Thursday, May 30, 2013

New Vase

Due to yesterday's weather ran and tornados (but not like Oklahoma, thank goodness!), we were without power for almost 20 hours (though it seemed like much longer).  Hence no entry.  Also as a result, with company coming this weekend, we've been on the run so this entry will be short.

Indeed, I'm simply going to share my new vase with you.  Our neighbor always finds just the right thing to give us when we take care of his homestead and pet if he's away.  We've tried to talk him out of the gift idea, but he blithely does what he wants to do.  When you see what he gave us this time, you'll understand why I grinned from ear to ear when I opened the package.

Isn't this the most delightful vase you've ever seen?  See the way it twists?  And its perfect for those Japanese iris I thinned from the white flower garden, isn't it!  I hope the buds will open so I can see how the blooms look in this vase, but it doesn't matter if they don't.  I think it's lovely right now.

Thank you, neighbor!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

More May Garden Activities

Today the lure of lavender pulled me from a good book.  Before I could answer its siren call, I had to stop at the grocery store for fruit.  Guess who found me there, ME!  She helped me rent a movie through Redbox (Life of Pi), and we chatted about her mom.  It was a mom day as my art class had canceled due to a sad mom story.  Anyway, when I was finished at the store, I stopped at the local nursery (bet you thought I had wandered so far from the lavender in this paragraph that I had forgotten what I meant to say!).
Before I could meander too far from my purpose, I asked where I could find lavender, received directions, and promptly meandered.  What, you're surprised?  Anyway, some more white petunias (for the white flower garden in the front) found their way into my basket, and then some double pink and white ones for the back gardens because I don't do a lot with pink, but it's a good bright color for summer.  And because I love the smell of them, marigolds - both the pure yellow and the orange/red splashed ones.  They're for remembering sunshine.  Since I had put sunshine in my basket, I needed sky.  Blue is difficult to find in annuals, but there are some (I do have morning glories already).  I chose the purpley-blue of ageratum. 
Ten packs later (!), I made my way to the lavender.  They had quite a selection, and as I looked through the pots, I began to be concerned that they wouldn't have the variety I wanted.  Luck was with me, though, the last four pots were Lavendula "Grosso", and I bought all four.
Once home, I planted the white petunias, decided the Japanese iris needed thinning, did that, and then turned to attack the most noxious weed of my experience.  The weed comes up usually individually on a single stalk with furled leaves, the stem is a purpley hue near the leaves, and then becomes white.  You dig, and dig, and dig, and if you're lucky, you find where the stem turns in an almost right angle.  If you get it there at that angle without breaking the stem (which is what usually happens), you have a chance of eradicating that one weed.  It seems to know how difficult it is to dig it up if it comes up next to a concrete sidewalk or wall or driveway.   It's a miserable job, and like many other plants and shrubs, this appears to have been a wonderful winter for it.  I stopped counting at 35 individual stalks. 

If you know the particular weed and know what it is, please tell me!  Also, do you know any way to get rid of it besides digging to China?
Anyway, at first I thought I'd stop after that job, but when I went to the back yard, I decided to plant maybe one or two packs of plants - just to see how they look.  By the end of the afternoon, I had everything planted (which included digging up and replanting plants that weren't quite where I wanted them) and watered D's bonsai and birdbaths. 
The one thing I didn't do - yet - is snip all the flowers off the plants.  It's hard to do because I love the flowers, of course, but it does force the plants to put their energy into new roots, new stems, and more buds.  It'll be a job for tomorrow.
That's why you won't see any photos of the garden until the end of June - there won't be any flowers to look at until then!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Garden Report - May

And wasn't today a glorious way to end a Memorial Day weekend!  The weather always seems even better after several days of cold and wet - especially when we all feel this is the time for sun and warmth.  Whatever you were doing, I hope the rain didn't make things miserable and that today capped your weekend on a high note.
It did for us.  D was finally able to mow the lawn (isn't it amazing how fast it can grow?), and I was able to get our and plant some flowers.  I'm going to show you some photos even though nothing looks like much yet.  But . . . I'd like to keep track of how the garden progresses throughout the summer and note what works and what doesn't.  That means I have an opportunity to share it you.
First of all, most of the plants are annuals because I have many perennials already.  As you know if you are a gardener, the perennials flower in spring and early summer for the most part leaving a garden looking more green than anything else in August and early fall.  That is why I wanted lots of annuals that would give us color later on (the "later on" part is also why these photos won't look like anything you'd expect to see in a gardening magazine).

