Monday, December 5, 2016

DESIGNER EPIC #sewworthit Video Story Contest

Have you watched my Video Story Contest Entry yet? It tells you why the Husqvarna Viking Designer Epic is #sewworthit using elements from my daily life - I hope you will take a moment (it is only a minute long) and watch it and maybe it will make you smile! I'm not the best saleswoman or good at asking for help/votes, but I am good at being creative and persistent. I am currently in second place and could use your help to win the sewing/embroidery machine of my dreams - if you could view my video, then place a vote for me, I would be greatly appreciative!
Visit: http://woobox.com/eyk7zi/gallery/DvLFOHRtQis to view and vote...it only takes a second and you don't need to sign-in or sign-up, just click the word VOTE above my video. Thanks!


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Freeze Frame Mug Rugs


Hello creative friends! Be sure to head over to the AccuQuilt Blog today for my latest guest blog post...there you will find a complete tutorial for my "Freeze Frame Mug Rug", perfect for holiday gift giving...

This project is perfect for a beginner...and the entire project was cut on my GO! Fabric Cutter (project is GO! BigGO!, and GO! Baby compatible) using:

GO! Qube Mix & Match 6” Block (55775)
  • Dies Used: #1 GO! Square 3” Finished, #2 GO! Square 1½” Finished, #4 GO! QST 3” Finished Square, #5 GO! HST 1½” Finished Square, and #8 GO! Rectangle
GO! Qube 6″ Companion Set-Classic (55779)
  • Dies Used: #9 GO! Chisels
GO! Strip Cutter-2″ (1 1/2″ Finished) (55025 or 55164) (binding only)...


My winter mug rug is created with both traditional piecing and machine appliqué...and with the small size, it can be worked up rather quickly. This project is great for scraps or fat quarters...and while I used cotton print fabrics, it would look great in solids or batiks...and one of my favorite things about this design - once you build the house, you can embellish it with any of your favorite motifs - I chose pine trees, but it would look great with an assortment of snowflakes, reindeer, or even a Santa! You could also change up the scenery and make it for any season. Using the 6" Qube and Companion, it finishes a nice size (9”W x 6”H) - but you can adjust it to any size Qube/Qube Companion to make it larger for a runner, candle mat or table topper.


So  be sure to stop by the AccuQuilt Blog for a materials list and step by step tutorial, with images: 
https://www.accuquilt.com/blog/education/go-project-tutorials/freeze-frame-mug-rug-a-quilting-tutorial/

I know they may look a bit complicated, but I show step by step how to create them...a beginner could have several created before Christmas! 


Finally, I would like thank everyone who has voted for my video in the Husqvarna Viking #sewworthit Video Story Contest (see the prevous post for more details)! I truly appreciate your support. The competition is heating up and I only have a slight lead (several people have even copied my video idea - using images, think bubbles, and music - GRRR!). I hope you will visit the following link and view/vote for my video....you don't have to sign-up or sign in or leave any personal information - simply click on the link, then click vote - easy peasy! ...and to those who have shared my link/details in their groups and on social media - I appreciate you more than you know - you are AMAZING! Thank you for helping me try to win my dream sewing and embroidery machine...
http://woobox.com/eyk7zi/gallery/DvLFOHRtQis

Friday, November 25, 2016

Giving Thanks...and My Story Video

Wild turkeys having a feast at the bird feeders
 in the backyard on Thanksgiving...followed by
a drink from the bird bath...
Happy day after Thanksgiving - I hope you had a wonderful celebration with family and friends! My husband and I actually made a trip to Lake Summerset, IL, so I could spend Thanksgiving with my mommy for the first time in over 20 years. It was a quick, but special trip...and it was so nice to see my mom and Dan and extended family. We left yesterday morning - made the five hour drive and arrived an hour before dinner - then, spent the night and returned home bright and early this morning, as my husband had to work this afternoon (many of you know, my husband is in management for UPS and we all know how much shipping is happening this time of year!). In any case, we had a lovely trip, family time, and a delicious meal...and Schatzi even tagged along and spent time with some new friends (Daisy and Wilson).

