The Great American Quilt – Part VI Piecing it Together

2014 GAQ Part VI sewn together2014 GAQ Part VI sewn together 3Sue Stanek has been a busy lady piecing the blocks that the Algonquin Quilt Guild members returned in February.  Isn’t it stunning?  She also added the red border and is in the process of attaching the GORGEOUS outer border.  Members viewed her work and everyone extolled praises to her beautiful accuracy.

Emma, from our group, will be doing the quilting.  She has been in consultation with Sue and Carlene with her vision of what would work well.  Believe it or not when adding the back to a quilt it must be pieced.  The way in which the seams are ironed make a difference.  Does the quilter want the seam ironed open or pressed to the side? It makes a difference when quilting on a long arm.

Over the next two months I will be seeking venues to display the quilt with members selling raffle tickets.  More on that next month.

2014 GAQ Part VI sewn together 7The evenings presentation was from Susan Abraham, quilt educator, on a technique called flying geese.  She gave us three ways in which to sew them.  One of the techniques will be used in our Block of the Month project that was introduce that evening.  We are participating with Monique Dillards currant free Bloggers Girl BOM II.

2014 GAQ Part VI sewn together 8Sue graciously shared with us a baby blanket pattern we could make with the flying geese.  Our philanthropic work is making baby blankets for Advocate Sherman Hospital NICU unit.  As of this year members have already made 15.  Last year we made 52.

2014 GAQ Part VI Sewn Together 10I and Pat Mesker will be helping to guide members along with the BOM. I finished my blocks and displayed them.  I’ve chosen the Red and Cream line of French General’s Josephine.  The fabrics are gorgeous.  This one I’m keeping.

Feel free to follow along with us to make your Block of the Month. And please feel free to follow us as we complete The Great American Quilt.  It’s simply stunning.

Inspire me Randy Knipfel!

2014 Randy K before after 1About two weeks ago I saw a new flier at the gym.  It was one of the trainers whom had gone through a remarkable transformation, Randy Knipfel.  It was really astonishing.  Randy happens to be my son’s age and they may have played opposite each other in football games in their Junior year.

His story is much like a lot of us, we get in a routine, life happens, we really haven’t looked in the mirror and then pfft, what the heck.   Randy did something about it and lost 100 pounds.  Yep, he did.  He looks “badass”.   I think I can say that.

Randy happens to be one of the trainers at the gym I go to.  Trainers like to inspire members to make lifestyle changes that will benefit their long term needs through training.  With training you have someone to be accountable to (because we all need that), and you learn a cadre of exercises that will help you build strength with the added benefit of redefining your body at a faster pace.2014 Rand K before and after 1

I want you to think about this a little bit, how much strength do you have today and compare yourself to an earlier you.  I’m going to tell you, you’ve lost a lot.  Studies have proven that even small changes help to increase bone density, increase strength and in a short time.  I’m referring to Dr. Miriam Nelson’s studies in her book, Strong Women Stay Young.

I write inspirational stories to first celebrate the individual for all their hard work, and secondly and hopefully, you the reader, will be inspired to make a healthy lifestyle change too.

So here we go:

 Randy, what is your background?

I was born and raised in Crystal Lake, IL. I started playing sports at the age of fifteen months and continued playing team sports all the way through college.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

When I graduated from Prairie Ridge high school in 2005 I went to Harper Junior College from 2005-2007 to play football. While at Harper I started every game as an offensive lineman and also earned academic All-American honors in having a GPA over 3.0 every semester attending Harper College.  After my years at Harper College I earned a full scholarship to play football at Marian University in Indianapolis, IN. While at Marian I was team captain and started every game there as well, in which not too many athletes can say they have started in every game in their college career.   I graduated in 2010 with my Bachelor of Science in Sports Performance earning a cumulative GPA of 3.14.

What inspired you to start a new lifestyle change? 

I was always overweight because I needed to be for football. Eating fast food all the time and not watching what I ate continued after my football career.  Bad habits caught up to me fast and got me in the worst shape of my life.  I topped at 290lbs, the most I have ever weighted. My friends actually inspired me to start a new life and change it to a healthier one. All my friends were losing weight and getting into the best shape of their lives.   I decided to join them and see how far I could push myself to get that body I have always dreamed about.

What drew you to become a trainer?

While at Marian I also coached football and was the Asst. Strength and Condition coach. While doing both of those jobs I developed a passion for teaching and coaching others in getting better on and off the field.  Seeing the changes I was making for them, helping to develop their skills which led them to getting into the best shape of their lives, I knew the fitness industry was the perfect fit for me.  Once you have changed one person’s life, in some way, training others becomes a passion and something you never want to stop doing.

