The Down East Murders

One of my goals in 2017 is to read more. See other books I've read or listened to here.

I picked up The Down East Murders at a local book sale bc it looked old and just a little bit corny. I was not wrong about this third in a series by J S Borthwick, it is a delightfully bad mystery novel. 

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I didn't realize this was the 3rd in a series when I picked it up, or I might not have. That fact doesn't even really become clear until a quarter way into the novel. But some relationships might have been easier to understand if I'd read the previous series. 

Sarah Deane doesn't mind slaving away at the local museum near her aunt's Summer home in Maine. She'll get to visit her aunt and with any luck Alex, the ruggedly handsome doctor/birdwatcher/ameuture slueth that has been in and out over her life the last few years. But when local artist's work starts disappearing, and then people start turning up dead, Sarah must turn her attention to investigation.

This was a pretty terrible book. Long winded, a bit boring, nonsensical, trite. But it was also exactly the kind of book I thought it would be and exactly the kind of book I was wanting to read!
This is the epitome of what I would call a beach novel; easy to read, light, forgettable. Read it one Summer, or every Summer. It's the kind of book I aspire to one day write!! It also feeds my love of books about shore towns, with it's focus on fictional Weymouth, Maine and it's crazy characters. I don't think I'd recommend this book. It was pretty poorly written. But if you're researching your trashy beach mystery, as I am, it might be worth a look!

Do you prefer silly fanciful mysteries?  

 

Mad Cat Capsule: Recent Additions and New Count

I have done a pretty good job all year of not buying any new clothes. I have bought some things second hand and we recently had a clothing swap at work, so I have picked up a few new to me items! 

I have never done a clothing swap before and it was so fun! It was a really great way to get rid of a ton of stuff but not throw it away or waste it. I tried to be careful not to obtain too many new items, but found a couple that I love!! And I never knew that seeing your friends wear clothes that you once loved, but no longer use, is such a fun and uplifting feeling!! 

So, since my last post, my Fall Capsule had changed a little. Here are a few of the items that I've added, and love, or had to let go of and a new count for fall:

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Several of the button downs I selected for Fall either didn't get worn, or, in the case of one of my favorites, got a stain. I'm trying to figure out a way to salvage that one, but in the mean time I added 2 new tops: my red and blue top that I had left at an establishment about an hour away and took me 3 months to retrieve, and a new (to me) purple top that I got from a rummage sale. 

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From the clothing swap, I got two tops I love; one cropped moon top. totally a new thing for me, but I love it!! And a 3/4 sleeve cream top with elbow patches. I wear both of these a ton. 

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Two of my favorite pairs of jeans also bit the dust this season. My grey dot jeans got a terrible oil stain, and my snake print DK jeans developed some pulls and lost a lot of their shape. I took these out of my capsule (but kept them for "play clothes" or to wear around the house). But I found an awesome pair of black jeans second hand, which I had been looking for! I also picked up a pair of gab jeans at a rummage sale. They are worn and have a sizable hole at the moment, so IO plan to do some visible mending and add them to this capsule. 

Other additions include adding a "fancy" button down (from my clothing stock at home) bc I needed something to wear to a more formal event and I might as well keep it in my capsule. And although I don't count outerwear in my capsule, it's worth mentioning that I had to buy a red hat for my halloween costume and decided that if I had to buy it I should wear it as much as possible. 

I loved participating in the clothing swap and getting a few items here and there at rummage sales and thrift shops. I hope that we have another swap soon! But I'm also glad that my capsule has stayed pretty close to it's original number and I have only 38 items in this season. I'm also glad that  25 of the items fit into the slow clothing model. 

Have you readers ever done a clothing swap? How did it make you feel?

Zero Waste: What We Already Do

In 2017 I started my zero waste journey. Zero Waste is the goal, mindful practice is the action. When I use the term Zero Waste, that is my ultimate goal, but Less Waste would be a more  accurate description of my evolving lifestyle. 

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It seems that most people think that the biggest roadblock for becoming Zero Waste is money. But so far, the biggest problem I've come across is the overwhelming nature of how many things are wasteful and how much of a huge life changing endeavor going zero waste will be. 

