Monday, June 30, 2008

I want to start by sending a thank you from the entire family for all the greetings and good wishes on The Princess' happy return. The warmth in each came through in every one. It has been such fun for our little family to be all under the same roof once again. It won't be long before we are settled into a daily routine. She's already begun the process to enroll in school, job hunting won't be too far behind . . . a girl does need a little vacation first.
We have had some wonderful weather. All the charts that showed average June sunshine at 3 days went right out the window. It has been very nice and has helped the garden really get going. All the plants are very happy. This is the Saturday morning harvest just from the pepper patch.I separated out the Anaheim's for roasting. After they were peeled and seeded, a portion was used for tacos and the rest went into scrambled eggs.
Radishes! The seeds were planted on the 3rd of June. Color me -Amazed.
There has been a little bit of sewing. This morning I stitched myself a little bag to hold clothes pins. I had been keeping them in the plastic bag they were purchased in. Totally unsatisfactory. I just clip the drawstring to the line and it slides along right ahead of me.
This afternoon I stitched down the binding on my Four Seasons Summer Swap quilt. It's been washed and is now hanging on the line. A view of the back before I attach the label.
And the front before just a couple of small embellishments.
Then it can be on its way. I have thoroughly enjoyed each season of this swap - the quilts I have made and the quilts I have received. It's hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since sign ups for Fall 2007 began.
I am getting very close to putting the last quilting stitches in The Princess' quilt. Then binding and label. The new deadline is July 6 - her last official day in the Air Force. If I keep my nose to the wheel, I really think I can meet the new deadline.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

She's here! We have The Princess in the house. No one was surprised that her flight was delayed a couple of hours during a lay over in Texas. She handled it just like a princess, taking the opportunity to enjoy a nice, sit down meal. There was so much confusion surrounding her flight that its number didn't even show up on the board here at the airport and the ticket counter of that particular airline was closed. Still it was easy to pick her out as she walked across the second floor of the concourse toward baggage claim. After 24 hours of travel, she looked more than a little weary, but glad to be here.
Now I can, at last, reveal The Secret Deadline Project . . . . A quilt to commemorate The Princess' service in the Air Force. I modified the borders in a pattern by Linda Brannock that was purchased last year at Primitives of the Midwest. I didn't quite meet the deadline. Once I finish quilting the borders, I can add a sleeve, binding and a label.
Yesterday we had our toes done, she unpacked an organized her room, fish tacos for lunch at a little place by the beach, a tour of the garden and picked a lot of squash and a pail of peppers. Just fun little things that we have not been able to do by phone.
In a few days we will settle into a nice routine. It sure is nice to have her back.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's time for the Tuesday tour of the garden. It has only been 3 weeks since we put in the new planter box. In years past I have had tomato plants and dabbled a couple of times with a squash plant. This is my first real garden since I was a little girl.Still I am filled with an almost childlike wonder when I remember that one month ago, this was an ugly pile of rocks.Speaking of squash, I was starting to feel inundated with the harvest. I've been baking zucchini bread a couple of times per week, searched out new recipes, a large grocery sack was filled to share with a neighbor and still I'm overwhelmed. I found directions on the Internet for freezing summer squashes. I plan to give that a try this week. Imagine summer squash from the garden in the middle of winter.
All of that adds up to much of my time being spent out in the backyard and the kitchen and not much time spent quilting. I do have a couple of quilts to share.
First is a 'Learn To Quilt Sampler' that came from Keepsake Quilting. It arrived in monthly kits and was designed to build skills and techniques each month. The colors are very 'primary' and not what I would choose on my own. The quilt has been folded up on a shelf ever since it was completed in 2000. Rather than let it languish there for all eternity, I decided to hang it on the fence. You can read the original idea here. This is now my view when I'm at the computer.
Another that I want to share is one of my all time favorites. It is made of Indian Hatchet blocks arranged on point. It is usually folded on the back of a chair in our bedroom.
The blocks that are on their side in the lower right hand corner were not supposed to be that way. I got in a hurry and didn't pay attention to what I was doing. I never have to worry about putting in a purposeful 'humility' block.
This morning I'm baking a couple of loaves of bread. The Princess will be here this afternoon. I'm taking the commuter train to meet Hubby and we'll go to the airport together. First on thing on her agenda will be Mexican food for dinner. Germany offers a lot of delicious foods - but for a California girl, chips and salsa are a way of life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