The planter has an orange begonia, white flower whose name slips my mind right now, and an agapanthus bulb at the back.  This all started with the bulb which, if it blooms, has blue flowers.  That's why I chose the orange begonia.  There is some green poking up from the bulb so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  And for the begonia to get bigger and showier.
Okay, a rusty birdcage?  Yes, but try to imagine it with that green turned into vines of Thunbergia alata (black-eyed Susan vine) which is a hearty grower and climber and flower producer.  It will be striking!  If it works. 
I didn't plant this downy woodpecker perched on the peanuts, but I did show you a birdcage and this picture was taken today.  This is an example of what is not growing in our garden, but we hope it continues to enjoy our bounty!  And another example of how we entice birds to our yard; it's one of two birdbaths and they both get a lot of use!

And still on the bird theme, this single bridal wreath bush has almost completely obscured the red bird house.  Remember how tall it is from previous photos?  Now you can barely make out the red the upper right quadrant of the picture.  This shrub is an example of how well our shrubs and flowering trees have done this year.
This pink azalea surprised us with its blooms this year.  But even more amazing is that the flowers were not destroyed by the heavy rains this weekend.  Although they are on the down side and are nearly finished for the season, they hung on for us to appreciate as we worked outdoors today.

This is one of the few perennials I planted today, and I'm sure you recognize it as lavender.  This one or a pair is Silver Leaf and the second pair are Munstead.  Neither are what I wanted (which is "Grosso" - the most fragrant), but after losing all of my old lavender over the winter, I'll take what I can get for now.


This is a view of D's hop poles, and you can see the hops almost halfway up one of the poles already.  They're also twining through the rail fence on the left.
And the last photo is of an orange gazania/gailardia with Mona Lavender (Plectranthus).  The latter would be a perennial if we lived in South Africa, but it's so pretty, I couldn't resist.  We'll see if it grows well during the summer.

I didn't show you (because they have no flowers yet and because of that and their currently very small size, they don't show up in my photos at all) are the zinnias, asters, snapdragons, cleome, nicotiana, and morning glories. 
We'll see if they're visible by the end of June! 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spring means Rhubarb!

You'll have to forgive me tonight because this will be short and tart.  We just gathered the first stalks of rhubarb, and D is downstairs rinsing them.  I won't be making anything special with this, our first batch, so we can appreciate the solo taste of this spring delight. 
Later this season I will try a rhubarb and orange crumble from a cookbook given to me by Nancy, I think.  If not Nancy, then Alice because they are the two who know best what we like to prepare and eat.  I'll be sure to let you know what I think about it.  It sounds far more appetizing to me than muddying the tartness of rhubarb with the soft sweetness of cooked strawberries.  I know many like it, but it never appealed to me - possibly because I'm not a pie fan.
Anyway, for some of you, this may seem on the late side for the first harvest of rhubarb, but it's been a busy week.  On top of that, our rhubarb is hidden in the bed behind our lilacs.  You know what they say, "Out of sight, out of mind," and that has been true for me this season.
Well, off I dash to cook up a "mess" of rhubarb not tart enough for Est, but just right (I hope) for us!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Removing a Tree

D wanted that apple tree gone and now it is.  Today was the day R, the “tree man”, came to take it down and also to remove some limbs from our neighbor’s oak.  The apple tree came down quickly, and R didn’t even have to climb it to bring it down.  The stump was dug out with no fuss (but a lot of noise) due to modern machinery.  Here’s what’s left of our apple tree:

The real fun of the day, for me at least, was watching R take off the offending branches from neighbor’s oak. R had to climb higher than the neighbor’s house to get to the right spot in the tree while his son held one of the ropes that would support R if he came down before he planned to.

