Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspiration From All Around

We've been on vacation this past week on our annual beach trip.  (Yes, I have even MORE vacation pictures to share soon.  I'll understand if you pass on the opportunity.)  Thanks to the wonders of technology and an unlikely amount of planning on my part, I was able to write a few blog posts and schedule them to post while I was away.   And I've been able to keep up reading all your blog posts, but alas, my techno-savvy stops there.  You see, I find commenting on my iPad a bit difficult so I tend not to comment as much as I normally would.  And my smart phone decided to stop being smart, so it no longer sends me email.  I've tried every trick I know but it stubbornly refuses to cooperate.  I fear this means a trip to the phone store where they will try to sell me a new phone that I really don't need, especially since I barely need the one I have.  I keep hoping that my phone just took a bit of a vacation too and will soon be back to work sending me email.

It takes about five hours for us to travel to the beach.  We like to stop several times on the way and one of the stops is usually this fantastic quilt shop:  The Quilter's Corner.  I came home with these 1930's reproduction fabrics and then some other pieces that just sort of called to me:

My husband also got into the act.  He picked out this for me to make, not really knowing exactly what it was.  He thought it was a quilt kit, but it's for a teeny tiny paper pieced project.  I've done some paper piecing but nothing this small, so I have a challenge!
The day before we left for the beach my local quilt guild had a visit from Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilting Company.  I wasn't able to stay for the workshop, but I did get to hear her speak and see her trunk show.  She is SO much fun to listen to and so very creative.  I wanted to make every quilt she took out to show.  She works a lot with pre cuts...something I've never done, but I wanted to run out and buy some after listening to her.  She has a great web site and sells a ton of precuts.  Each day at midnight the website lists a new "Deal of the Day".  And they really ARE good buys.  The deal is good for 24 hours or until the supply runs out, whichever comes first.  Shipping is five dollars for any amount or free is you spend $100 or more.  And, there is now an "Iron Quilter" contest going on which sounds like a lot of fun.
So, between my fabric store trip, Jenny's talk, the Iron Quilter challenge and some browsing on my iPad, I came home with enough ideas to keep me busy for the next year!


Friday, September 27, 2013

The Start of Nana's Brag Book

Son #2 and his wife shared some ultrasound pictures with us last week.  Here's the first peek at their little one:
I know what your thinking.....looks like every other baby ultrasound that you've seen.  But, as the Nana, I beg to differ.  I think he/she looks like his dad.  But then again, I might just be a bit biased. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Craftsy Block of the Month: September

I managed to squeeze this one in before it was time to change the calendar to the next month.  I didn't have time to take a picture of all of the blocks this time.  Last month I mentioned that it seemed like the colors were a bit out of balance.  So, I tried to use a darker green for the leaves here and a touch of the dark blue.
I've done a fair amount of applique and I usually use Heat 'n Bond lite which I did here.  But this time on the dark blue it seemed to change the color of the fabric.  You can see how the edges of the flower are darker.  That's where I put the Heat 'n Bond.  Since there were so many layers of applique I decided to cut out the inside of the bond to cut down on bulk.  I guess if I had left it all in there it would have just looked like a darker flower.  Has anyone else ever had this happen?  The fabric is a batik scrap.  I've wondered if it's the dark color, the batik or some other factor.  Here's a close up:


Monday, September 23, 2013

Staycation: Volume Three (Last One)

So, I know that this is the blogging equivalent of showing vacation pictures around the office, but when your brain gets old writing things down (or blogging about them) helps to cement the memory a bit.  And, if you still get brain cobwebs you can always go back and read what you wrote and remind yourself what a great time you had.  I totally understand if your yawning and want to skip on down the blogging road....but if not, indulge me for a moment.

My cousin and I had a great time comparing versions of family stories from our past.  Often we knew the same stories but the facts were a bit different.  The truth probably lies somewhere between each version.  Then we looked at old pictures and genealogy information compiled by my sister.  My cousin had never heard about our father's CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) experience.  She enjoys history from that period and it turned out that her visit coincided with a dedication ceremony at the CCC Legacy building for a memory wall.  There were a handful of CCC Boys at the ceremony from all over the country with their families. Their numbers are dwindling and most of them are in their mid 80's.  I wish I had opportunity to talk with some of them. Some day I'd like to sit down with the CCC Legacy historian and see if I can fill in some of the details of my father's service.

We followed this us with a trip to one of our favorite German restaurants where we were treated to some live accordion music of traditional German songs.
We stuffed ourselves with wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, spatezla, and apple crumb cake.  Both my cousin and my husband have spent time in Germany and really liked the atmosphere here.

Believe it or not, these three posts were just the highlights of our week.  We managed to do a lot, but we also left a lot undone.  Hopefully we'll have another chance to get together and explore some more. 