'We're havin' a baby. My baby and me. . .' Okay, not really, but in many ways it feels like it. Back when we really were expecting The Princess we didn't have the chance to do many of the things parents do when anticipating a new baby. During the last months of my pregnancy, Hubby was serving in Japan and did not return until The Princess was four-months old. Now 28 years later, we are doing all the things we didn't get to do then.
We cleared out a room to make a place for our girl. We emptied the closet, drawers and bookcase to make space for all the things she'll need. Everything has been cleaned and freshened for her arrival. Yesterday we assembled the bed and all the bedding was washed. Everything is now ready and we wait.
Somethings will be different this time - we know she's a girl. It will be a pain-free delivery and we know exactly when she'll arrive. Somethings will be the same - we'll be awake nights, not for feedings but waiting to know she's safely home if she is out for the evening. It has been fun for us to do all the things we didn't get to do before. It feels like the circle is complete.
Has anyone noticed that it's HOT? With all flooding and other severe weather that is going on, I don't want to seem like I'm complaining - I'm not. But Friday afternoon, Harper and I escaped to the backyard in the afternoon to sit in the shade - a cool beverage and a book nearby. There was a rustle outside the gate and then we heard the doorbell ring. She was off like a flash and I was right behind. There on the porch was a box bearing my name. I hadn't ordered anything recently and was more than a little puzzled. I opened it right away and look what was inside -a sweet Americana pillow stitched by Marcie from Patchalot More. It's her very own design using wool applique and embroidery. Isn't it darling? And perfect timing, I finally got out the patriotic decorations this weekend. Of course, this little pillow will stay out all year long. It's too cute to be stored in a box for half the year. Wait - the care package had more.

Marcie sent two of her newest patterns from her Patchalot Patterns line. I can hardly wait to make them. If you haven't tried one of Marcie's patterns, you really should. Her directions are very plain and well laid out with lots of good descriptions. Thanks Marcie for a lovely care package!
Now that the days and evenings are warmer, we are spending more and more time outside. We have been enjoying dinner on the patio then playing with some good old bubbles after the clean up. There is a lot of fun in one .89 cent bottle of bubbles.
We like to see how far or high they will go before they *pop*
Harper is only mildly curious - until one disappears before her eyes.
I think she must be thinking that bubbles would be a lot more fun if only they were made of cheese.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

There is has been a flurry of activity the last few days in preparation for The Return Of The Princess. After 9 years of service in the Air Force, she has decided to take on the civilian world and will be moving back home for a while as she makes that transition.
I have been slowly but surely getting her bedroom denuded of my quilting supplies. Last weekend Hubby took apart the Grace quilt frame and steam cleaned the carpet in anticipation of setting up her bed again. I asked that he wait one more week in order for me to use the open space to baste a quilt.
Fever has been waiting very patiently for this day to arrive. It grew too large to be quilted on the frame and I just didn't want to deal with moving furniture in the living room in order to have the space to spread it out. I use 505 Spray Glue to baste. It was the method being taught when I took my first quilt classes. Other than thread basting, it's the only method I know.