It's really a story in pictures today, and I'll apologize for the odd spacing now.  There are certain things I can control and some I can't!


This is the second branch to come down so R first gets up to above the correct height, checks things out to see where it is best for him to stand, and stand on the dead branch (briefly!) to get the rope and tie it on to the branch.  Then he cuts it off in two lengths. The second cut takes off the stub of the branch.
 The next branch is the longest one to be removed.  Again remember, this is a dead branch he is walking along. In the next two photos

you can get an idea of how long it is and how it slants towards the ground.

Now he is actually making the second cut behind his left leg; I wouldn't do that (I wouldn't do any of this for that matter!), but he knows what he is doing and hops behind the trunk when the branch falls. The branches are always tethered to a rope and are guided by the man below so there is little chance of a branch falling where it shouldn't.

After everything was taken down, cut up or chopped in the chipper, and yard tidied, R said goodbye for at least another year.  

But all is not over for us, yet.  We have oak from our neighbor’s tree and apple from our own to burn next winter.  We’ll have the neighbor over for a toast to a warm, sweet-smelling wood fire some bitterly cold day and get our last bit of pleasure from our trees.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Crazy Quilt Block #4 - Update

This is what I intended to write about last night – Crazy Quilt Block #4 honoring my great-grandmother about whom I do not know a great deal beyond the basics.  Born in Scotland, she emigrated to Canada, married my great-grandfather, moved to the US, and raised a family.  However, since my grandmother, her daughter, was a needlewoman, I have made the assumption that my great-grandmother probably taught her at least the basics of sewing.

Here is the block 4 at the early stage again:
That's when I had first started and was finding it difficult to find my way through this block.  It had a painful couple of weeks as I second guessed myself and thought I should start all over as great grandmother   simply wasn't talking to me.  But I kept trying new ideas and working on the thistle truly helped as the Ghiordes knot (aka turkey work which is the embroidery stitch the actual bloom was stitched in) takes quite a long time to do.  Finally I seemed to have a bit of an inkling of what might work so I plugged away at it.  Here it is now:
Given the few facts I have, liberties have been taken with the tokens and embroidery.   I have included a tatted edging around her photograph (I have inherited tatting shuttles from either my great-grandmother or grandmother), a kilt even though they were worn by the men, an embroidered thistle, and a thimble.  The thimble wasn’t hers, but it is a symbol appropriate to the theme of this CzQ.

 I also plan to include a pin made from an agate bracelet my mother said came from the Isle of Skye.  That island was known at one time as a source of marcasites hence the buttons on my great mother’s dress.  While not marcasite, they have the look of that mineral.  The key is my conceit alone; it is a symbol of new beginnings and power and probably a host of other possibilities and attributes.  It seemed appropriate for a young woman who flung herself into her future by leaving her familiar world for the unknown across the Atlantic Ocean.
You may notice a wandering bittersweet near the thimble and ribbon flowers.  It winds its way up the flowers in the perse broderie and will peek out here and there for no reason except I like it.
Clearly there is quite a bit of work left to be done, but I am having a very good time now and don't mind working on this, the fourth block of my first crazy quilt.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Preparation for Writing - Really?

