Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I was very sad to hear that Billy Powell passed away today. From the first time I heard Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio, I wished my piano lessons would have taught me to play like he did.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I can't remember when or even if I've posted twice in one day before. Today I feel as if my earlier post may have taken a few readers down the wrong path. In it I shared a photo of the 9 patch baby blocks laid out on red fabric. That red fabric is the back of a quilt I spread out on my 'design bed' as a place to orient my finished blocks. It was never meant to be an audition of the red fabric.
Now don't get me wrong, I love that red fabric. I love it so much that I just happen to own an entire bolt of it - thanks to Thousands of Bolts. I wish I would have thought of that red fabric when I made Square Dance. But for a baby quilt - a quilt that I hope will be used for cuddling, napping, fort making, tea parties and picnics; a quilt that will be subjected to hundreds of trips to the washing machine and dryer - I'm afraid that red just won't be able to hold up to the task and stay its current, lovely shade of red.
For all of you that favored the red, I promise to find a design to make using it as a background real soon. It's just too good an idea to not use right away.
Perhaps I will find that inspiration in one of these books that landed on my doorstep. I engaged in some online retail therapy last week and here are the results. Two books that feature antique quilts.
And a couple more that don't include quilts at all.I borrowed the Barbara Kingsolver book from the library last summer. It gave me a new way of thinking about our food: where our meals come from and just how they arrive at our table. Now that the book is available in paperback, the time seemed right to add it to our home library so I can refer to it for tips and pointers in keeping our diet more local.
The second book is also available from our local library, but usually there is a wait list. I wanted to be able to have it handy when the time comes for me to harvest the castings from my worm bin.
So much reading and stitching to do. Better leave the computer and get busy.
The weekend arrived and brought with it lots of time in the cubby. I joked with a couple of folks last week that I might start calling the new year 2009-Patch. This may not be so much of a joke anymore. After I finished up the center applique, I got to work in earnest piecing the 9 patches for the quilt top. When they were done, I laid them out so I could admire my progress and hard work. Next I asked Hubby to come take a look and listen while I made some design changes out loud.
The original idea was to use the Square Dance pattern in reverse - applique in place of piecing and piecing in place of the applique. Since there would be half the area for applique in the borders, my plan was to use two spaces for the baby's name and birth year (top and bottom) and place flowers on the sides. Still that seemed to leave a lot of empty spaces in the corners of the quilt.
What if I made those corners all 9-patches? Wouldn't that be more colorful for the baby to look at? Why not applique flowers in all the borders? There is some open space in the center that could be nicely filled with the baby's monogram and year of birth. Wouldn't you know that's just how the book suggests the project be finished. Funny how things leak into my brain even when I'm not paying attention.
The plan has evolved some from my original thinking, but I like where it's going. The remaining applique is prepped. I'll take a block with me this afternoon to stitch on while I wait for Hubby's car to be serviced. I love a portable project.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inspired by the first quilt of the year finish, I headed right back into the cubby and started digging through my basket of applique scraps. These are the pieces of fabric that are unusual shapes not suitable for cutting into squares or strips, but are certainly usable in a quilt. I quickly found all that I needed to begin work on the center of the first baby quilt.
The book uses raw edge applique, but I decided to needle turn instead. While I like the primitive look of the raw edge, I didn't think the finish would be the best for a little one - too many little strings to pull on, tangle up tiny fingers or possibly swallow.I can't recall doing an applique piece with so many layers in the past. I've had to keep my wits about me to be sure to get everything in the right order. I hope to get the top layer stitched on today. I'll set aside some time to start sewing up the 9 patches. I should have a quilt top in fairly short order.
Outside the worms seem to be settling in nicely. They don't eat much at the beginning - only a cup of scraps twice a week. Before too long as they multiply, they should be able to keep up with all of our scraps.
Hubby suggested this morning that I feed them the latest statement from his 401k. It didn't bring much comfort to us, but the worms might enjoy it. Come summer we could watch our 'money' grow out in the garden. He might just be on to something.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm doing the happy dance. I have my first finish for 2009 - Square Dance. More good news - it's a bit of a rainy day. Combine that with my quilt holder has started the new semester at school and you are left with a photo that doesn't exactly show the whole quilt, but you get the idea.
It was such a fun easy pattern that I'm going to do it again, sort of. I need to make a couple of baby quilts in fairly quick order. I went digging through my books and found this book by Sarah Sporrer. I plan to use one of the applique motifs for the center of the quilt then reverse the borders, two rows of 9 patches on either side of a blank strip that I can use for applique. Is that as clear as mud? I can see it clearly in my mind. Better get myself off to the cubby to get stitching. That way I'll have photos to help explain my plan.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday already? The weekend was so fun, I hate to see it end. I skipped out on Road To California this year. There are two vendors there that I normally can't wait to visit. This year I just couldn't really think of a thing I 'needed' that would make it worth the 4 hour round trip, $5 to park and $10 admission cost - so I just stayed home.
The quilt show started on Thursday. By Saturday I was itching to go somewhere. Hubby and I decided to head a few miles down the road to an antique show being held at the fair grounds. It has been a number of years since we've been. There was an entire exhibit hall filled to the gills with big, fancy furniture, highly polished silverware, vintage clothes, paintings, and dainty glass and ceramic pieces. It was fun to poke around and see what was there . . . . and that's where it stayed. Nothing came home with us.
On Sunday we hopped back in the truck and headed north to Pasadena. Yes, that's twice this year we've been to Pasadena! This time for the Doo Dah Parade. This parade is not nearly as famous as its cousin The Tournament of Roses, but its campy, irreverent slant has kept it on my 'someday list' for a long time.
Here is a peek at some of the entries - the parade openers.
The Grand Marshall - Charles Phoenix. We have previously seen one of his slide shows. I love his God Bless Americana coffee table books. And I try to catch him whenever he makes an appearance on The Martha Stewart Show.There were floats.
Animal costumes were prominent.Marching bands. Our favorite was The Bagpipe Heroes.

