Sunday, July 29, 2007

Congratulations to Tony Gwynn – the newest member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is refreshing to know that a man can be recognized with the highest honor of his profession having played his entire career for one team - The San Diego Padres. He didn’t play for the highest paycheck, he wasn’t plagued by scandal and innuendo. He played for the love of the game in the place he always called home. For this the fans and Tony have been richly rewarded.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sometimes in this life, a girl's just got to cut bait or fish. Boy do I hate to admit that. I have been hoping, wishing , dreaming, lamenting and generally going on and on for several years now about how I would like to preserve the abundance of summer fruits and vegetables for use later in the year. Sadly, no matter how much I talked about it - The Canning Fairy never made a stop at my house. Then the light bulb (again) went on over my head. I realized there is NO special skill required to freeze things. Remember all that fruit I bought? Two people couldn't possibly keep up with eating all of that before it spoiled.
So I grabbed cookie sheets and parchment paper and began slicing everything up. Single layers of fruit on a cookie sheet take no time at all to freeze. I then popped those frozen bits of goodness into freezer bags for later use. Today I went back to the store for another round.
2 boxes of nectarines.2 boxes of peaches.
And 6 pints of blueberries . . . chilling as we speak.
It is my habit to check the front porch whenever I have been away from the house to see if there are any packages there. (Even if I am not expecting something I recently ordered . . . you see the post office has failed to deliver a package that was mailed from the east coast for about 6 years now. Ever hopeful, I check every day to see if it has arrived. But I digress . . .)
Today I found this box from my favorite catalog - Lehman's Non Electric.
Inside was all of this - The Beginner's Home Canning Kit. My friends, I am going to make jam.
If you're looking for me this afternoon, I'll be out on the patio studying my book.
First I printed out all the comments, cut them apart , wadded them individually , dropped them in the jar, closed the lid and shook them up.When Hubby came home from work, I asked him to do the honors of drawing a winner. *drumroll*
The winner is Chris from Cats On My Quilts! *applause* Chris if you will send me a quick email with your snail mail address I'll get a little package off to you right away.
Let me just say one more time that I had the best Bloggiversary a girl could hope for and I'm looking forward many, many more.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wow - thanks for all the wonderful wishes on my one year bloggiversary. It has really been such fun for me and I 'm looking forward to more of the same in the coming years. I've printed out the names in the comment section and when Hubby arrives at home tonight we'll have the big drawing . . . the suspense mounts.
I wish I could share what I have been stitching on this week. But it's a secret. I signed up for a swap in a YahooGroup. My swap partner reads my blog - so I can't reveal what I'm working on just yet. Let's just say that after I took the whole piece apart and restitched, then removed an offensive, unattractive inner border and replaced it with something that looks much nicer - everything is coming together.
I can share this little treat that was delivered to my door last week. It's a box of wool roving in assorted colors - a 'beginner's box.' Lately I have wanted to try my hand at needle felting. The amounts of wool I would have to buy at my local shops seemed like such a commitment and I would have had precious little variety of color. I found this delicious kit online. The box included an assortment of different felting needle sizes, the foam for punching into, a bag of un-dyed wool for making sculptural pieces, and 34 different colors of roving.Don't they just look yummy all tucked into their little box? Almost too cute to use . . . almost.
Last night was my weekly quilt class - the last class until September. I had no intention of buying a thing. Drat that 'Weekly Sale.' The shop owner selects something in the store every week and discounts it. This week every brushed cotton in the shop is 25% off. You know I have never met a brushed cotton that I didn't like and a sale just spelled trouble.
Recently it came to my attention that the selection of oranges in my stash was woefully inadequate. I started out with about 4 others in my pile but culled down my purchase to these.
