Summer Days Camping, Survival in the Outdoors

Bugging Out with my Bag

Winter is no completely upon us in the Midwest, and it has come with a force. We had a bit of delay in getting the snow and cold weather this year, which was nice for a change, although I can’t say I was too enthused about not having a white Christmas.

What is Christmas without a fresh blanket of snow on the ground?

All things considered, I don’t mind having a mild winter. The snow is pretty to look at, but it can get tiresome with all of the shoveling, salting, and the expensive heating bills.

But, for the first few weeks of heavy snow, it is great to sit back and look outside while quilting of knitting.

I couldn’t help thinking this week about our summer camping trip and how much fun we had. Every Fourth of July we go up to a state park up north and set up camp. We have gradually got more and more fancy with our trips through the years.

We started out as real survivalists by today’s standards. All we had was a few things we brought in our backpacks and some basic shelter. If we couldn’t catch anything, we didn’t eat that night.

As we had kids, however, that started to become unpractical—especially while they were young. You can only catch so many fish, even on a good day.

So, we got a camper with camping purifiers and cooking utensils and everything else. At that point, we really only made bonfires to talk and roast marshmallows, but it was still a great time. There is nothing like a weekend at the lake, with no distractions, just you and the outdoors. No phone calls from work, no emailing, no chores, just you and nature.

It was always a peaceful memory for me and the family, although once the kids started getting a little older, there was nothing peaceful about nature. One of the boys was always trying to jump off this, or climb this tree or this rock. It was a full time job to keep track of all of them.

Now that they are all grown up, it’s back to a peaceful and relaxing trip, and they are bringing us into the 21st century with some of the tools and gadgets they are bringing along.

They have a set of the coolest magnesium fire starting system that makes starting a fire a breeze. No more lighting matches or trying to get a lighter. And even though we don’t it necessarily, they always bring along some emergency survival food items that have a shelf life of 25 years! Can you believe that? This food stays good almost as long as my youngest son has been alive. What a crazy world we live in these days.

Anyway, that was my thought for the week, sitting in my rocker quilting away while looking out at the picturesque snow falling from the sky. It really is a beautiful sight—from the warm of the house obviously.

It made me think what might happen at this year’s camping trip. Hopefully it will be a fun time. :]

Quilt Sponsored by Gun Safe Company Dedicated to Veterans

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I come from a generation that really respects the military and honors them for what they have sacrificed for the rest of us. And, unfortunately, I had to live through the Vietnam era where it was very popular to disrespect members of the armed forces and those serving the rest of us, just because you didn’t agree with the politics.

The problem is, soldiers don’t have a say in the politics of the matter. When they are called upon, they serve and they fight, for each and every one of us. They fight for equally for those members of society who reject them and disrespect them just as much as they fight for those who honor them and welcome them home.

That is why I was, myself, so honored to be a part of a recent charity that auctioned off one of my group’s quilt to raise money for veterans related causes.

Gun Safe Companies Sponsor Quilt

I don’t know much about guns of firearms. My husband loves them, but I don’t know very much about them. One thing I do know, however, is that veterans tend to love guns and be very active gun enthusiasts, so I knew how important it was when a leading gun safe manufacturing company approached my little group.

I mean, imagine if a brand so well establish like Liberty gun safes came to you and asked you to design their newest line of fireproof gun safe. You would be stunned.

I was stunned that anyone would like my work enough to do such a thing, but what made it so special was the cause we were doing it for.

The troops are so important and underappreciated, so any little help that I can provide is very meaningful to me and my family. And as any gun owner knows, you need a best value fireproof gun safe to protect your firearms…or so I’m told by my husband!

Design of the Quilt

I think the main design we will go after is a military theme quilt, featuring all of the branches of the military on the quilt. That way it has the biggest impact and will be important to all the branches of the military, not just one of the other.

We want to incorporate elements of each branch’s flag onto the quilt and feature them in a really cool way. After we get done with the initial stitching, I will post some in progress pictures, but at this point all we have is a sketch in our mind.

How Did They Pick Us?

You might be wonderful how a gun safe company picked me and my rag tag group of friends to make the sponsored quilt? Well, we are big supporters of the local VFW and go there for dinners and me and the other wives have a quilting group.

Every once in awhile, a representative from Browning safe company comes in to talk about their product and the rep said he really liked our work and that his wife would love to have a military themed quilt.

Then one of the members of my quilt group suggested that we make one and auction it off to raise money for the local VFW. That really is where the idea came from and the rest is history.

It’s just great to be a part of such a wonderful cause.

Staying Hydrated in Our Busy Days: Purified Water Taps

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I’m probably in the same boat as the rest of you: I don’t drink my daily-recommended amount of water. Good ole H2O. It’s something that we all seem to forget these days.

Whether it’s coffee, soda, energy drinks, or whatever new craze there is going around, we all forget to drink what’s free and what is the best for us: normal water. Obviously, everything I just listed has water in it, but the other ingredients take away so many of the hydrating qualities of water.

In fact, they say that soda actually dehydrates you. Make sense out of that. We have found a way to make water dehydrate us, hehe!

