4/18/14

Slice of Sunshine

It rained virtually all day yesterday, and at times, it poured. It made for a lazy day. And since I know you've all been waiting on tenterhooks wondering whether I went swimming yesterday, I'm happy and proud to say that I did! Yay me! This morning, Sue and I walked, which makes four days of exercise this week. I get an "A" for the week for the first time in 2014. And since I've been trying to get an exercise program going since October of 2012 (yes, you read that right), it's been a long time coming.

Today we awakened to dazzling sunshine, which was certainly a nice surprise. Sue and I walk rain or shine, but shine is definitely preferred. We started out with oatmeal at the South Store Cafe, and then we did the walk I like to refer to as Lower McCormick Hill:


It's the longest of our usual three walks. When I was using my pedometer, I pegged this walk at over 14,000 steps one time. On the left side, the way is almost entirely uphill, and we are puffing and panting by the time we get to the top. Fortunately, it's all downhill from here. The satellite image above was taken sometime post harvest. Everything was much greener today. When we were about halfway (which would put us at the top of the image above), this is what we saw:


It's the most beautiful time of the year in the Northwest...at least, I think so. Right now the dogwoods are in bloom. We saw quite a few along the way. I stopped for a picture of this one.


Everything at our house is about a month behind everything at the lower elevations. This is what our dogwood tree looks like right now.


We planted this dogwood tree nearly ten years ago, and it's never really done anything. Maybe this will be the year, but it's not looking very promising.

These very curious cows approached the fence...not anything like their shy neighbors just down the road.


On the other hand, the geese in this video were none to happy to see us at all.



If you can't see the video, click right here to see it on YouTube. They were as vicious as any guard dog!

After our walk, I came home and filled the birdfeeders. I always take a little walk around the yard to see what's new. One of the rhododendrons is getting ready to open.



And this clematis is starting to open now too.


It is thick with blossoms, unlike its neighbor just around the corner that is just now beginning to leaf out. It just goes to show you what a difference an abundance of sunshine makes.


I'm surprised to see as many tulips (which translates into "not many") as we have. I thought the squirrels had cleaned us out, but each of the whiskey barrels has at least a few. 


Now that Smitty has convinced the squirrels to find another zip code, they might actually fill in some day...after I'm long gone.

The wisteria at the front door is covered with buds now, and while it doesn't look like much at this point, it's going to be very pretty in a week or so.


A few of them are just starting to form flowers.


And the plum tree is starting to bloom now. Hopefully, the pollinators will be able to do their thing between rain showers.


So that's about all that's new in the yard right now.

Today I'm going to do a little housework, and then at least get started on my sampler top for the long arm class I'm taking in about ten days. And speaking of classes, yesterday I learned about a quilt symposium going on in Tacoma, Washington, this summer. Tacoma is about a three hour drive for me, but some of the classes looked really interesting. I decided to sign up. (See how brave I am these days?)

The symposium is put on by the Association of Pacific West Quilters. If you click on that link, you can see the brochure about the classes that are available. I've signed up for all three days. On Friday, I'm going to take the class taught by Lyric Kinard, entitled "Elements of Art for Quilters". Interestingly, I just bought her book about a month ago, 


and so to be able to take a class from her this summer is something of a coincidence. I have no art background whatsoever, aside from volunteering to teach art literacy when my kids were in school. When it comes to design, I know absolutely nothing, and I want to. So I'm excited about that class.

On Saturday, I signed up for another class she is teaching entitled "Abstract-A-Licious". And until I typed those words, I didn't realize she was teaching both classes. Obviously Lyric and I are going to become best friends before all this is over, and I'll get her to sign my book while I'm at it.

Then, Sunday's workshops are half day workshops. I signed up for one taught by Barbara Olson, entitled "Thread Creates the Design"...something else I'd like to learn more about.

So I'm looking forward to this now. The symposium will be held at the University of Puget Sound. My admission fee pays for all the workshops, meals, and lodging in the university dorms. It sounds like fun to me. There are still slots available. Join me if you like. The dorms have single bedrooms with a common living area, and it is possible to request roomies. Wouldn't that be fun? Since I never lived in a college dorm, I'm going to make up for that missed experience. I should probably plan some sort of mischief or something...just to get the complete college dorm experience. On the other hand, I might injure myself doing something like that. Staying up past midnight is probably all the mischief I'm up for...or maybe, 11:00 p.m. is more realistic. 

