Anyone seen my missing blog?

According to the email I got from WordPress this morning, I haven’t updated my blog in ten months…which is right when I did my first Whole 30.  Well, let’s be honest – my only Whole 30.  I haven’t exactly been a poster child for healthy lifestyle this year.  Or the back half of last year, if I’m really being honest.  The fun thing about me is you can judge my stress level and coping with said stress by the size of my ass.  (Spoiler alert – bigger than ever.  EVER ever.  Like bigger than any time I’ve talked to producers of weight loss reality shows.  All three times.  Bigger than the current contents of my closet…thank God it’s summer and I can throw a dress on these hips.  The no waistband Sundays from the summer of 2009 are my coping mechanism on the daily.

So the question is…how did my ass get so big?  And why did I stop writing my blog?

Well – a bunch of things.  The most reasonable excuse is that I was job searching, and blathering on about my weight, depression and quilting didn’t really seem like the best thing to put out there when I wanted someone to hire me.  I’ve been employed for a little over six months now, and while job security is iffy at best, the writing is cathartic and I’m going back after it anyway.

(Fingers crossed I hit the jackpot tonight…$330M cash leaves lots of blogging and quilting time.)

The second reason is that I totally lost my mojo…in everything.  I started this blog to chronicle all of the visits to allergists, hematologists, gastroenterologists and other fun specialists to figure out what the heck was going on with my insides.  I was kicking ass, taking names and had banished all of the food that were hurting me.  Sure, I couldn’t heal everything with lifestyle change – my sparse yet chunky platelets are a great indicator of that – but there was a lot that I was doing right.

And then life happened, and writing, clean eating, etc. all seemed to get away from me.  And I felt like a big, fat failure.

I was failing in my career, failing at my weight, failing at finding a house, failing in romantic relationships, failing at my diet, failing at everything.  Fail, fail, fail.  My therapist says I’m too hard on myself.  She’s a doll.

I’m still seeing her 2-3 a month (have been for about a year,) and she’s encouraged me to pick my writing back up.  She said I didn’t have to publish it, but I figure there’s nothing wrong with putting things out there.  Maybe someone else struggles with the same things I do, and they’ll find some words of encouragement.  Or maybe it’ll help knowing someone else is going through the same thing.

Something I touched on in my blogs last year is depression, and how much I struggle with it.  I put on one hell of a game face, normally, but some days its just beyond me.  And even then I’m only good for a few hours, and then I have to burrow in at home for a while.  I think depression is what makes me an introverted extrovert.  I have such a great time meeting other people and talking to them, but then I’m just exhausted after.  The kicker about depression is that you feel so alone, even when you’re surrounded by people.  And while I know deep down I’m loved by family, friends, and even people who don’t know me that well, it’s hard to shake out of that cloud.  The past couple of weeks have been particularly challenging, with great highs (Stitchfest!) and dark lows (work/house/boys/etc.)  I told my therapist I just feel like I’m on this horrible roller coaster, and I’m exhausted.  I’m just so done and I want the ride to stop, already.

One bright spot in this past 18 months has been quilting.  It truly took me by surprise, and I’m thankful for both the craft and the people I’ve met through it every single day.  If I’m bummed out about my lack of success at work, I can look at some of the beautiful things I’ve created and remember that I did it – I accomplished something with hard work, perseverance and asking for help when I needed it.  If I hit a roadblock, I found a way to work around it and make it my own.  If only it came so easily in a gray cubicle!

I had a great opportunity to be a spotlight speaker for my local modern quilt guild, and I truly enjoyed the process of pulling together my journey into sewing, especially pictures of things my mom did when I was a kid.  And all of the Halloween costumes she’s created over the years!  (Pam is a Halloween rock star.)  I took to quilting like a duck to water, and I think it was because I was able to create something with my own two hands and see a finished result.  Sometimes at work you put hours of thought and consideration into a project, and then it never goes anywhere.  So while a quilt might not ever leave a cabinet, I still made it, and can touch and feel it.  It’s hard to explain what it’s done for me.

