• Happy Halloween!

    Virtual Halloween Costumes created using Adobe Photoshop

    During the past few years I have made very elaborate Halloween costumes for our three dogs. In 2019, our groomer wanted to turn Topper into a unicorn. She decorated Daisy as a rainbow, and I resurrected my rainbow costume I had made nearly 40 years ago.

    In 2020 we adopted our third dog, Bear, and I was inspired to turn the dogs (and willing family participants) into Care Bears. My groomer also helped by painting the dogs and making the headpieces.

    In 2021 I continued the Bear theme, this time recreating Winnie the Pooh (our nickname for Bear is actually Pooh Bear). I used a combination of store bought and hand made costumes. As you can see, no one (but me) looked too happy in costumes.

    Halloween 2019 was a rain-out and there were no trick-or-treaters in 2020 and 2021 due to the Pandemic. Furthermore, most of the neighborhood kids have moved out or left for college. So this year, I decided to skip the hassle of dressing the dogs and posing for pictures by creating virtual costumes to post on Instagram, Facebook, etc.

    Over the summer I had completed an online Photoshop class offered by ed2go.com through my local community college. I basically wanted to learn how to make composites for my blog, but the 12-lesson course was very comprehensive and I enjoyed learning a variety of techniques, such as digital painting and photo restoration. I particularly enjoyed digital painting, so I thought I would incorporate this technique into my Halloween costume design.

    Our final assignment was to create a portfolio with a sampling of the projects we completed during the class, as well as any of our own work. My portfolio is available at https://behance.net/kingontrack.

    During my online class, I learned about a website called Pixabay.com to search for free images (see note below). I searched “Halloween background” and downloaded the pumpkin image. I also searched on “haunted forest” for additional background ideas. Which background do you prefer?

    For instructions click here.

  • The Blog is Back!

    After taking a break from blogging about our adventures (and misadventures) with our 2015 Roadtrek E-trek, I decided to reinvent my blog with a focus on my other interests, which include sewing, quilting, and scrapbooking,  I have included the old blog posts, since RV travel remains very popular (although not for us)  and people may still be looking for information about the E-trek. According to RV Lifestyle, there will be a huge demand for used RVs in 2021.

    Although it has been four years since we sold our E-trek, we still keep up with the latest Class B Motorhome offerings. In 2020 we adopted a third dog, Bear, and we still have our “Etrek Dogs,” Topper and Daisy, who were featured in The Etrek Blog.

    Daisy, Topper, and Bear

    During the Pandemic I rediscovered my love of sewing and purchased a new Janome sewing machine. After making a supply of masks, I moved on to various custom items, such as a car seat organizer for my husband’s car.  I modified the seat covers we had purchased for our E-trek with pockets on the front to hold cell phones, masks, and sunglasses, as well as a hanging organizer for the dogs’ accessories. Eventually I hope to offer some of my custom-made items for sale and add them to my Etsy store.

  • September Milestones

    September was a bittersweet month. The Queen’s passing on September 8th hit me hard. I had a renewed interest in British history due to watching both “The Crown” and “Downton Abbey” earlier this year. I had also recently discovered a black & white photo of the Queen my (late) mother had saved from when she had seen the Queen during her United States tour in 1957. I was looking for old black & white photos to colorize as part of a Photoshop assignment.

    I’m not sure why the Queen’s death was so personally upsetting. Perhaps it’s because I know that there will never be another Queen in my lifetime. She represented nearly a century of history, meeting with Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss two days before she died. She witnessed so much history and it seemed like she would always be there. Just like that, she was gone.

    I had just finished watching the Royal Funeral, when I learned that one of my dearest childhood friends had lost her mother, who was also 96. The funeral was local, so I was able to attend. Before the end of the month yet another dear childhood friend lost her 95 year-old mother. I felt like the world had lost three queens. I had known these women since I was about twelve, they were devoted to both family and God. Like Queen Elizabeth II, they were strong, steadfast, and always proper ladies. I always enjoyed spending time in their homes.

    Fortunately, I could also happily celebrate my Mother-in-Law’s 90th Birthday. I made her two quilts to commemorate the occasion. I also made a quilt for a good friend using beautiful fabric designed by the artist Abraham Hunter.