Once I started examining Zero Waste and really looking onto the waste in my day to day life, I realized that there was even more than I had thought. When I looked around at all the potential solutions, that was also daunting. For a while Zero Waste seemed unachievable, impossible. But I still felt like it was something I needed to work towards. 

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The more I read other's accounts and the more I researched, the more I realized that Zero Waste is the goal, but the journey is one of many many baby steps. Not just for me, but for everyone trying to achieve Zero Waste. Once I realized this, I stopped sweating every little thing and began recognizing that mindfulness is the first step. I also realized that there are things that I already do that help me on the journey to Zero Waste. Here's a working list of things we already do:

Eat mainly a plant based diet - My husband has been a vegetarian (mostly) since I've known him. I've eaten veggie for about 5 years bc I don't feel well when I eat meat. We both do eat fish now but not eating big industry meat is a great step for ZW. 
Next step: Eat only locally farmed fish, eggs and cheese. 

Eat fresh as much as possible / eat out rarely - We try to eat mostly fresh veggies and whole foods although we do have a weakness for frozen pizzas. We patron the local markets as much as possible for fruit and veg. Most days we cook at home or have simple meals of veggies, cheese, bread, etc... I have been making an effort to pack lunches for my husband most work days. We love to eat out but on average only do so once a week. We want to support our local businesses and restaurants. 
Next Step: More of the same. Try to cut out our bad habit foods, items packaged in plastic or tetrapacts, and continue to source local foods.

Avoid Western Medicine (and other Western Wellness Ideas) - We have never been people who rush to the doctor when we have a sniffle. We ride it out, use home remedies, or homeopathic remedies. We drink more water, get rest, drink tea, eat better bc we know that those things will help heal our bodies. Similarly, we have never adhered to Western ideals of wellness, such as massages, hair salons, spa treatments, etc... I got my hair "done" a few months before starting to go zero waste, before that I hadn't got a hair cut in 4 years (I had just cut it myself). It was a fine experience and I was happy with the result - but what a waste! The plastics! The chemicals! Luckily, we are fine living without most things like that.  
Next Steps: Learn more about healing/traditional medicines, home remedies, etc... Find wellness businesses committed to reducing waste. Trade skills with people. I know a few hairdressers I can call on and explain my want for a zero waste haircut!

Recycle/compost- When I started my ZW Journey, I knew right away that recycling didn't feel right and one day I hope to cut it out as much as possible. But for a beginner recycling does help ease the worry and the trash we create. When we moved to NJ, we started composting almost immediately. We have a lot of plants and have been wanting to garden more, so composting is a great way to reduce food and paper waste. I would say that we have become more mindful of both these methods for reducing waste since starting our journey. 
Next Step: Continue to cut down on buying items that need to be recycled. Become better at only buying what food that we will eat to reduce food waste. Use the compost we have created in our plants and gardens.

Reuse glass jars and other containers for storage - I was delighted when I realized reusing and storing items in recycled glass jars was a favorite technique among zero wasters! I had been doing this for years! 
Next Step: Use our jars in bulk sections, buy only what we need at the time, cut down on what we buy in jars as to not have to recycle those we don't use. 

Homemade natural cleaners - When we moved to NJ, one of my early pledges was to use all natural cleaners in our new home. We had some cleaners left over that we are still using up, but otherwise we have worked to use all natural + homemade cleaners.
Next Step: Use up the old cleaners we have and dispose of their packaging safely, find recipes that work for us for tougher jobs (drain clogs, tough stains, etc...).

Buy second hand - We have always like to thrift shop, but we have moved towards buying everything second hand: furniture, cookware, clothing, records, toys etc... 
Next Step: Use up what we have, donate more, buy from sustainable companies when not buying second hand.

Shop local - After living in Brooklyn, NY, for 15 years, shopping local is just second nature. We try to get everything we need as local as possible. We also try to buy products produced locally when we can. This isn't to say we never shop at chains (I love my Shoprite!) or big box stores (sometimes Home Depot has what you need) but we try not to. 
Next Step: I try, when I see us returning to a big box store, to reserach where else we can get that item or experience. A good next step is to continue to diminish our want/need for those stores by finding items elsewhere. 