One of the things I left out of my quilting journey (because I knew I wouldn’t be able to share it with the room without crying) is how it came at just the right time.  I was at a really low spot when I took my first class at Urban Spools, and it gave me some purpose.   I really do think quilting saved me, and I have a lot of faith that it’ll play a big part of shooing away the dark cloud that’s over my head again these days.  I still have a hard time letting people in when I’m having a hard time, choosing to just spend quiet time at home by myself, but I’m opening up.  One of these days I’ll learn that people will still love me when I’m having a bad day, and it’s okay that I’m not always there with a smile on my face and a joke ready to tell.

I think like most women, we just put the mask on and power through when times get tough.  I don’t think I’m unique in this way, and I think social media does a lot to perpetuate that cycle.  No one likes a vague-booker or someone who whines about their life drama, and yet so many conversations are held through this medium, that we forget how to actually talk to someone in good times and bad.  At least I forget.  Everything is in bite size snippets.

It’s not like I’ve ever been great at sharing the lows, but I know I’ve gotten even worse in my old (er) age.  So as I journey through this last year of my 30’s, I’m going to strive to find some balance.  To get off the roller coaster.  To talk to my friends and family in good times and in bad.  At least I’m going to give it a good try 🙂  And maybe blogging will help.

Cheers,

Christina

 

 

Cotton + Steel’s Good Fortune Quilt Progress

Okay everyone, I feel like I’m on a good flow with quilting.  Finally, my head is back in the game!  Maybe I’m getting inspired by creating craft rooms in every house I tour, or maybe it’s just playing with fabric.  I can easily see myself becoming a fabric hoarder just like my momma.

Taking the Disappearing Four Patch class last week with Miss Ashley really helped me get a feel for working with fabric that isn’t backed with paper, but I have to admit I really just love paper piecing.  It’s math in a quilt form, and makes my little calculator brain so happy.  I’m sure once I keep working with traditional quilting methods, I’ll be just as pleased, though.  I keep scouring for classes to take across the metroplex, because I really enjoy sewing with other people and hearing about other projects too.  It’s a solid community for sure, and I’ve already met some lovely people.

I wish I had been able to take advantage of these Dallas snow days to whip out all sorts of blocks, but the joy of technology is that you carry you laptop with you and still get to work 🙂  I did squeeze in some things during lunch breaks and evenings, though.

I started working on a paper piecing kit I picked up at Urban Spools a few months ago, and I love it so far!  They actually still have a few still available, so just click right here to check it out.  The pieces are large enough that the copies are made on 11×17 paper and the fabrics are beautiful.  I hit a good flow cutting everything out and it’s coming together nicely.

Cotton + Steel has quickly become one of my favorite fabric companies, and I love their modern and fresh take.  They have a group of designers that also collaborate together, and it’s some pretty cool product.  This particular group is designed by Rashida Coleman-Hale, and you know I love the bright colors and hits of metallics.  PIIIIIIINK!

The cutting process was actually pretty easy, and the fabric is VERY generous.  I didn’t even mind ironing.  Generous cuts and plenty of scraps is one of the fun things paper piecing, and this would be a good first project for anyone.  I have oodles of scraps right now to stash for future projects, or maybe a coordinate throw pillow or two.

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Look how big these blocks are!  Just four pieces of fabric on each large piece, and then joining the two halves together.  Easy as pie.  You can see my big stack of coordinate fabrics piled up too.  I’m definitely keeping a copy of this pattern for other projects I’m thinking about – looks complicated, but allows you to show off great fabric and isn’t as challenging as it looks to pull together 🙂

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Did I say easy as pie?  It should have been, but I was super distracted the night I started this project and couldn’t line up pieces to save my life.  Ooops.  Thank goodness for seam rippers, but I will tell you, ripping out seams set at a 1.5 is a giant pain in the tush.  The beautiful thing about paper piecing is that your sharp angles line up perfectly, so if you aren’t getting that right, you’re missing the whole point.  Hey Christina, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG!

