Lulu collage quilt – she is finished!

Picked up Lulu from Erica, the awesome long arm quilt lady at A Needle and Thread, and couldn’t be happier! It was so fun to collaborate with her. Erica quilted an outline around the entire elephant image and custom quilted around the flowers, leaves, butterflies and other critters. I especially love the puffy textures she created with thread on the fishes. On the background yellow batik, Erica quilted an lovely all-over leaf design.

I’ve seen collage quilts quilted in tight vertical and horizontal grids. I know this ensures the fused fabric pieces will stay in place … but then I saw an alternative. Our collage quilt instructor, the awesome Jo Lynn, brought several completed collage quilts to class and they were stunning. On her quilts, the collaged image was custom quilted around the whole image as well as into the flowers, feathers, critters and such. I loved the look!

The amazing Sally embroidered the patch for the back of the quilt in hot pink thread. I had Sally place it on white fabric to remind me to “audition” background fabric on all future collage quilts. I almost had a huge “Oops.” I originally purchased plenty of white fabric for the elephant background while still taking the collage quilting class. I was obviously trying to hurry the process. Thank goodness I brought an unfinished Lulu for “show and tell” to the prayer quilt ministry I volunteer at on Wednesdays. The ladies stepped up and gently prepared me for an intervention. Yep … I would be making a huge mistake with the white! It was either Noreen or Cathy that suggested yellow and it really works on this quilt!

So what is next? I created a collage pattern and am busy working on a prototype collage quilt. Stay tuned! Future blog post in the making!

A cancer journey – scan result days make me nervous


So last week Rick had his three-month scans which included MRI and CT scans and the usual bloodletting. Scan day is emotionally draining and exhausting. Reminders everywhere of how far we have come … and we don’t want to go backwards.

Yep … and it never fails. Despite the anxiety, we chuckle every time we spend the day at MD Anderson. There are new things to learn. This time the lab where Rick has bloodwork in the Mays Building went all techie. We used to fill out a slip of paper with pertinent patient information before dropping it in a little plastic basket and wait to be called up to the desk. The paper slips have been replaced with electronics. Progress? Yesterday, when we arrived at check-in to see Dr. Campbell, all the iPads, except one, were out-of-order. Rick’s clinic went all techie a while ago. Not complaining mind you! I can relate! Heck … after replacing my sim card and getting a new iPhone, I am still dropping calls.

So to put life for us in perspective … since his diagnosis of Stage IV Kidney Cancer just over two years ago … Rick and I have welcomed two grandbabies. Ben, 18-months-old now, was born down the street in the medical center on one of Rick’s long immunotherapy infusion days. And little Zelie was born two weeks ago to our son and lovely daughter-in-law, Kate. Even Jacob has been deeply involved in Rick’s journey. Now four, Jacob came to wish his Pop-Pop good luck two years ago on the day Rick’s tumor/left kidney was removed. Jacob also walked the MD Anderson’s Boot Walk with us this past November while Baby Ben slept in his stroller. You don’t have to tell me we are blessed.

So just how did it go yesterday with lab results? Our visit with Dr. Campbell, our oncologist, and his lovely PA, Simi, was all we had prayed for. MRI … stable. CT … stable. Rick is just over a year from getting kicked off the clinical trial and receiving no cancer treatment. He still itches all the time, mostly from the inside, which tells us the immunotherapy is still working.

I asked Dr. Campbell how patients who are on Rick’s clinical trial are doing because I want to know. My editor, the lovely Cynthia, has trained me well. I had my steno pad all ready for details and statistics. Dr. Campbell indicated 55% of those on Rick’s immunotherapy clinical trial drug ARM of Bevacizumab and Nivolumab are having positive results. In the coming months, the trial will end and it will be number crunching time. I will be there with pen in hand to probe for any updates. It is my hope these two drugs will be the answer for all Clear Cell Kidney Cancer patients … not just for the 55% with positive results. That is probably just 50 people.

And now for the really great news … we don’t go back for FOUR months!!!! Can I get an amen?

Lulu Collage Quilt – part two

In a couple of weeks, Lulu will be hanging out with the longarm lady getting some custom quilting work! But first a little progress report. Lulu, the collage elephant (pattern by Laura Heine), went from having lots of fabric pieces pinned to her … to taking the fused backing paper off all the pieces, and repositioning the pieces back on the quilt. The backs of the pieces are tacky enough to stay put until the final fuse over the entire elephant shape. Next, I cut around the elephant shape. I was now ready to fuse Lulu to my background fabric. But there was a little snag.

I had purchased the background fabric for Lulu at the fabric store where I took the class. Big mistake on my part. I was in a hurry and didn’t really think it through. Lulu was left behind on her board in the workroom and I just wandered around looking for … whatever!

