5/24/15

Two People, Older than Dirt

Forty years of marriage will cause you to grow older. It'll also make your hair blow back. In some cases it'll blow the hair clean off your head. Wrinkles will appear without notice and uninvited. Your teeth might fall out, and your joints can ache. You'll cease being able to run the 50 yard dash in less than five minutes. You'll no longer be able to do the standing broad jump without hurting yourself in the process. Cats will take up residence in your home. Children may come. The children will cause chaos and worry, while simultaneously making your heart sing. Just about the time you have them civilized, they'll move away, and you'll miss them. You'll still have the cats...always the cats. Think carefully before embarking on such a project as 40 years of marriage, and then do it anyway. Be sure to wear sunglasses along the way. And don't forget to wear your sunscreen.

5/22/15

Signing Off for the Weekend

As I've already mentioned, we're heading off to the beach this weekend to celebrate 40 years of wedded bliss. This morning I was perusing an old photo album looking for an image to accompany this post. I came across this one from our wedding day. I think the expressions on our faces tell you all you need to know:


He chased me until I caught him, and then...uh-oh. What do you suppose he's thinking here?

Today I'm packing up a few things. Weekend trips don't require an awful lot of work, but some. We haven't used the trailer since last September, and so I need to figure out what needs replacing and what doesn't. I can tell you one thing: the jeans I put in that trailer when we purchased it nearly ten years ago are going to have to be replaced for a different size. I'll let you guess whether the numbers get larger or smaller, but here's a clue: Desserts for Two. Actually, it isn't the Desserts for Two that have caused the problems. It's the Desserts for a Crowd that you have to watch out for, especially when your crowd consists of two people. Which brings me back to Desserts for Two. It's a little like the circle of life. Can there be life without dessert? I doubt it.

Today I am going to make another dessert for two, in addition to all my packing responsibilities. Today I'm going to try the Lemon Creme Brulee. Christina Lake posted about it on her website a couple of weeks ago, and I was sold. I'll have to tell you more about that when I come back next week.

Last night I knocked off two more items from my CSA share. I made this Roasted Beet Crostini.


The recipe appealed to me because it used the whole beet, including the greens. I already had the oven on for dinner, and so I stuck the beets in the oven and roasted them at the same time. When the beets are roasted and cool enough to handle, you chunk them up and add 3/4 cup (to be honest, I added a whole cup) to your food processor along with a 4 oz. log of goat cheese and some pepper. Whirl that around until it's pureed and spreadable. Meanwhile, you've sauteed the chopped up stems and leaves of your beet greens in some olive oil and sherry vinegar and you've got yourself a really nice concoction there. The greens would be good served up just like that. For this dish, you spread the beet spread on some toasted baguette slices, top it with the greens, and oh my. Who would have thought beets and greens could be so delicious? Obviously, I did, because I loves me my fresh beets.

Also, I tried another recipe for the bok choy. It has potential, but it needs a little work. I want to try it again, only with a few changes. If I can come up with a good recipe, I'll be sure to tell you all about it. The recipe I tried last night was fine, but Mike and I agreed that a few added ingredients and changes would make it much better. More to come on the bok choy front. I know you'll be waiting with bated breath for that, so just cool your jets for a week or two, and I'll be back with the thumbs up or the thumbs down. Does anyone doubt that bok choy is going to show up in that CSA share again?

With all that cooking yesterday (not to mention the associated grocery shopping), I had no time for sewing. And don't you know I cried my eyes out having to go a whole day without paper-piecing. Today I need to do some laundry since neither of us has any clean clothes to wear this weekend. And then I need to finish packing. I'm hoping I'll have at least a little time to sew because I'm chomping at the bit to get back to those tulips, let me tell you.

And all of that to say that I won't be blogging this weekend, although I might post a picture or two. I'll be back on Wednesday next week to tell you all about it. The weather is forecast to be cloudy, but only a 10% chance of rain. That's a pretty good forecast for the Oregon coast in May.

I hope you enjoy your long weekend!

5/21/15

Four Down

Yesterday, after eating my healthy breakfast of CSA goodies, I decided to test out my theory that I should be able to leap tall buildings with a single bound by heading out to the greenhouse. The greenhouse isn't particularly tall, and I didn't jump over it. However, I did negotiate the threshold nicely. That's gotta count for something, right?

When I got inside, I discovered the first flowers on the tomatoes. Furry little things, aren't they? And the tomatoes are growing like mad. 


I only just put them in larger pots a couple of weeks ago, but I'm afraid they'll need transplanting again very soon. It's starting to make me wonder if that middle pot is really worth the effort. Mike thinks it helps keep the roots from staying too wet, since a larger volume of soil would stay wet longer. 