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I was able to course correct this week, though, and now I have two gorgeous blocks finished.  Only fourteen more to go!  I think it’s fourteen, anyway.  We’ll see.  I’d like this to be at least a queen size, so if I end up picking up a bit more fabric to enlarge it, life will go on!

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I noticed my pinks aren’t quite as sharp as the grey/aqua blocks, but short of ripped out the seams and rearranging, I think that’s just life.  I’ll tinker around with it this weekend and see how I feel.

I can’t find many pics of the completed project online, but here’s an idea on how it’ll look when I’m done!  Happy and cheerful, just like me 🙂  Thanks, Craftsy!

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Reality Checks

Ah, weekends. I had a great one, even with big old reality checks, level sets, priority checks and a boatload of sleet. Dallas, stop it. I’m being serious.

Remember when the fat envelope was a good thing? I was finally willing to walk down to the  freezing cold mail room to catch a few days of pile-up, and I had two big old envelopes from UT Southwestern. I assume kids today get an email or tweet or some other digital bullshit when they’re accepted to college, but we always looked for the fat envelopes. Skinny was a wait list or rejection for sure.

Well, these fat envelopes aren’t cool. Here’s my first reality check – the hematologist is at the oncology clinic.  Harold C. Simmons Cancer Clinic, to be exact. God that header is big.  HUGE!   I know cancer is a slim possibility with all this mess I have going on, but it’s still there. It’s almost like this letter is telling me, “Hey girl.  You probably do have Lupus. But at least it’s not cancer! Buck up, buttercup.”

And let’s be honest – we’re all hoping I’m in the 15% that have bad labs but nothing is wrong. Not having any reason my numbers are off is scary in its own way, because then there’s no treatment and all of the risk is still there, but I’ll deal with that when I have to deal with it. Inflammation is not a nice thing to have in your body, but again, it’s not cancer.  Even just thinking the word reminds me of the person I was once close to that died a couple years ago, and my heart just skips a beat.

I’m pretty good at shoving emotions aside and just using my head and logic to work things out, but I slip sometimes. I’ve joked that I’m emotionally dead inside, and honestly, sometimes it’s the best way to deal. If it isn’t going to hurt anyone else, fake it ’til you make it.  I enjoy a winning strategy.  So I’ll whine and freak out on my little online journal, and maybe some more to my mom, and otherwise I’m going to pretend it’s not happening until I have to. Most of the time I’m totally fine.

Happy, even.  There’s so much good stuff in my life right now, and I just need to count my blessings.

The second envelope is for the “Digestive and Liver Diseases Clinic.” You’d think my liver would be the issue if you’ve spent any bar time with me (just kidding mom! I say these things for humor!) but my liver is a-okay 🙂 I’m not even sweating this one anymore, even if shoving a tube down my throat to see why I throw up so much will probably just make me throw up.  Good grief. Sorry for the overshare, but it really is ridiculous. I’ve been good the past couple weeks, but I’ve been soooo careful and haven’t had much of an appetite anyway. Guess it helps.

Speaking of no appetite, though, I’ve been taking little chances here and there with my diet while I’ve been out and about this weekend. I know my blood reacts to gluten, dairy, soy, etc., which is why I stopped eating it. But I had some cheese and a couple bites of pita Friday  night, and the world didn’t end. I had some naan with my chicken tikka tandoori and masala sauce last night, and the world didn’t end. It did knock me the hell out though, holy smokes.  I slept for over ten hours last night!

I haven’t been sleeping well from all this stress, I guess, but that did the trick. Too bad I can’t take bread instead of a Tylenol PM. Reality check number two – bread isn’t worth the belly bloat and skin breakouts. I could feel my cheeks start to flush. Definitely not something I’m going to make a habit of, so don’t worry Mom!  I’ll get back to always carrying beef jerky and almonds if I get stuck somewhere without food I can eat. Fortunately I can eat the masala sauce without naan next time I’m craving Indian 🙂

Reality check three – I can eat my average of 1600-1800 calories a day, but throwing bread in the mix will put a pound of fat back on my ass. I actually only averaged 1400 calories the last couple days, and I still feel like I’ll have gained five pounds when I weigh myself in the morning. And I know I should have eaten more, especially since I worked out, but when you’re not hungry you’re not hungry.  And having six hour quilt classes really keeps you distracted 🙂

So this is me, casually freaking out. I quilt, I have cider, I break all the rules for a couple pieces of cheese and some naan.