That's about it from me for today. I hope you're week is coming to a nice close and that you have a great weekend planned.


4/17/14

Top of the World Finish

This morning I wasted no time putting the last borders on the We Are the World quilt. I'm so happy with how this has turned out.


I started this quilt on January 15, 2013. It was my first Rainbow Scrap Challenge quilt. The pattern, Little Red Dresses, designed by Barbara Weiland Talbert, was originally free on the internet, but it has since been removed. (At least, I can't find it anywhere.) When I made the first blocks...the pink ones, middle block, bottom row...they weren't working out at all. The pattern used templates for the skirts. Enough said, I think. You can read my post about my first attempt with the blocks right here. But leave it to you helpful folks of the blogging community to come to my rescue. Once again, my undying gratitude goes to my sister quilters Denise and Andra who created paper-piecing patterns for me using their EQ programs. I ended up paper-piecing the skirts and traditionally piecing the rest, and this quilt is the end result.

This is the fabric I'm going to use for the back. The dots are about the same diameter as a pencil eraser.


Now I need to decide on a fabric for the binding. If you look at the extreme right of the image below, you can see the three contenders. I can either use the same floral fabric from the outer border, or the navy blue and white polkadot from the inner border, or I can use the same rainbow fabric I used for a different quilt binding. Which one do you like best?


Next up, I'm going to make the quilt top for the long arm class I'm taking later on this month. We're supposed to make a quilt top, thus:


These are the fabrics I pulled this morning.


I'm not trying to make an award-winning quilt from this since it will be a sampler. I'll probably want to keep it for reference. Nevertheless, if I end up with a nice little lap quilt that would be a bonus. I chose the fabrics because they'll show the quilting easily. Just as I posted the instructions again, I noticed I'm supposed to make a backing...and also two "extra fabrics". Guess I'll have to hunt those down too.

Today is a swimming day. Every bone in my body and brain (yes, I've been known to be a bonehead on occasion) tells me to just stay home. Honestly, though, I can't think of a single good reason for not going beyond just not wanting to leave the house. Rainy days seem to generate inertia. On the other hand, this could be the first time since setting my goal of four days of exercise per week that I could actually accomplish it. Not bad...nearly five months into the year, eh? (Scoff.) Anyway...if I go, I could earn my first "A" for a week of exercise. Maybe that alone will be enough to get me moving. My swimsuit was smelling so strongly of chlorine that I couldn't stand myself last time I put it on. I washed it over the weekend, and so it's nice and clean now. I have about 30 minutes to make up my mind. Watch for the exciting conclusion of this dilemma in my next blog post.

4/16/14

Wet Wednesday

Our spring rains returned last night. It's not bad this time of the year. We generally get some nice sunny days interspersed with a few days of drizzle. The sun is supposed to return by Friday. Sue and I are walking that day, and I should have plenty of time to plant the annuals over the weekend before the rain returns again next week.

Yesterday I picked up the annuals:


As of June 1st, we will have been in this house for 12 years. In that time, I've pretty much learned what will grow, what won't, and what will get eaten by squirrels or deer. It makes choosing annuals much easier since I'm kind of sticking with the same things year after year. 

Also, I picked up a cherry tomato and a few herbs. Last year, I planted the cherry tomato in a pot outside the greenhouse. Then I decided it was too far from the kitchen, and so this year, I'm planting it in one of the whiskey barrels on the upper patio. Since we dug up our overgrown sage, I picked up a new little one to replace that. Also, I got some Italian parsley that I'll plant where one of the sage plants was. Parsley is an annual...at least in our part of the world it is. And I got some more dill and some basil since the ones I planted from seeds did not thrive.

The words on my latest embroidery project are all finished now. As I said before, this is a gift, and so I'm not giving you anything other than peaks. Do you hate embroidering words as much as I do? It's kind of weird really...if you're going to hand stitch, what difference does it make what it is? Somehow, I find it absolutely tedious and boring to stitch words. I usually do those first on any design.


These were especially tedious since the font was small and I was using just one strand of floss.

And I sewed together all of the blocks for the We are the World quilt. I'm loving how this is looking.


I've had that floral fabric in my stash for a long time, and I chose it for no particular reason. It seems to be working. Next, I'll make a narrow border with the polka dot, and then make a wider border with the floral. And then the top will be finished.