Numerous 'drill team' entries including a baguette drill team, a men's napping drill team, roller skaters, cabinet drill team and the barbecue and hibachi team.It was an enthusiastic crowd and very happy participants. Doo Dah!
There was not a single stitch taken this weekend, but all the time that Hubby and I got to spend out doing fun stuff more than made up for that. Now it's back to the usual things. I'm sure I'll have something quilty to share soon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If you can't beat 'em - join 'em. That has become my motto for the week. We continue to have weather that is more like late spring than the middle of winter. Now it's true that our climate is quite mild compared to most with an average low of 45 f and average high of 64 f for January. The near records we have set this week cause me to wish to be anywhere but underneath the hand quilting project I have been working on.
Instead I began preparing a project that I have been looking into for the last several months - vermicomposting. I have been interested in composting for some time, but we lack a decent and convenient space in the yard to start a compost pile that wouldn't attract vermin or stink out the neighbors. So becoming a worm wrangler became my solution.
I started by leaving a bucket of water out on the picnic table for the sun to de-chlorinate - don't want to bleach my new friends. Next I purchased a couple of plastic containers to use as the bin. I drilled a few holes for drainage, lined the bottom with screen. Next I added newspaper that I shredded and moistened with the water from the bucket. I put in a few scoops of garden dirt and went to pick up my new friends from a local resource.

Here they are getting settled in the new digs. I wanted to give each a name, but Hubby feared I may have some difficulty keeping track of who is who. Instead they are The Residents of Compost Condo - an all inclusive resort community for friends of the garden.
I'm not to feed them for 3 days. I sure hope they don't hold that against me. They shouldn't worry, I'll save up some nice tasty treats for their first meal.
Once the worms were settled, I got those peas planted in the trellis box that Hubby built for me last year.
Can you see that little carrot in the foreground? There are two that were quite late and I just didn't have the heart to dig them up.
Maybe tomorrow will be the day to get a few stitches in that quilt without roasting myself. That's the good thing about quilts - they will wait until the time is right.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

One of my Christmas gifts was The Old Farmer's Almanac for 2009. I am hoping to turn to it often for advice and wisdom with the garden for the coming year. Yesterday I was flipping through the pages to learn that January 13 is St. Hilary Day - the coldest day of the year. Either that memo was not received where I live or we are in BIG trouble for the rest of the year as our high yesterday was 83 f.
So I went with the 'If you can't beat 'em - join 'em' attitude, slathered on some sun screen and headed out to the garden. I picked the last of the peppers and then pulled up the plants. Looks like I'll have one more round of roasted peppers to add to the freezer.
I did a little digging and soil amending in a couple of beds in preparation for new planting. I was all ready to put in some seeds but a quick referral to the almanac told me I should wait until at least tomorrow when the moon phase will be favorable to a crop of peas. This is going to be fun. Last year I planted everything on a whim and enjoyed great success. I hope that following a plan will yield at least as much success if not more.
After I cleaned the dirt out from underneath my fingernails, I was able to put the finishing touches on the Square Dance top.
Today I hope to layer it and start quilting, a simple cross-hatch through the squares. Since I don't use a lot of traditional spring colors (pastels) in my home, the flower appliques and lighter background are as close to a spring quilt as I'm probably ever going to get. I think I have found my new spring tablecloth.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It has been a bit of a party around here for the last few days. You see I celebrated my birthday yesterday. Well, in all honesty, the celebration began over the weekend and ended yesterday with these . . . .For Christmas, Hubby gifted me with The Cake Bible. After perusing the pages, I knew just what I wanted to make for my birthday - All American Chocolate Cake (cupcakes) with butter cream frosting.
The Princess knew what I was planning and started the fun early by giving me these silicone cupcake cups, an icing spatula and an assortment of festive sprinkles.
The cups were great to work with, held their shape, released the cake, and washed up easily. They are definitely bound to get a lot of use. They were not the only silicone I received. No nothing implanted or injected in me. I also got a couple of Silpat baking mats - something that has been on my wish list for a long time.
They were immediately pressed into service in preparation for lunch. I made a couple of Parmesan cheese crisps to top our soup.
I may have been just a bit overzealous with the cheese. Live and learn.
Another item that has been on my 'wish list' for a long, long time is this little gem. I had to make a lot of promises about being responsible before my wish could come true. Looks as if Hubby knows how sincere I am about not using it to chase squirrels.As luck would have it, I had to separate many eggs yesterday. I now have a large number of egg whites in the fridge that can be whipped into a meringue that will just have to be finished off with a torch. Whoopee!
Another little gadget that came my way - a Mickey Mouse flash drive. It's just as cute as can be, easily identifiable and makes moving files from one place to another a whole lot more fun.Hubby and The Princess sure made my day special - I'm sure the feeling will last the whole year through.