Drinking Purified Water While Quilting

But, as I get older, I find that staying hydrated is more and more essential, but I still find myself slipping and drinking sugary drinks.

The main reason is who wants to drink just plain old water? It’s boring, it has no taste, and in many parts of the country it has all the wrong tastes. There is nothing worse than irony water. Yuck! Maybe other people aren’t as picky as me or they can’t tell the difference, but we had our own well growing up, and the water tasted great, so the standard is pretty high for good quality water in my mind.

Thankfully, where I live we don’t have water quality problems as far as iron goes, but ever since they put fluoride in the city drinking water, it doesn’t taste the same to me and it’s difficult to drink straight water, so I often find myself drinking tea as a substitute.

Know things, my children actually got me a water purifier and softener system that claims it can remove any of the undesired tastes in my water supply. Naturally, I was curious because I didn’t think it would be able to remove the fluoride test.

Surprisingly enough, the filter, which filters all the way down to 99.999% microns (whatever that means) cleared up my household tap water pretty well, and I have been drinking two or three glasses of straight water each day while I do my quilting.

Even my kids were surprised at how nicely it took care of the water and how it removed any impurities and bad taste in the tap water from our kitchen faucet.

Like I said in my last post, I love having my kids over, and it’s especially nice when they get my such a thoughtful present for Christmas. At this point in my life, I don’t need another gizmo or gadget to take up space on my shelves, but something useful like a Fleck water filtration system is something that I can use everyday.

Those are the kinds of presents that I enjoy, and of course homemade crafts.

Now that I have been drinking from my Aquasana water filter I have more energy, I feel more invigorated, and I have been getting much further along on all of my quilting projects that before.

Who knows if it’s just a coincidence, but I think not. Water is essential to life, so it only makes sense!

Craft Beers and Home Craft Making

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Here’s two things that you don’t see side by side too often: drinking beer and making arts and crafts.

Usually the typical idea of someone doing arts and crafts are people like me. A bit older, women, quilter, knitter, etc. And, as you also might suspect, this demographic is usually not the biggest in beer consumption, but our kids are—haha!

I recently had the fortune of hosting a few of my children and their spouses for our annual scrapbooking weekend. We always do this between Christmas and New Years because we recount our entire year and fill everyone in the family and how everyone else’s year went.

I guess this year, two of sons started experimenting with brewing beer in the homes. They tell me that this is a growing trend that the kids are doing. I was never much of a beer drinker, but I do think it’s cool that Bill and Steve (my two sons) enjoy it enough to create their own mixture because that is a craft in an of itself.

And, much to my surprise, they said that that is exactly what it’s called—craft beer. How neat!

Documenting the Beer Making Process

I found this to be a very interesting process because they were so excited to tell me exactly how everything works and the different beer making kits and products that are involved. I tried my best to follow and keep up, but they went a mile a minute and it was a bit over my head.

Thankfully, they took a lot of pictures and showed me how each and every step works in their garage turned into home brewery.

From the sounds of it, the entire process takes several weeks to get a completed batch of beer. I never knew this. I thought it was like any other type of cooking. You follow the recipe, add the ingredients, and add a little bit of carbonation for effect, but after they explained what is happening behind the scenes it all makes sense.

The beer needs time to ferment the sugar that is in the best craft beer. This is where the alcohol comes from, the fermentation process.

They, of course, brought some for me to try, but I don’t drink much, so I stuck with my tea :]. The other kids in the family seems to enjoy it, and that’s the entire point of these weekend getaways around Christmas. We all get together, share stories and photos from the year, and document it all in our scrapbook for the years to come.

There are always plenty of laughs and good fun—and maybe the beer helped there be a few more this year ;].

Overall, the year, on my end, was very eventful—albeit it seemed to fly by in no time. I can’t believe that New Years is already upon and 2016 is right around the corner. I supposed that is just a sign to cherish every moment while you can—with family, with friends, and with those you love.

Here’s to an equally enjoyable 2016.

Blow Off Steam While Studying for the CPA Exam

CPA exam study processIt might sound strange, but I used be work in public accounting as an auditor for a small firm in my local area. I went to college and studied accounting and later went on to get my CPA license and practice as a certified public accountant. Today I am retired, but I still remember what it was like studying for the CPA exam and how much efforts I had to put into my routine everyday in order to prepare the test.

I’m here to tell you that anything is possible. I didn’t think I was going to pass the CPA exam, nor did I think it was possible that I would pass all four sections of it the first time I took them all. Back in my day, it was pretty uncommon for woman to even go into public accounting let along become certified. Today it’s pretty commonplace. So don’t give up on your dreams whatever they may be. If you want to quilt or knit a specific pattern, go ahead and try it out. If you fail, you will be able to learn from your mistakes and do a better job next time.

I remember when I was first studying for the exam. I thought I would never be able to pass any of the sections. My basic study session went like this. First, I would go through my cpa review course material and do some practice problems. There were many different ones to choice from, but I decided to go with CPAexcel by Wiley. After I finished the practice problems, I would need a break. That’s when I took up the amazing hobby of knitting. I could knit a scarf or something and still think about the things I just learned in my review course. It still felt like a break though, because I wasn’t actively studying at the moment. Now that I look back on it, that’s when I first was exposed to a lot of different crafts like quilting and knitting. What great memories.

