8/29/14

A Day of Lasts

Today I canned the last of the tomatoes.


Thanks to Dasha who convinced me to try red tomato chutney for the last of this season's tomatoes. She sent me her recipe, but as a dumb American, I couldn't get comfortable making the conversion from metric measurements to whatever it is we use here. Even though I studied it and figured it, it ended up seeming like an awful lot of vinegar, and so I resorted to the recipe in one of my favorite preserving cookbooks, Marisa McClellan's Food in Jars.


The chutney is so delicious and sweet. I wondered if it wouldn't be so similar to salsa as to be indistinguishable, but it is completely different. It is thicker and sweeter. It should be good served over eggs or on sandwiches, but it would also be good just spread on toast, like jam. Yummy. I'm so glad I gave it a try. Of course that just means I'll need more tomatoes when I do my canning next year.

And I'll just say right here that I am terribly disappointed in the plums. They have not done their part, which was to ripen on time for canning. How difficult can that be, Plums? Huh? Sadly, I'm afraid we'll miss the plums this year; although, at the rate they're going, they may not be ripe before we get back.

Mike installed a fancy schmancy different kind of hitch on the fifth wheel last night, and so he drove it to work today just to make sure it went down the road okay. And that just meant there was no way for me to do any packing today. Boo. Hoo. (Not really.) It gave me a chance to work on the last block of the Gardener's Journal quilt. And I finished it!


(I didn't get it laid out very flat for its picture, did I?) Anyway...I sewed it to the rest of the quilt, and there it is...all the blocks are sewn together at last!


And that is the last sewing I'm going to do before we leave. That means the quilt still needs its borders, but I'll save that for when we get back.

Thanks to all of you who gave me your opinions about the inner border. When I went to the fair on Tuesday, I had time to stop off at a fabric store. And I should have known that the Universe would have the last word about what color it would be. When I went into the store, I was still undecided about what color to use, and you all were pretty evenly split on which blue was best. Armed with my swatches, I ended up with this pretty turquoise batik. 


There was no royal blue that I was happy with, and so I decided it was going to be turquoise. I've used this batik in a quilt before, and I was sorry I didn't have any left. I ended up buying some extra so that I can use it in some future quilt. It's such a pretty color.

And that would make this my last blog post before we leave. Tomorrow will be crazy busy with packing, and so the next time you hear from me, I'll be miles away from here.

8/28/14

Keep Calm and Pack On

Things are starting to get hairy around here...and I'm not talking about cats. Today felt a little like a rat race running around getting things done in time for our Sunday departure, while trying to stay sane at the same time. When it comes to sanity, I'm a terrible multi-tasker.

It was supposed to be a canning day, but I had an appointment for a pedicure at 11:00 a.m., and so there wasn't really enough time to do both. (Yes, a pedicure. A girl can't go off on a month-long trip without first getting her toes done, now can she?) So, instead, I made dinner for tonight. The recipe I made for Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Pasta Shells in Arrabbiata Sauce makes enough for dinner tonight, but it also makes enough to freeze. We have out-of-town guests staying the night with us the week after we get home. Now, dinner is made for tonight, and for when they come! (I'm telling you, the woman is always thinking.)

And since none of what I'm about to tell you has any pictures attached to it, I decided to whet your appetite for the trip with some images from trips gone by. Consider this your picture interlude.

The Three Gossips, Arches National Park

After that, I took two king-sized comforters (one from our bed at home, and one from the bed in the trailer) to a laundromat and used their big 75-lb. capacity washers to wash both of them. Between washing and drying, that little task took me about an hour and a half. I've been collecting change from different pockets when I do the laundry at home, and I managed to find about $15 in quarters in my little change jar collected over a period of years. There was still a bunch of pennies, nickels, and dimes in the jar, and so I took the rest to the grocery store where they have a change counting machine. Now here's where it happened to be my lucky day.

So I've never used the change-counting machine before. I had a choice of getting a cash voucher, for which the machine would extract nearly 11% as a fee. Or, I could choose to take it in a gift card for no fee. I decided on an Amazon gift card, since Amazon is my shopping mall of choice these days. (I know I'm supposed to be mad at them over the whole e-book pricing thing, but they are so darned convenient for the recluses among us.) Anyway...the machine went through the process of counting the coins ($10.99 to be exact), and then I waited and waited and waited and waited while the machine was "processing my request". Finally, I asked one of the store employees how long it was supposed to take. Well, she didn't know, but not as long as I'd been standing there. She called over a manager who pushed a couple of buttons. Then the machine said "technical difficulties" and it gave me the cash voucher with NO FEE! Whoo Hoo! That's what I wanted all along! I needed a couple of things that I forgot to pick up yesterday, and so I paid for my groceries with my cash voucher and walked out with some change in my pocket. I think I actually had a spring in my step at that point! (But only in my left foot because it would make my right knee hurt to spring.)