Friday, January 09, 2009

I've got the fever - 9 patch fever! What fun these have been to put together. I can't remember the last time I made 9 patch blocks from squares rather than strips. Armed with a big pile of squares, I just reach over, pick up a square and put it in the machine. The only time I put one back is if it is the exact same as the last fabric I picked.
Here are the 31 dark dominate squares.
Some were used in putting together the quilt center.
And the rest went into the borders.
You won't be surprised that this is a Cheri Payne pattern. I'm doing the applique before assembling the top. I think a nice, simple cross-hatch quilt design will be just right. Then we'll have a new quilt for the dinner table.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The time off for the holidays is over now. The family scattered back into the world when Monday morning rolled around. That sent me right into the cubby to get busy cutting and sewing.
First I cut and sewed these hst's for blocks in the anniversary quilt.
Next I headed out to the stash and selected some fabrics for the next set of blocks.
While I was getting fabrics from the cabinet, I decided to bring in the bin with 2 1/2" strips just for fun. A little cutting, a little sewing, a little pressing and soon I had these 9 patch blocks complete.
This morning, I'm going to put something in the crockpot and get right back into the cubby. I should be able to finish the 31 dark dominate 9 patches that go with these. Soon I should have my first scrap quilt of '09 ready to share.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Usually each weekend Hubby asks if there is anything I would like to do or go see. And my normal response is a list of errands and chores that we should get done before the new week starts. This Saturday I came up with something a lot more fun. The whole family hopped in the car and headed about 2 hours to the north for a chance to view the floats from the Rose Parade in person.
What an amazing thing to see. I believe there were about 46 floats on display. Each decorated completely in flowers and/or vegetable material. The design, artistry and mechanics of getting these huge vehicles ready for a 5 plus mile parade route boggles the mind - not to mention the attention to the tiniest of details.
Here are a few of the more than 200 pictures I took.
This float was sponsored by Vera Bradley and featured several purse designs. We got the biggest kick out of the seeds on that strawberry.
This float was sponsored by and depicts scenes from the state of New Mexico. Can you see the rows and rows of beans on The Roadrunners beak? And the fur on The Coyote - wow!
Everything about this float tickled me. Hubby and I have lots of memories of the drive-in starting in childhood all the way through dating and our early married years. Just look at those snacks.
I have read just about everything I could get my hands on about the life of Helen Keller from the time I discovered the biography section of my elementary school library. Even in rice and onion seed, the picture looked just like a tintype photo of Helen and Teacher.
I got such a kick from the elements on this float. The giant ears of corn, a barrel filled with real, whole apples and another filled with potatoes.
I was surprised that there was not a lot of floral smell in the air. A couple of the displays had fresh shredded coconut that was easy to identify from the aroma. But the lack of smell was more than made up for by the visual treat. I've always wanted to see the parade in person. Seeing the floats in person makes me wish for that even more.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

There is so much promise in each new year. It's like a fresh slate ready to be filled with the goals or resolutions you set for yourself. One of my favorite things about the new year is that it arrives whether or not I stay up to greet it's coming. I go to sleep on December 31 each year confident in the knowledge that a whole new year will be there waiting for me when I wake in the morning. 2009 did not fail me.
We were up early in the morning of the first. Our New Year tradition is to wake early and watch the Tournament of Roses Parade on television. Hubby cooked a delicious breakfast and even did up all the dishes. Oh, yes - 2009 is shaping up to be one fine year.
After the parade, we got to work taking down the holiday decorations. With three of us tackling the job, it took no time at all. Everything is now neatly tucked back into the rafters of the garage until next Christmas. When I say everything, this time I really mean EVERYTHING. Last time I took everything down, I decided that I wanted to put up quilts that featured red. And I left up one lone Christmas quilt that didn't exactly scream, 'Ho Ho Ho.' Well, the months of 2008 wore on, the quilt was in a high place not easily reached and before we knew it that Christmas quilt had stayed up for more than a year!
I didn't fool around with it this year. I added a sleeve to the Williamsburg Welcome - my interpretation of Marcie's Williamsburg Medallion. It's the quilt you now see when you come through the front door. I think it's going to love its new home.
The Princess has started the year with sewing, too. Armed with her very own sewing machine from Santa, she has set out to make herself a skirt. It is sort of like the blind leading the blind right now. She has no sewing background and all. I know precious little about garment making. She has everything cut out and the skirt assembled. Send out good thoughts as we work to get a zipper in place.
Also the new year has brought our first harvest. The little orange tree has just worked overtime this year.
I think maybe some fresh squeezed juice may be just what is needed for our Sunday breakfast.