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 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 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 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 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  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'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 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 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.