Charity Quilt for Ronald McDonald House

After a weekend of feeling listless and uninspired, I somehow now have ideas for three quilts I can’t wait to make. Two of them require fabric. But all the pieces fell into place for this third one, and I ended up finishing the top in two days. Not too shabby.

The first piece came into place several weeks ago when I bought the animal and dot fabrics with the intention of making another pillowcase for the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild’s pillowcase drive. That didn’t happen. But I did still have the fabrics out and at the ready for when I came up with a new plan.

The next piece fell into place when I remembered an e-mail I had gotten about a month ago from a friend who volunteers at our local Ronald McDonald house. He included a link that directed me to the Greater Cincinnati Ronald McDonald House volunteer page, where they shared their need for quilts to include in the welcome package they give each family that stays with them. They ask that each quilt be 40 x 40 inches, so each family will be sure to receive the same size quilt. A perfect size to make from fabric purchased for a pillowcase!

The final integral piece was placed when I started rifling through my fabric stash and found that many of my greens, browns, and grays perfectly matched the animal fabric. Hooray!

I sketched out a 40 x 40-inch quilt that would be made up of 6-inch blocks (alternating between the animal print and 4-patches from my stash), 2-inch sashing and a 5-inch border. Once I started putting the center together, I found the dot sashing was getting a bit overwhelming. I probably should have made the blocks a bit larger and the sashing a bit more narrow, but then the measuring and cutting would get messy, and that’s no fun.

With the center complete, I needed to figure out what exactly this 5-inch border would be. I considered a scrappy border with the stash fabrics, but I thought that would end up looking crazy busy. I also wanted to somehow incorporate that now-annoying dot fabric, because only having it in the center looked incomplete to me. Finally, I wanted to use more of the animal fabric since the 6-inch squares weren’t quite enough.

After staring at it a while, I decided to piece the side borders with stash fabric and use the animal print at the top and bottom (I didn’t have enough to use it on the sides, and keep it right-facing, too).

To solve my dot problem, I decided to extend some of the sashing strips into the borders. We’ll file that one under, “Easier Said Than Done.” I know I’m not a very accurate piecer or measurer or cutter. So getting those strips to match up even somewhat took a lot of trial and error. A lot of error.

If I made this pattern again, I would piece the border at the same time as the center so the extensions didn’t need to be separate units. But I really like the way the sashing lines add movement to the quilt. And I’m friends with the dot fabric again, too.

Next, of course, comes the quilting. Because it’s small, I’m hoping I can handle it on my machine with straight quilting lines. And I’m hoping, too, the quilting will help to make those sashing seams less noticeable. I’ll share the finished quilt when it’s done!

Handmade Family Bingo Game

It was back in March, coming home from our first amazing vacation of the year, when we got the idea for what to give Greg’s parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. On that vacation, we were visiting his parents, Warren and Susan, on Grand Cayman, and we got into the habit of playing a round of Ocean Bingo whenever we had some down time. That game featured hand-drawn pictures of sea creatures and weather phenomena to teach children about the ocean.

On a plane somewhere between Grand Cayman and Cincinnati, Greg and I were joking about our many games of Ocean Bingo, and I suggested he make a family bingo game. Nock Family Bingo. A brilliant idea was born.

Of course, it was left to Greg, the artist in our family of two, to make the game all it ended up being. He brainstormed ideas for each of the 50 pictures used in the game, getting a bit of help from his sisters and me. And then he set out to drawing.

There was a lot of drawing. And coloring. He included each member of the family. That’s me in the second row, and Greg is the fourth picture in the fourth row (when you draw the bingo set, you get to draw yourself however you like). He included family jokes, vacation memories, the blanket with the magical healing powers, the dog they had for 6 weeks, and things from his parents’ courtship and from his parents’ lives outside the family, too.

Once the drawings were complete, Greg scanned the images and brought them into Adobe Illustrator. He found a bingo board randomizing program on the internet (who knew!) to make up 10 boards. And he created files of the individual pictures to make into cards to be used by the bingo caller.

He saved the files as pdfs and printed them on cover-weight paper at Kinko’s (although I think we’re supposed to call it FedEx Office now). He found the bingo markers on Amazon. And we even found a perfect-sized metal box to hold the 8.5 x 11-inch boards, the cards, and the bingo markers at The Container Store.

On the first night of the Alaskan cruise, Greg presented the bingo game to his parents.

It was a pretty huge hit.

And so on this vacation, whenever we had some down time, we played a round of Nock Family Bingo.

It was great to see the grandkids, and even Greg’s sisters, learn new things about his parents. And it was so fun to see these jokes and characters from the past become real in the eyes of the grandkids. I heard Greg’s mom laugh more than once at the kids hoping the card for the old music teacher or the long-gone dog would get called. With Nock Family Bingo the stories have become part of the next generation.

Design Inspiration: Alaskan Cruise Part 2

In my last post, I shared some of the natural beauty that we encountered on our recent Alaskan Disney cruise. Now I’d like to share some of the man-made things that inspired me on the trip.

As I mentioned, the whole family spent the weekend in Seattle before we boarded the ship. One of our stops there was the Space Needle. The scenery from the top was only mildly interesting, partly because the day was overcast, partly because we expected something taller with grander views. But it was well worth the price of admission for me when I spied the collection of souvenirs from the 1962 World’s Fair on display.