Thank goodness for quilting peeps! I recently dragged Lulu for a little “show and tell” to the Prayer Quilt Ministry at our church. Before fusing Lulu to the background, I wanted to audition her with the background fabric. Right away I could see by the many frowny faces that the white backing I had picked wasn’t doing Lulu justice. Yeah … I had those thoughts but didn’t trust my gut. I went back to the drawing board and found this bright yellow batik! Quilting disaster averted! After some serious ironing of the batik fabric, I positioned Lulu on the backing fabric. I applied the fabric fuse around all the outside edges and pressed with a product called FabricFuse by thermoweb. It is a quick bonding fabric adhesive which dries in four to six hours. I’m certain most quilting shops/craft stores sell something like this product.

I’ve also have chosen a purple batik for the backing and a Kaffe Fassett fabric for the binding! In a couple of weeks, I will post the finished quilt!

A pixelated heart quilt for Baby Frantz


This past weekend I attended a baby shower for my lovely daughter-in-law in Michigan. Still pinching myself Ricky and Kate are going to be parents. It will be our third little bundle of joy … and Kate’s parent’s first grandbaby. So much to celebrate!

I brought along with me a baby quilt that has been in the works for a spell. My carry-on bag contained the baby quilt and a wool coat for me. Not used to cold weather in March, but I did bring the “Texas sun” with me! Kate’s baby colors are sea foam green/teal, with white and gray. Kate and I collaborated on the design several months ago. I sent her quilt pattern possibilities from one of my favorite blogs … Diary of a Quilter. I’ve subscribed to Amy’s blog for some time and really like her style. She made her pixelated heart in two sizes … one very large and the other a tad smaller. I just reduced the size of the square blocks down to three inches to get the size quilt I was looking for.

The quilt has a total of 285 three-inch blocks … 70 of them a variety of sea foam green/teals and 215 a variety of whites for a scrappy look. The size of the quilt is 37.5″ by 47.5″ … 15 squares by 19 squares … and the perfect size for some future tummy time. I couldn’t find a suitable gray for the quilt and just decided to leave it out rather than not be happy with the result. This little girl will be receiving lots more quilts during her lifetime so there are lots more chances to get it perfect.

The quilt was machine-quilted with a butterfly pantograph by A Needle and Thread in Old Town Spring. And my awesome friend and fellow quilter, Sally, embroidered the patch on the back.

Next up … progress on that elephant collage quilt! It is going to be awesome! I’m so glad I auditioned the background fabric for Lulu with some friends. Disaster averted!

A collage quilting class!

Several years ago I purchased a quilt pattern at the International Quilt Festival for a collage quilt by Laura Heine of Fiberworks. I’ve never made a collage quilt in my life but absolutely LOVED this quilt! The quilt’s name is Lulu the elephant and the sample quilt was a sassy hot pink elephant. I had to have it!

When I noticed Painted Pony ‘n Quilts in La Porte was offering a collage quilting class, I jumped right on it. The class was taught by the awesome Jo Lynn O’Neil. She teaches and runs a quilt retreat house west of Fort Worth named Rock House Retreat in Santo, Texas. Her rooster collage quilt is named Doodle-Doo Rooster and is fabulous! Two long, creative days were spent in a classroom. I was one of a dozen ladies laboring over our creations. The technique is nothing like I expected. In a peanut shell, large pieces of all kinds of fabric are fused and then cut out into smaller pieces. Karen K Buckley makes awesome scissors for precisely cutting these pieces. The smaller fused pieces are pinned down on the quilt pattern. After the pieces are where you like them, the fusible paper is removed and placed a little more permanently onto the pattern. Heck, it is a little more complicated than that but you kinda get how to get started. No sewing machine involved until the quilt is actually quilted.

I was the only one making the elephant and it was, of course, the largest pattern. You know me … go big or go home! We had two ladies making the pincushion and two creating the Cora the owl. The two ladies working on Purrfect Cat had two completely different takes on their creations and both turned out amazing! The dress form (entitled “Perfect Form”) was made entirely with Victorian fabric and stunning. I was sorry I didn’t take more photos of The Guardian Angel (made with narrow little strips) and The Dress collage quilts. Both were turning out awesome!

My Lulu the Elephant all started with her floppy ears. Nearly all my fabric is Kaffe Fassett with some Tula Pink. Personally, I didn’t know where to start. But I had these large pieces of elephant ear fabric cut out. I guess the teacher could see my hesitation on where to begin. Jo Lynn picked up the elephant ear fabric pieces and placed them where they now reside. I was up and running! I took Lulu home probably with most of the fabric pieces placed. Now I am working on getting the fusible off all the pinned pieces. I was amazed how quickly this kind of quilt comes together. In about a week, I should be able to take it to be machine quilted!

Below is a taste on how Lulu is progressing!