Use public transportation/walk - Again, having lived without a car for many years, it's second nature to try and utilize public transportation. About 7 years ago I started walking to work and made finding a job where I could do that a priority. Walking to work is my favorite part of every work day!! We specifically moved to a town where my husband could still use public transportation to get to work. He takes a train most of the way and walks the rest.  
Next Step: Find even more ways to stay local, use our car less, or upgrade to a more eco friendly car in the future. 

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These are the main things we were already doing that adhere to the zero waste lifestyle. But when I start to think about it, I can think of other things, too. I found this exercise really helpful and I plan to make more lists like this in the future.   

All the photos in this post are from our local beaches. We were out for only about an hour and saw all this trash plus much more washed up on the otherwise empty and pristine landscape. Most of the items of trash could have easily been eliminated by choosing very simple sustainable options. My husband and I were understandably sad about what we saw, but it helped encourage us that we are on the right path, as slow going and tough as that path might appear. 

I highly recommend anyone thinking about going zero waste/plastic free/fair wardrobe, etc... to make a list of the things they already do towards this goal. It helped me feel less overwhelmed and let me see that each step is worth it. 

YOTS2017 / What is Improv Quilting and Do I Do It?

Quilting is all about following a pattern, measuring, planning and being precise.
Sometimes.
A lot of quilters quilt like this, some of us work differently. 

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When I started quilting again, I never used a pattern, I made things up as I went along. I developed what I called my "squares and strips" quilts by sewing together whatever I came across. Now I tend to take more inspiration from classic blocks or things I see other quilters doing, not just the fabric it's self. No matter what I take inspiration from, I don't use a pattern or a guide, I don't measure. 

When I was young, I learned to quilt from very strict and traditional quilters, but even as they taught me, their styles changed and grew. When I returned to quilting, I discovered improv quilters ranging from the quilters of Gee's Bend to new modern improvisationalists. Nowadays improv quilting is all the rage! 

"Improvisation: the art or act of composing, uttering, executing, or arranging anything without previous preparation. "

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The definition above, doesn't precisely fit what I think of as improve quilting, but it does fit. Improv, to me, is going into a project with no clear finish but perhaps an inspiration, an idea, or a image that evolves as you go using swatches, sketches, references, trial and error, and anything else that helps you get to the end of your work. It's an exciting endeavor bc you are making it up as you go to see what happens at the end. It's a bit like putting together a puzzle in that way except the image "on the box", or in your head, is blurry so that you don't really know what you will end up with until you get there.  

Improv quilting means never know how much fabric one will need, but also often using what you have at hand. It goes well with my Year Of The Stash goals. 

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Here's what my YOTS stash report looks like this month:
Fabric Added Since Last Update: Approximately 0 yd
Fabric Added Year to Date: Approximately 42.75 yd
Fabric Used Since Last Update: Approximately .5 yd
Fabric Used Year to Date: Approximately 14 yd

How many of my readers are improv quilters?

Jersey Collective Collection + Year 3 Photo Show

In June 2015, I was thrilled to be part of an interesting community art project: Jersey Collective. Each week, a different artist takes over the Jersey Collective feed on instagram and gives everyone a glimpse of their New Jersey. In December 2016, I participated again! For me, it was a very different experience to try and show my NJ now that I lived there again. If I did this project again, now, I wonder how it will have changed for me?

I'm thinking about Jersey Collective today bc it marks the opening of their Third Year Show! Each year they have had a gallery show featuring one photo from each artist and week of the year long project. 52 artists, 52 photos. Each year the show is held in a different gallery or community space, and open to the public. Here is the info for this year's opening:
Opening reception with the artists:
Saturday, November 4, 2017
7:00-10:00 pm
South Amboy YMCA
200 John T. O'Leary Blvd
South Amboy, NJ 08879

I'm not sure how long the show runs, but I highly suggest that if you are in NJ or close, you check out both the instagram and the show. I'm also not sure which photo from my week in December of 2016 is featured. Here are my images from 2016:

@art_poca is the next New Jerseyian to shoot for JC after me in Dec 2016. 