I've also heard a theory that a plant will fill the pot with roots before it grows taller above the surface of the soil, and therefore putting it in too large a pot too soon could stunt its growth. As I'm writing that it doesn't make a lot of sense to me since planting a start in the actual ground would be like planting it in a pot the size of the universe. Oh well...all this speculation about it will do me no good until next year. For now, it is what it is, and that means I'm going to have to repot these again before we go to Whistler, B.C., next month. If I wait until we get back, the plants are going to be so large that it will be hard to manage them without doing them harm.

After that (and to Smitty's great delight...he doesn't like the greenhouse), we took a little walk around the yard. More of the iris are opening. This first one appears white, but it is actually the lightest shade of blue.



There are only a few of these apricot-colored ones.


And I love these two shades of purple ones. 



My favorites have yet to open, however. They are blue and yellow. We've had quite a bit of rain over the past week, and that does the iris no good. The blossoms fill up with water and rot before they even open. I'm afraid it won't be a good year for the iris. Plus, our plants need very badly to be divided. I'm going to have to read up on that because we are getting fewer stalks each year. It's very noticeable this year. I've resisted dividing them up until now, but I'm afraid the time has come.

The new plantings in the culinary herb garden are doing well. I noticed the lavender are heading up. Can Bees Knees cocktails be far behind?


It was cloudy while we were out for our walkabout, and so I was able to get a better picture of the purple rhododendron. When the sun is bright, it's hard to get the color in the image nicely saturated.


Its neighbor across the sidewalk is in full bloom now too.


I procrastinated hard all day trying to avoid doing any more paper-piecing. Eventually, there was no choice, and I headed into the sewing room to the paper-piecing project of doom. I made a purple tulip.


And then a pink one.


So...take a careful look at that image above. Do you see the mistake? Scroll down to the bottom and I'll show you what I did.

Okay, now that I've confessed my quilting sins, here's what I did with those first four tulips. They are sewn into a four-patch of tulips. There is one of these in the quilt.


You can see it there at the top of the gazebo, just left of center.


That was all the sewing I did yesterday. It takes me a solid hour to make one of those tulips. I still have three small ones and three large ones to go, and I don't seem to be picking up any steam as I go. I am making a huge mess, however, and so I suppose that counts for something.

This morning, in my continuing quest to use my CSA veggies, I tried this little breakfast sandwich. First, I toasted an English muffin and spread it with some of the tomato chutney from last year. If you don't have tomato chutney, salsa will do nicely for this. 


Then I fried up some Canadian bacon. You could use regular bacon or sausage too....or none. 


Then I added some olive oil to the same pan I used for the Canadian bacon and sauteed another handful of spinach until it was wilted. 


Then I poured in a lightly beaten egg. Think of the egg as the mortar for your brick of spinach.


I used my spatula to shape it into a round pancake about the size of my English muffin, and then flipped it over.


Then I put it on top of the Canadian Bacon...that fries up so quick, your bacon will still be plenty warm.


And there you go...one breakfast sandwich. Usually I use avocado on this, but the spinach was nice too.


And now...faster than a speeding bullet...I'm heading into the sewing room to sew a label on the Rubber Duckies quilt I made for my friends' first grandchild:


The baby was born last week. She has a much longer name, but her nickname is Zevee...cute, huh?


Just now, I found this picture of the happy grandparents on Facebook. They are just too cute with their new little granddaughter.


I'm wanting to get this into today's mail. Also today I'm heading out to the grocery store and then doing some housework. We're leaving to go to the beach on Saturday, and so there's lots to do. And if all of that doesn't take too long, I'll get back to my tulips.

For those of you who can't resist a horror story, here's the mistake:


And this is only one reason I detest paper piecing. No matter how careful I am, I often end up cutting my pieces a little short. They seem large enough until I fold them over some angled line. Then, I realize they aren't going to stretch into the seam allowance. And if you're like me, you only notice this when you've already sewn on the next several pieces.

So I looked at this carefully, and it's only about 1/4-inch short. The quilt police were looking over my shoulder and tut-tutting, but I ignored them and just sewed a little extra on right there. You didn't see it did you? By the time the whole quilt is sewn together, quilted, and bound, I'll forget it's there, and so will you. And quilt police...get out of my sewing room!

5/20/15

Vexing Veggies

It was so exciting to pick up my first CSA share yesterday. I've been following Working Hands Farm for about a year and a half. We signed up for a share last year, and then I canceled it the very next day because I thought we might be doing too much traveling. As it turns out, we could have probably managed a share, but whatever. If my crystal ball were a little more functional, I could plan better.