  • A Year of Vests

    In Spring 2021 I started making fisherman-style vests. I had read that they were becoming popular as tech vests. After looking online for one to buy, I decided that I would have better luck making one to my husband’s specifications. Working from home since March 2020, he needed to keep two cell phones, ear buds, glasses, and dog supplies handy at all times.

    I purchased a pattern from an Etsy store and made my first vest using leftover brown gabardine fabric from the “Jon Snow” cape I made for Halloween 2017. The pattern called for one upper pocket; however, I added a second since my husband has two cell phones. The vest was completed in time for his March birthday.

    For my next vest, I used this great Camouflage twill I purchased at my favorite fabric store in Gettysburg, The Needle & Eye. This vest was completed in time for Memorial Day. I made larger upper pockets and added D-rings to the upper pockets and lobster claw clasps to the lower pockets.

    My third vest was for Father’s Day. I had planned to make a two-tone vest (Style D) pictured on the pattern cover. I had purchased burgundy and gold twill, along with cute football buttons, but apparently my husband thought that was a bit much.

    Unfortunately, I was lacking enough of either color to make a complete vest. However, my husband had a bright idea: use one of the fabrics as the lining. Although I had to make the shorter length vest (Style B), his idea inspired me to learn how to create a fully lined vest (the pattern had “facings” around the neck and armholes). I found this tutorial for making a lining. The lining made it much easier to add inner pockets, since I didn’t have to worry about seeing the stitching from the other side.

    After trying out the new vests, my husband had a few suggestions. Add inner pockets for his phones, and attach the D-rings higher for his Apple AirPods and Samsung EarBuds. He also wanted one of the upper pockets replaced with a pouch that could be used for his glasses. I also experimented with different types of snaps and buttons on the pockets.

    So now that he was finally happy with a vest, I had to disassemble the previous two and add a lining and the additional pockets. I later retrofit a lining, made more elaborate inner pockets, and modified the original outer pockets. By the fall, I had modified the original three vests, as well as two more I made over the summer.

    For the summer vests, I had switched to lightweight cotton/polyester blend broadcloth. I made a “Timber” Camouflage and Orange Bicycle Safety Vest. By this time I was lining all of the vests. I added interfacing to the pockets and vest front to give the lightweight broadcloth more body.

    With the holidays approaching, I wanted to make some vests as gifts. I made a royal blue broadcloth, lined with tan and green twill lined with camouflage nylon ripstop. I was also adding button tabs to hold the D-rings. So I had to do one more round of modifications on the original three vests to remove the old magnets and replace them with the new style. I made a railroad denim vest to sell on Etsy.

    This year I made several denim vests, a second bicycle safety vest in red, as well as a pool side vest out of a tropical-theme broadcloth and lined with terry cloth. I also made a second blue & tan vest for my husband. The specs for all of my vest can be viewed in my portfolio. My bicycle safety vest was recently featured on Instructables.com.

  • Happy 10th Birthday, Topper!

    A Memory Quilt for Topper

    On February 6th, Topper celebrated his 10th birthday. I had decided a while back that it would be fun to make him a quilt out of his many grooming bandanas. 10 years x 6 grooms per year meant I had plenty to choose from, especially with extras from Bear and Daisy.

    I decided on a red, white, and blue theme, since I had leftover blue fabric from another quilt project. For the backing, I used his ”baby blanket,” that was packed with him in his pee-pee crate that he arrived in.

    After researching patterns, I decided the pinwheel block would be the best, since it uses “half-square triangles.” For the complete details on this project, please visit the Instructable I posted in February. I was so proud of my quilt that I entered it in the “Scraps Speed Challenge” contest. I did not win, but my project was ”featured,” so that’s something!

    Topper’s quilt was finished in time for his birthday party! We displayed it on the table with his gifts and bone-shaped cake. His grooming was actually a few days later, so I had to take more pictures with his fresh haircut. His groomer loved the quilt!

    Topper’s actual birthday, before groom
    Handsome Topper after his groom!

    I recently completed a second pinwheel quilt, pictured in my The Blog is Back! post.

    Bear, Daisy, and Topper, freshly groomed, enjoying their new quilt

    I have more pinwheel quilts planned for the future—with three dogs getting groomed every 6 or so weeks, there definitely no shortage of bandanas!