Thank you to everyone for your love and kind words regarding Simba...I found comfort in many of your messages. I also have to thank those who have checked in with me since my oral surgery - it went as expected and I am healing - all is well. I feel very blessed to have so many caring people in my life - my heart is full.

On to the creative part of my post...
We all know how passionate I am about anything created with a needle and thread - by hand or machine....and many of you know there are two things I can't live without in my sewing studio - my Accuquilt products and my Husqvarna Viking Designer Diamond sewing and embroidery machine/Huskylock s25. I'm pretty sure everyone knows how much I love my sewing machine and how hard I worked to get it years ago - it brings me joy every single day. Over the years, they have released new and improved versions of my machine...but the most recent, the Designer Epic, is truly extraordinary - oh how I have been drooling over this machine for months. Obviously a machine of this caliber is not in my budget, so when I saw Husqvarna Viking Sewing Machines was have a video contest with an Epic as a grand prize, I had to put on my thinking cap to think of a video idea that would be worthy of submission. My idea grew slowly and turned into the contest entry you can view below - I am an amatuer videographer, but I had so much fun making it...and I knew I had to give it a shot! I'm not a big fan of contests that require you to solicit votes - many times it is a popularity contest and the entry itself (no matter how good it is) isn't a factor...but I had to make an exception in this special case and at least TRY. I hope you enjoy my short video testimonial about why I love the Husqvarna Viking Designer Epic sewing and embroidery machine and why it is #sewworthit...and if you feel so inclined, please place a vote for my entry.

To vote, simply visit the following link - and click on VOTE - NO sign-up, e-mail, or personal information is required - yep, just visit the link and click VOTE:


It only takes a second and I would appreciate it "sew" very much! Contest rules state: you can vote once per IP address.

You can see the video in it's entirety by visiting the link above, or my YouTube page, or for those who have a browser that support it, I am posting it below (note: you still have to visit the link above to vote):



I hope it makes you smile and you can tell how much I enjoyed putting it together...and, of course, a squirrel made the final cut (after all, it is "my video story"). My fingers (and toes) are crossed, as I am sure there will be some GOOD competition (at the time of this post, my video was the only submission - along with two Epic videos from Husqvarna Viking)....maybe that is good luck!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Scribbles, Still Lifes, and Simba

Hello friends - I know a post is overdue, and I do have quit a bit to share. Somehow, once again, this month has totally gotten away from me...and to think - Thanksgiving is next week...where does the time go? First a few personal things...then a few creative things...

Today, I start with some some sad news - many of you are are aware, but I know some of you are not...we had to lay Simba, our little rescued Shih Tzu, to rest last week. He was getting ready to turn fifteen and had been experiencing some health issues that escalated over the past several months. I won't go into too much detail, as my heart is still broken...he had dementia and would constantly spook himself, flinch, and shake...which was quite worrisome and of course caused quite a few daily accidents...and in his last weeks, he really was disoriented and wasn't sure where he was most of the time...and he was not sleeping. We did try medication that worked for a little over a week, but he became immune to it quickly and the symptoms continued to worsen. The most important thing to us was that he was happy, comfortable and not suffering, as he brought us (and our family and friends) so much joy and unconditional love. We knew it was time and it was the best/right decision for Simba. I thought I had prepared myself, but it has been WAY more difficult than I anticipated - Travis has reminded me that he was by my side 24-hours-a-day for almost 14 years, so it will take some adjustment. The good news is Schatzi is taking great care of me and giving me extra love and affection. Thank you for the comforting notes, cards, comments, love and support. The photo above was taken a couple weeks ago...a rare moment when he was relaxed and I captured it to share with my husband - it makes me smile.

On to other news...last Saturday, Travis and I made a road trip to Iowa City to see Michigan play football - yes, most of you know, although we are in Iowa, we are both HUGE Michigan fans. I was excited to go to a college game under the lights - especially with our Wolverines being undefeated...and we had quite a few friends that were at the game and tailgating. Michigan losing probably would have broken my heart, if it wasn't already hurting from Simba...but I must say, a highlight was seeing all the Hawkeye fans storm the field in a manner of seconds...their excitement was fun to see and I can appreciate it (even if they did upset my team).