In any case, I was excited to sign up in 2015, and I've been waiting since January for the shares to begin. Farmer Brian and Farmer Jess post the most beautiful images on their Facebook page. I so enjoy watching them live their farm life. They work hard, no doubt about it, and they seem blissfully content in the life they've chosen for themselves. It's very uplifting. 

Since I've seen pictures of their farm many times, it was easy to find their place, which is about 20 minutes from where I live. Their barn is unmistakable from the road.


They are even younger and friendlier than I imagined them to be. It was a pleasure to finally meet them.

When I parked, I visited with the little goats penned up next to the parking lot. They were very sociable...looking for handouts, no doubt, but they also made themselves available for petting. 


There were lots of children running around while their moms and dads picked up their CSA shares. The farm has an "open farm" event coming up when all of the animals will be around, and we'll be able to tour the farm more completely. They have pigs, chickens, and cows, two big dogs, and Gloucester, the cat. I'm not aware of other animals, but there may be some.

The goats were nibbling at my fingers as I tried to get my camera on the other side of the fencing. I gave up on that.


Oh yes, and this guy...there's one in every crowd, isn't there?


As I was heading for home, I turned back and snapped this picture of Farmer Brian chatting with one of the children. He was very sweetly attentive to the kids. 


It was so much fun unpacking my veggies when I got home. It didn't feel overwhelming at first. I just found myself thinking about what I could do with all of this produce. It was so crisp, green, clean, and beautiful.


I sprung for one of the handmade crates to carry my veggies home. I'll take this with me each time.


Here's what was in my share yesterday.


Also, I reserved a dozen eggs per week. Aren't these pretty?


Here's the label from the carton:


"The Ladies of Chateau Poulet". Love it.

Last night, in something of a panic, I realized I will have almost no opportunity to use this week's share. We aren't eating at home tonight, and I have dinner prepared for the two nights following. Then we're leaving for the beach on Saturday. We're celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary this weekend by heading to the beach. We have dinner already planned for the three nights we're there. Then, we're back Tuesday when it's time for me to pick up the 2nd share. Oy.

I spent some time on my iPad after getting in bed last night searching out recipes and things I might be able to do with my personal bountiful harvest. It's probably going to be shared with friends, neighbors, and kids, for the most part. I fell asleep and dreamed of veggies and a friend from high school. He was two years younger than me, and we didn't even know one another well, so I'm not sure how he got in there. Anyway...I dreamed of veggies and a random person from my past.

This morning I poured myself a bowl of cereal, and then poured it back into the box. I mean, what was I thinking? When I had beautiful farm fresh eggs to work with? Geez. That's no way to use up my CSA, now is it? So I cracked two eggs into a bowl...


They didn't look so different from the ones at the grocery store except those yolks were definitely perky. You know, "perky". Unlike my boobs.

And then I grabbed a handful of my CSA spinach and some olive oil. I sauteed the spinach in a pan until it was wilted, salted it with a little garlic salt, and then scrambled my eggs in with it. Then I topped it with salsa. (Everyone knows that eggs are just a vehicle for salsa, right?) And then, strawberries...just because.


It was simple and delicious. I'll be doing this on our trip to the beach, which will get me into those veggies and eggs at least a little bit. And, let me tell you: I was feeling healthy!!! No doubt, I'll be leaping tall buildings in a single bound by this afternoon.

But before I start getting all energetic, let me whine about the paper-piecing I did yesterday. I started with the small blocks, for no other reason than they were on the top of the stack. (I need seven of them.) Each one is worked in four sections. One down, 27 to go. (I'm very good at math.)


When I had the four sections finished, I sewed the sections together. I started with the two center sections and sewed the center seam. Then I added the side sections.


Can anyone see the problem with that? If you guessed it meant sewing a "Y" seam, then ding, ding, ding! You win the prize, because you are correct. (No actual prize to be awarded in this game, unless you count this enthusiastic Attaboy!) 

Yes, a "Y" seam. Doesn't that just frost your nostrils? First, paper-piecing. Then "Y" seams. It kind of makes you wonder what's next, doesn't it? World domination by cats would be my guess.


Well. I managed to negotiate the "Y" seam, and then decided to try a different strategy on the next one. For this one, I sewed the outside pieces to the center pieces first, then sewed those two sections down the middle.


Doing it that way avoided the "Y" seam, while simultaneously saving my sanity. 


Wouldn't you think the pattern might have mentioned that? As with so many things, no one consulted me.

So there they are...the first two of seven. Five to go, and then three large ones.


