Thursday, August 30, 2012

Take Five Quilt

This is the quilt I made in tandem with the blue quilt I just wrote about.  I used a pattern called Take Five  The idea is that you take five minutes to choose five fabrics and sew this quilt in five hours. It took me more than five hours, of course.  I was attracted to the pattern because I wanted to make a bold, modern quilt for son #2 and his wife and the sample of this pattern in my favorite quilt store appealed to me.  I also thought a more modern style would fit their taste better.  Browns and greens are favorite colors.  In fact, the shiny fabric I used for the label was part of the favors given out at their wedding last year.  Once the blocks are made in this pattern you can change the orientation for a more random effect.  I choose to leave the blocks in the original orientation.  I liked the pattern that the different fabrics created along the diagonal of the quilt.

My piecing is still not completely even but this pattern camoflauges a lot of that.  I decided to quilt it with a diagonal pattern and rather than make the pattern itself even throughout the piece, I quilted from corner to corner of each square following the irregularities of the piecing.  I love the result.  I don't think that the eye notices when the lines are slightly off from each other, but the eye does seem to appreciate the centered X in each block.

I'm going to take a bit of a break from quilts for awhile.  I have several small projects I want to work on and the yard is looking a bit scraggly again.  But I'm already thinking about what my next quilt project will be!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

White Oak Canyon Falls

Up until a few years ago I did quite a bit of hiking with my dog.  About once a month when the weather allowed we would do a fairly extended hike usually somewhere in Shenandoah National Park or in the National Forest.  But I haven't continued the practice of late for a variety of reasons.  This past week, however, Seamus and I were invited to join son #2 and his wife on a hike to a waterfall and swimming hole.  Most of the hikes to falls along Skyline Drive require you to hike down to the fall and then once your good and tired to hike UP hill back to your starting point.  The trail head for this hike was at the bottom of the mountain so that process was reversed allowing you to hike uphill while your energy reserves were at their greatest.  It was just a little over a mile from parking lot to destination which was a good distance for both Seamus and me.  Although we walk a mile each day, it isn't uphill or on a rocky path.  The trail followed a stream so Seamus was able to take several dips into the water before we made it to the actual swimming hole.  Son #2 also brought his dog.  She is a small mixed breed of the same age as Seamus and the two get along like best buddies.  It was a fun, fun day all around.  Seamus got to be in the woods, around his family and best dog buddy.  I got to spend some time with son #2 and his wife and see a part of the park I had never seen before.  We were a bit sore the next day, but it was worth it!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Wave Quilt

I've been working on two quilts at once for the past several weeks and am finally done with both!  My thinking was that since I need to set up my sewing space differently for piecing and for quilting, why not cut down on all the room gymnastics and just do all the piecing and then all the sewing.  Both quilts were basically made from patterns (with a few modifications - of course - I don't think I know how to sew without modifications!) and I've had most of the fabric (except for my last minute change of mind fabric!) for quite awhile so the system seemed to work pretty well.

For the first one I used the New Wave Quilt pattern., available here.  I added two additional rows to make it a bit larger.  I used a variety of blue batiks and decided to place them as so:

After much deliberation I decided to qu8ilt it with vertical lines edge to edge about the width of the white fabric.  I think that was a good choice.  The binding is made from the blue scraps. I changed my mind several times on the backing but finally ended up with this:

The fun thing is that this quilt is for my sister who is seeing it for the first time right here!  During the time I was making it she decided to move to the sunny south so I was sure to use a light batting!  I hope you like it!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Trend Setter!

A few weeks ago I wrote about a bald headed cardinal who has been frequenting my bird feeder.  She continues to visit and has not yet grown back any feathers, but it appears as though she is a trend setter.  I now have a bald headed Blue Jay who visits along with some Cardinals who were not brave enough to lose all of their head feathers but were able to sport a single feather crown as a compromise.  I wish I could catch some pictures to show you, but they're quick little things and my movements inside seem to frighten them away.  I've learned that Cardinals and Blue Jays sometimes molt in this fashion in the late summer and fall and that they should soon be regaining their head feathers.  In the meantime, my admiration for these odd looking creatures grows. If indeed birds have self confidence, it seems like these baldies are at the top of the list!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I'm Back!