Travis continues to improve after his back surgery and he was able to go on his 10-day fishing trip to southern Louisiana a couple weeks ago. He took some great photos for me and I thought I would share a couple with you. I sure wish I would have been along to see this sunset...



On the last of the personal news...
I am headed in for another oral surgery in the morning - I will be having a sinus lift and my implant put in place. More stitches in my mouth....and soft, cold foods for a few days again...and a couple days of rest. I think the most annoying part (besides try to rest) is having to take a week off from the gym...the last time it was torture. So if you don't see me around or hear from me for a few days, don't worry - I will be resting and healing.

On to some creative things...here are some photos of what I have been working on and what has been going on in the studio. I have been completing quite a few custom orders and some holiday needlework finishing (most of which I have been asked to keep secret until after Christmas). I have also been doing quite a few AccuQuilt projects. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to use the new Embrilliance Essentials AccuQuilt GO! Edition embroidery design software...and I created the samples they used to introduce this user-friendly software at Quilt Market. I created multiple blocks and used the software to digitize and create a new version of my GO! Snow Much Fun Wall Hanging (shown below) - yes, all those blocks were appliqued in the hoop....and now I am working on a few more top secret projects that use the software, as well. There is a lot to share on that subject, so I will save it for it's own special post...I will also post about the sampler quilt you see below....and about the new Qube Companion Sets...yep, I have A LOT  to share with you in future posts - I have fallen a bit behind, but I will get you caught up! The final photo is a peek at my upcoming AccuQuilt blog post tutorial project for November - look for more on that in the future, as well...

Thank you  AccuQuilt - a new rotary cutter, cutting mats, and rulers!
I really needed these....

Custom order - project bags and tool pouches...

Custom order - project bags and tool pouches...

GO! Qube 9" Companion Sampler Quilt 

New Embrilliance Essentials AccuQuilt GO! Edition embroidery design software...

GO! Snow Much Fun Wall Hanging - each block was digitized and
then appliqued in the hoop on my embroidery machine....

Sneak peek of my November project for the Accuquilt Blog
That gives you a pretty good idea of what has been happening the last couple weeks...tonight, I am cutting and preparing some more customer projects for assembly line sewing...and finishing up the set-up on my new cell phone (my new iPhone 7 Plus finally arrived and I am switching over from Android - it's a bit of a job, but I am almost done). If I am lucky, I'll put in a few stitches on a new model before bed...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Homespun Halloween

Happy Halloween to all my friends, family, and followers! I can't believe my Halloween cross stitch calendar revealed the final motif for the month of October today...I'm not quite sure where the year has gone - it seems it has disappeared rather quickly...and soon Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us (GASP!). My neighborhood celebrated Halloween last night with trick-or-treaters rushing from house to house getting their fill of candy - I always look forward to seeing the creative costumes that show up on our front porch....and last night I saw some great ones - including the best Ghostbuster I have seen (with an illuminated backpack) and an adorable horse (her mom had sewn the costume). I also enjoy seeing some of the fun decorating that happens in our area...here is photo I snapped of a front yard just up the street from us...I see they are ready for the negative election campaigns to stop - it made me chuckle.


Over the past fifteen years or so, I have celebrated my love of Halloween by designing quite a few needlework charts and  sewing projects especially for this time of year...I thought it would be fun to share a collage that includes many of my spooky pieces...you can find additional information on each of these pieces by exploring my website and/or Etsy shop (including "Behind the Gate" - the Halloween calendar shown above)...enjoy!


Finally....since it is always 'all about the squirrel' - even on Halloween...I had to share an image of the front of a Halloween card that arrived in my mailbox this week from a very dear friend....it made me smile immediately when it arrived! Inside, it says "Peek a BOO!"....

May Jack-o-lanterns burning bright
Of soft and golden hue
Pierce through the future's veil and show
What fate now holds for you.
                                                           -Author Unknown

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pumpkin Patch Placemats

Hello creative friends! Be sure to head over to the AccuQuilt Blog today for my latest guest blog post...there you will find a complete tutorial for my "Pumpkin Patch Placemats" with all the details, so you can make a set of your very own...