How long have you been a trainer?

I have been training for four years and have trained many clients.  Their combined weight loss is over 500lbs.

What drew you to come to Algonquin?

Nick Hunt drew me to Fitness 19.  He is a personal friend and has been a personal trainer there for years.  Nick and I played football together in high school and have always kept in touch. He would always tell me to come and train there, so one day I came in and handed in my resume to the manager.  I have been there ever since, which is about 8 months. I couldn’t be happier with the people I work with and the club I train at.

What would you say to others to help them lead a healthier lifestyle?

I would tell people to have a positive attitude when you walk into the gym, don’t give up when you’re not seeing the results you want, just keep working hard every day, don’t be overwhelmed, and ask as many questions about cardio, diet, and resistance you can to develop a foundation to build a better and healthier lifestyle.  Living a healthier lifestyle can help you prevent health risks such as strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and stress.  Why would you not want to start leading your lie into a healthier direction NOW?

What have you noticed since working out that you do better or what are the surprises you’ve noticed since working out?

The thing that surprises me since I started working out is how quickly your body can change once cutting out all the pop, candy, and fast food.  Also how your body reacts to certain foods, strength programs, and the cardio you perform. Fitness is a lot about trial and error and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t.

What is your favorite exercise that you get the best results from?

My favorite exercises that I see the most results from are squats and deadlifts. These exercises work the whole entire body to develop overall strength and endurance.

What’s your favorite saying when working out?

My favorite saying is “Let’s go, finish strong for me”

For the person just deciding to get into a fitness routine, what would you suggest for them?

I would suggest to the person who is just starting to work out that it’s not about how much weight you can lift but using proper technique to prevent injury.  Strength and results will not come without proper technique.  I would also recommend to perform functional movements such as squats, lunges, burpees, sit ups, pushups because you can do these at home as well at the gym with different types of equipment (dumbbells, med-balls, and barbells). By performing functional movements you will burn more calories because you are using your body weight and performing with just body weight is much harder than using weights.

What is your philosophy for clients?

My philosophy is you have to want it and be dedicated in achieving it. With a commitment to your workout and making good choices, you can achieve anything and everything.

When you’re not working what are you up to?

If I’m not working or at the gym, in which I’m usually there most hours of the day I’m hanging out with my family and friends.

Given what you do, is there a client that you feel you’ve helped to turn their health around?

It’s really hard to pick just one client that I have change their life into a healthier one because all my clients have made huge progress in so many ways, but if I had to pick one it would be a client who had both knees replaced, spine problems and pretty out of shape. Since then the client has lost over 50lbs and just broke a personal best on the leg press of 300lbs for 12 reps.   At the beginning the client wasn’t physically able to press 70 pounds.

2014 Randy K before after 3FANTASTIC JOB RANDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It’s a baby shower

Gym friends are a good thing because sometimes they have good ideas to share regarding food.  Dana Popovich, Donna Bland and I had a ball planning a baby shower for Kimberly Hansen.  We’re all a part of Fitness 19, my home away from home.   Dana started the ball rolling shortly before Christmas and then we really got after it after the holidays.  We got together to chat about the menu and we came away with things to do.  One overarching theme was make it healthy because look at the guest list!  They are all from the gym.2014 baby shower 1

Dana and Donna helped me that week with icing cookies.  They came over on Friday to set everything up.  My hubby brought a lot of the stuff up from the “magic” basement closet.  We didn’t have to rent anything for a group this small.  I think we had 18 ladies.

It turned out to be a nice day.  You were greeted by Daisy, my miniature Schnauzer, when you came in the door.  She settled down after about the tenth guest.  Dana had a nice banner made which she and my husband hung up.  Donna and I took over in the kitchen to get everything out for the buffet.  Dana came up with a fantastic champagne cocktail punch which is listed below.

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Don’t you love the line of purses?  I knew the bench would come in handy someday. 2014 baby shower 9

I have to tell you, these ladies are so nice and so fun I wouldn’t mind doing this in the summer when it’s nice outside.  Dana’s daughter Allison took our photos.  I have no idea where the heck I was looking. 2014 baby shower 152014 baby shower 17

Lunch was really a healthy fair except for, desert.  We had a veggie platter that had a mystery veggie on it, turnips.  It stumped all the guests.  (We should of had a prize for that.)  Donna made her famous Quinoa Side dish.  We had fruit, chicken salad in lettuce cups, sugar free strawberry Jello with lots of strawberries, and Dana’s Turkey Pasta.