Did I mention this was a great weekend? So fun going out Friday night, sleeping in, taking my quilt class, catching up with an old friend over takeout and a mani pedi today. The only thing that would have made it better would have been some sun. Please come back, sun. I miss you.

Here’s the quilt top from Saturday’s class – super cute “Playful” layer cake by Cotton + Steel in a disappearing four patch quilt class taught by one of the gals in my paper piecing class. I was so excited, and this will be a great piece for me to learn how to quilt on a bigger piece! More classes to take 🙂

Laying out the nine blocks so I can evenly distribute the prints.

Finished product!

And I’m Instagram famous! Wish I had put some lips on 🙂

Cheer!

When It Rains, It Pours…the Results are In.

Seriously, Dallas.  Cut it out.  I think my friend Jamie put it together best – “Only in Texas can it rain, sleet, snow, and the sun shine all within 10 hours.”  The city was shut down for two days, snowed more this morning, and by the time I left the office I was practically sweating in the 55 degree sunshine.

I wish the insane weather was my only complaint, though.  Unfortunately, the pouring rain I’m talking about comes in the form of the rest of my test results – they came in yesterday morning, and I’ve given myself a day and a half to let it all sink in.  My ana (autoimmune screening) came back positive, so now my just in case trip to the hematologist for low platelet count has become a you are definitely going to a hematologist and likely following it up with trip to a rheumatologist too.  What???

What does this even mean?  Well, here’s what my doc had to say courtesy of the rheumatologic association:  “The immune system makes an abundance of proteins called antibodies. Antibodies are made by white blood cells and they recognize and combat infectious organisms in the body. Sometimes these antibodies make a mistake, identifying normal, naturally-occurring proteins in our bodies as being “foreign” and dangerous. The antibodies that target “normal” proteins within the nucleus of a cell are called antinuclear antibodies (ANA). ANAs could signal the body to begin attacking itself which can lead to autoimmune diseases, including lupus, scleroderma, Sjögren’s syndrome, polymyositis/ dermatomyositis, mixed connective tissue disease, drug-induced lupus, and autoimmune hepatitis.”  Cancer gets thrown into the mix too, but I think that’s a very, very low possibility.

I know that’s a lot of big words in there, but I’m thinking best case scenario, my low platelet count, insanely high inflammatory levels and positive ana all likely have something to do with each other, and at least a hematologist and/or rheumatologist will help me sort it out.  And there’s a 15% chance it’s not a damn thing at all, just my body being an asshole for asshole’s sake.  Wouldn’t surprise me.

I spent the weekend being annoyed that finally taking doctors and allergies seriously didn’t have the healing powers I thought they would, and now this is dumped on me too.  I’m fine, honestly, because there’s nothing to worry about until there’s something to worry about, but it’s unsettling.  And to make it worse, I can’t get into a hematologist until March 31st, which means I get to spend a whole month feeling unsettled and jittery.  And that, my friends, sucks.  I don’t do this unsettled thing gracefully.

On the bright side, surely if it was critical I wouldn’t have to wait that long for an appointment.

As I told my parents tonight, it’s not like I’m going to all of a sudden order a pizza with extra cheese and a beer, because going BACK to gluten, dairy, soy, etc. would just make everything worse.  And the gastroenterologist I get to see mid-March for completely different issues would likely agree.  A GI scope, SO FUN!  I’ve been burning off nervous energy at the gym this week too…thank goodness there’s one in my building since the streets were iced over.  I’m just feeling jittery and awkward and blah.  I haven’t had an appetite all week either so maybe I’ll at least get to drop a few more pounds. (Bright side, I’m looking for you.  Hard.)