A Michigan “Night to Shine” story


I have been following Tim Tebow and his awesome foundation for about a year now. The guy is doing amazing work in the world of special needs. If you have a few minutes, you should read his story and find out all the good things he is doing.

It was why when my son and awesome daughter-in-law, Kate, told me they were volunteering for the 2018 Night to Shine held on Friday, February 9, my ears perked up. Kate’s lovely mom, Aleta, and dad, Bruce, also volunteered. Southridge Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan sponsored the event. Heck, it almost was cancelled due to a snowstorm but the show must go on!

First a little background on the special night. 2015 was the very first “Night to Shine” event. It was supposed to be a one-timeĀ event and happen just one time. This now yearly event is held the Friday before Valentine’s Day each year. Same night all over the world. It is a prom for people with special needs ages 14 and older. Basically, a church sponsors, supported with lots of volunteers, those with special needs who are greeted like rock stars down the red carpet. They are given corsages or boutonnieres. Lots of planned activities from limo rides, karoke, dancing is involved, dinner, photo booth and probably the best part … all the special needs guests are crowned king and queen of the prom on stage.

In 2018, 90,000 special needs guests attended “Night to Shine,” sponsored by 537 churches in the United States, and 16 countries, supported by 175,000 volunteers. Let those very large numbers sink in. Each year the event grows.

This was Southridge’s second year to host the event. The pastor announced they would be hosting again next year. Southridge had 125 special needs guests attend. Twenty-five special needs guests didn’t make the event due to the weather. A video link is also provided of Southridge’s event. Trust me … it will put a smile on your face!

Aleta told me she had been paired with the perfect buddy. Kala and Aleta were both wearing red shoes.

“My buddy was so sweet. After I introduced Kala to Ricky, and he walked away, she cupped her hand over her mouth and said, ‘Now he’s cute! I’m happy for you!'”

Aleta told me that each buddy was given a card with hints on the back with likes and dislikes. On Sunday, Southridge’s pastor remarked that he heard one young special needs man comment, “Look at this crown. I will keep this forever.”

A cancer journey – scan results, reflections and more


It seems a LONG time since we talked about cancer and three whole months since the last scans. Geez, it was nice to have a break. Just so you know … cancer is always the elephant in the room. Sometimes it is the size of a mouse and sometimes a lot larger. When Rick’s ankles started swelling … a lot … conveniently right after our last visit with his oncologist, inside I panicked. We blamed it on a change in medication. Changed it … still large ankles. When we finally ditched the medication … after about six weeks … the ankles returned to normal. Found out he could live just fine without it. The elephant turned back into a mouse.

Then in November, I thought it would be a great idea to walk in the 2017 MD Anderson’s Boot Walk. Rick woulda never made it in 2016. I loved how cancer survivors at the Boot Walk were given a “survivor” bandana. Rick wore it like an arm band. It was surreal walking with so many survivors, caregivers, friends and family that were touched harshly by the evil hand of cancer. I also noticed many walking in memory of those they lost. What a lovely tribute and a great way to raise money to fight cancer.

Final numbers on the 2017 Boot Walk fundraiser … they reached a million dollars. Rick and I walked along with our awesome daughter, Katie, and grandsons, Jacob and Ben. The sign pinned on Jacob’s back read, “I am walking for my Pop-Pop.” And Ben, he slept the entire walk.

So this week Rick had his three-month scans and blood work. Our visit with Dr. Campbell is always an adventure. We chatted about so many things besides blood work and scans. Rick is doing great. Everything is still stable and we head back in May!

Then Dr. Campbell got out his magic marker and started writing across the tissue paper on the exam table. Geez, the last time he did this was to explain how immunotherapy works from a chemistry perspective. I looked at Rick to see if I should be worried.

“I am telling all my patients three things,” Dr. Campbell started.

In a peanut shell, he was frustrated with the state of Medicare. Lots of his cancer patients are on Medicare and having problems with receiving care. Apparently, Medicare has all these rules/laws that date from the 1980’s and it is his … and his colleagues … opinion that changes need to be made. Lots of articles in magazines, newspapers and other social media outlets are not having much of an impact in Washington. It was his thought perhaps there needs to also be a patient-driven mission to help make some important changes to Medicare.

His three points were, as follows:

1. Medicare has to be able to negotiate drug prices. Let’s face it. Cancer drugs are expensive. He also said the United States pays for 80-85% of the world’s drug costs. Other countries negotiate their drug prices and that is why they are so cheap compared to the United States. Something I never knew. Sounded reasonable to me.

2. Medicare patients should have the same access to care as commercial insurance with their co-pay programs. So I am guessing this is not happening. Why not?

3. Cancer patients should have the ability to participate in clinical trials. These important trials are saving so many lives. I’m living with one success story.

I wondered if Rick would have been approved for the immunotherapy trial that saved his life had he not been insured by commercial insurance. Looks like I need to become more educated about how this works. Thoughts anyone?