Here's another picture interlude:

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

So then I needed to go pick up my car at the auto body place. Someone backed into me recently...not my fault, and a story not worth going into. I've been driving a rental car since Monday. That all went off without a hitch except that I left the garage door opener in the rental car when I turned it in. When I got home in my own car, I went looking for the garage door opener, and I was surprised when I couldn't find it. When I walked in the door, I was all set to call Mike to ask him where it was (since he took the car to the auto body shop to begin with) when I found a voice mail message on my phone from the car rental place. Yes, they had the garage door opener. Oy. Fortunately, Mike works right across the street, so he'll pick it up before he comes home.

As I'm writing this, I have some potatoes boiling for mashed potatoes. Since I don't have to make dinner for tonight, I'm making Cottage Pies for dinner tomorrow night. That makes enough so that we can have dinner tomorrow, and then I'll put the rest in the trailer to eat on our first night out. We always drive a long distance the first day and neither of us is up for cooking. Cottage Pies or else Macaroni & Cheese are our go-to first-night-on-the-dusty-trail dishes. Put it in the oven. Wait. Eat. Easy.

Tomorrow morning I'll can the rest of those tomatoes. I keep checking the plums, but they are still so hard and bitter that I'm starting to believe they won't be ready before we go. Oh well. Such is life. Our neighbors can enjoy them while we're gone.

So I'll give you one more picture, and then I'll leave you.

Crater Lake National Park (Yes, it's really that blue.)

Before I go, however, I just want to say that Smitty and Gracie are never very happy when they see the trailer up close to the house and mom and dad scurrying around. This never works out well for them.

8/27/14

Link-ups Galore

If I don't have time for any other blogging today, at least I have some time to join in the parties. There are lots of parties going on in Blogville this week.

First up:


Val's Quilting Studio

The first of this week's archive categories is "Flying Geese". I'm sharing the True Hope quilt that I made for my cousin Rebecca. It was inspired by a quote from Shakespeare: "True hope is swift and flies with swallow's wings."


You can read the blog post I wrote when I finished this quilt right here.

The second category is "Flowers". Well, I have just the right quilt for this, and it's been a long time since I showed this quilt on my blog. Thanks for the opportunity, Val. It's the Checkerboard Flowers quilt, a favorite of Blogvillians:


This quilt was entered in the first International Quilt Festival of Ireland. You can read the post from many moons ago when this quilt was finished right here.

So I'm trying not to get tipsy from all the drinking I'm doing at these parties...nah, you know I'm kidding don't you? I'm not really trying. The next party is:



When I attend a party, I bring dessert:


You can read the post where I bake up this yummy peachy goodness right here.

And after all that partying, I think it's time to relax with a good book right here:


For this month's challenge, I worked with the fancy stitches on my sewing machine to make this "Red Sunflower" quilt.


From this book:


And you can read the post I wrote about the process of making the quilt right here.

So, that's all the partying I'm up for. Time's awastin', although to quote the famous Sigmund Freud, "Time spent with cats [and all of you] is never wasted." Nevertheless, the tomatoes are calling to me: Come and fulfill our life-long dreams of becoming salsa! When the tomato calls, one answers.

8/26/14

Oregon State Fair

My friend Sue and I met for lunch today, and then we headed down to the Oregon State Fair. We spent most of our time with the quilts, although we did wander around the animal pavilions for a little while too. Sue wanted to see the piglets. It doesn't seem possible to have a fair without piglets, but this one had none. Sue was terribly disappointed. We did see some fanciful critters, however. I'll say more about that in a bit. For now...on to the quilts.

Sue and I both liked this one really well. It is iconic images from our state capital of Salem, where the state fair is held. Sue lived in Salem for a while earlier in life, and so she recognized some of these images, while most were unfamiliar to me.


At the top is our state capitol building. Our state capitol building has a golden pioneer on top of its dome. Below that is the "old mill" as Sue put it. The details were wonderful in this quilt. In the image below is an osprey with a fish in its talons


and we liked the use of this doily on the church.


Would you believe this next one...approximately king sized...was hand cross-stitched and hand quilted?


Just so you know I'm not kidding, here is a close-up of one of the stars.


And what about this next one. Is this called a feathered star?


Beautiful quilting. It was machine quilted, but I thought it might have been done free hand.


This little owl was interesting...


with its 3-D tummy.


This next one was one of my favorites.


And who's old enough to remember the Purple People Eater? We happened to be standing next to a man about our age who was explaining the song to the younger woman (a daughter, perhaps?) with him. She hadn't ever heard of the Purple People Eater. Such a pity. The man and Sue and I sang a chorus for her.


Not old enough to remember the Purple People Eater? Shut up.

This next one is for you, Padsworth.



This next one was another of my favorites. Machine applique.


This next one is hand-applique and machine quilted.


Look at the details in the appliques.



And this next one is for you, Denise P., queen of cupcakes.


Cute quilting in the borders.


And look at those polka dot sprinkles.


Sue and I really loved the detail in this next one.



And if you can stand to see one more picture of my quilts, here you go. If not, just close your eyes, and keep scrolling.


It's so much fun to see my own quilts on display with the others. Winning some ribbons makes it taste even sweeter.

After that we wandered around a little bit. Of course, I had to take a picture of this counted cross-stitch cat.


The cakes always amaze me, but I often wonder if anyone would actually eat these cakes. And is there actually cake under all that frosting?