I started a new quilting project to take my mind of things, and WOO I haven’t had to redo this many stitches since I first started sewing.  My focus is more than a little off, so I’ve had to rip out a lot of seams.  The worst part is that I’m doing paper piecing, which means the stitches are tiny tiny tiny.  Ugh.  That’s the biggest reason it’s taken me two whole evenings to do just one block.  It’s a great block, though, and I absolutely adore these fabrics.

Here’s what it looks like to rip out stitches out of a small block, followed by what it looks like to rip out stitches out of an almost completed block.  Whoops.

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Maybe by the time this sucker gets done, I’ll have a guest bedroom to feature it!  It won’t be at the cow house, since that’s long gone, but I’m sure something else with three bedrooms and a pool will head my way in the next couple months.

I think that wraps things up for me now.  My body hates me and is attacking itself, no cow house, work is absolutely bananas and Dallas weather is insane.  Goodness.  And I’ve got the attention span of a gnat right now to boot, which doesn’t help any of the above.  Ack.

Hopefully I’ll have a better attitude in the morning, or at least by the weekend 🙂

Cheers,

C

Quilting Woes and Wins

I’ve made some truly beautiful blocks over the past few months, and I am going to keep reminding myself until quilting and sewing starts going my way again.

My bobbin woes started about a month ago during my Speed Quilting class. I’ve had my machine looked at and a bobbin tutorial, but they continue to load up bottom heavy. I’ve googled tips and tricks, but hopefully my Lucky Stars teacher and the awesome gals in the class will have some advice for me. (And since I drafted most of this post before class, I’m happy to report that they helped a bunch!)

In the meantime, can’t decide which of these suits me more:

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Seriously, though. Here is Monday’s bobbin and thread explosion. Ridiculous.

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To get myself back on track, here’s the plan:

1 – Box up Modern Building Blocks and give it to my momma. She’s trying to get a class going in Springfield and I’m just not ready yet.

2 – Enjoy my “Feathers” class in March. I bought some vivid Alison Glass fabric and I really like the instructor there too. It’s paper piecing, but a start to finish project so I’ll have a quick reward 🙂

3 – Find a non-paper piecing quilting class for advanced beginners . Most of what I’m finding right now is during the day in the middle of the week. I somehow don’t think I can take three hour lunches to quilt. Why I haven’t I won the lottery yet? Side note – I bought tickets and was not one of the Texas winners 😦 Also, the fabulous Ashley from my Lucky Stars class is teaching a four patch at the end of the month! So excited to take a class with her and now I just have to find some fabric.

4 – Keep plugging along on my jelly roll quilt when my machine allows it. It’s a lot of stripping, so just a couple hours at a time a couple nights a week will get it done by the end of the month.

5 – Keep doing my Lucky Stars. I have two sets of fabric going and 11 more blocks to finish between the two. Here’s the block I started on Tuesday night:

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6 – Start my awesome Cotton and Steel paper piecing kit if I get antsy and need a break from the stars. It’s gorgeous and the spring colors will put a smile on my face.

Sounds like I’ll have my hands full. I really love this hobby and want to keep it up, so I’ve got to find a way to keep it going and not bite off more than I can chew 🙂

Quilting

I haven’t had a chance to sew for a couple weeks now, and I really miss it! This quilting stuff is addictive. My stitches and tension had gotten out of control, and I am so happy I found a repair shop just down the road from my office. Mr. Sewing Machine on Harry Hines has fantastic service. $10 well spent for the time Antonio spent with me showing how I was jacking up my bobbin, and I shall never make the same mistake again. Turns out you can easily screw up a self loading bobbin. Oops.

I have done a ton of quilting stuff since my last post, so I thought I would give a little update. First, I finally hauled myself to Ikea in an attempt to bring order to my sewing area. I’m currently in a one bedroom apartment, and I have a little space carved out that started as a potential dining area. It’s now full of crafty fun. $65 and an Allen wrench bring a lot to the table, including my peace of mind. I can’t stand an unorganized space.