My stash is much happier today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Time sure flies when you are having fun.Today marks my one-year bloggiversary. I would have never imagined the world that was about to open up to me when I hit that 'Publish Post' button the very first time. Through the blogs I read, I have seen beautiful quilts, shared patterns and recipes. I've shared daily triumphs and tragedies, watched home improvements and renovations, seen children and grandchildren growing up, been amused by pets and their antics, and come along on vacations to places I might never have been. Through my blog, I hope I have shared some of the same from my little corner of the world. The friendships that have been made in the last year warm my heart - I'm still a simple girl, but I sure am a lucky girl.
Of course I want to join those who've gone before me and offer a little prize drawing to commemorate this day. Everyone who leaves a comment on this blog from now until my next post will have a chance to win a little something. In addition, I have joined Carol at Brown Quilts for the Pay It Forward Challenge. The first three who say they would like to join me in the comment section will receive something hand-made by me in the next 365 days (honestly you won't have to wait a year *s*) Then make the same offer on your blog to Pay It Forward to 3 others - Easy, Fun and Painless.
My first post, I closed with a picture of Harper and today I will do the same. I sure didn't know what I was getting myself into when entered the world of blogging . . . but I so glad that I did.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Watching The Food Network can sometimes be dangerous. Hubby and I watched an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown the other night. You could practically see the light bulbs go on over both of our heads . . . 'Well, now wouldn't that be fun.' So off to the store we went to fill our basket with all of this.And began measuring, grinding, pouring and mixing. What did we make?
Mustard! Our very own, home-made, delicious, spicy mustard. Granted it is probably the most expensive condiment ever to come into our kitchen. Even though we had some of the spices in our cupboard already, their age was questionable and we wanted all of our ingredients to be the freshest possible. Then there was the quick trip this morning to buy an immersion blender. (I have been wanting one for quite some time - today was as good a day as any.) We agree that we would definitely make more in the future. Hubby has already perused Melinda Lee's website for recipe variations.
Now that we have a jar full of mustard, the next question would be: What to use it on? Soft pretzels are an excellent vehicle for eating mustard. I have made these several times before with great success. Our twisting skill leaves a lot to be desired, but the taste is there every time.
Here they are before the second rising and poaching.
Fresh from the oven. This may have been the best lunch we've had all month.
Not much to share in the way of quilting. Hand quilting is slow going and you can only take so many updates. A couple of other projects are swirling around and will be ready to be revealed soon. Thanks to everyone who sent me their Desert Island 5 List. It's so difficult to narrow down to just 5. I saw lots of choices that I already love and some new groups to go check out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Do you have a 'Desert Island List'? The kind where you list the books or albums you wouldn't want to live without if you were stranded on a desert island. Because we love music so much in this house, we often talk about our 'Desert Island Top 5.' One album (cd - for you youngsters) that always makes each of our lists is Joan Osborne - Relish. From beginning to end - every track is a treat.
This week we had the opportunity to see her perform live on stage. It was an evening of true entertainment. In these times of backup dancers, pyrotechnics, flashy or barely there costumes and lip synching, it was wonderful to see a group of musicians take the stage and simply perform. The venue is quite small - giving an intimate feel to the performance. No Jumbo-tron is necessary. Every seat offers a great view of the stage and performers.
The evening opened with a performance from the The Cowboy Junkies - a very nice way to start the show. While we had not heard any of their music prior to the concert, we certainly enjoyed them enough to learn and listen to more . . . where have we been? Seems they have been touring for the last 20 years!
Joan Osborne's set included several tracks from the aforementioned Relish and lots of numbers from subsequent albums. She has 2 fairly recent releases - Breakfast in Bed (which we have) and Pretty Little Stranger (currently winging it's way here from Amazon.com) We enjoyed the show from beginning to end. I just can't express how enjoyable it was to see a talented singer/songwriter step up to the mic and SING. The tour continues - so check and see if it might be coming your way. I do hope she returns to this area soon.