There's lots of crawling around on the floor, spreading and smoothing everything out. I work from the middle toward an edge then reverse to go the other way using a very light hand as I spray - it doesn't take a lot of glue. After the top is done, I trim away excess batting. Then flip it over and smooth, smooth, smooth before I put on the back. I had to laugh at myself when I found that I had not sewn the final seam of the pieced back. I bet I ran out of bobbin that day.
I'm sure this method is not for everyone. I've heard the school of thought that the glue may be toxic or doesn't wash out possibly causing your quilt to degrade. By the time that happens, if it does, I'll be long gone. I don't expect any of my quilts to become museum pieces. I make them to use and enjoy right now.
I'm excited to finally get to the quilting. This will be the first quilt I've made that will be large enough for our queen-sized bed. At one time I thought it would be done in time for Valentine's Day. Well, maybe for '09. And now that the basting is done, the bed can go back in the bedroom, made up with some fresh sheets ready for The Princess' arrival next week.
Also today I want to introduce a new blogger. Well, actually she's been posting since April of this year and I am embarrassed to say that I just stumbled upon he blog last week. You see Julie began emailing me in January and we've had a little correspondence going since then. I kept encouraging her to start up a blog - little did I know, she had! Hop over and check out Through the Barn Door, see some of her quilts and the fabulous place she lives - in the Sierra Nevada mountains in a barn that she and her hubby renovated for their retirement years. It's a nice place to visit . . . tell her Libby sent'cha.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I have begun to wonder if I may be turning into an 'accidental vegetarian.' Here is a look at our most recent CSA box. Can you believe it? Rainier cherries - heavenly! Those didn't last long since it was easy and tasty to just grab a couple anytime the fridge was opened.I washed all the greens - a lettuce head, spinach, kale and something I have determined to be weeds - they are in a bowl that makes it handy to make up a salad for lunch or dinner by just adding in some avocado, tomato, cucumber, onion, or whatever else sounds good at the moment. The peaches and nectarines were used to bake up a crisp using a recipe I found online.
I've been picking lots of squash - zucchini and yellow crook-neck. All of the zucchini have been made into bread. As the loaves are cooled, I cut them in half, wrap in cling wrap and seal into a freezer bag. They will be a tasty reminder of the garden come winter. The yellow crook-neck is great steamed, sauteed or made into soup. Another online recipe formed the basis of a delicious dinner this weekend.
A little peek at the peppers and tomatoes. It will still be a bit before the tomatoes are ripe, but the peppers have been abundant. They made their way into the squash soup and a recipe that was suggested to me by Dawn from Quilts and Pieces.
Doesn't it look yummy? Just a couple of easy substitutions to accommodate what I had on hand. Voila - Hubby and I enjoyed this for dinner and a couple of lunches, too. Thanks Dawn!
I was out in the yard first thing this morning for the Tuesday Tour of the garden. Look at how everything has grown in the new planter box and trellis since last week. It's hard to tell, but I have been thinning the radishes. Hubby has decided that the beans stalks might be growing from magic beans. Maybe we'll be able to climb them and find the goose that laid the golden egg.
Last but not least, new this week - corn and a new cilantro crop. I was late deciding on corn. It certainly won't be knee high by 4th of July, but it will be tasty and fun to watch grow no matter what.
On the quilting front, there are no new photos. But the Four Seasons Summer Swap top is complete. I have it in a place where I can see it throughout the day. I'm waiting for it to 'speak' to me about how it would like to be quilted. There's time, so I'm not worried. I've been mulling over some new project ideas. I know, I know - those UFO's. Still a new project never hurt anyone. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Something wonderful is brewing. This morning I came upon three different blog posts announcing an opportunity for quilters to persuade American Quilter's Society to reprint Liberated Quilt Making by Gwen Marston. Gwen's liberated quilt making style opened up a world of freedom to me. The first quilt retreat I attended offered a class in applique taught by Gwen. The project had a folk art look that appealed to me. As a relatively new quilter at the time, I was not familiar with liberated quilt making. I feared spending the day having my head filled with edicts on thread colors and weights, needle type and size, and perfection in fabric selection and placement. Ultimately, I did not sign up for the class.
Still luck was on my side as one of the evening programs during the week featured Gwen as a speaker. She shared her beautiful quilts and her liberated quilt making outlook. I felt the weight of precision points, color wheel theory, and perfect symmetry fall from my shoulders when she told the group that it didn't matter one bit if a quilting pattern perfectly turned the corner. A gasp from the self-appointed undercover quilt police rose around the room. But now the secret was out - there were other quilters in the world like me.
On that evening, I made it my mission to find my way into one of Gwen's classes somehow. I was disappointed when she did not return to that same retreat the next year. But I did get the opportunity at another retreat a couple of years beyond that to take a class. Although my project remains unfinished, I learned a lot that day. I refer to my copy of her book often for inspiration and reassurance. It was a splendid and freeing day.
Please visit Tonya at Lazy Gal Quilting to find out more about getting this book reprinted so you that can add it to your library.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A little privacy, please. I'm pretty sure that's what's in Harper's thought bubble here. Any time she was not to be found in one of her usual spots for the last couple of days, I located her here, tucked way down behind this shrub and wedged up against the fence. It was all new to me. When I tired of brushing all the flora and fauna from her coat after wiggling her way out of this new hidey hole, I admonished her to 'Stay Out Of There!' Little did I know that she was protecting me.
Over the weekend, Hubby went to work establishing a 'squirrel free perimeter' around the yard. He drove stakes into the ground between the pickets to block them from digging under the rabbit wire he installed last summer. On the inside of the fence, he dug a narrow trench and added curbing for extra security. There is still a little work to do along the common fences with our neighbors, but it seems that that picket fence was the main port of entry. I enjoyed 2 full days of 100% squirrel-free bliss.
Today they were back. I marched myself out there with the hose and just drenched one of those little stinkers. Seems squirrels do not have a natural short-term memory as that fella could not find his way back to the spot he came in. Finally he got behind 'Harper's shrub' and never showed his face again. Seems there is a small breach back there and Harper was not hiding from me but keeping the squirrels out. She's such a good girl - extra treats for her. Hubby will get that sealed up this weekend and we can go back to squirrel-free bliss.
Late yesterday afternoon, I mixed up the bread dough from the sponge I shared. It did a slow rise in the fridge overnight. Because there is no fat in this recipe, it is helpful to develop the flavor with a longer, slow rise. Here it is just before going into the oven this morning.
And fresh out of the oven.
It's funny to me that the crust is just as hard as a rock when it first comes out of the oven. As the loaf cools, it becomes much less rigid and turns into a crispy, light crust. Hubby came home for lunch today. We had tomato soup and slices of bread topped with cheddar cheese and melted under the broiler. Yum. For dessert we had some treats that came a long way for us to enjoy.
There was a surprise package delivered to our doorstep yesterday. The Princess is just about ready to move back to the States from Germany. Over the last couple of months, she has had a flurry of trips and tours in an effort to experience as much of Europe as she possibly can. It seems that she has picked up a few souvenirs for Mom and Dad along the way.
She sent us a Christmas ornament from the Vatican, a 'smashed Euro' from the Coliseum, Italian soap, chocolate and olive oil, cookies and lip balm from Prague and Karlovy Vary*. That Princess is a good girl to think of us and I couldn't be more thrilled that she has had these wonderful travel opportunities. Still at the end of the day - I'm glad she's coming home.