White Bleeding Heart
Today I was asked how I clear my mind to prepare for writing.  Oh dear, clear my mind?  There isn't a vacuum cleaner large enough!  Nor am I advanced enough to be able to meditate although that might help my writing.
What I usually do before I write is plan.  I think about what my topic might be, what photographs I have that would help move the entry along, what my readers would or would not understand, and how I can clarify my subject.  Sometimes the photographs dictate the subject.  Sometimes the day's activities are uppermost in my mind and demand to be let out on the page.  There are also times when I have planned to write about something and before I know it something else entirely appears in black and white.*
Basically, if you were to ask me for advice on writing a blog, I would say:
  • Do it.
  • Write 5 days a week because the more often you write, the easier it becomes.
  • Write as often as you can about things you really enjoy.
  • Open yourself - let glimpses of the private you out (for example, the entries about my painting from the first dabs on canvas to the finished work).
  • Open yourself to learning through writing (for example, verbalizing what is happening with the painting and what I'm trying to do forces me to really think about the process of learning to paint).
  • Ask for feedback and accept what people say as another step in your learning process.
  • Allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the activity of writing and the benefits of keeping track of what is important to you.
  • Be CAREFUL.  Do not give away too much personal information.
*This entry is an example of having something in my mind to write about, and then, due to a comment from a reader, writing on an entirely different topic.  Thank you, Anon!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Adventure Unfolding

This will be an entry to rest your eyes as I have no photographs today and only a few comments.  I seem to be a bit tired after a busy weekend with a garage sale (I did better than I anticipated),  daughter and grandson, and then with my special "Soul Sisters" today.  Feeling tired after such a weekend is a good thing!
I have realized that my planned large painting is going to have to be placed on hold until after I've actually moved into my new studio.  When I figured that out, I was disappointed as I was really looking forward to going forward with a project I'd hoped to do for some time.  However, practicality reared its ugly head and I had to capitulate (pun intended).
You see, oil paintings no matter what size take a long time to dry.  Sometimes paintings like this 24" x 48" one take up what seems to be more than their fair share of room.  Now think about what might happen to that large, wet painting as it sits on an easel in a room through which workmen have to pass in order to get to the construction space.  Imagine how the workmen might feel every time it got knocked to the carpeted floor.  Imagine how I might feel every time I tried to clean up said carpet while looking at a smudged mess of a canvas.  Imagine the gallons of Windex I'd have to use!  If you don't quite understand that last comment, check out my Wednesday, February 13, 2013, entry "A Funny Thing Happened When ..."
Instead of the planned work, I made the decision that now would be the perfect time to attempt to use water colors and overcome my fear and trepidation of that fluid medium.  Last week I spent the studio time with my instructor/guru/friend learning about water color paints, brushes, and paper.  Then I played around with those items until the end of class.  Tomorrow I will play some more before Tuesday's class and then maybe next week, I'll be able to carve out still more time to practice with these paints. 

At least I have Sharon to help me and look at how she's moved me from my first paintings to what I'm doing now!  I'm in good hands.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Final Day of Quilt Camp News

Mary sent me a note that included the correct name of the pattern used for the quilt below.
I had mistakenly called the pattern "Whimsical", but it's real name is "Wistful".  After looking again at Mary's version, I can understand why I made that mistake.  Can you?
And another mistake was in the measurement I gave for ME's quilt block which I said was 10".  Lucky woman, the block finishes at 17".  Unfortunately I forgot to ask her what the name of the quilt is.  Sigh.  Maybe she'll mention it in her comment tomorrow.

The final quilt to mention is my own.  This is the Farmer's Wife quilt about which I have bored you off and on again for - well, it's been a long time.  For those of you who have made any portion of this quilt, you understand that it is challenging in many ways.  I haven't made it any easier for myself by not sewing on the set-in triangles as I sewed the strips.  There's a simple reason; I didn't have fabric for those triangles until I found some at Joyful Quilter over the weekend.  By then, I just wanted to sew. 

It's a good thing I didn't add them because here's how the quilt looks on our bed:
There is enough to drape over the pillows, but we do not use our quilts in this manner.  Instead we prefer the coverlet approach where the quilt is just covered by the pillows (only a minimal border at the head of the bed) and hangs down on all sides to below the bed rails.  Then the extra pillows wear  shams made with fabric or blocks that coordinate with the quilt.  I will need to "unsew" three rows!  For the setting I now have in mind, the extra rows will be used in the border.  All is well.  It's just more work.
Why am I not surprised?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 4 of Quilt Camp