But now.....back to sewing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Playing Tourist, Volume 2 AND.....a New Bird Sighting

My cousin and I tried to take in some of the local flavor during her recent visit.  We have a business near us that is located in an old grist mill.  Silver Lake Mill is a really unique stop.  First of all, there is the custom decorative business.  You can tour the upper levels of the building two days/week.  Not only can you get an inside view of how they operate, but you can see the original structure of the grist mill.  Secondly there is a gift shop on the main floor.  They sell handmade items from local artisans as well as factory seconds and overruns of their own items.  And thirdly, there is the setting itself.  The mill sits on Silver Lake which is home to a family of swans.  This year the swan couple had one brood of five eggs, three of which hatched and two of which still survive.  You can watch the swans from the windows of the mill.  The workers take special interest in the swans and other wildlife around them.  They showed us pictures that they took of the eggs, the newly hatched swans and the slightly older young swans. They even brought the third baby swan to the vet when it was clear that he needed some attention.  In addition there is a family of store cats that live in the mill.  Someone has written a few children's books about the cats.  They're for sale in the store.

After we shopped a bit we walked around the outside to see the water wheel and got a rare treat!  We saw an immature green heron fly into the wheel (It wasn't running).  I've done my best to enhance this picture, but it's still pretty difficult to see, so the second picture is there to show you what it really looks like:
I always get a thrill out of seeing a new bird for the first time!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Playing Tourist at Home: Volume One

I haven't touched my sewing machine in a week which sort of makes me sad, but I've been having a lot of fun getting reacquainted with a cousin of mine and showing her various places around here during her recent visit.  We packed a lot into a week.  I barely even entered my sewing room except to show her some of my quilts.

We visited Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. 
I hadn't been there in 20 years or more and a lot had changed.  Here are a few tidbits of history that I picked up:
  • Jefferson died deep in debt.  Although ideologically he was against slavery, his debt prevented him for freeing all of his slaves since their value was greater than that of his several thousand acres of land.
  • He loved books and gave most of his collection to start the Library of Congress.
  • He loved coffee and drank it daily.
  • The design of his house had many innovative features.  My favorite was including the dependencies (kitchen, wine cellar, stables, etc.) all in the same structure rather than in several small buildings.
  • He spent a lot of time in France and brought back a lot of art and many ideas for his home from that trip. 
  • He was over six feet tall.

We also visited the Meem's Bottom Covered Bridge.  This is one of only eight covered bridges left in Virginia.  It was built in 1892, burned in 1976, salvaged and reopened (original timbers were used) in 1979.  It has operated continuously except for those three years of reconstruction.

That's enough for one post......more to come.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Clarinet: A Family Heirloom

Last weekend was our neighborhood yard sale.  My friend and I set out our wares and "played store" on Friday and Saturday and were amazed once again at the whole event.  For our last few sales she has tried to sell two trumpets that her children had used during their high school days.  As usual there were lots of lookers and many stories about band and instruments shared throughout the day.

All this talk reminded me of "The Tale of the Family Clarinet".  When I was in junior high we had the first opportunity to join band.  My mother encouraged all types of educational experiences and was very supportive of our interests.  I came home and announced that I wanted to join band and I would like to play the flute.  My mother was supportive, but also very practical minded and realistic about both money and the changing interests of children.  So she said, "We have a clarinet.  You can start there.  If you stick with it we will buy you a flute."  Well, she was right.  After a year I was done with music lessons.

Shortly after my mother died we were sitting around sharing stories.  By then the clarinet was back in my possession after being used by my niece and then my son #1.  My niece shared how she wanted to play the flute growing up, but her mother (my sister and the original clarinet owner) told her to start with the clarinet.  I answered that I also wanted to play the flute but had to start with the already purchased clarinet!  And.....when son #1 wanted to take lessons I told him, "We have a clarinet...."

We all sort of blamed my sister for thwarting our fluting dreams because she had started with that darn clarinet.  She was sitting quietly listening to the stories and surprised us all when she spoke up and said, "Wait a minute.  I wanted to play the FLUTE also!!"   So why didn't she?   Turns out that the band needed clarinets, but more importantly to our frugal mother.....there was a bargain of a sale on clarinets!

I've had the clarinet restored twice.  It still sits in it's original box, a bit lonely for company.  I have no intention of selling it.  Perhaps one of the grandchildren will want to play the flute and will join the family heritage of clarinet players with a heart for the flute.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A "Not Quite Finished "

I finished the top of the next project in my Craftsy class: Inspired Modern Quilts with Elizabeth Hartman.  These projects make me think about color, shape and design in new ways.  Since I certainly won't get this quilted until next month, I wanted to share the finished top.  The class project is actually the center part.  I wanted it to be slightly larger so I added the elephants on the top and bottom:
One of the concepts that isn't too well represented here is negative space.  It seems like a lot of modern compositions have a lot of negative space - often as much as the designed space.  But my log cabins grew a bit large.  The other challenge is taking a wonky block and making it fit into a non wonky finished quilt shape.  There ends up to be a lot of trimming involved and a fair amount of wasted fabric.  I would think that over time you get better at that. I found that I got a bit more relaxed and "wonkier" as I went on.  The block on the top left was my first and you can see that it's not as wonky as the rest.