*Karlovy Vary is a sister city to our city. It seems that both locations have the exact same mineral water. There is a spa here, but not nearly as famous as those in Europe.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Today in the garden:
After only one week, the beans are beginning to sprout; the radishes need to be thinned; sunflowers are protected from hungry birds; the tomatoes are flourishing; Greer keeps careful watch over the squash bed; the pepper plants are thriving; Harper lays in wait in the event of a squirrel invasion.
Today in the kitchen:Zucchini bread cools on the counter.
Bread sponge waits for its flour blanket.
Now the sponge is all 'tucked in' fermenting on the counter until it's time to mix up the dough.
Today on the sewing table:
A couple of additions in applique are needed for the Summer Swap piece - stitch down that wing, add some leaves to the flower stem and a door to the beeskep.Add a few quilting stitches to the 'Secret Deadline Quilt.'
Add in some vacuuming, dish washing, and meal planning and it's shaping up to be a perfect day.

** The link I used yesterday for the Log Cabin Chicken does not seem to take you to the pattern. I should have checked to make sure the website would take you where you needed to go. Here is a link that I hope will work. It's not the exact pattern that I used, but you'll get the idea. Please be sure to check your blogger options, many of the requests came from no-reply blogs making it impossible for me to respond to your requests for help.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I have so enjoyed my time in the garden this spring. There is such a sense of wonder as I see little sprouts begin to emerge from the soil and I know that no vegetables will ever taste better than those freshly harvested for the meal I'm about to serve. With that in mind, this weekend I decided to add chicken rancher to my repertoire.
I'm just kidding. No live chickens here. I opted for the fabric variety. In one of the first quilting classes I attended, I learned how to make these log cabin chicken pin cushions. While organizing a little basket of scraps under my sewing table, I came up with a handful of 1" strips. I remembered spying the pattern for the chicks while moving supplies to my new cabinets last month. Before I knew it, I had four little chicks.I didn't feel satisfied. I dug through a bag of strips earmarked for Goodwill. Before I knew it I had 6 more chicks ready to stuff.
Still not satisfied, I pulled some more strips. These chicks will 'hatch' later today.
Also this weekend, I made a couple more pinwheels. They are such mindless fun.
When I finished the first pinwheel, I wasn't very satisfied with the look of the straw as the handle. The colors that I'm usually drawn to are not as clear as the colors used in the straws. Then I spied my little jar of quilt candy sticks and wondered if they would slip over the straws. Yep! I'm much happier with how they look now. Soon I'll have a whole bouquet. Do you think Grandma would approve of my use of her fancy basket?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