Studying for the CPA Exam really helped me in all areas of my life. It gave me discipline that I use even to this day. I just remember when I get frustrated with something that I can overcome it. It’s no more difficult than studying for the exam was for me.

So if you are second guessing your knitting or quilting abilities, just remember my story. I never gave up during my CPA exam process and you shouldn’t give up on what you want to do.

On a side note, if anyone is free this Friday to do a knitting party, I would love to host one. Please call me or email me if you need directions to my house. I’ll be showing off my new projects and even introducing you to some new processes that I’ve been working on.

Why I Started Quilting

quilt2As I’ve said elsewhere on the blog, I have been quilting for a long time. Over 40 years as a matter of fact. It sure is strange to think that it has been that long since I first began.

My grandmother always used to quilt. Quilting and knitting. Those were her two favorite hobbies. Even thought she would eventually teach me how to do both, it was her quilting that always captivated me. The detail of the designs that she worked into each piece of fabric was just amazing. And she never used a sewing machine. Everything was to be hand-stitched. That was the only way that you can be sure of its quality. She was such an incredible woman, and her quilts were nothing short of pieces of art. She could have had an entire exhibit dedicated to her quilts alone.

So as I grew up watching her create this majestic artwork day in and day out, I eventually got a bit curious. I started asking questions about it, asking why she was doing this or that. Grandma even started asking me for my opinion on some of her designs. This obviously furthered my interest and she eventually showed me exactly how she was doing it. She taught me the basics and bought me a beginner’s kit, so I could start some projects of my own.

My mom never had much interest in quilting. She doesn’t have the patience for it—she even admits it! Quilting is a slow, calm activity. Now that I am older I quilt to relax myself. It is a way that I can leave all the troubles of the world behind me and focus on the project that I’m working on. There is a very soothing element to it. This wasn’t what attracted me to it when I was younger, however.

As I said above the creative element greatly attracted me. My grandmother used her fabric as if it were a canvas and he thread as the brush. I was mesmerized by her work and all of the creative enzymes in my body wanted to make something just half as good as her work. It’s interesting to me that I first became interested in quilting because I saw it as a new frontier that I could explore and I could use it to express my inner creativity. Now I use it to silence the ever-buzzing world around me and focus on my inner thoughts.

I supposed these aren’t too different, however, and maybe one leads to another. Maybe in order to completely focus on your creative thoughts you need to silence the world around you. Either way, Grandma always did a pretty good job of both, and she sure did do a good job teaching me her ways. There are tricks that she told me almost 40 years ago now that many of my quilting friends have never even thought to do. She was a great inspiration to me, and I thank her every day for the knowledge that she gave me.

After all, where on Earth would I be today without quilting?

Toilet Paper Rolls and Other Unusual Crafts

Just about anything can become an arts and crafts project if you look at it with the right lens. How many of us would think to use something like an old toilet paper roll to make a craft out of? But it works either way, and it is a blast making some of these things—especially if you have kids. They have so much fun creating these custom little art projects and it is great as a parent watching your children be creative and imaginative in the process.

Today I want to go over a few ideas for toilet paper rolls crafts and list a few other things you can do with common household items.

Toilet Paper Rolls

Toilet paper rolls surprisingly enough lend themselves very well to making crafts. They work great for many different holiday and seasonal craft themes.

easter-bunniesConsider an Easter theme. You can easily make bunny rabbit out of the rolls by getting some paint, construction paper, and a few sets of googly eyes.

batAnother good holiday themed idea is Halloween. You’ll need the same supplies as you did for the Easter rabbits, but you can make toilet paper roll bats and pumpkins.

santa-rollBut probably my favorite use of the toilet paper roll is during Christmas to make miniature Santa Clauses. Take a look at how adorable this little thing is. For this you’ll need paint, construction paper, googly eyes, and some cotton balls. You’ll also want to get some Elmer’s glue to glue all of the items together.

Decorating Egg Shells

While we are on the subject of holidays and Christmas specifically, something that I used to do with my grandmother was to decorate eggshells. We would always take an eggshell, decorate it with beads, glitter, and paint and then we would make it into a Christmas ornament to hang on the tree.

Now obviously you will need to take out the yolk and egg white before doing this, otherwise you’ll have some rotten eggs hanging from your tree! What you need to do is poke a tiny, pin-sized hole in the egg at the top and bottom. This can be done with a safety pin or if you have any sewing needles, those will work too. You want to make sure the hole is very small because you don’t want it to be very noticeable.

The next thing that you will need to do is blow out all of the yolk and egg white. This is the tough part because the holes are so small that it really takes a lot of wind power to force all of the insides of the egg out. You want to be careful while you’re doing this too because you don’t want to clutch the egg to firmly and crack it because then your whole project will be ruined. After you have all of the insides blown up, you will want to rinse it out and let the shell dry for 3-4 hours. After that you can have at it. You can paint the egg, glue hands and eyes to it to make it a monster. The entire process is a great time.