These patchwork pumpkin placemats use traditional piecing and are perfect for a beginner...and the entire project was cut on my GO! Fabric Cutter (project is GO! Big, GO!, and GO! Baby compatible) using:

GO! Qube Mix & Match 8” Block (55776)
  • Dies Used: #1 GO! Square 4” Finished, #2 GO! Square 2” Finished, #5 GO! HST 2” Finished Square, #7 GO! Parallelogram, and #8 GO! Rectangle

GO! Qube 8″ Companion Set-Classic (55780)
  • Dies Used: #10 GO! Signature Block

GO! Strip Cutter-2″ (1 1/2″ Finished) (55025 or 55164) (binding only)




This project is great for scraps or fat quarters...and while I used autumn print fabrics, these placemats would look great in a variety of batiks or solids. Each placemat finishes 20"W x 14"H - and the instructions are written for a two placemat set.

So be sure to stop by the AccuQuilt Blog for a materials list and step by step tutorial, with images:
https://www.accuquilt.com/blog/education/go-project-tutorials/pumpkin-patch-placemats-a-quilting-tutorial/

I know they look a little complicated, but I show step by step how to create them...and you could have a set completed by Thanksgiving!




...and while you are visiting the blog, be sure to check out all of the inspiring projects - there are endless creative ideas to get you in the sewing/quilting mood!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Creative Catch-up

Hello friends! Finally - I have a minute to blog (whew!)...it has been an INSANE month and I have quite a bit to share. Please excuse my absence - between quilt market projects/my workload, my husband having back surgery, Simba (a senior Shih Tzu) needing quite a bit of extra attention right now (he will be 15 in November and is having some health issues), and the weight of everything on my immune system (of course I get sick), I have been a little overwhelmed. I am, however, hanging in there and keeping my creativity flowing....and doing my best to remain positive...and tonight (while happily listening to the Cubbies game), I found a quiet moment to share some photos with you. Here is a taste of what has been happening in the studio this past month (these are some of the things I can share)...and I'll be back tomorrow to share my AccuQuilt Blog project for October (it's an AUTUMN design)....

I finished up quite a few customer needlework pieces...here are some images...these were stitched by a favorite customer that pretty much lets me finish her pieces how I see fit - she gives me a few details, but I get to be creative and pick all supplies - which makes the process REALLY fun for me!...and even more fun, a couple of these are my cross stitch designs!








Of course, I have had more orders for zippered project bags and tool pouches (here are photos of a few)...I have a bunch more in the works...and at the time of this post, a few are still available in my Etsy shop (which is RARE!) - including a couple made from Halloween fabrics...
https://www.etsy.com/shop/BlueRibbonDesigns



I have also been working on some large quilting projects...I finished another BIG team quilt (Auburn Tigers) for  customer and have been working on a couple other sizable pieces (which I can't show just yet - but I can share a photo of some of the pretty Robert Kaufman fabrics I have been working with)....




Finally, here is a sneak peek of tomorrow's post...a fall project I have been working on for the AccuQuilt Blog....


Thanks for visiting today - I've missed you...and stop back really soon to check out the "pumpkin" project...it makes me happy!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Jewels and Vines

I am a bit behind on my blogging (several of you have noticed and checked on me - thank  you!) - when things get hectic in my studio, my blog always seems to end up on the back burner, just simmering...and with quilt market right around the corner, I have some major freelance projects with fast turnaround times keeping me overwhelmed busy. The list is LONG - in fact, my to-do list has five different post topics I would love to show you - yep, I have been creatively busy and have a TON of things to share (needlework and quilting)...just be patient a little while longer.

So, today, I am here to share with you my September project tutorial for the AccuQuilt Blog (yes, I should have shared this last week - ho hum) - my "Jewels and Vines" table topper.