Already, I think I know how I'm going to quilt it. I really like this pantograph from Urban Elementz:


At first I was thinking I'd just do my own version of it, but then I got the bright idea to purchase the pantograph. I watched this video yesterday that showed me how to do a pantograph at my own sewing machine.


If you can't see the video, click right here. It doesn't seem that difficult. I was thinking of tracing the pantograph out on pattern paper and then quilting through the paper. I wonder if anyone has ever done that. If so, please tell me how it worked for you.

So today I'm doing a little housework, and then I'm going to Zumba. I'm sort of liking Zumba...I guess. I'm still not very comfortable with the footwork, and I'm not even trying to do anything with my hands and arms yet. I think I will enjoy it more when I'm a little more familiar with the steps. For now, I'm doing a lot of clock-watching, which makes for a slow hour. I'm not giving up yet, however. I'm committed to continuing through the next couple of months at least, and then I'll re-evaluate. After that, I need to do some grocery shopping. Before I go to Zumba, I think I'll have some time to work on the borders for my quilt.

What's on your agenda for today?

4/15/14

Tuesday Archives

Yesterday I managed to waste the whole morning, and so I had no time for sewing. It's not entirely true that it was wasted. I wrote a blog post, started on my newest stitchery, did some housework, went to Zumba...so I did a lot. I suppose one could say that in my world, a day without sewing is a wasted day. Perhaps I could adopt that as my life's philosophy. But then, there are cats, so never mind.

Here's what I can tell you, however: It's time for the Tuesday Archives.

Val's Quilting Studio

Today's themes are Baskets and Bunnies. I have a couple of quilts with baskets, but I decided to stick with the oldest of them. And since I've only been quilting since 2008, none of my quilts are all that old, but there you go. I selected the Amish sampler, "Plain and Simple", for its seven paper-pieced basket blocks.


This was among the first quilt patterns that I purchased when I learned to quilt, although I didn't get around to starting the quilt until 2012. It's still one of my favorites. You can read my "finished" post right here.

As for bunnies, it occurs to me that the "Home is Where the Heart" is BOM is going to take me a long way on this linky party since it contains so many objects. It will always be my go-to quilt when I don't have anything else to share. Here's the whole quilt:


The March block has a bunny in a basket:



But the block I'm specifically interested in today is the April block:


It contains Mr. and Mrs. Bunny. My quilter, Erin quilted some Easter eggs into the grass using different colors of thread. 


To see all the blocks in this quilt, click right here.

Today is supposed to be a swimming day, but I think I'm going to skip swimming for today. The weather is going to change sooner than expected, and I'd like to get to the nursery to pick up my annuals before the rain starts. I won't be able to plant them until next week, but I can keep the plants in the greenhouse until then. I imagine the tomatoes will enjoy their company. And there should definitely be some time for sewing today. I'm hoping to get a good way along on the "We Are the World" quilt today. Here's where I left off on Sunday:


We were too old and stodgy to stay up for the lunar eclipse last night, but I did get up to see the tail end of it through the bathroom window. Did you stay up to see it?

That's it from me for this morning. I hope you have a lovely day today.

A Day in the Life of Gracie

Good morning. Gracie here. I just want to take this time to thank all of you who have come to my defense about my scant appearances on the blog. My mom likes to make the excuse that I, Gracie, do nothing but sleep, and that simply is not true.


Actually, I have a rich social life. My mornings always start out with kitty treats.


And speaking of kitty treats, I like to watch the hummingbirds from this window. I've never actually caught a hummingbird. That would require a lot of fuss and jumping and such. A dignified lady cat like myself does not fuss over little things like hummingbirds.


Then I retire to the cat-brushing place where I allow my dad to brush my furs for exactly 100 strokes.


Don't forget my chin.


A little to the right, if you please.


Once my furs are all brushed and glistening, I retire to the place where my mom sleeps at night. Her side of the bed is the best.


Only...she usually wants to pull up the sheets and make the bed, which ruins everything. After that, I retire to my purrsonal chair in her office for my daily nap. "Daily" as in "all day". Yes, a cat needs her beauty sleep.


Usually in the afternoon, we go outside for a while. I have to stay under this chair at first because...


you know...THAT. He always gets so excited when I come outside that he jumps on me and bites my neck...


which makes me sooooooooooooooo mad! My mom says we all have a shadow self, and his antics really bring out mine.


