Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Will Never Forget.....

I will never forget….

That moment when my son said “I want to join the Air Force”….

That moment when watching  a soldier being rescued in Iraq and he said “That’s what I want to do, Mom”…

That moment when I held him close before watching him leave for Basic Training….

That moment when he called home for the first time from Basic and the phone wouldn’t work but we had a conversation by him pushing buttons on the phone “once for yes, twice for no”…

That moment when we saw him march in for graduation from Basic….standing tall and proud...


That moment I got to hug him again following graduation from Basic…

That moment when walking around San Antonio following gradation….he in his dress blues…strangers coming up to shake his hand and thank him for his service….or him dressed in uniform at a local parade and again...strangers, mostly veterans, approaching him to thank him for his service.

That moment when he said “I’m deploying to Iraq”…

Those moments I would wake up in the night for no reason and feel the need to pray for his safety….

That moment when he said “I’ve been accepted into the K9 program.  I’m going to work with a dog that finds bombs.”…

That "middle of the night not sleeping" moment when you realize he won't be home for Christmas so you make an online purchase of the "largest pair of tighty whities" and pose the entire family in them and send pics to Iraq that say "We Support Our Soldier"....let's just blame the lack of sleep on that one....okay?


That moment when we waited at the airport to welcome him home from Iraq….


Proud to be a military mom….

Friday, October 17, 2014

Guest post on the Bad Ass Quilters Society

Follow the link below to my featured post on the Bad Ass Quilters Society blog. 


Such lovely comments I've received from other quilters on my story.  Humbled.

Friday, October 10, 2014

National Quilt Week of Ireland - June 1-7, 2015

When two friends put their heads together to find a way to promote their love for quilting in Ireland you'd better look out....that's exactly what Nikki Foley, The Sewing Shed, and I have done with our launch of National Quilt Week of Ireland 2015!! 

What could be more fun than an entire week devoted to celebrating QUILTING across Ireland?  We've encouraged quilt shops and guilds and any other Irish quilters to post the events they've planned our on our website www.quiltireland.com 

The Anam Cara (Soul Friend) Artisan tour that Don and I are leading next Spring will take in some of those events listed!  Our tour has stops planned at four quilt shops along the way.  We'll keep any photographers who come along busy snapping the most amazing photos too!  You can check out some of those photos here:  https://penny-barnes.squarespace.com/

We were incredibly honored to get the most amazing feedback from our travelers on last years tour.  Here's just a couple of quotes.... 
"My wife and I have traveled a couple times a year for our entire thirty years of marriage and your tour ranks in the TOP 3 tours we've ever taken"  -Mark H.
"I just returned from a Brack Tour of Ireland and there aren't enough words to describe the wonderful time I had. Everything was taken care of for us which made the trip all that much better. We had the BEST coach driver.  I wouldn't think twice about doing another tour with this company. In fact I'm already looking forward to next year with Brack Tours Ireland and Penny and Don Barnes"   -Carol C.

Click the photo in the upper right hand corner of this post to take you right to the Brack Tours website!  You can even download a registration form from their site to sign up for the tour!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quilts to Honor Kayla Rose

My friends, you might want to grab a tissue for this post.  I'm going to tug on your heartstrings just a bit....and then I'm going to ask you if you've got one quilt....you might want to just grab the entire box of tissues.

Earlier this week, I was perched in my favorite chair, drinking my morning coffee and sharing peanut butter toast with my pooches when there was a segment on the Today Show about childhood cancer. I was sobbing as I watched the video that Hoda Kotb had orchestrated with music artists Sara Barielles and Cyndi Lauper, combining their songs "True Colors" and "Brave" to create Truly Brave . (click the song title to watch the video...tissues required) A tribute and encouragement to kids battling cancer and the stars of the video were none other than  kids who are currently fighting the disease.   It was so touching...I was a blubbery mess.   I shared the link to the video on my Facebook page and not long after, someone I've know nearly my entire life, commented on the video....someone who knew firsthand just how devastating this disease can be.   

Bobbi (Dombrowski) Thomas and I grew up in rural NW Pennsylvania and started first grade together. We didn't have Kindergarten then at our school.  We're not so old that it hadn't been invented yet, I just like to tell people that we were so smart, we went straight to first grade. 