Here are some really cute cupcakes.



It's kind of hard not to reach in and grab one for a little snack, but we resisted.

After that, we wandered around the animal pavilions. When there were no piglets, we went and looked at the chickens. Some are so exotic. I'm thinking of this for my next hairstyle.


Sue was naughty and opened the door of this rabbit's cage. He was kind of a dalmatian rabbit, and he had the cutest black spots over both eyes.


Oh, and our day couldn't have been complete without the two of us acting like goof balls. It sort of made up for the sting of being old enough to remember the Purple People Eater.


Sue wanted to be Farmer of the Year.



So that was our day. It was fun! When we left the exposition center, a woman in a golf cart came by and offered us a ride to the parking lot, which was very much appreciated. It was a hot day, and we were tired.

I made a quick stop at the grocery store on the way home to get a few things for dinner. Tomorrow will be a longer trip. Also tomorrow, I'm meeting with the woman who will be my lead instructor when I join the other instructors at the Coffee Creek Quilters next month. Also today I was signed up for the Department of Corrections training held the first Thursday of each month. I won't go until October, but in the meantime, they were kind enough to provide me with a 90-page pdf manual and pre-test that I need to complete before the training. Oy. In my spare time, right? I'll take it along on the trip and make my way through it during down time.

So with that, things are about to get ugly as we make last minute preparations for our Sunday departure. I still have two rounds to go with the canner. Tomorrow I'll be making one last batch of salsa, and if the plums ever ripen, I'm hoping to get in a batch of plum chutney. There's also laundry to do, including taking our big king-sized bedspread down to the laundromat where they have some heavy-duty washers that can accommodate something that large. And then there's packing! So I'm hoping to keep up with blogging the next couple of days, but it might be slim pickings if all I do is work on getting ready. In any case, the August NewFO Challenge and Giveaway will go live on August 31st (Sunday). Are you ready?


And if I don't blog before we leave, just know I'll be taking lots of pictures and blogging along the way while we're traveling. I hope you'll come along with us on this year's trip to the Great Lakes region.

8/25/14

Monday's Meanderings

It was a relaxing Monday morning for me. I sat watching the birds in the birdbath for the longest time. It's so much fun to watch them splashing around. We have a mister that runs full time. When we first put up our birdbath, the birds ignored it completely. When I mentioned this at our Backyard Bird Shop, they suggested adding the mister. They explained that birds must be able to see and hear the water to be attracted to it, and that the mister would make it more visible and audible. It worked like magic. The birds came in droves, and they were as excited as Smitty with catnip.


Even the hummingbirds enjoy flying into the shower from the mister.

So that was all well and good, but I pulled myself away. I had things to do, including making four more pints of salsa.


There are still enough tomatoes left to make more salsa or else some red tomato chutney. We both love this salsa so much that I am sorely tempted to make more of it. That will probably mean the end of the tomatoes. We ran out of salsa this spring, and so I'm feeling compelled to make more than I did last year. Better too much than not enough. Where salsa is concerned, that's my motto.

While I was waiting for that to cook down and to process, I was able to trace out my extra stitchery to take along on our trip. A few people asked about this pattern. This is the "Never Underestimate" hand embroidery pattern from Bobbie G. Designs. She has some very cute stuff on her website. 


My background piece is a Kona white, although it doesn't look white in this picture. I think it's the lighting in my sewing room that gives it that tinge of dinge.

So when the salsa was finished, and I'd done my tracing, I started on the "H" block for the Gardener's Journal quilt. The "H" block has these three stitcheries.


It went together fairly quickly.


Here's how it looks along with the rest of the quilt. You can see it in the upper right.


And now there are just two stitcheries left to piece together with the "I" block.


I think I'll have enought time to get that one finished and the blocks all sewn together before we leave on our trip. I was hoping to have the whole quilt top finished, but then I had second thoughts about the fabric I had selected for the narrow stop border. Look at the image below, and see what you think. (I'm soliciting your opinion here.)


The outer border will be from the blue floral. Originally, I was going to use that aqua fabric at the bottom of the narrow border. Now I'm thinking that it needs something brighter: either the turquoise at the top, or the royal blue in the middle. Which one do you like best? If I decide to use one of the darker fabrics, I can still use the lighter aqua on the back, and that will be very pretty. I would need to piece it together. I'm thinking the aqua and a scrappy stripe of the remaining scraps from the quilt would make a pretty back. (And I'm already plotting my entries in next year's Oregon State Fair. We're getting pretty bold around here, don't you think?)

I can order the Kona cottons online, and I usually do. There isn't enough time between now and Sunday, however, so I'll probably take a swatch along and see if I can find some along the way. Still, I'm wondering what you think. I'm still undecided about which one is the right one.

So that's my day. Tomorrow I'm meeting up with my friend Sue for lunch, and then she's going to accompany me to the fair. I'm excited to see all the quilts! That will take most of the day, I imagine, and so I'll probably can the rest of the tomatoes on Wednesday. The plums are still hard as little purple rocks. I'm really hoping they'll be ready before we leave. There is no rushing these things, I've learned.