My plan for the rest of this is to bind it in yellow or maybe bright green, use a flannel backing (I love the chevron prints in flannel that I've seen, but I also think that an animal print might carry the theme nicely) and do some free motion all over quilting.  This is going to be the "Nana's house baby blanket" for the grand baby arriving early next year.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Country Threads Block of the Month: September

September has turned out to be a busy month filled with family visits, a little vacationing and the neighborhood yard sale.  But, I did manage to finish my Country Threads Block of the month.  I always enjoy working on these blocks. 
Here's all of them arranged as per the directions.  Although, somehow over the months I've turned the picture around, so this is actually upside down from what I think was originally intended:
The blank spots get filled in with the last few blocks and a whole lot of flying geese.  Last month I mentioned that I think I want to calm the whole thing down a bit perhaps by using some sashing.  So I decided to play with the idea bit.  I tried black:
And tan:

Neither of these is using all the blocks, but I wanted to try a few arrangements also.  I didn't have a very large piece of tan, but it gives a feel for the color.  Green was next on my list, but none of the shades that came to hand seemed to work. So.....rather than tell you my thoughts, I'm looking for comments on the sashing colors and the arrangements.  Of course, there are always other colors and arrangements to try and any thoughts in that direction are also appreciated. 

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Movie Review: Jack the Giant Slayer

This might seem like an odd movie for me to give an opinion on, but....I liked it.  Now, in the spirit of full disclosure I need to tell you that one of my favorite all time movies (besides the Wizard of Oz, of course) is The Princess Bride.  And Jack the Giant Slayer has very much the same feel, although with a lot less comedic lines.  It's a fairy tale with a princess and a commoner, a king and a traitor and big bad giants.  It had action, but not any of those endless car chases.  It had it's share of gross monster stuff, but no screen shots long enough to turn your stomach. It had romance...all g-rated.  And it had heroes.  And a nice ending.  My top compliment:  I would watch it again.


Monday, September 2, 2013

All Quiet on the Birding Front

We've noticed less action at our birdfeeders in the past week or so.  And when you sit outside there is much less "bird chatter".  In fact it is eerily quiet at times.  A look up at the power lines shows only one or two mourning doves on sentry duty.  And when I see birds at my feeders they look almost worried.  They eat quickly, quietly and then disappear.

I think this is the reason why:

This was actually the third time this year that I've sited a hawk.  I think this is a red tailed hawk, although I'm not too experienced on identifying hawks, so if anyone has an opinion, I'd love to hear it.  Red tailed are the largest and most common in this area...and this guy is BIG.

I had spied this guy a few days ago while working in the yard.  He actually flew within 10 feet of me.  This morning he was sitting on top of a house about a block from me when I walked by with the dog.  And he stayed there long enough for me to go home, call my husband, get the binoculars and have a look.....and even longer while we loaded the car for a trip to the store, grabbed the camera and stopped to shoot some pictures.

So I guess the birds are scared of becoming a hawk meal.  I'm sure they'll return once he moves on to a different hunting ground.

Here is a better picture of a red tailed hawk that I got here:


Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Labor Day Celebration

Labor Day, like many of our holidays gets a bit lost in the fun of a long weekend and the extra time off.  But last evening I was given an unexpected reason to celebrate.

It was just about starting to get dark and the husband I were watching TV when the doorbell rang and the dog barked (I guess just in case we didn't hear the doorbell?)  Now, my husband will tell you that if a kid comes to the door selling dirt I will buy it.  And, that's just about true.  I remember selling door to door as a child for various school activities and I remember my boys trying to do the same thing.  If you are under 18 and manage to come to my door trying to sell something, just about every time I will buy. 

Anyway, last night two sisters about 8 and 10 came to my door selling homemade bread!  They had dressed in nice summer skirts and tops, they had a paper to hand to me with their information, a beautifully packaged product and were prepared to make change.  They had just baked the bread that morning.  They let me know that I could reorder by phone or email and that I might want to consider them for holiday baking. Of course I bought a loaf.  And it was delicious and perfectly baked.  I've done a bit of bread baking in my time and I know how difficult it can be to get an even textured loaf that is well baked, but not too dry; light but not too crumbly.  This bread hit every mark.

I could make an entire list of all the good character qualities represented in their activity from learning how to bake to caring about there dress and initial impression to attention to details such as change, written information on how to contact them for reorders and well, just plain getting out there. They weren't discourage by being too young or inexperienced to work.  They weren't looking for a donation  They offered a good product at a fair price.  I'm excited to be their customer.  They may continue for a short or a long time, but their will be many lessons learned.  Perhaps they will go on to own a bakery.  Or perhaps they will decide that they don't want to work that way and will go on to find another career.  I know this....they will work at something because they know the value of work and realize the importance of doing a good job even at the small details.

Brava, girls!  I'm already planning on buying more and I think everyone on my list needs a loaf of homemade bread with their Christmas presents!