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2014 Kims shower5We were able to sit in the dining room with guests extending into the living room.  I found the flowers at my favorite nursery, Pasquesi.  We let people take them home at the end. We had little vases with candies and rock candy stirrers.  So cute.  That gorgeous baby diaper cake in the middle, Donna made that and the crocheted baby blanket.  Really beautiful.

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2014 baby shower 182014 Kims shower7

2014 baby shower 12You know the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  Well we had a similar mantra especially regarding the desert table.  We tricked everyone thinking the cookies were 25 calories.  Dana ordered the cake from Sugar Hills bakery along with the cup cakes.  They did a beautiful job.  There is one healthy desert there, the pink mini deserts.  It’s made with Chobani yogurt.

2014 baby shower 8It was on to gift time.  Now I’ve been out of the baby cycle for MANY years so this was all fun for me to see how things have changed.  Because they know it’s a girl it was all pink.  The baby’s room is pink and grey which are delicious colors for a baby girl.

You have to love the look on Kim’s face when she opened all the gifts.  Like these two.

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2014 baby shower2Let’s not forget the recipes.

Dana’s Pasta

  • 2 T. Bertolli Extra Light Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Jennie O’s ground turkey, 99% lean
  • 1 jar Rao’s Homemade Marinara Sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Garlic powder
  • 1 pound bag of High fiber white pasta

Start your pasta water.   Follow package directions and  drain when finished.

In a Dutch oven brown the turkey using the olive oil.  When cooked half way add the garlic and a sprinkle the garlic powder to taste.   When Turkey is finished cooking add the sauce.  Warm it up then add the pasta and you’re ready.

Donna’s Quinoa Salad

  • 2cups cooked quinoa,
  • Cucumber
  • Grape tomatoes, halved
  • Red onion Thinly sliced
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Jalapeno, chopped
  • Green onion with tops
  • 3 T Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • 2 T. fresh lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients and refrigerate till needed.

Chicken Salad – makes a lot

  • 3/4 of the bag of rotisserie chicken from Costco
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1/4 cup Vlasic Dill Relish
  • 1 T. Maille Dijon Originale Mustard, I wrote about this a while back.
  • 3/4 cup Light Hellman’s mayo
  • Red and Green peppers sliced
  • Hearts of Romaine leaves

Using your food processor, add the chopped up celery and onion.  Process till fairly small.  Then DRAIN the veggies.  There’s lots of water in vegetables.  You don’t want your chicken salad to be wet.

In batches process the chicken in your food processor.  After each batch, add it to a large bowl

Add the drained veggies, relish, Maille Dijon Mustard, and mayo.  Mix until all is combined.  Pack in plastic containers and let it sit overnight.

Next day, on a large platter, lay out the Romaine.  Place a scoop of the chicken salad in the middle and top with the peppers.  It tastes great and looks smashing.

Small Yogurt Parfaits

  • 1 large (32 oz) tub of Chobani Vanilla non fat Greek Yogurt
  • 2 tubs of Cool Whip Free
  • 1/2 jar of Smuckers Low Sugar Raspberry Preserves
  • Fresh raspberries

Combine the yogurt, cool whip and preserves.  Using the largest Wilton tip you have and a pastry bag, pipe the parfaits into small serving glasses.  Refrigerate overnight.  An hour before serving, add the raspberries.

Champagne Punch

  • Champagne
  • Bottled Raspberry lemonade

Combine and chill.

Best Loved Sugar Cookie Recipe

2014 baby shower 13To all my readers, friends and coworkers whom have asked for the sugar cookie recipe or for me to help them with making the cookies.  I’m writing this for you.  This is the recipe that my sister-in-law Sue Abraham gave me years ago and has been a family favorite for years.  The cookies seem to have become a real favorite here where I live too.

Just recently I made them for a baby shower for the young lady whom is the owner of the gym I belong to.  My BFF Lynne Grunthaner and I have LOTS of cookie cutters and we end up using each other’s when we can’t find an appropriate one in our stashes.  Currently Lynne has the great baby shower cutters.

This time around I used my recipe for the icing but I used Wilton’s royal icing mix for the detail work.  It really did work out well as you can see with the detail on the bottles and carriages.  I’ve tried their recipe and I have never liked it.  I DO, however, like their mix.  I had lots of help with the icing of these from my other friends from the gym, Donna and Dana.  Truly, the help was needed to keep me from eating them.  Donna likes to use a Taser when we get out of line.