@art_poca is the next New Jerseyian to shoot for JC after me in Dec 2016. 

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And 2015:

The top left image is the next participant's.  The bottom right, the rooster, was the image that was chosen for that year's show. 

The top left image is the next participant's.  The bottom right, the rooster, was the image that was chosen for that year's show. 

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If you are from NJ I hope that you will reach out to Jersey Collective and shoot a week! For me, it was a really lovely process and it would be lovely to hear what readers of my blog think. 

For those not from NJ, do you have community projects in your area? Have you participated?

OMG November

Well, my 2017 OMGs are none going the way I have planned. But I'm not giving up!

I'm rolling over last months OMG to November. I need to get this little quilt basted. 

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Jan - Quilt Maybe Lyz - Not Finished
Feb - Quilt Tom Mat - Not Finished
Mar - Finish Tom Mat - Not Finished
Apr - Finish Little Baby Quilt Top - Not Finished
May - Finish Little Baby Quilt Top - Finished!!
Jun - Baste and Tie Little Baby Quilt Top - Not Finished
July - Baste and Start to Quilt Little Baby Quilt - Not Finished
Aug - Sew Honey Pot Bee Blocks into a Top - Finished!
Oct - Baste Little Blue Quilt - Not Finished. 

Linking up with Elm Street Quilts and One Monthly Goal. 

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MCQBOM² / 3

For my new 2017 BOM, I'm using all blocks with squares in them. Simple squares are an essential building block of quilting! 

I'm not sure how I found the block I'm using for my 3rd block, but it came from Quilt Fabrication. She had a bunch of different variations, but I went with one that had a interlocked feel. 

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This could be a super fun block to repeat in a quilt!

I couldn't fine my other blocks when I took the photos, but I can't wait to see what all the blocks look like together!

Linking up with Needle and Thread Thursday, Slow Sunday Stitching, BOMS Away, and more!

October in Review

My goodness, the year is almost at a close! After October's quick turn to true fall, Winter is right on it's heels. October was a lovely month, a true switch from the bustling nature of Summer into the settling in of Autumn calm. 

1) Sulfer. 2) Cacti. 3) Supermarket Tree. 4) Quartz.

1) Sulfer. 2) Cacti. 3) Supermarket Tree. 4) Quartz.

We were able to take a few trips, see old familiar places, and new locales. Some we will return to, some perhaps not. 

Cats were a priority, both our own and the watchers that were out in droves!

1) Tom contemplating. 2) Flounder flat out. 3) A night time visitor. 4) Tom out like a light. 

1) Tom contemplating. 2) Flounder flat out. 3) A night time visitor. 4) Tom out like a light. 

1) Car watcher, 2) Playful kittens, 3) On the fence, 3) Out to sea.

1) Car watcher, 2) Playful kittens, 3) On the fence, 3) Out to sea.

It was a busy work month, but very little quilting got done.

I was able to see some new spots in the neighborhood. 

1) Asbury Park Distillery. 2) Bright yellow in Keyport. 3) A perfect building in Far Hills. 4) Holidays at work. 

1) Asbury Park Distillery. 2) Bright yellow in Keyport. 3) A perfect building in Far Hills. 4) Holidays at work. 

These past few months have been really hard. Adjusting to a new schedule, working towards zero waste, trying, as always to be better for my family and friends, has been very difficult. Sometimes I worry that the end results will never arrive, or will not be worth it. But I try to keep my way on the path and remember that I have end goals that I am moving towards that I truly believe in. 

So, October was one step close to the end of the year, and November will be another, moving ever forwards towards in life.

Goodbye Hall Of Gems

Last week The American Museum of Natural History in NYC closed the doors of the Hall of Gems for several years while they refurbish and redecorate it. We decided we needed to see this magical place one more time. 