And that's the state of things here at the Three Cats Ranch.

I wonder if cats like vegetables?

5/19/15

Eye Candy from the Guild

To make up for yesterday's spate of whining, I have some eye candy from my guild meeting last night. (To be clear, I'm not finished whining yet. I'm just taking a break.) Lisa Crnich was our speaker last night. Lisa lives in the local area and in addition to quilting, she teaches 4th grade.


She brought with her some quilts from what might be thought of as her "previous life" as a quilter. Her first quilts are lovely.


I especially liked this pretty sort of modern take on a 9-patch,


and her origami cranes. I have a soft spot in my heart for origami cranes. When I was attending 4th grade in Hawaii, some student teachers came to class one day and taught us how to make them.


Then, she fell under the spell of Ruth McDowell and Lisa's quilting was transformed. Here is a library of books by Ruth McDowell Lisa brought for us to peruse.


She told us she attended classes by Ruth McDowell no less than five times. The first quilt she made after taking the first class was this row of mailboxes. She said it had special significance to her because they were along a road she walked while attending to her father who was ill.


Ruth suggested that each mailbox be given its own personality, and you can see that each mailbox is pieced in a strip that has been sewn into the whole quilt. 

Her second quilt was this one of her grandmother. She said her grandmother had ten children before losing her husband, and she attended to her home and her children accompanied by one of her hound dogs. The cabin in the background was built by Lisa's uncles from abandoned railroad ties.


Ruth McDowell taught Lisa how to make the clothing look worn or "rumpled" by piecing the fabric in different directions.


She used the same technique to make the dog's "fur" grow in different directions and to put whiskers on the dog's face.


Many of Lisa's quilts are inspired by her own travel photography. The quilt below was inspired by a European scooter that had been decorated in lots of different colors of duct tape.


This next quilt was inspired by her time spent in Montana where cherries are grown.


She teaches a class about making chickens, and she showed us her chickens in two different colorways.


She likes to start with the eye of the chicken and move outward from there. 


Here is a quilt inspired by the ladders in the kivas at Mesa Verde National Park. This picture was taken looking up from the bottom of a ladder. Lisa told us the pieced border was made as a separate project. When she laid it beside this quilt, it was just right.


If you look again at her library of books, there is one entitled "Pieced Flowers". Several of Lisa's quilts were inspired by the projects in the book. This one is a hibiscus.


I believe she said there were approximately 7 different orange fabrics in the flower center to give it depth.




Another of Ruth McDowell's books is entitled "Pieced Vegetables". Take a look at the quilts inspired from the book. Peppers:


Eggplant:


Broccoli. The green fabric for the broccoli florets is actually a tree fabric.


Bell pepper.


Celery:


Swiss chard:


Corn:


Here's a close-up of the quilting:


and Carrots:


Lisa will be teaching a class for our guild on August 1st. The next quilts illustrate what we'll be learning. Lisa calls this her "Four Fabric Forest" series. Each quilt is made with one tree fabric and one fabric each for the foreground, midground, and background.




In this next image, the quilts still have four fabrics. The midground fabric is the same in both quilts, but the other three fabrics have changed.


You can see more of Lisa's work (and better pictures!) at her blog: Lisa Crnich Quilts, including images of her beautiful Morrison Bridge at Night quilt.

I've signed up for her class on August 1st, and I'm looking forward to that. I love her bold use of color and the wonderful way she's interpreted the subjects of her photography.

Today I'm excited to be picking up the first of 28 shares of a CSA (community support agriculture) I joined. The farm I've signed up with, Working Hands Farm, posts the most beautiful images on its Facebook page. I've linked to their blog there. I love following along and seeing what's going on at the farm. As a bonus, the farm is only about 20 minutes away from where I live. I'll pick up my shares every Tuesday afternoon. Since I've never tried this before, I'm looking forward to the challenge of using all the produce we'll be inundated with over the summer. I've also reserved one dozen farm fresh eggs per week. It'll be nice to have eggs laid by the chicken the very morning I pick them up. Farmer Brian and Farmer Jess are a young couple married just last year. They are so cute, I'm ready to adopt them. Short of adopting them, they'll need to keep an eye on Gloucester, their cat, when I'm around.

So there's lots going on at the Three Cats Ranch today. I was too danged lazy yesterday to hop on my treadmill, and so I must do that today. Also on the "too danged lazy" list is my housework from yesterday. (You noticed I did have time for sewing in all that laziness, however.) And that means I'll be playing catch-up today before I can resume whining about the paper-pieced tulips I'm going to make.

What's on your agenda today?