You were warned that you would see more chickens in the entries about the Quilt Camp, and here's the one I was talking about.  Sandy (in room 2) made this version of "Square in a Square", a pattern by Marlous, and I do think it's clever, don't you?  Look at the close-up, and I'll bet you'll agree. 
And I also told you there would be another Marrakesh quilt.  Sandy (in room 1) made a single strip wall hanging in browns, if you remember, and now here is Mary's version of the same pattern - only larger.  This is a quilt that will be auctioned for the benefit of the Knights of Columbus, and Mary wanted the quilt to be one that could be used no matter what the color the bidders' rooms might be.  Black and white is about as neutral as you can get and makes a stunning visual statement so it's bound to attract many bids.  The sideways photo was taken that way to avoid irons and bags etc.  However, I thought you really should have an opportunity to view this quilt as straight on as possible so you could get the full effect.  So here are both photos. (Do remember that you can click on any photo to see it in a larger format!)

Mary also whipped up this stunner.  The pattern is called Whimsical, and with Mary's collection of Kaafe Fasset fabrics it's just as cheerful as can be.  It's another pattern that I think would work with any collection of fabrics in any color way.  Try to imagine it in the Japanese daiwabo fabrics with a dark background in place of the white.  Or a collection of greens on black . . .  The possibilities abound!

This little beauty by ME is so pretty, and its colors really don't seem to show up very well.  Be sure to click on this one to see it larger.  Again, I'll have to ask her what her block size was because, like Lisa's baskets yesterday, this one is made up of three miniature blacks, and I really haven't a clue what size they are.  ME, tell us in your comment, please!

You will also appreciate knowing that this little wall hanging was taken from ME's UFO pile.  She sewed the set-in triangles during Qlt Camp, and by now I'm sure she has the borders on, too!

 Or maybe not because here is what ME is focusing all her quilting energy on these days.  This block is 10" and will make a variation of Irish Chain that is called something pretty that has nothing to do with chains.  I absolutely love the light batik ME chose (white with the palest of green).  You can't tell in the picture, but the white batik glows as though it were a Fairy Frost fabric, but it isn't.  The looks "like-black-to-me" fabric isn't black.  It's a green so dark it looks like black until you peer closely at it.  Try to imagine this block as it would look surrounded by identical blocks.  Wow!

My camera also did not pick up the correct colors of Pam's quilt, but the second photo is a little closer.  This is the second "mystery quilt" present at this Qlt Camp, and as I told you yesterday, I've got to pay more attention to mystery quilts.  This one is quite beautiful even though its color scheme might not appeal to many at first (and I can say that because I would not have snatched it off the shelf after a first glance).  It seemed to be a quilt that is saved by the red fabric. But over the course of the three days, I found the subdued tones of the other colors growing on me.  Plus the pattern is such a winner, and Pam's elegant and accurate work make this a head-turner!
Tomorrow I will finish with the inventory of quilts at the weekend retreat so stay tuned for the final day!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 3 of Quilts from Quilt Camp

Maureen made at least two gorgeous tote bags this past weekend, but I didn't get a picture of either one.  That's too bad because the fabrics and color combinations she chose were striking.  I wouldn't have minded carrying one into the library, quilt shop, or grocery store at all!  Anyway, I did manage to get a photo of the baby quilt she is making.  The blocks were on the design wall and not yet sewn together, but you can see how perfect this is for a baby!
Virginia started this lavender lovely at Quilt Camp and finished it there, too.  She used only a jelly roll in the colors you see, and at first I was a bit sorry because while the blocks looked very serene, I didn't see any "pop".  That is, I didn't see any "pop" until she had it up on the wall all sewn together.  It's still serene but also far more dramatic than I realized.  I hope ME wrote down the pattern name because I know someone in my family who would really like this one!  By the way, it's another quilt that non-traditionalists would be attracted to and would be wonderful in any color way.