2014 Baby shower cookies2

2014 Baby shower cookies12014 baby shower cookies3I personally don’t like to sell the cookies because they have real egg whites in the icing.  Plus, it takes a very long time to make them.  I make the dough one day, bake them the next, ice them the next and if it needs further detail that’s more time.  I do it like this because it doesn’t make me feel rushed and I’m not standing on my feet for that long.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 ½ cups softened butter
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 extra large egg, room temperature
  • 1 T. Mexican vanilla
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ t. kosher salt

In your mixer using your flat beater, cream the butter and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla, then flour and salt until well blended.  Divide the dough and place each between 2 sheets of wax paper.  Flatten to ¾” thick rounds.  Cover and refrigerate AT LEAST one hour or longer.  (It’ll stay a few days in the fridge or freezer.)

Preheat your oven to 350°.  On a floured silpat, roll out the dough between 1/8” to ¼”.  Cut out your cookie.  Using the thin long spatula, place the cutout cookie on an ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake at 350° for 8 minutes, turn the pan and bake for 1 to 2 more minutes.  If the cookies are thick it may take 12 minutes to bake.  Remove when done and immediately move the cookies to a cooling rack using a wide spatula (saves the cookies from drooping).  Protect whatever surface you’ll be using to place your cookies on by placing a protective mat under freezer paper.


  • 2 T. softened butter
  • 2 extra large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 t. Mexican vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cups of confectioners sugar

In your mixer using your wire whisk, beat ¼ cup of powdered sugar with the 2 Tablespoons of butter. Add the next half cup of sugar.  Add the egg white, salt and vanilla being sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and mix well.  Add the remaining sugar.  You may need to add 1 to 2 Tablespoons of water or half and half to get the consistency you need for your decorating kit bottles.

Cookies need at least 6 hours to dry (I usually let them dry over night).  Pack a layer at a time using wax paper or parchment paper between layers.  You can give as gifts, make a cookie tree, use cellophane bags, or place on a platter displaying your hours of love.

They’ve returned – The Great American Quilt Part V

In conversations I overheard at the Algonquin Quilters Guild meeting regarding the return of the Great American Quilt blocks, I understood that this was the very first time that we may have had 90% returned so quickly. Our members have been very excited over this quilt and anxiously can’t wait to see the results.

2014 GAQ pt5 42014 GAQ Pt5 1Sue Stanek lays them out on the floor where she placed a queen sized sheet. Using her pattern lays them out so we can see what it looks like. You’ll be able to see that approximately 10 blocks may not have been turned in. The entire center will be sewn by the weekend by Sue so she can look it over with other members at the Saturday Quilting Bee being held at the Algonquin Library Eastside extension.

When you see this in person you see it in 3d and when you see it in a photo it looks as if the seams are already created. It’s a very helpful tool to view the quilt in a photo.

2014 GAQ pt5 7Our meeting was also graced by Yvonne’s Honor Quilt. Holy smokes it’s gorgeous. It was a block of the month though an online store. It took her three years to complete. Really stunning in person.

2014 GAQ pt5 9Our program for the evening was what to do with all those scraps we have sitting around the sewing room.  Susie Fox, owner of the Material Girl in Crystal Lake, came to talk about what you can do with SCRAPS. We have a lot of them if you make quilts. She told us how to store them, what to do if they are a certain size, how to separate colors, and showed us quilts and other things that were made from scraps.  To many of us it helps us to be inspired to separate, re-imagine storage, possible opportunities to make other quilts from all these lovely piles of scraps.

2014 GAQ pt5 82014 GAQ pt5 10



Beauty in the Making – Great American Quilt Part 4

Great American Quilt patternRemember this?

Well we’re starting to see the fruits of our labors.  It’s been three weeks since we were introduced to the red and white blocks that were given to the Algonquin Quilt Guild members.  Every third Saturday members meet at the Algonquin east side Library extension for a “sewing bee” to complete projects or in this case if anyone needed assistance on their blocks.  They also meet to discuss color selection on their projects, or new patterns, or anything related to husbands.  Saturday’s session was an introduction and audition of borders for the Great American Quilt.

Sue Stanek needs a gold medal for all the work she has done on the quilt.  (She has completed 9 blocks.)  She’s simply amazing in her precise techniques.  Every point lines up perfectly.  To the untrained eye you would not even recognize the work that goes into the sewing.   It’s all about the points my friends.

What you see here is the “layout” of the blocks.  In a photo you can see the melding of the blocks better than in person.  In person you see it in 3D, where as a photo blends lines so it looks like the blocks have been sewn together.

2014 GAQpt4 1 2014 GAQpt4 2

Unlike in the past, quilters had to use their instincts.  We had so many years of experience in the room to help make boarder color decisions and I believe it may have been the first time photos were taken to help make color decisions.  A photo makes auditioning borders much easier to do.  We went through many variations of what do.