Here, you can see my mom's and Smitty's shadow selves. You know, there's an expression that goes something like, "All hat and no cattle". I'm here to tell you that Smitty is "All shadow and no cat."


And here's a prime example of what I'm talking about.


Enough said, I think.

Once I'm sure the coast is clear, I drink from my outside water dish. This is my favorite place to drink on a hot day.


And after my mom and dad have their dinner, we go downstairs, where I nap on my dad's lap.


My dad is my favorite person in the whole wide world.

So I'll leave it to you, my dear cat fans. Do you think that I don't do anything but sleep? I'd say my days are filled with adventure. By adventure, I'm referring to the dignified kind.

4/14/14

All the News That's Fit to Print

It was an action-packed day yesterday from start to finish, so let's get started.

As we were making our way to the greenhouse, we stopped to admire our Bing cherry tree, which is looking really great. We planted two cherry trees somewhere around nine years ago, and this one is finally getting some real size.


It's blossoms are truly beautiful.



This Black Tartarian below has done less well. The first tree died, and this is the replacement. Last year, one half of this tree died, and we had to cut a good portion of it from the main trunk. You can see about a foot off the ground where the cut off limb was. It was painful to watch the leaves shrivel and die. The flowers are just opening on this one now, and what remains of the tree is doing well.


After I'd thoroughly taken in the cherry trees (my favorite fruit, by the way), I headed into the greenhouse and repotted the tomatoes into their medium-sized pots. They'll be in these for a month or so, and then I'll put them in their largest pots for the remainder of the season. Those two left in the solo cups are my puny little dill and basil plants. I haven't had much luck starting either from seeds, and I'm probably going to end up buying starts.


Also, I planted the lettuce. I always plant Red Sails red leaf lettuce and Buttercrunch, which is a large butter lettuce.


I've grown to think that this is the best way for me to grow lettuce. These are planter boxes intended for window boxes, but they each hold five heads of lettuce very nicely. When the plants get large enough to start picking leaves, I'll plant another box of each. The lettuce does very well in the greenhouse, and growing it there avoids all the bugs and slugs and other nasties that like to live among the leaves. Gardening is great, but I don't like bugs, slugs, and other nasties. 

While I was working in the greenhouse, Smitty was expressing his undying devotion to the catnip.



Love is messy.


We walked around the yard a little longer, and then I did a little bit of housework. It was still fairly early in the afternoon, and so I had some time to sew. The "We Are the World" quilt is next on my list of things to do. Yesterday, I trimmed all the blocks, and cut the sashings and cornerstones.


Before I finished up for the day, I had the bottom two rows sewn together.


There should be time today to get all of the blocks sewn together. Then I'm going to add a narrow border from the polka-dot fabric and finish it off with a wider border of the floral. I'll probably use the floral for the binding as well. This being a "Rainbow Scrap" quilt, I'm considering using some rainbow fabric from my stash.

After that, it was time to get ready to celebrate Matthew's 30th birthday at a downtown Portland restaurant. We had such a lovely time, and we all ate too much. The service at the Portland City Grill was excellent, and of course, it's always great to get the whole fam together. Here are Matthew and his main squeeze, Valerie.


And here are Erik and Mae.


And here is the whole gang!


Matthew brought along the newest iteration of his poi ball project. He's been working on this for quite some time, and it keeps moving closer to completion. Click on that link to read more about it, and there is a short video right here.


Here is a video I made last night. Listen carefully, and Matthew will explain what you're seeing.


If you can't see the video, click right here to see it on YouTube.

And that was our day. My little helper cat has taken to sitting in my office window while I type these blog posts. He gives me tips on grammar and spelling, and we discuss our plans for the day. You know...catching mice, digging...that sort of thing. We're also going to try to catch Gracie in the act of doing something other than sleeping. She's old, and not much for photography.


As for me, it's a Zumba day. I didn't go either day last week, and so I'm pretty determined. My best bet is to stay out of the sewing room this morning because it seems something always happens there that ruins my resolve. There is a little housework to do, but not much.

Our nice weather is supposed to hold until Thursday, and so I'm going to get to work planting my annuals in pots this week. One of my terra cotta pots didn't survive the winter. They don't do well, in general, and so I'm afraid its replacement is going to be plastic. Terra cotta is too expensive to keep replacing them every couple of years, while the plastic pots seem indestructible.

So that's the plan for Monday and beyond. What's on your week's agenda?