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One of the greatest things about this space is that it is dark, cramped, and narrow. It always seemed a bizarre choice and something they will change in the new hall. But it was part of what made the experience so otherworldly. 

One of the reasons they are renovating the hall is to accommodate this massive amethyst! 

We were totally happy to get to see all these beauties one more time, to touch meteorites and huge quartz. Before we went, I thought there was no way I would like the new design and would be unhappy. But after our trip, I can't wait to see what the new hall will look like!

October Plant Update

It's been a warm and wonderful October, only towards the end turning chilly. There has been a lot of plants to observe outside, and to tend to inside. Getting near the first frost means we are adding dirt, and sprucing up our plants in doors, and moving them around to make room for our inside plants that have been hanging out outside all Summer.  I also got to visit Deep Cut Gardens for the first time in many years and ogle their succulents. Then rushed out to pick up a few new ones for our home!

Repotting, and maintaining out indoor plants for Winter. 

Repotting, and maintaining out indoor plants for Winter. 

So mant succulents!

So mant succulents!

So many cacti!

So many cacti!

Infinity

Infinity

We were a little late for the rose garden in it's prime. Next year! 

We were a little late for the rose garden in it's prime. Next year! 

Fishermen at The Manasquan Reservoir. 

Fishermen at The Manasquan Reservoir. 

Winter is definitely on it's way Down The Shore. What are the plants doing where you live?

Something New: Home Made Oat Milk

I've been allergic to cow's milk for as long as I can remember. So although, I prefer skim milk in my coffee, I rarely drink it and I never buy. My preferred non dairy milk, especially in my coffee, is rice milk. Non sweetened rice milk is the closest to skim milk, in my opinion. But rice milk comes in tetra packs and often has a lot of gross ingredients (canola oil, why?), when bought commercially. So recently I went on the hunt for a rice milk alternative. I have found a few that I enjoy, but when my husband brought home extra oats the other day, and it coincided with running out of milk, I decided to try making my own Oat Milk. 

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I had been researching making my own non dairy milks for a while, but buying as many nuts as one needs can get expensive! Oat milk, as well as cashew, hemp and macadamia, was one of the milks I tried and liked when store bought. Oats are super cheap, and can be bought in bulk, so it was a no brainer to try making the milk. I read a bunch of recipes but in the end decided to wing it and make it as simply as possible. 

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Ingredients:
1 cup oats
3 cups cool or cold water

Equipment:
Blender
Fine mesh strainer (or cheese cloth or nut milk bag)
Jar

All the recipes suggest using rolled oat or stone ground oats, but all I had on hand were quick oats so I used those. Some say to soak the oats, some not. I soaked mine for about 10 minutes, maybe less. I added the oats and the water to the blender and let sit as I puttered about the kitchen. Next, blend on high, as high as you can, for 5 -7 minutes. You don't want to blend too long. Once blended, use a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth, etc... and pour into a jar. All I had for straining was a rather large stainer, but that worked fine. I just had a few oatmeal pieces in the jar afterwards. Refrigerate your milk. Makes about 1.5 pints. Use it in coffee, baking, etc... but shake before use! 

A few notes:
-Save the strained oat pieces, use as oatmeal for breakfast, in baking, etc...
-The recipes all say this volume lasts about a week but I'm almost done with mine 3 days in just from drinking in my daily coffees. 
-Don't heat this milk. Pouring it in coffee, or using in baking, is ok, but heating it on the stove will create a goopy mess. Think oatmeal without the meal. 
-Add sweetener and/or a pinch of salt if desired. I like my coffee unsweetened and even sweetened milk is too much for me.  
-Bring a spoon. This milk is a little gummy and heavier than most milk I'm used to in my coffee, so it tends to settle. I now have a spoon on hand to stir my coffee as needed. I also end up using more of this milk than I would another milk, so something to think about. 
-Make this milk zero waste and plastic free by getting your oats in bulk, recycling a jar for storage, and using the leftover blended oat parts.  

Over all, I really liked making my own oat milk. When I make my next batch, I will use more water to oats, to see if I like the consistency better. When I run out of our excess minute oats, I will try using stone ground to see if it ends up being less gloopy. I may make some sweetened to try it with cookies or for drinking. 