Bobbi, was my first "Polish" friend.  And no...I don't mean she was a little girl who came to America  from Poland...she simply had the letters "ski" on the end of her name...and if my memory serves me correctly, she told some of the best Polish jokes in Elementary school.  (now this was way before being politically correct was invented...we didn't take life so seriously back then... and we all made fun of ourselves). We were classmates all through school and like most people, after high school we went our separate ways and lost touch.  Thanks to  social media, we have now reconnected through Facebook.  I do remember having a phone conversation with my Mom at some point several years ago, when she mentioned that Bobbi's young daughter, Kayla, had been battling cancer and the prognosis was not good.  I remember thinking to myself then "I just can't even imagine...".  I still can't....but after watching that video,  I finally reached out and contacted Bobbi about an idea that I've had for quite some time and just hadn't followed through...a way not only to  celebrate Kayla's life...but to do something in her memory that would make a difference to other kids facing cancer.  Quilts. Of course Quilts!  What if we collect quilts that could be given to other children facing cancer...to honor Kayla.

I never met Kayla, but thanks to Facebook, I  have seen pictures of her occasionally and I get to feel her family's love for her....as well as their sense of loss.  I asked Bobbi if she wouldn't mind sharing a bit of Kayla with you and here is what she wrote....

Dear Friends,

When Penny first approached me with the idea of gathering quilts as a way to honor the life of my daughter Kayla Rose I was instantly brought to tears. As anyone who has lost a child will tell you, there is a deep fear that your little one will be forgotten, and just the thought of paying tribute to Kayla's life on what would have been her 25th birthday is beyond special.

Most of you never had the opportunity to know Kayla, but through this letter, I am hopeful you will find a sense of the child she was, the young lady she had grown to be, and the woman she never had the chance to become.

God presented Kayla to me on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1990.  She came complete with a charismatic smile and deep Bambi eyes filled with the bright lights of life.
On Christmas Eve 2002, we would hear the gut-wrenching words, "Kayla has Cancer!" We had never heard of Rhabdomyosarcoma and we didn't know what stage IV meant.  But within hours we knew young Kayla would be facing a fight for her life.
At twelve years old, it was of course difficult for Kayla to adjust to all of the challenges an aggressive cancer treatment would present, yet she stayed strong and full of smiles every step of the way.  Never to be defeated by her diagnosis, Kayla blossomed into an amazing young lady whose courage and determination provided strength to those around her.

One of Kayla's most treasured possessions was a quilt her Grandmother made her and we never made a trip to Children's Hospital without it.  As Kayla would be getting settled into her room for yet another treatment, I would busily strip the boring white blankets off the bed and replace them with her colorful quilt.  I was obvious to anyone who entered the room that she was wrapped in something made with love which made her room brighter just by its presence.
Only eleven short months after that fateful Christmas Eve, on the night before Thanksgiving, November 26, 2003, it was time for Kayla to return home to Jesus, and while resting peacefully at home surrounded by those she loved most, she took her last breath.
Those of us who Kayla shared her life with will always remember the smile in her eyes and the joy she brought to everything she touched. It's my wish that this short letter will give you a glimpse of the person Kayla was and maybe even an idea of the angel she is now.
 So here's where you, my quilter friends, come in to play.  I'm asking you if you have a quilt that you'd be willing to send so that Kayla's family can celebrate her birthday, February 14th, by delivering quilts to other adolescent aged kids who are battling cancer.  I'm looking for a decent lap size, perhaps 60x72ish or larger...in colors and/or styles that might appeal to a teen.  I would also welcome quilt tops that I can finish.  I'd like to have all finished quilts to me by February 1, 2015  so that I can prepare them with a special label honoring Kayla.  If you've got a quit top you'd like to donate that would need to be here much quicker so that I have time to see that it's finished and ready for delivery.
A final message from Bobbi regarding this project...
As you consider making a donation of your time and talents I want to ensure you that while a quilt given to a young person fighting for their lives may seem like a small gesture, it will provide so much more than warmth, it will give comfort.  Comfort not only for the recipient but also a special sense of comfort to Kayla's family as we have the privilege of delivering your efforts in a true celebration of Kayla's life.
If you'd like to provide a quilt in honor of Kayla, to be delivered to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, on February 14, 2015...her 25th birthday....a day all about LOVE....please comment on this post with a return email address, or email me directly at psuebarnes@yahoo.com.  I'm also asking that if you send a quilt for Kayla's family to deliver...that you also add a card or note...perhaps some words of encouragement as well as your name and address.  x