The outside border is gorgeous.  We love how that looks but we also felt there needed to be an inner boarder to give it a rich depth.  You can see by our auditioning what each border adds to the quilt.   On the left we auditioned just a 2 1/2 inch background boarder.  It extends the background but doesn’t do anything “extra” for the quilt character.  The right photo we rolled the boarder over to add more red to the look but we felt that cutting this precisely and sewing it would be a huge challenge.

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I kept taking pictures so we could go back and forth to see what the differences were.

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On the right we auditioned a 2 1/2 inch red border with a very slight print.  Boy, doesn’t that make a difference?  Then we tried a very rich looking fabric, which gives the quilt a different look but would that really work for the person whom would like to own this quilt?  These borders really make an individual statement in the character of the quilt.  I know that sounds like gobbledygook but you can visually see the difference.  So what’s it going to look like when you go around the corner?

2014 GAQpt4 122014 GAQpt4 11

Each definitely has a charm.  Left or right?  What would you choose?  We have 60 plus blocks to finish.  This coming Thursday all the blocks are to be returned.

A lot of work goes into the beauty you see here.  We hope you’ll help us by purchasing a raffle ticket down the road.  Our hope is that the quilt will be completed by June or a little before.  The proceeds go to the guild for projects and the operations of the guild.  Our charity work that we do is making baby blankets for the NICU unit at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.  Our members visited the unit and were overwhelmed by seeing their blankets being used for the babies.  This past year we donated 30 something blankets.  You can believe that each blanket has about 15 plus or minus hours in the making of the baby blanket.  What a wonderful gift for such precious babies.

Oh P.S. members were also working on other things such as the projects below.  One is a runner and the other is hand work for a quilt.  All by hand.

#5.  They’ve returned.

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Weakness Leaving the Body

2014 WeaknessWe, and I presumptuously speak to the collective universe, just take things for granted.  One of them is our loss of strength because we really don’t recognize it until it’s a little late.  I’m one of those folks.  My actualization came when I was doing my PT exercises at the end of my routine and I was watching a “30 something” lady working with her trainer.  She was new and you could see how difficult some of the exercises were for her BUT she persevered and conquered the workout.  In my mind I thought she’s so young to be struggling with strength issues.

I was really geeked watching the back stories of the Olympians and their training routines.  WOW………………………….  No I’ll never jump onto a 50 inch box, but I was in awe of the young woman that did.  I’m currently working on stepping up on the “step” we have in the gym.  I’m showing you Ted Ligety’s off season training (click his name).  He’s just amazing.  He talks about sports science and how it helps with his sport.

I digress.  Back to it.

By strength issues, it’s not about weights because many of the trainers use your own body to do squats, burpees, push-ups, and they fit the “toys” in here and there to help you.  Strength in my mind, and I believe in others, is the life-sized video in our minds of us at 20 something where we did it all and looked great doing it.

At 59 I do lament the inability to do certain things but I have to keep working at it.  One of my favorite authors, Dr. Miriam Nelson, writes exclusively about an epidemic of weakness in her book Strong Women Stay Slim”.

“What’s happening to our strength?  I’ve already explained that many women lose muscle when they diet.  An inactive lifestyle also plays a role “use it or lose it” definitely applies to muscles.  Even more pervasive is the shift in body composition that begins in midlife.  Starting around age 40 we typically lose muscle mass at the rate of about a third of a pound a year, and we gain that much body fat or more.  If nothing is done to prevent it, by age 80 we’ll have only a third of the muscle we had at age 40.  This change, called Sarcopenia, is one of the chief reasons for frailty and loss of vitality later in life.” (38)

Dr. Nelson points out the reasons to start strength training – it can be full body weight or the addition of light weights.  (45-49)

  • Exercise Turns Back the Clock
  • Exercise Fights Disease and Disability
    • Cardiovascular Disease
    • Diabetes
    • Cancer
    • Arthritis and Joint Problems
    • Osteoporosis
    • Active Women are Happier
      • Being Active Makes Women Feel better About Themselves
      • Fitness Fights Depression
      • Physical Activity Reduces Anxiety and Stress
      • Exercise is Better than a Sleeping Pill

I really encourage you to pick up her books.  The one I’m quoting from today is titled, “Strong Women Stay Slim”, published by Bantam.  She has a website that can provide information but the books are really what will help you to be knowledgeable and perhaps inspire you to get moving.  Her information is data driven and opens your eyes into what’s happening to you as you age.


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