Next up, I plan to try rice milk! Who else out there makes their own non dairy milk? Tips, tricks?

Bullet Journal Check In: Future Log

Back in January, when I been using my Bullet Journal for about 10 months, I stated that my Future Log was a mess. I think now, 9 months and 2 journals after that, I like the way my Future Log is set up. Since I'm starting a new notebook, I thought now would be a good time to share. 

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My Future Log is entered on the pages directly following my Index and are the first pages that are numbered. I add a small calendar for each month, title the month, and then list any and all events and their dates that fall under that month. I start by reviewing my on line calendar for national/international holidays or important dates.

When I first started out, I might've added silly dates like international cat day, or other made up "holidays" or days of recognition. But I found this cluttered my space and really did not help me in any way. 

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Next, I add things from the wonderful calendar that my Mother in Law sent us that has family birthdays, anniversaries, events, etc... I also add my side of the family's notable dates from memory. I add dates from my or my husbands work, such as when they are closed for holidays or when we have off, and from my mother's school calendar. I went to that school and still have close ties, so try to know when they have events or days off. 

I only go 6 months into the future with my Future Log (3 pages). I do this even if I think the notebook will not last that long. If I do get a new notebook before my current Future Log, I use the previous one to transfer over dates. If there are dates that I want to remember far in advance, past the 6 months, I write them under the last month as notes. 

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I refer to my Future Log often, and love to check off the dates as they occur. I use it when setting up each Monthly Spread, and throughout the year to add things that pop up like concerts, festivals and events that aren't in that month.    

How do you use your Future Log? Do you prefer to have a whole year written down?

Zero Waste: My Favorite Jars

In 2017 I started my zero waste journey. Zero Waste is the goal, mindful practice is the action. When I use the term Zero Waste, that is my ultimate goal, but Less Waste would be a more  accurate description of my evolving lifestyle. 

I think one thing that all all people trying to go zero waste, or plastic free, can agree on is that recycled jars are a great thing to have! They can be used for food storage instead of a plastic tupperware, as dry goods storage, as freezer storage, as drinking vessels, to hold cleaners, snacks, hair clips, home remedies, flowers, nuts, bolts, screws, and just about anything else you can think of.  

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Since most of us, when buying packaged items, try to buy glass, we end up having quite a few jars laying around. Sure they can be recycled, and sometimes are, but I prefer to reuse at least a few time before that step, or indefinitely. I started this practice long before I knew what zero waste was and I was happy to discover I was already doing something towards this life style!

Another thing I think people who do the same and feel the same as I do about glass jars, is that we all have our favorite jars! Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves talks about her favorite jar in her blog. Personally, I have two favorite style of jars, that come from specific items. 

I'm a big fan of natural crunchy peanut butter. I don't much mind what brand, as long as it has less than 4 ingredients, is organic, and comes in a glass jar! These Jars are great, bc they are a manageable size, usually about 16oz, have a wide mouth, and a metal top! Great for drinking out of, bringing your drink along, storing food items and beach finds! When I need a larger vessel, I greatly enjoy a Mt Olive pickle jar! Firstly, yum, pickles! But this jar is twice as big as the peanut butter jar, and shares the same great properties!

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I love these jars bc I find that the caps don't rust easily or quickly, and the jars themselves are sturdy and strong. These two are my go to jars and I use them in some capacity everyday. 

What jars are your favorite? Are there other surprising reused items you can't live with out?

Wrinkly Old WIPs

In September I got out almost all my WIPs, these are the some that are basted and waiting for quilting. 

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This is my largest unfinished quilt and perhaps my largest quilt to date. I have to figure out how to  smooth it and how to quilt it. 

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This "heart quilt has been around for a long time. It's a great lap quilt size and I'm sure someone would love it! I haven't thought about the quilting on this one yet, either. 

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I'd be happy to finish either of these quilts this year, but with all the other less finished projects I have to do, I doubt it will happen. 

What are your closest to done WIPs?