This project was cut entirely with my AccuQuilt GO! Fabric Cutter (you could also use the GO! Baby or the GO! Big Electric), along with the GO! Qube Mix & Match 9" Block and new GO! Qube 9" Companion Set-Classics....plus I used the GO! Strip Cutter-2" to cut my binding. I chose two blocks from the new GO! Qube 9" Companion Set Classics-72 Block Patterns Booklet: the GO! Drunkard’s Lane Block and the GO! Endorsement Block...and I have something VERY fun to tell you - I designed, wrote the instructions, and named all 72 of the blocks found in this pattern booklet (for all four set sizes). Now that the GO! Qube Companion Sets are available, I plan to share more with you in a future post...and I will show you just how versatile they are...but for now, we are talking about my "Jewels and Vines" project (stay on track Belinda). You can find the complete tutorial to create this  table topper on the AccuQuilt Blog - I provide you with step-by-step instructions and images:
https://www.accuquilt.com/blog/education/go-project-tutorials/jewels-and-vines-table-runner-a-quilting-tutorial/


The fabrics I used are from Timeless Treasures - a fat quarter stack I received as part of my honorable mention prize package from the 2016 AccuQuilt Quilt Block Contest -  it included several collections from Chong-a Hwang (“Essex”, “Suffolk”, and “Tree of Life”) and several Timeless Treasures Spring Basics (https://ttfabrics.com/fabric/spring-basic-10/).



Be sure to stop by the AccuQuilt Blog for a materials list and step-by-step tutorial, with images:
https://www.accuquilt.com/blog/education/go-project-tutorials/jewels-and-vines-table-runner-a-quilting-tutorial/

...and while you are there, check out a plethora of creative projects - there are TONS of wonderful ideas to get you in the sewing/quilting mood!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Blizzard Buddies"

My copy of the Just CrossStitch 2016 Special Christmas Ornament Issue arrived today, and I am pleased to share my contribution to the magazine with you. My ornament is titled "Blizzard Buddies" and can be found on page 65...and this year, I included my recipe for my Blue Ribbon Stuffed Mushrooms (which I will also share later in this pre-holiday post). My 2016 ornament features red birds, pine trees, and snowflakes and complements my woodland ornaments from the past several years (along with ornament from the 2016 Christmas Ornament Preview Issue) - and as usual, combines cross stitch over both one and two linen threads. I stitched the model on 40-count Mocha linen from Weeks Dye Works (same as previous ornaments in this series) and used Weeks Dye Works cotton floss (DMC conversions are provided). I opted for a flat-finish with two-tone twisted cord to match my previous holiday ornaments. *Please note - the image on page 67 is definitely not true to color - it is extremely light/over exposed - this ornament DOES match the colors of my previous ornaments in the series...don't let the overly lightened image fool you - you can see all the details in the ornament...and the snowflakes show up beautifully!

This is the 10th (yes, 10th) year I have been included in the annual Ornament Issue - WOW, how time flies! If you would like to see all 10 of my contributions, you can visit the "Publications" tab on my website (my ornaments from the Christmas Ornament Preview Issues are shown there, as well). This magazine has gone through a lot of changes over the years (just like my design style), yet still continues to be a yearly fan favorite. I remember getting my first designer invitation back in 2006 to be in the magazine - I was "giddy" - it was an honor to get that invitation each year to be included. This year, they sent invitations to "submit a design idea" - and for me (to be honest) that took away quite a bit of the prestige and excitement that came along with being included in the magazine (especially when this is an "unpaid" assignment and designers do not receive compensation for being included)...this may be why you aren't seeing some of your favorite designers in the 2016 issue. With the needlework industry constantly changing, who knows what the future holds - but I have been proud to be a part of this special publication for the past 10 years!

....now, as promised - my recipe for stuffed mushrooms. We all have a "go to" recipe...the one that everyone wants you to bring when you have a holiday or family gathering...the one that everyone asks for the recipe...my "go to" recipe is for stuffed mushrooms. I started out years ago with a basic recipe and have continued to make changes...years later, I have finally tweaked my own recipe to (what I think is) perfection. So, here is my original recipe (which I call "Blue Ribbon Stuffed Mushrooms" - the magazine edited my recipe name/title)...from my kitchen to yours...enjoy!