The Space Needle was built specifically for the World’s Fair, and it was celebrating its 50th Anniversary, just like Greg’s parents.

The World’s Fair that year was all about space, so you’d be a fool not to go home with a flying saucer lighter to commemorate the event.

Or perhaps a set of drinking glasses would be more your style.

I, however, was very taken by this fabulous beanie. It had the name Jenny embroidered on the side, the name of my sister who would have loved one as I much as I did. I tell you, if this stuff would have been in the current gift shop, I would have gobbled it up.

One evening, still in Seattle, the 10 of us were sitting at a restaurant when eight-year-old Haley asked her mother Meredith (my husband’s sister) and my husband, Greg, to draw Haley’s favorite animal, the wolf, in a drawing contest.

Meredith whipped out her smart phone to get a reference photo while Greg just dove in. While Meredith added shading and a majestic background to her drawing, Greg added a half-eaten person, a raptor flying overhead, and finally a shark poised to eat the wolf. As far as the contest went, Meredith got points for technical accuracy; Greg, however, draws a really good shark. I’d call it a tie.

Once aboard the Disney Wonder, I immediately loved the Art Nouveau/ Art Deco vibe of the decor. I later learned the ship’s interior design was meant to evoke the feel of the great ocean liners of the early 1900s. The restroom sign, pictured at the top of this post, was one of the first touches I spied.

After seeing a sign like that, I had to check out the bathroom, too.

There were several restaurants on the ship, each with its own unique decor. Triton’s featured a huge mosaic of characters from The Little Mermaid.

Animator’s Palate was decorated in black and white and featured sketches from Disney animated movies on the walls.

The plates in this restaurant were plain white with a drawn (looking) black line around the edge. I love details like that! (You can kind of see them in the image above.)

There were also a few theaters on the ship. One was for Broadway-style shows; four different shows ran during our week on the ship. I attended two and thought they were great, high quality shows. Truly impressive.

Another theater showed movies all week, including Brave and The Avengers, both of which are still in first-run theaters. I loved the carpet in this theater.

Before this cruise, I had never spent any time in a Disney entertainment facility (not even Disneyland or Disney World), but anyone who has will tell you that it’s all about the details in the world of Disney. And the Disney Wonder is no exception. I loved the thought that went into every aspect of the ship’s design and decor, from the lifeboats to the number indicator on the elevator. And I loved that they wanted to share that with the guests by offering a special design-oriented tour for nerds like me (where I learned many of the details in this post).

It turns out there’s one more post from our Alaskan trip coming your way. In it I’ll share with you the gift my husband Greg made for his parents: an illustrated bingo set filled with family memories.

Natural Beauty: Alaskan Cruise Part 1

My husband and I (along with my adventure bag and binocular case) had the great fortune to embark on an Alaskan Disney cruise with my husband’s family. I have to admit, before the trip was planned, an Alaskan cruise wasn’t at the very top of my list of things to do, and a Disney cruise probably would have been even further down the list. But the experience was absolutely amazing. Amazing enough for two blog posts, even.

In this first post, I’ll share some of my photos of the natural beauty and wonder we encountered. In post two, I’ll share some man-made inspirations.

Before we even got on the ship, we spent the weekend in Seattle and stopped by the Seattle Aquarium. Here I saw the most beautiful sea stars. Not just your typical orange ones, but all shades of purple and green, too. The photo above doesn’t quite capture the actual colors, but this grouping included purples with a touch of yellow and orange and a tiny bit of green. How pretty would a quilt in these colors be!

Once aboard the Disney Wonder cruise ship, we spent a few days at sea. On the third day, the ship took a trip into Tracy Arm to view a glacier. The sights along the way were simply  beautiful with waterfalls of rain and melting snow dotting the rock walls.

Icebergs in the water let us know we were getting close to the glacier.

The glacier was truly impressive: huge and blue with cracks and crevices everywhere.

Glacier watching is a bit chilly, as we found out. But our view was well worth the chilled bones.

Our first on-shore excursion was in Skagway, Alaska. Well, Haines, Alaska, actually, where we boarded small boats and made our way into an eagle preserve.  It was eaglet season, as luck would have it, and we actually saw three little guys, in additional to four mature eagles (thanks to nephew Perry for keeping count).

Excursion two had my husband and I making our way through the Tongass National Forest to view the Mendenhall Glacier. It rained every moment of our 3.5-mile hike, but when you’re in a temperate rain forest, it’s hard to complain. The whole area was something out of Lord of the Rings (I’m quite sure of this despite never reading the books and seeing only one movie—and not liking it). The first photo, with my adventure bag, was taken here, too.

For our third excursion, we boarded another boat and traveled into the Misty Fjords National Monument. This four-hour boat ride was filled with more waterfalls and rock walls, some of those purple sea stars I first saw at the Seattle Aquarium, and lot of mistiness.

Everything you hear about Alaska is true, in my experience. Breath-taking beauty, huge expanses, incredible remoteness. Truly something I’d recommend moving up on your list of things to do.

Next time, I’ll share some of my favorite design details of the Disney Wonder cruise ship as well other man-made things I found to be inspiring on the trip.