Ginny's daughter-in-law, Lisa, attends quilt camp, too.  Joyful Quilter happens to be the perfect location for them to meet as it is half way between their home towns.  Lucky for us!  These two ladies keep us hopping - just wait until you see what Lisa brought with her!  These are in no particular order, but the one below is "Rambling Rose" by Marti Mitchell (wish I'd been quilting when this one was introduced!).  Lisa put the borders on it during quilt camp.  She thought we were joking when ME and I said that either one of us would be glad to take it home with us.  Sigh.  It went home with Lisa.
I asked Lisa to put up the next one if she had it with her.  It's a paper-pieced and from the book Bella, Bella.    While it isn't finished yet, you can see it is quite unusual.  Pat was kind enough to bring the book in so I could look through it; the quilts are all based on mosaics and are amazing.  We're hoping Lisa will finish this so she can teach it.

Then, just for fun and giggles, Lisa whipped up this batik wall hanging - such a simple pattern, such a striking result!  It's another I'd gladly have in my house.
And, just in case you might think Lisa didn't have enough to do . . . Here is a miniature quilt she thought she might get around to finishing over the weekend.  No, it isn't paper pieced, and no, I didn't think to measure the blocks, but I'd guess 2" x 2" without the pink borders.  ME, do you think that's correct?  Whatever the size, it's just perfect!  Lisa, I do hope you find the time to complete this quilt so you can display it and reap the benefits of all your hard work!

When you become tired of it, I know a good home for all those little baskets . . . . .

Monday, May 13, 2013

More Quilt Camp Photographs

I can't believe I covered only 3 quilters in yesterday's blog!  Oh well, today I won't have to give you a lot of explanation about the weekend and/or my plans for these entries so I'll be able to add another quilter in this entry.

It did my heart good to see Joan again; I think it was a year ago when ME and I first met her.  This time she was working on an English paper piecing project.  It is the currently very popular hexagons, and the diamonds Joan stitched at the bottom really make this quite a special piece.  In the second photograph the colors are truer.  Joan has been working on this in odd moments for about a month.

You may remember that I mentioned Maria yesterday.  She's the one who made that awesome label for Patricia.  She is working on a machine applique piece called "Sweet Liberty", and I really hope I have that name right.  This wall hanging is constructed in several pieces and put together at the end.  Maria, please bring the finished work to the September gathering.  I know there will be several current campers who will want to see the finished piece.  Don't you love the cake?

Maria also introduced me to a fusible product on which you can print your applique shapes, cut them out, and then fuse them on your chosen fabric. Terrific idea for those of us who also enjoy machine applique. 

The wall hanging at the left in these warm shades of brown was made by Sandy, and I think it was one of three projects she had going over the weekend. 
The pattern's name is Marrakesh, and you will see another example of it in a later entry.  What I find so interesting is that because of the reversal of colors, the squares seem to be of different sizes, but they're not.  This pattern has an optical illusion built in, and I think it is also one suitable for those who prefer a more contemporary look in their quilts.
Sandy also made the wall hanging below which was a mystery quilt.  I don't usually see many mystery quilts, and I've never done one myself, but two people brought mystery projects to finish up over the weekend.  Again, you'll see a second one later, and you will appreciate what a wide range there can be in mystery quilts.  I forgot to ask Sandy if she had an opportunity to see the fabrics before she decided to take on this wall hanging. 
Now on to the quilters in the second room.  That room, while the same size as the first, seems a bit larger.  It has more available work area because there is no kitchen so nine people worked in there quite comfortably. 

Pat is the undisputed queen of charity quilts.  She explained that she has gifted everyone in her family several times over so she turned her focus to charity.  It's a wonderful way to be able to continue to make quilts!  This one really caught my attention because the fabric in the center was new to me.  Pat says it's not new so I guess I had just missed it.  But isn't this terrific?
I love the reversed churn dashes that frame the New York State fabric; it's a good design idea and perfect for setting a cheerful mood.  Whoever receives this one will have a lift to their spirits as well as a good time looking at each block to see all the different NYS sites featured.

Pat is also known for turning out several works in a short amount of time.  Here's another bold, graphic quilt in progress:
In addition to working on her own projects, Pat helped me more than once figure out the layout of my "on point" quilt; the upside down chicken was not her fault!