Blue Ribbon Stuffed Mushrooms
1 Pound of mushrooms (washed and stems removed)
3 tablespoons margarine (softened, not melted)
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I like to use a red pepper)
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup Feta cheese (crumbled)
2 strips of cooked bacon (crumbled) (real bacon bits make it easier!)
1 1/2 cups soft bread crumbs (I like to use moistened Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned stuffing mix)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (fresh ground is best!)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Mix all ingredients except mushroom caps in a bowl - blending ingredients well. If your mixture seems a little dry, add some chicken broth or stock (or water) to the mixture to moisten. Fill mushroom caps with mixture. Place stuffed mushrooms in a lightly greased baking dish, then bake for 15-20 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Stuffing mixture can be made and refrigerated a day early for stuffing the mushrooms the day of your event. ...and of course, the measurements don't have to be exact, this is just a guideline for ingredients - I usually just "eyeball" the measurements. I always make these during the holidays and they are a HUGE hit.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Take a Little Trip with Me

Sometimes when you *need* to get away, you have to make the best of a long weekend...and that is exactly what my husband and I did over the Labor Day holiday. An unfortunate change in my travel plans for this fall had my husband wanting me to go on a week long fishing trip...now, don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my husband, but the idea of an entire week of fishing from sun up until sundown sure didn't seem like the vacation for me...so we made a compromise - he takes me away (without any fishing) for a few days and he could go on his fall fishing trip with the boys - win, win. I chose to go to South Dakota because seeing Mount Rushmore was on my bucket list...and it was within driving distance (a nine our drive from our home in Iowa). We left bright and early on Saturday morning and had Saturday evening, Sunday and Monday in the Black Hills...and then headed for home before the light of dawn on Tuesday. I wish it could have been a few days longer, but we made the best with the time we had! Here is a little diary of our travels, full of photos (click on images for larger views)...

Saturday
On our way to Mount Rushmore, we couldn't resist stopping at a few of the advertised tourist stops...I should let you know that while some might find tourist areas fun and "must visit", we are the exact opposite and usually do everything in our power to avoid them - cheap trinkets, carnival scenes, and crowds are not our thing...they are just not for us. However, we thought we might see something interesting along the way...so, first, we visited the self-proclaimed "World Famous" Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD - which we thought was WAY over-rated and wasn't worth the time...except we needed to get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs. My understanding is years ago, this was quite a sight...but in 2016, not so much - the history was interesting, but stopping was not needed - in fact, we didn't even think a drive-by was needed...but live and learn...and now we can say we were there. By the time we needed to eat and stretch again, we were in Wall, SD - home of  the "#1 Roadside Attraction in America" (really??) - Wall Drug Store...which was (let's say) an experience. We did take advantage of some of the funny photo ops in "backyard" (if you are friends with me on Snapchat, you got to see some of these)...but didn't shop or eat there (not our scene) - we did however (on the advice of TripAdvisor) visit the Badlands Saloon and Grille across the street, which was much more our speed to have a late lunch. Then it was back on the road to our home away from home, the K Bar S Lodge. We arrived late afternoon and once checked in, were excited to see Mount Rushmore from our private balcony. This lodge is located in Keystone, SD and although close enough to the tourist areas, it was off the beaten path - we loved it - a beautiful mountainside property with great views, great service, a fabulous breakfast each morning (in a glass gazebo with deer all around) and a rock fireplace fire pit each night for s'mores. Now it was feeling like a vacation! After getting settled, we headed to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial (just a few miles away) - and it was worth the trip - my jaw dropped - a beautiful way to spend the evening. We walked the Presidential Trail and took it all in...and I was so happy this is where I chose to go for our mini vacation. After Mount Rushmore, we were ready for dinner...and again using advice from TripAdvisor, decided on Powder House Lodge Restaurant...a perfect pick (a huge thumbs up!) - we enjoyed the patio and a delicious dinner....and then we went back to the Lodge and collapsed after a LONG day.