My Desert Island 5:

Lynard Skynard - Pronounced Lynard Skynard
Joan Osborne - Relish
The Eagles - The Very Best Of The Eagles
Rocky Horror Picture Show - Motion Picture Soundtrack
Simon and Garfunkel - Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A progress update. This morning I completed all the quilting lines in one direction on Kentucky Wildflower. I can easily say the quilting is more than half-way done now since I completed all the outlines first. It's so exciting to see the finish in sight.

Here's a little peek into Harper's summer days. Doesn't she look comfy? Some might even think she's napping. Nope . . .
She's monitoring the backyard for squirrels. From this stealthy (and cushy) position, she can watch the fence line for invading squirrels. She lets them come far enough into the yard so that when she launches from her spot there's a good chase.
When she certifies that we are once again squirrel-free, she comes to find me, wags her tail to signify another successful mission and waits for her good girl treat. A dog's work is never done.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Some girls come into the world with stars in their eyes . . . Shirley is one of those girls. She was the only girl to be completed before we came back to California. Since we've been here, she's acted like a spoiled child. She has begged and pleaded with me. I ignored her and her friends. She pestered and cajoled. I tried not to listen. Then I just couldn't take it any longer.
Shirley really does have stars in her eyes. She has finally convinced me to allow her the one thing so many girls with a dream of fame aspire to when they come west seeking fame and fortune . . . .
Shirley wants a nose job! The procedure is only partially complete at this point. Already she's much happier. When the bandages have been permanently removed and all the swelling is gone, she'll be back to show her new, improved self.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The mercury is rising and the humidity level right along with it. I tried (and was mainly successful) last winter to not complain when it was cold. I remembered how miserable I was during the hottest days of summer - how I wished for the cold days to come. We are fortunate to have an abundance of quilts around the house. When the days turn cool it's easy to make a hot beverage and cuddle up under the day's favorite quilt. If that doesn't work, the furnace works nicely to take the last of the chill out of the air.
So now the days are warming up - a little more each day. We do not have air conditioning in our home. I follow a time-tested, daily routine of opening and closing windows and their shades depending on the time of day and position of the sun. With the addition of some fans and open doors to catch any breeze, the house stays comfortable until the latest part of the afternoon. That's when I'm ready to complain. Complaining doesn't really help. I have taken to picking up some handwork and moving outside. It does feel better out there. Still I want to complain. I'm hot, my skin feels sticky. And then I go to the store and I find . . .
THIS! Ahhh - the delicious tastes of summer fruits. I can't stop myself from wanting to buy it all. Rainer cherries, strawberries, blueberries, nectarines and peaches - they all came home with me. Honestly it's far more than two people can consume. I'll cut up and freeze what we can't get through before it spoils, then I'll go back and buy more.
I'd complain some more about the heat, but my mouth is full.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A few days ago Finn tagged me. I have been mulling it over in my mind. Not that the questions are hard, but I just wanted to put some real thought because I'm not one to have this sort of list . . . but maybe it's time.

Five Things To Do Before I Die:
1. Learn to not be hurt when someone makes an insensitive comment - not blogger comments left here, but things that actual strangers have the nerve to walk up to me and say.
2.Travel the U.S. with enough time wander and explore away from the interstate.
3. Rappel or ride a zip line - a low wall or a narrow gorge for the first time out, please.
4. Have a vegetable garden that will keep my family well fed and happy with extras to share with friends and neighbors.
5. Make sure that my family knows just how much I love them!

Five Things I Can Do:
1. Make up a game at the drop of a hat - who will ever forget 'Combat Solitaire'?
2. Make a magical Christmas - even when we don't get to celebrate on December 25th.
3. Prepare a meal out of whatever is in the cupboard - I'm pretty good at putting flavors together. The trouble is remembering what I did when we want to repeat a meal.
4. Look out for the underdog when life isn't fair.
5. Balance my checkbook - to the penny . . . every time.

Five Things I Cannot Do . . . yet:
1. Blow a double bubble.
2. Not add to my fabric stash when I am so fortunate to have an abundance already. (Okay - I'm not trying.)
3. Make jam.
4. Ride a unicycle.
5. Not make a bad pun - if you leave the door open . . . I'm goin' through.