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Corner to Corner Curve Strip Ruler

Last week I was in Chattanooga for the AQS show, working with my friend and mentor, Rita Fishels, in her Creations Sew Clever booth.  Rita, is not only a  quilt shop owner, author, speaker and teacher...but she also designs, consults and National Demo Goddess for Creative Grids USA. 

Laura (Rita's SIL), Myself & Rita in Chattanooga

So many people walked into our booth and said "Creative Grid Rulers are my absolute favorite rulers to use!!!".  A few suggested they would be selling all of their other rulers (one woman said for fifty cents a piece) and replacing them with  Creative Grid brands.  They've got these great little "grippy" (that's a word) circles on the back of the ruler so they stay in place while you cut your fabrics.  No sliding around!    One of the most popular rulers was the Corner to Corner Curve Strip Ruler.  Say that three times fast!

Corner to Corner Curve Strip Ruler

Now, I'd say the reason that ruler is so popular is because of a quilt that hangs in the booth and attracts people because it's such a stunner!  May I introduce to you....
Well, after watching Rita demo this ruler last week, I came home and decided I just had to give it a try myself.  The ruler not only comes with an instruction sheet but if you go to the Creative Grids USA website, you can watch a video of Rita giving an actual demo.  It's like having Rita right there with you to guide you along the way!  I'll attach the link here so you can go and take a look.
In that instruction sheet are also some  variations that you can create with the blocks that you make!
  I pulled out some purple Halloween print and a couple other coordinating pieces today and put this ruler to the test!  I can't believe how easy it was to sew these curved seams.  Once I finished sewing the seams and pressing each block, I used the 3.5" Square Creative Grids ruler to square up my blocks before sewing them together.
Here's the block I made today!
Sew much fun!!!
I'll be helping Rita again in her booth at the AQS Quilt show in Des Moines, Oct 1-4th!  If you're coming to the show stop by and see us...you're going to want one of these rulers!  You can also order the rulers, or the Curvaliscious pattern at Rita's website at the link below.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Brack Tour Family

After my first trip to Ireland with a tour company that was kind of a mess, I knew when I was searching for a new company to work with that they had to meet the following criteria....

 1) They simply had to be Irish
 2) They had to follow through with the promises made to travelers
 3) They had to be Fun! 

I made so many lifelong friends on that first trip, one of which was our driver.  He is the one who said "You were made to do these tours and you need to contact Peter at Brack Tours".    So I wrote to Peter and told him what I wanted to do and literally had a reply in my inbox within the hour inviting me to lunch the next week.  Surely he'd misunderstood that my location was I-O-W-A.  As I replied how much I would love that but that we were geographically challenged, I was thrilled to discover he was traveling the Midwest and was only one state away!  We did indeed schedule lunch for that next week and I knew within the first five minutes that I had found the perfect travel company for our tours.  I get chills every time I tell that story....so meant to be.

Peter took in everything we said about the experience that we wanted to provide to our travelers and together we put the finishing touches on a tour that allows us to give our travelers a unique Irish adventure.  From that moment on, we became a part of the Brack Tours family and it has been absolutely wonderful.

Don, Peter & I traveling in Ireland
Peter has been in the tour industry for many years and has established relationships with everyone in the industry.  Every hotel we book knew Peter and his staff by name and has great respect for the Brack Tours company.  But more importantly, he understands that providing the best Irish experience is a top priority.

I thought it would be fun to introduce you to more members of my Brack Tours family who've come to mean so very much to me.

  Maura, works here in the US processing your information when you sign up for our tour!

Maura and I at Milwaukee Irish Fest 2013
Nuala, a natural Irish redhead and all around fun gal, lives in Ireland.  
Nuala and I at Milwaukee Irish Fest 2013

This is Mary Ann, our sales director here in the US.  Mary Ann has been to Ireland 37 times.  She can answer any question anyone would ever have about traveling there! 

