. If I bump it to 6" blocks, that pretty much takes using 10" pre-cuts off the table for all of the layouts. The top two layouts would be 60" before borders and the flower layout would be 75" square {I think I'd increase the sashings to 2½" to maintain the same ratio} before borders, which is pretty huge for a lap quilt. If I was going to go big, then I'd do 7" blocks, and with 2¾" sashings, it would be 86½". Slap on some borders and you've got yourself a queen-size quilt. Which really wasn't my plan.

If I'm going to do this, I'd better get a move on. I've only got six months. In the weeks since I doodled these out, I'd almost decided to go with the flower layout. Looking at them again now, I'm kind of back to liking the lattice layout. I've always like the diamond layout least of all, so at least there's one thing I can rule out.

There are pros and cons to every layout and every block size. Ruling things out further, I think that I will stick with 5" blocks to keep the quilt size in check. I'll probably have to find a nice magnifying glass to give with the quilt so this little old lady, whose eyesight is very poor, can read her own signature quilt. In the cons column for the lattice layout, as previously mentioned, the strip of white fabric will be bigger than pictured so I'm worried that will overpower the quilt. Not previously mentioned, I'm also worried about people signing into the seam allowances, even if I provide clear instructions. I've considered using a Frixion pen to mark the boundaries, but you never know. In the cons column for the flower layout, the signature area is tiny in a 5" block. And it will have to be paper pieced in order to come out right at 5".

If you've got an opinion, please share! It always helps me to decide what I want when I hear from other people. Right now, I'm on the fence between the lattice layout and the flower layout. Vote for your favorite in the comments.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Swinging On A Star

Would you like to swing on a star?
Carry moonbeams home in a jar
And be better off than you are
Or would you rather be a . . .

Swinging On A Star
Music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke

One of the girls I work with is expecting a baby boy in a couple of weeks here. I was invited to her shower with a pretty good amount of lead time, so I decided to make a quilt. I had a panel that I bought about 4 years ago out of an all-you-can-stuff-in-a-bag-for-$5 bin. A tiny bit of the outside border had been nicked in the cutting process and I figured it would be a good quilt to practice free-motion on, and then maybe donate. I didn't have enough time to get a quilt pieced for the shower, so I used the panel plus fabric from my stash to make her a quilt.

As I mentioned, I bought the panel to practice FMQ. I outlined all the little bears in the center, plus the lines in the main borders of the design, which was good free-motion practice at following a line. But I specifically had stars and loops in mind for practice. And practice them I did. I did the blue borders on the left and right of the panel first and thought, "huh. Those didn't come out too badly." Then I did the green border with the stars on it in the panel and those loops and stars were decidedly better. Then I filled in the center of the panel {which may have been overkill, but it's done now} and when I got to the outer border, which is flannel I ordered on-line by mistake because it was on clearance but works perfectly in this quilt, I'd pretty much figured out how to keep the loops looking like loops. I'm still really slow, though, because when I come to a star, I have to think about where I want to end up and then go in the opposite direction.

In my blog travels I've seen a number of people who, when they finish a project, list out how many yards of fabric came out of their stash {and if they added any back in to stash}. I always find it interesting. Everything on this quilt came out of my stash {I love it when I actually have what will work!} except for the satin blanket binding. Here's my run-down:
½ yard green flannel for the borders
¼ yard light blue for side borders
¾ yard panel
1¾ yards flannel {used in place of batting; fused to Ultra-Cuddle for backing with Mistyfuse for added stability}
1¾ yards Ultra-Cuddle

Total out-of-stash: 5 yards

And because I've had this earworm for about the last four weeks {the first two lines are printed on the panel — in different fonts for each line, I might add}, I'm going to share with you. Bing Crosby's voice is pretty dreamy, if that helps.

So, you see it's all up to you
You can be better than you are
You could be swingin' on a star

Today's post brought to you by:
My 2014 Finishes