Deer at the Lodge

Sunday
We were up bright and early for breakfast and were on our way shortly after 7:00. First stop of the day Bear Country U.S.A. (and we were the first to enter the park) - and it did not disappoint. This is a drive through park where you can see all sorts of wildlife from the comfort of your own vehicle. All the animals were out and about...the reindeer were extra friendly, as well as the wolves...and we saw TONS of bears, elk, sheep, and buffalo (to name a few). There is also a walking tour where we enjoyed watching the baby bears play. Next, we were on our way to Badlands National Park...we took advantage of many scenic overlooks with spectacular views as we drove the Badlands Loop Road. We even got to see Big Horn Sheep up close and personal in their habitat. It was like visiting a mini Grand Canyon and well worth the additional drive. Following the Badlands, we headed to Downtown Rapid City - where we had lunch at Firehouse Brewery Company, then walked the quaint Main Street Square and visited quite a few of the local shops...we also found an incredible "Art Alley" full of graffiti (which I thought was AMAZING). After walking off lunch, it was time to visit the Crazy Horse Memorial - to me, this was pretty spectacular - I really enjoyed watching the movie of the history, taking in the exhibits, and learning about the memorial going forward.We spent the afternoon being educated about this unbelievable project. After a full day, we headed to the Red Garter Saloon (in the heart of the Keystone tourist area) - we enjoyed a live show and a couple adult beverages...then walked to Janes Boardwalk Pizza for dinner (ranked #1 restaurant in Keystone)...and it did not disappoint - although it is in a touristy area, we enjoyed it and the people watching (you order at a window and sit on the boardwalk and we still give it two thumbs up!)...after another beverage at the Red Garter Saloon, we headed back to the lodge for a little fire pit action. It was another full day!







Monday
We reserved all of Labor Day for Custer State Park...and truth be told, I could have spent an entire week there - I could have a serious love affair with this park...I thought it was SPECTACULAR. We started our early morning at Sylvan Lake and then driving the Needles Highway - and unfortunately, it was foggy...really, REALLY foggy...but with the fog came something incredible...right after the Needles Eye Tunnel, we saw mountain goats - two of them...one of the most magical things I have ever seen (and my favorite sighting of the entire trip)...I LOVE them. The locals told us it is VERY rare to see them and that we were very lucky (and I agree!). After the Needles Highway, we headed to the Blue Bell Stables for horseback riding...yep, two plus hours on the trails in Custer Park - it was BEAUTIFUL! My husband and I rode two Norwegian Fjord Horses (Aztec and Cortez) and they were gorgeous - I was a bit nervous, as my horseback riding is limited - so, of course, during the ride, there was a problem with my saddle and I nearly fell off (my saddle rotated around and I was hanging off the side of my horse!) - but my husband, who is an experienced rider, jumped off his horse to my rescue...and I survived...and I provided loads of entertainment for all the riders, so that was a plus (Bling Bats, I know you have a visual and I can hear you laughing!). It was an incredible experience (minus the near fall) and I really enjoyed it and the breathtaking scenery and riding through the rocky streams. Horseback riding was followed by lunch at the Blue Bell Lodge - an Old West saloon-style lodge with yummy food - I was impressed! We then drove the Wild Life Loop Road - hoping for lots of animal sightings (we were especially looking forward to the buffalo). We saw quite a bit of wildlife - Prairie Dogs (of course), White-tailed Deer, Burros (they were super duper friendly), and Pronghorns...but only ONE buffalo. I would have been extremely disappointed, but we were headed to the Game Lodge Area to take the Buffalo Safari Jeep Tour (we had a reservation for weeks - it was the one thing I picked to do on our trip)...and they promised me that they would take me to the buffalo...and they didn't lie - I saw more buffalo than I could have ever imagined...and I saw them up close and personal from an open-air Jeep...it was unbelievable. They were able to drive us off road and right into the herds...WOW...I couldn't believe it...and I would go again, if I could - it was worth every penny! The park currently has 1,400 buffalo and I think we saw most of them. It was ASTOUNDING. Following the Jeep Tour, we had reservations for the  Chuck Wagon Cookout in the canyon - good food and live music - and we all wore cowboy hats and bandannas - it was memorable. I enjoyed every single minute of this day! We then took Iron Mountain Road and Pigtail Bridges to get back to the lodge - this drive through the Black Hills National Forest was incredible...even at night...and we had to slow way down for hundreds of buffalo on the road (in the dark) and quite a few deer. It was the perfect end to our trip...







Wednesday, we were back home and it is (once again) business as usual...I was back in the gym and back to work...but I slept well and refreshed last night...and my load feels just a bit lighter after fresh air and beautiful scenery. There was a lot of creative inspiration on this trip...luckily, I took a TON of photos! Thanks for revisiting our mini vacation with me...

I'll be back again real soon to share some stitching and quilting projects with you....for now, enjoy the rest of your week...