Mary Ann and I and Milwaukee Irish Fest 2014
And this is Sinead!  If you are signing up for my tour, you'll get to chat with her.  She has worked so hard on the details of the tour and put together another amazing adventure!
Sinead & I in Galway
Having some fun on a local Ghost Tour.
And so there you have it....my Brack Tours family!  A great team that works hard to provide you the best Irish adventure! 
If you're interested in more information about our Spring 2015 tour, just click on the link in the top right hand corner.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Milwaukee Irish Fest

So excited to be heading out this week to Milwaukee for their annual Irish Fest celebration!  Looks like we'll have great weather again to enjoy some amazing music and  Irish dancers all while promoting our 2015 tour to Ireland. 

This year I'll be bringing along a few quilts to share with those who visit the Brack Tours booth.
First there's this quilt designed by Nikki Foley.  Cead Mile Failte means "One Hundred Thousand Welcomes".  I have to say, in my travels to Ireland, I've felt every single one of those welcomes.
and this one....my "Anam Cara" wall hanging.
Anam Cara - means Soul Friend.
And I'm really excited about this quilt.  I created it in EQ7 using two blocks I just love.  One is called Garden Patch and the other is called Summer Winds.  I changed up the coloring on the blocks and shared that photo with Nikki and the first thing she said was "That looks like Summer on my mountain", so of course, that seemed like the perfect name.
Summer on the Mountain

This quilt will be a giveaway this weekend at the Irish Fest.  Some lucky attendee will get to take this quilt home with them! 
Beyond excited to see the Red Hot Chili Pipers too!



Friday, August 1, 2014

Whispers of the Past - A Quilt Between Friends

Last October, I had the chance to spend some time in Ireland with my friend, Nikki Foley.  Some of my most favorite moments of that trip were the opportunities we had to explore together.  We spent an entire day taking in the Slea Head Drive to Dingle, stopping a long the way to photograph some of the most amazing scenery I have ever seen. 

One of those stops was at the Kilmakader Church, the ruins of a Romanesque Church dated back to the twelve century.  Step inside with us, won't you....

It's absolutely impossible to enter the church and not feel the spiritual energy that surrounds the area. If you close your eyes and are quiet, you can hear the whispers of the past as the breeze blows from the sea. 
I feel so incredibly blessed that I got to share this experience with Nikki.  It was one of those moments in time that you just know, you'll never forget...forever etched in your mind and heart like the carvings in the archways inside the church. 
Well, as quilters, right then we decided the best thing we could do was to create a quilt to commemorate our experience.  We took extra photos and here are the two that ended up as our inspiration for the quilt we would make.
This is one of the gravestones in front of the church.
These carvings are in the archways inside the church
 We decided our quilt would have a center scene surrounded by blocks to represent the blocks in the archways within the church.   Nikki got to work and created her amazing hand dyed fabrics.

These colors are perfect!

Look at this amazing blue!
Imagine my squeal of delight when these showed up in my mailbox!
 We decided we needed 30 blocks to surround our center panel, so we each created 15 blocks... get this....without telling or showing each other what we were creating.  Talk about exciting the day her blocks arrived in the mail!  Then it was up to me to add the blocks and do the machine quilting and binding and I needed to get it done quickly...because we decided we would enter the quilt in Festival of Quilt show in Birmingham England!!

I've often said that when you add the "quilting" to a quilt, it brings it to life.  Never more have I felt that then when I quilted this piece.  I had to stop quilting several times to wipe away the tears as the emotions of that day at Kilmakader Church came to the surface once again....my heart felt it in every stitch.

So are you on the edge of your seat to see this quilt?   I know I am and I made the quilt!  I already know what it looks like but Nikki and I are so excited to share it with all of you. 

Drumroll please...............................................

Whispers of the Past
I love it so much!  This pic doesn't really show the quilting so I will add a few pics that highlight what I did on this quilt!

Inside of quilt/headstones

Our outer blocks with quilting

Back of quilt


Two quilty girls....who made a quilt together...even though they live 3800 miles apart.