We had our third day in a row of sunshine yesterday. It was almost too good to be true, but now it looks as though we really have used all of June's sunny days. So far today it is cool, gray and windy. Good thing I used yesterday to my full advantage and did lots of things in the yard.
Monday evening Hubby and I finished filling the new planter with dirt making it ready for planting. Up top there is 2 kinds of basil and a sage plant with some nasturtium seeds thrown in for good measure and a little color. Down below, I planted beans to climb up the gates, leaf lettuce in the center, and in the front I sowed radish and carrot seeds together. (I read that little trick on a website for gardening with kids.) I still have room along the edges and all across the back. Just need to decide what I want to put in.While I was at the nursery, I also picked up 2 new cucumber plants to replace the ones that didn't survive. I've moved them to a different location away from the fence. So far so good. I also bought a watermelon plant - because I've never tried one before. Keep your fingers crossed, I'm not sure that we have enough hot days for a good watermelon. I already had some gourd seeds that went in next to the fence we share with a neighbor and some sunflower seeds to fill in where the cucumber stumps were. Apparently that particular patch of soil is scented with 'squirrel nip' because I saw those little devils out there scratching around trying to get at the seeds. I chased them out. Hubby, who was working from home this morning, went out and constructed a little wire fence to protect them from further infiltration. Oh those squirrels are going to drive me mad!
After all that digging and planting I was ready for a little snack. Something cold and sweet. It's a fun way to use up ripe bananas.
Peel and slice them up. Place the slices on a parchment covered cookie sheet and pop into the freezer. When they are frozen, transfer to zip top bags to store.
Then when you just get a little urge, take a few out, put them on a plate and drizzle them with Magic Shell chocolate coating. Yummy - fruit and chocolate - how can you go wrong? We call them 'monkey bites'.
Once I was fortified from my little snack, I felt ready to get to work on my 4 Seasons Summer swap piece. I hadn't turned on my sewing machine in a number of weeks. Boy did I have fun.
Now I have a background built, I can do some applique and embellishing. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head. We'll see what happens next.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Already another weekend is about to come to a close. We were lucky today to enjoy the sun as we worked in the yard. Now that June is upon us, the weather pattern known locally as 'June Gloom' will arrive. Hubby looked up some weather statistics and learned that we usually have 3 sunny days during the month. YIKES - we've already used one up.
Look at what has been harvested from our little garden so far. Some purple bell peppers, a couple of Anaheim chilis , yellow squash , and a little zucchini. It looks meager, but I was just so anxious to pick something - anything. The harvests will be more abundant soon. Maybe even enough to share. Hubby dedicated a good part of the weekend working on the new planter box and trellis. We determined that a triangular shaped arrangement would better suit the space. A rectangle or square would have blocked view from the windows of The Princess' bedroom. That is one of the very lovely features of that sunny room.
Take a peek for yourself.
Thank you for all the support and kind words that were offered on the airing of my project list. It really was good for me to do so publicly, even though I had been quite resistant in the past. I guess I should admit right here and now that there are two others that came to mind after I published the post. Doggone it - the list just gets longer and longer. What's a girl to do?
Why pull fabric for something new, of course.
Here is a quick look at the fabrics that I have chosen for my 4 Seasons Summer Swap quilt. After allowing the selection to rest for a couple of days, I've already changed my mind some from what you see here. Although I remain focused on the Secret Deadline Quilt, I hope to get a good start on this swap piece during the week. After all, it has a deadline, too.