Five Things That Attract Me To The Opposite Sex*:
* Since Hubby and I have been together for more than half our lives at this point, I don't really think about 'opposite sex' so much - so instead I'll just list traits that I enjoy in all folk.
1. A good sense of humor - a little on the dry side.
2. A kind heart.
3. A gentle spirit.
4. A natural curiosity to learn something new every day.
5. A generous nature.

Five Celebrity Crushes*:
*This is just stumping me - I guess I don't get crushes any more. There are lots of entertainers whose work I enjoy, but it seems that the 'celebrity world' these days is populated with wealthy gals who've gotten that way by never buying undies and guys 'drop their seed' but quickly move on to 'another garden.'

Wow - that was really difficult for me. I'm not going to specifically tag anyone, but please feel free to jump in and play.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Patience is a virtue . After a miserable tomato crop last year - 3 cherry tomatoes from 8 plants of different varieties. It certainly wasn't worth the effort at all. Undaunted, but somewhat less ambitious, this year I put in 6 plants all of the same variety. Since before Easter they have been tended to, they have grown and grown, the number of blossoms more than I can begin to count. Finally in early May, I started seeing some fruit. Over the weekend, I spied a little something pink from my kitchen window. Today - the first selection of what is sure to be a bumper crop. Don't they look delicious?These first tomatoes will be eaten practically out of hand and few will be sliced on a plate to accompany meals. Yes, I love to have a sliced tomato and cottage cheese - even for breakfast. But soon enough, I'll have to start finding more creative ways to serve them. One of my favorite recipes is for Tomato Basil Pie. Amy - The Calico Cat has patiently been waiting for this recipe to make an appearance. I wish I could credit the source, but it is a recipe that I found on the internet a few years back from a casual search. Whomever is belongs to deserves kudos for a delicious recipe. You will need:
1 - 9" pie crust
1 1/2 c shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
4 or 5 medium tomatoes
1 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 c mayonnaise
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees f. Place pie crust in pie pan, flute edges and prick crust bottom 20 times. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce oven temp. to 375 degrees f.
-Sprinkle warm pie crust with 1/2 c shredded Mozzarella cheese.
- Cut tomatoes into wedges, drain on paper towels. Arrange wedges on top of melted cheese in the baked pie shell.
-In a food processor, combine basil and garlic; process until coarsely chopped. Sprinkle over tomatoes.
-In a medium mixing bowl, combine remaining Mozzarella cheese,, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese and pepper. Spoon cheese mixture over tomatoes; spread evenly to cover.
-Bake at 375 degrees f. for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden and bubbly.
-Serve warm. Garnish with basil leaves if desired. Serves 4 - 6.

We love to have this pie as an entree for dinner with a simple green salad. With leftovers, we reheat and serve with eggs for breakfast. If you have a brunch - it would make a perfect dish as a bridge from the breakfast to lunch items.
Not much on the quilting front - I'm too busy thinking up practical ways to use my tomotoes.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today I have something old, something new and something not yet done. When the days get warm here, I like to open all the windows and doors to catch any breeze that might come our way and help cool us down. Late yesterday afternoon things got moving quite a bit and it caused a quilt to fall from the sky.
Well, not exactly from the sky. We have vaulted ceilings and this quilt is up a the 14' mark. I have wanted to share it for some time, but the photography angle is odd at best. So since it was down, I took the opportunity to wash it and get a good picture before Hubby gets out the ladder and places it back in its spot.
It's called Prairie Garden and was printed in a magazine (McCall's - I think) There was a flag at the bottom that I left off so it would nicely fit where it hangs. I didn't have much applique experience at the time. I traced onto freezer paper, ironed to the wrong side of the fabric which I then doubled (right sides together) and stitched all the way around. Then I cut a slit to turn it right side out. That means that the flowers have 8 layers of fabric at the center not counting in the background and backing of the quilt. I don't applique this way regularly anymore, but from time to time it's fun to do. When stitched down with a whip stitch, it makes a nice, primitive look.The something new is my completed sunflower. Talk about a quick and easy project. I do think I may go back and add some french knots to the center to add a little dimension. For those curious about where I get the milk bottles - we have a store that sells organic milk in glass bottles. There is a small deposit when you buy the milk that is refunded or applied to the next purchase. I usually have a pint and a quart bottle on the counter just because I like them and they make wonderful vases for live or fabric flowers.
The something not yet done is the top of Kentucky Wildflower. All the applique is complete now and I started hand quilting this afternoon. Have I mentioned how much I love hand quilting? I just love to see those stitches - they make the top just come to life. I plan to outline the applique and then diagonal lines across the open spaces. I really want to cross-hatch, but I'm not sure that I won't run out of steam before that's accomplished. Time will tell . . .