It seems like I've been gone forever, but I've never left home!  We had a severe storm a few nights ago and our Internet went out.  My tech support (the husband) was away and my simple solutions (basically reboot anything you can) were unsuccessful so rather than make a total mess of the home network I decided to just wait for his return.  It made me realize how many times I access the Internet for answers - everything from the weather to directions to a place I read about to information on a topic that caught my eye.  Of course I could turn to the newspaper or TV for the weather, paper maps for directions and books for information on certain topics, but usually my first choice is to look it up online. We're back to normal now.  It will take me a few days to catch up on things here and elsewhere, but being "unplugged" for awhile provides a nice perspective.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Vacation to Share With Your Dog

I always enjoy vacations that we take with our Golden Retriever, Seamus.  Usually our beach vacations and some trips to a cabin in the woods are our best adventures.  I would love to include him more but the logistics of traveling with a large dog are often difficult.  Even places that claim to be dog friendly often have a weight limit much lower than Seamus' 92 pounds!  And when the weather is warm, leaving him in the car while we shop or visit somewhere is not an option. 

This Sunday in the Washington Post there was an article about a place called Dog Mountain in Vermont.  Their web site (link above) explains all about the place, but basically it is a great park for pets and their owners to enjoy together.  It is owned privately but open to the public.  The founder was an artist and when you look at the site you will probably recognize his artwork from items you have seen for sale in several popular catalogs.  He built a chapel on the property which has become a sort of memorial for pets no longer with us.  But apart from that bit of somberness, the place is made for action.  There are hiking trails and a nice pond for dogs to swim, agility equipment and NO leash laws.  Several times a year they have a party for people and their pets and encourage canine and human interaction.  There is also a gift shop and an online store selling the artists products.  I'm so thrilled with this whole concept that I want to buy something just to support the endeavor!

There is also a list of dog friendly accommodations in the area - mostly private bed and breakfasts that not only allow dogs, but embrace them.  So, we haven't visited here yet, but I would love to make this an outing this fall or spring.  I've wanted to go to Maine, but maybe Vermont is close enough and even a better dog experience all around.  I think Seamus is voting "yes".  When I was playing a short video posted on the site that included dogs barking while enjoying the pond - he started barking back!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Martin Clunes Teaches Me About Good Looks

We hear so much about inner and outer beauty and the relative value of each.  Our recent "Doc Martin" marathon gave me new perspective on appearance.  During the very first episodes of the series that we watched, I commented to my husband that Martin Clunes was particularly unattractive.(Hang with me sure to read the rest of this comment before getting upset with that opinion, please.)  As you may know, he plays a doctor with a particularly sour personality and is frequently frowning.  On the rare occasion during the series when he was happy, usually when with Louisa, his love interest, he would smile briefly and you would get a glimpse of a totally transformed appearance.  Next we watched the Doc Martin movies, which although they have the same name, really are NOT the same story.  This character has a more normal range of emotions.  His brow is not constantly knit into a frown and he frequently smiles with both his mouth AND his eyes.  Suddenly Martin Clunes' looks were greatly improved!  He no longer looked unattractive.  You tended to focus on the positive  attributes of his appearance.  I'm convinced that the eyes were the key.  His smile included all parts of his face when playing this character.  So, my conclusion (besides admiring this actors ability to totally transform himself based on the character he is playing) is that looks are greatly improved by positive attitude.  A genuine smile is attractive on any face.  And a scowl is unattractive on any face.

So then, perhaps inner beauty is in fact reflected outwardly.  And a smile is a whole lot less expensive than cosmetics and surgery.  Thanks for the insight, Martin!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book #4: The Sparrow

Continuing toward my New Year's goal of finishing six books this year, I can check off another one.  This one is the most unusual book that I've read in a long time.  The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is set in the future and built around a group of scientists lead by  Jesuit priests (also experts in various fields) who make a voyage to a newly discovered inhabited planet.  If that sounds at all intriguing to you, let me warn that this is a rather dark book.  The future setting is merely the backdrop for the real conflict which occurs in the life of the main character and is emotionally and spiritually based.  After you are dragged through the muck and mire of his ordeal, there seems to be a promising conclusion - at least I choose to read it as a positive ending.  It ended rather quickly but it felt like the sunshine after a particularly bad storm or the relief after getting through a bad circumstance in life. 

This is definitely not a "light" read and I'm not sure I would recommend it unless you are prepared for the dark parts of the writing.  But it does somehow draw you in and I found myself wanting to return to it each day.  I was glad that I read this one on my iPad because I made good use of the option to define words that I wasn't familiar with.  The extensive vocabulary along with the made up "alien" words and sprinkling of Latin and French phrases made it somewhat difficult at times.  There is a sequel to this book and I may consider reading it, although I won't make it my very next book.

So, four books in eight months is not exactly going to keep book publishers in business, but it's a start.