  • Bearly Quilts

    For many years I had wanted to make a Memory Quilt, an idea I saw on one of our favorite sitcoms, “Rules of Engagement” in an episode titled “Jeff’s Wooby” from Season 1, (air date 3/19/2007). About ten years ago, I recruited my mother-in-law, who is a very talented quilter, to make one for my son. We went together to the local quilt shop, and discovered a book called “You Did What With my T-Shirts,” available at Amazon. I had already put aside a bunch of my son’s t-shirts from sports and various middle school events; we had a great time selecting fabric to coordinate with all of the bright colors.

    A few months later she made him a second memory quilt with t-shirts collected from Grades 1-6.

    For our 25th Anniversary I requested a third memory quilt, containing t-shirts from 25 years of vacations. I shipped her all of the t-shirts and fabric.

    A few years ago I decided it was time for me to try one myself, so she sent me the book and I finally started working on my first memory quilt in late 2020.

    Last year I completed two Memory Quilts, one for for my son and one for me. I used the same template for both, and some of the same t-shirts. For the backing on my son’s quilt, I incorporated his Robotics Team 303 stadium blanket.

    Daisy, Topper, and Bear enjoying the new quilt

    Quilting is very challenging, but I enjoy it. I still consider myself a beginner, but eventually I hope to offer custom quilts at my Etsy store. I have reserved the domain “Bearly Quilts” for that purpose. I created Bearly Quilts to focus on my craft items, which include quilts, vests, cross-stitch, and scrapbooks. Bearly Quilts is inspired by our newest dog, Bear. We rescued her in 2020 and she has been a wonderful addition to the family. She loves to keep me company during my quilting projects!

    Bear sits on my lap as I finish binding the quilt!
  • Legomania!

    Last year we renewed out love of Legos. We were trying to think of some “fun” gifts for our then 25 year-old son, and remembered how much he loved Legos as a child and teen. He loved his sets so much that he had them displayed in his apartment as decorations. So I started collecting my own Legos last year, and now have all of my Valentine, Easter, and Flower Legos on display.

    Lego Flowers, Valentine, and Botanicals look beautiful on my piano and music cabinet!
    Lego Tulips completed my Easter display!
  • First Etsy Shop Item

    Last year I started making fisherman-style vests customized for tech, glasses, and other supplies. In 2021 I completed ten vests, six for my husband, three as gifts, and one currently for sale at my Etsy store (the Railroad Denim Vest pictured below).

  • Custom Cushion Covers Repurposed

    Before selling the E-trek I had removed the custom covers I made to protect the leather from the dogs. They had just been sitting in a drawer and I thought there was enough fabric to make something else.

    I had recently made a chair cover for my husband’s favorite leather chair, using the following instructions. I recommend downloading the PDF from post #14. This same post contains a link for instructions for binding a quilt, which will be used in a later step. I have referred to these instructions numerous times when making a quilt.

    Walking Dead Chair Cover
    Topper’s favorite chair too!

    We had recently purchased a set of leather chairs for our family room, so I thought I could turn the cushion covers into chair covers. First I disassembled the cushion covers (e.g., ripped seems and removed zippers) to see if it would be enough.

    Just the right amount of fabric!
    I love it when I can reuse or repurpose something from another project!

    I had to combine parts of the large cushion covers and the skinny cushion covers, but it worked!

    Following the is original article from 2015:

    How to make custom zippered covers for leather cushions as seen in my post THE LONG COLD WINTER PART I

    I downloaded instructions from the Internet and found this link very helpful. http://homeguides.sfgate.com/make-zippered-cushion-covers-sides-75006.html

    I recommend drawing the cushions on graph paper to calculate fabric needs. Remember, measure twice, cut once! I think I measured three or four times. If you are making more than one cushion, which you probably are, I recommend cutting fabric for only one cushion, make it to completion; then make sure it fits and see if you need to make any adjustments. I learned this the hard way…

    I did have to make a modification. Since the leather cushions in the Etrek were so firm, I could not squeeze it in the zippered opening, and I ended up tearing the fabric trying to force it in. The zipper needed to extend beyond the width of the cushion. I realized this after making the first cushion, and although I had already cut the fabric for all four cushions, I fortunately had just enough fabric leftover to make the adjustment. So for side which the zippered edge, I needed to cut the fabric about 10 inches longer. Fortunately I had purchased zipper on a roll, which I had not cut yet, so I could make the zippers longer too. I simply folded the side pieces down and overlapped over the zipper which gives it a nice finished look. (see picture).