Friday, July 06, 2007

Now that the holiday is past and Hubby's vacation is winding down to the last days, it's time to start thinking about what I'm going to keep myself busy with next week when it's back to business as usual.
First a timely little package showed up in my mailbox this week. Dot had a fun little contest on her blog recently. With a very lucky guess on my part, I became the winner and received these two wonderful and timely Americana fabrics. I know I have left a lot of comments in the last few days regarding my love of Americana projects. So everyone knows that these two charmers will be part of a quilt before we know it. Thanks Dot for a fun game and a terrific prize.I have been working happily away on the Kentucky Wildflower applique. The border treatment is nearly complete. Before I layer it for quilting I'll be sure to post a new photo. Once it is to the hand-quilting stage, I will get back to the applique on Shirley, Goodness and Mercy as well as setting up the next Sue Spargo block.
As if that isn't enough irons in the fire, I started playing with a couple of fun things yesterday. One of the things I missed out on at Primitives of the Midwest was a sale they had at the shop early Saturday morning before classes of little hand-made items and antique pieces. I saw some of the things others picked up and got a little inspiration of my own. One darling little prim item had a bundle of fabric wrapped hangers together with a tea stained tag. The hangers looked to be made of either dowels or maybe the cardboard tubes from dry cleaner slacks hangers.
I cleared out the supply of hangers from Hubby's side of the closet, removed the cardboard tubes, got Hubby to saw them in half. Then I changed my mind. I noticed that the tubes would fit into a spare canister jar and maybe they would look like old-fashioned stick candy. I wrapped a tube and sure enough, I achieved the desired result. I can made two 'candy sticks' from one hanger. I'll just add to my collection every week until my jar is full. Finally a fun candy with all the calories removed.

That little stroke of genius presented me with a new problem. I had already been to Michael's and purchased raffia wrapped floral stems to use as the hanger in my now abandoned project. Wait . . . in the most recent edition of Create and Decorate there is a pattern for sunflowers made of wool. So now I am embarking on a sunflower making journey. Here are my pieces all cut out and ready to stitch.
A little bouquet of these in a glass milk bottle on the kitchen counter is just what I need.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's Independence Day in the USA. I want to wish everyone a happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

One would think that with all the things I brought home last week, I would have been all shopped out for a while. Any normal person would have been . . . but not me! My local quilt shop had it's anniversary sale on Saturday - everything in the shop was 40% off. A sale such as that only comes around once a year and I just couldn't be left out of the fun. I wasn't there as soon as the doors opened, but it was pretty darned close.
I made a bee-line for the upstairs. I don't go up there too often. The baby fabrics and 30's repro's are kept there and neither of those are much a part of my stash. But flying pigs just make me laugh. I had seen a particularly amusing one on a rare trip up there couple of months ago and it had been on my mind. Good fortune smiled on me and the pig was still there. Now it's living at our house trying out various places it might want to be displayed. If you enlarge the photo you might be able to see the little nails for udders. Now that's just funny - I don't care who you are.I've been happily doing the applique on the piece I started last week. I have a couple of strategic pieces to place that will cover where stems join and petals come together. Then I can begin working on the border.
Our weather has warmed significantly in the last week. Sitting on the patio in the evening, this has been a nice piece to work on - not too bulky and warm nor too fussy of stitching. Just right. Hubby is enjoying time off work all week - I may be slow in getting around to reading and commenting on blogs . . . but he's just so cute I want to look at him all day. I'm here and I'll catch up again before you know it.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