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Ah, order restored. It’s not a perfect solution, but I love that everything has a place. I’m just trying to block out how it wrecks my decor. As I look for my next place to live, I will make sure I have a place with a door so I can shut away the mess. If I go condo, that room might have to pull double duty for sewing and guests, but that’s why we have Murphy beds.

I’ve had great success with my Lucky Stars BOM, thanks to a group of great ladies and an awesome instructor, but I know I need to stretch my skills. I signed up for a speed quilting class, and I’ve been putting together a pretty pillow from my Christmas fabric stash. My machine crapped out in the middle of it, so even though it’s now back to rights, I’ve been working late and traveling and haven’t had a chance to finish. Here’s what we have so far:

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I’ve fussy cut the back to feature the polar bears in this fabric group and it’s going to be precious. I should have this finished up in the next couple of days and will post my finished project. The instructor for this class is a sweetheart too! Love that I’m meeting all these wonderful new people.

I also cut out an awesome jelly roll quilt. So excited to get it done! I have a handful of jelly rolls lying around because I love fabric, and it is well past time to get a project going. I’m still intimidated by regular quilting, because paper piecing seems so much simpler to me. I know I’ll improve with some hands on, so I’ve just got to get in there and get my hands dirty. This pattern is called “Wander Through the Woods” by Hope Nelson. Thanks, Craftsy! So much fun to cut out and I was extra thankful for my California king bed when it was time to lay out the fabric. Madness! Mom said it made her eyes hurt. I’m still figuring out the best way to shortcut sewing a diagonal line without marking every angle, but having a machine down gave me a lot of time to figure it out. I would love to get this top done by Valentine’s Day.

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For January’s BOM, I went back to the fabrics I used in my very first Lucky Stars class. By the time it’s said and done, I’ll have two quilts done in this pattern. The quirky red and green and a more traditional dots and Christmas prints. While it still has a modern twist, the vibe is a bit more classic than my crazy retro reindeer.

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Last but not least, I am finally starting my Modern Building Blocks quilt. This is a block of the month club (instead of a class) and I’m pretty intimidated, but I’m sure I will meet great peeps in this class too and hopefully pick up some tips along the way.

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Wrapping up this lovely little nap time in snowy Chicago! Katie and I are going to bundle up and walk over to a quilting shop in her neighborhood called The Needle Shop. Great reviews on Yelp and I’m always excited to get my hands on some great fabric.

Cheers

Adventures in Quilting

It occurred to me that I didn’t really have any hobbies.  Sure, I love to read and will read anything put in front of me (including fanfic.  That’s my dirty secret.  Surprise!) I love to travel, try new restaurants, try craft beer, local distilleries and I miss Washington wine like crazy.  I wish I could say that my hobby was working out, but it’s not.  That said, going to my friend Anna’s gym Equinox almost changed my mind there.

But I digress.  I needed a hobby.  I have a degree in fashion merchandising, a mom who is a wizard at home decor and sewing anything, and a fabulous new sewing machine.  Let’s get serious about quilting.  I haven’t done much in the last two years, but after watching Jason whip through some seriously amazing quilts this spring and summer, I found myself a class.

Urban Spools is a fantastic quilting shop just east of White Rock Lake on Buckner Blvd.  I took a refresher class for sewing and then tackled a paper piecing block of the month class.  I was a little intimidated, but I figured I was a confident beginner and I would be just fine.  I’ve taken to it like a duck to water!  I love it!  I’ve signed up for two more block of the month clubs and taking a speed quilting class as well.

I started with Moda’s 25th & Pine fabrics for my first star, then sought out all kinds of fabric from there.  I’ve set aside my first three stars and decided to go all in on Creative Tuesday’s precious holiday print.  Love those reindeer!

Star 1:

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Figuring out fabrics:

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All in with Creative Tuesday with a big assist from my Mom!  Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks for the win!

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My hands are busy and I’m actually making something! This quilt has 12 stars, but I’m probably going to add more so I can make it a larger size.  It’s also a great opportunity to re-do some of the stars I did early on that ended up being a little muddy.  So excited!!