    www.Fabric.com has a great selection and they ship promptly. I also ordered some of my dog-theme fabric from a website called www.HotDiggityDog.com. The total cost for the fabric and zippers was about $80.
    Visit Marjorie’s profile on Pinterest.//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js

  • Sellers’ Remorse

    Although we were relieved to have sold our E-trek in February when there was still snow on the ground, we have definitely missed our E-trek over the past few months, especially now, since many of our most successful trips were in the fall: visiting our son at college in Boston, Hershey RV show, and Halloween (Antietam).

    After our son left for Boston at the end of August, we found ourselves watching various walkthrough videos on YouTube and we focused on the new Hymer Aktiv, which had several items on our RV feature wish-list, most notably, the cassette toilet. Although the toilet got mixed reviews from various users, we were intrigued enough to drive out to a Pennsylvania RV dealer and take a look.

    The Pros

    The Hymer Aktiv had some of the features we liked about the E-trek (e.g., largely electric (propane was only needed for the stove-top and furnace), sleek design. What we liked better about the Hymer was the sleeping accommodations: murphy-style bed (flip down) that allowed for a center aisle which offered an alternate storage area and was accessible from the rear doors. Furthermore, the center aisle would allow us to exit through the rear doors, so we could park our vehicle “legally” between the side of the house and retaining wall (about 8 feet, so no room to exit from the side of the vehicle).

    We also liked the dining configuration–no requirement to store a heavy pedestal table and leg. The drop-leaf table had three positions: stored down, open halfway, and fully open to allow more surface space. It could be used by both the driver and those seated in the second-row bench seat. Daisy and I rode in the second row for the test drive and I liked the visibility since the bench seat was on a platform so I could see out the front and side windows. We also liked the number of USB ports found throughout the chassis and coach.

    The Cons

    The Hymer Aktiv comes with a spare tire mounted on the rear; however, the heavy tire mount must be lowered to open the left-hand door. We noticed on other models the spare tire could easily be swung out of the way. Also, the spare tire would interfere with our bicycle rack so we would need to use a hitch extender to provide clearance. We prefer the shorter (20-foot) chassis, but with the extension and bicycle rack, we would be right back at the 24-foot length of the E-trek.

    The Dodge Promaster chassis does not have many driver safety features, such as blind spot detection and parking assist. Considering that these vehicles are meant to be driven many miles on highways; we are amazed that they are equipped with few of the safety features available on most automobiles on the market today. We have already researched the price for aftermarket blind spot detection from a local retailer who added Bluetooth to our 10-year old Honda Ridgeline earlier this year.

    We were also disappointed to learn the Aktiv does not come with Apple CarPlay–it comes with a Sony XAV-602BT system that apparently some Hymer owners have actually replaced it with the OEM system that usually comes on the Dodge Promaster chassis. It is possible to upgrade to Apple CarPlay according to CamperVanGuy on YouTube; however, it’s very disappointing that Hymer went through the trouble of replacing the audio system and chose one that was perhaps worse than the OEM and definitely not Apple CarPlay. RV manufacturers often seem to focus on cosmetic features (such as upgraded Alcoa wheels) rather than functionality and convenience.

    The bathroom was very small, although we liked the sliding door better than the heavy wooden doors on the E-trek bathroom which were always in the way and difficult to close (i.e., lean on the door in order to lower pin). The gasoline engine did not seem to have as much pickup as the diesel on the E-trek, but it did provide a comfortable ride. Karl also missed the overhead storage in the chassis where he used to stow his phone, etc.

    We have also learned that some newer Winnebago models allow for winter camping, with heated drainage systems and indoor fresh water tanks. However, these models rely on propane generators and we still lean towards the electric, despite all of the problems we had with the E-trek, we still believe in the technology. There is always a trade-off.

    On the Fence

    We agreed on a price and were close to a deal; however, after sleeping on it (or rather, not sleeping on it), we decided against the purchase at this time. We don’t want to repeat our mistake with the E-trek (i.e., something about the definition of insanity); however, we still can make a case that we would enjoy having an RV again, especially one that has some additional features we wanted. We may drive out to the Hershey RV show this weekend just to see all of the new offerings in person.