At last - on to the other days at Primitives of the Midwest. Friday I was signed up for an all day class with Sue Spargo, whose work I have long been a fan. She has a refreshing folk-art style with a unique, colorful palette. She uses embellishments and fabrics that are beyond anything I have ever tried before. I looked forward to this day with great anticipation and was not disappointed.
Our project is a wall hanging that consists of 12 blocks, each with different flowers in applique. The background pieces and applique are mostly wools, but cottons, silks, velvets will all find a place in this little piece. Sue had a lovely selection of wools (all hand dyed by her sister) for us to select our backgrounds and beyond. Then she opened the door to 'Embellishment World' with threads, beads, rick-racks, buttons, and new embroidery stitches all to add personal, one-of-a-kind touches to our work.
I have to admit that I was not brave enough to step too far outside of my comfort zone when selecting my background pieces and I really wanted to buy a piece of hand dyed velvet for a flower or two , but I just wasn't quite ready to go there. With assurances that we would be able to order from her website, I didn't have to worry that I was making an improper choice if I decided I needed it later down the line. I did get a subdued piece of silk in a coral color. It was as daring as I could go for the first day.
It was an exhilarating class - so many new, fresh ideas. Sue is a wonderful teacher, giving instruction and guidance (and without judgement) to anyone who asked or just looked like they needed a helpful hand.
This is my first block. I am going to wait until all the blocks are done and put together before I embellish. Sort of like quilting, I want to keep the embellishment even across the face of my piece. We'll see how long I hold out before I just have to add a bead or something.Saturday brought an entire day with Lynda Hall of Primitive Pieces by Lynda. Again I was just so excited to have an all day class with a teacher whose designs I have been a fan of for some time. Lynda has such a primitive flair. I don't think I have ever seen a pattern that I didn't like and I have collected quite a few. When I saw the sample photo for this wall hanging, I knew I found my class - Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. These 3 angels are gals that I need looking after me.
There was an excellent photo of the sample on the class schedule, so I chose to bring fabrics from home rather than purchase the kit. I had a great time assigning personalities to my angels as I selected their backgrounds, faces and features. I have nothing but glowing things to say about Lynda as a teacher - she was open to the variety of applique styles that were employed and so helpful to each student and any concern they had over techniques, sizes, color choice. She was generous with offering embellishment from her personal stash to make hair of wool roving or buttons from eyes. Another outstanding day.
These are my gals so far. Poor Goodness - she looks like she might be in the federal witness protection program. She and Mercy will have their features soon enough and I'll share them again so you can see their personalities.
After classes on Saturday, we were invited back to Quilters Station for a pizza party. A time to share some of the projects, chat with the other participants, and do a little last minute shopping. I sat at a table with Linda Brannock and we had such a delightful conversation about fabrics stashes, gardening, her beloved Miss Jump and a woman of similar importance from my growing up. I must have just had stars in my eyes.
I have been to a couple of quilting retreats before but this was head and shoulders above anything I could have hoped for. It was so well organized and seamless - I'm sure there was a glitch here and there, but nothing that disrupted the participants. Each of the designers that I had classes with were so free and giving of their knowledge and supplies. And most refreshing of all to me - each seemed to delight in the creativity of the participants. They did not demand that we strictly adhere to the pattern provided - so open and appreciative of new ideas.
Sunday morning came awfully early, but I was ready to get on the plane and get home. I will never forget the new friends that I made, the sights of cornfields, cone flowers growing wild on the roadside, fireflies dancing in the evening, and the chance to learn from and interact with quilters that I admire. I'm sure I've said it a hundred times or more already - but I just can't wait until next year.