A Finish in Black and White

Good morning, my friends. It was a sit and stitch day yesterday. I was able to get all the way around my quilt binding, and I have a finished quilt to show you today. It was created from Moda's Catnip panel. The panel was a gift from my friend, Sharon, quite some time ago. I'm making a concerted effort to turn several different panels I've acquired into finished quilts, and this was among them. This is the Catnip quilt. It ends up at 67 x 67 inches. 

If I'm remembering correctly, I found a similar layout on Pinterest. I liked it done in all these blacks and whites, and so that's what I did. Also, I had some really fun cat fabrics in my stash, and I was able to put those to work. Here's a look at the back.

Here's a little closer look at the back. I really love those cat fabrics.

When I sat down to work on this, I was probably a skosh less than halfway around it. It meant I spent most of my afternoon sitting and stitching. It was a good way to spend an afternoon. When I got sleepy, I tipped back in our recliner and took a nap. When I woke up, I continued on.

Smitty was on standby on the couch across from me. Cats are always in the mood for napping, but he was willing to help out if I needed him.

You might remember when I sewed this into a quilt top. I didn't use all the cats from the original panel. The leftover cats went into this quilt donated to Quilts for Kids. I called this quilt Paws & Purrs.

So I'm happy I was able to put the whole panel to use. Last week I was motivated to number all the quilts in my Finished Quilts Gallery. I've probably missed including a few along the way, but we'll assume I'm close when I say that the Catnip quilt is my 343rd finished quilt.

The only other thing I did yesterday was to bake some zucchini bread. I had a yen. It tasted good with our afternoon cup of espresso.

Today I'll get started sewing "A Joyful Journey" into a finished quilt top.

Mike is close to being finished with his work in the garage, and so I'll be able to set up my sawhorse and plywood tables soon and get busy sandwiching more quilts for quilting. As it stands, there are 11 finished quilt tops and backs on the pile. If Joyful Journey goes together quickly, I might end up with an even dozen.


Taking it Easy

Good morning, my friends. Yesterday's activities kept me busy most of the day. Still, somehow, it felt relaxing. I spent some time on my slow-stitching. This piece is densely stitched. It's still going to be a couple of days before I can move my hoop to the next section. Here's what I have so far.

When I was finished with that, I took a walk on the treadmill, and then I got busy making our dinner for the day. It's nice to have dinner already made ahead, and then I can just sit and relax at the end of the day. This recipe for Spicy Mexican Street Corn Salad was new to us. I made it to use up a tub of feta cheese, and we liked it. I made just half the recipe, which was plenty for last night's dinner, with leftovers for another night.

Don't let that word "spicy" scare you. I carefully removed the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno pepper I used, and it was not spicy at all. If you like that sort of thing, you can leave the seeds and ribs.

We had that along with this long-time favorite recipe for Curried Chicken and Apple Wraps. This is pretty easy to put together. The recipe calls for mango chutney. I make all kinds of chutneys from different fruits, and I just use whatever I happen to have open. This time I used cranberry chutney. For the chicken, I pick up one of those whole roasted chickens from the deli at our grocery store. At our store, they put the ones that didn't sell the day before in the refrigerated section with the lunchmeat, and they mark them half price. For this wrap, I like the spinach tortillas. I've also used the tomato-basil tortillas. It's a good wrap no matter what kind of tortilla you use.

After making dinner ahead, it was mid-afternoon before I accomplished anything on my quilt binding. Happily, my stitching cat was right there with me.

With his help, I turned the second corner, and I'm bearing down on the third. I'll estimate I'm about halfway around.

There's a little housework to do today. There's also watering to be done. It was hot yesterday, but it has cooled significantly. We're on a fire watch in our area because of some thunder and lightning passing through. Indeed, we heard thunder cracks nearby already this morning, and we saw a few sprinkles of rain.

I've been making occasional trips to the freezer in our garage recently, and I noticed the many sandwich bags of shredded zucchini from last summer's garden. It gave me a powerful yen for some zucchini bread, and so I'll do that today. I've also looked through my many zucchini recipes to see what else I might do to use up some of that. For today, I'll indulge my zucchini desire and bake some bread.

Aside from that, I'll just keep stitching on my quilt binding. Possibly I can finish it today. Time will tell.


Plenty of Slow

Good morning, my friends. It was a slow day yesterday, even though we accomplished plenty in the morning. We had some cardboard recycling to do first, and then we dropped a package in the mail. After that, we had our beloved Egg McMuffin and headed to the grocery store. We weren't happy about shopping on a Friday, but they give us four times fuel points on Fridays, and so we were brave. We pre-rewarded our efforts with the Egg McMuffin, and we were home before 11:00 a.m. 

The kitties were put out at having to wait for our return before they could be set free to go kill some stuff. While we were eating our lunch, they were cooling their tummy furs on the deck.

I went out with them briefly to indulge my obsession with checking for buds on the dahlias. My efforts were rewarded when I saw this itty bitty thing. Now I'll start gnashing my teeth, hoping they bloom either before or after our short trip to Moab this fall.

Since I hadn't slept well the night before, I took a nap after lunch, and then I went to work squaring up the Catnip quilt for binding.

The binding strips were already cut. All I needed to do was sew them together and then sew them to the quilt.

When that was done, I went straight to work attaching binding clips all around the edge. After that, I started sewing and turned the first corner before I stopped for the day.

Folding it up, I laid it across Smitty's favorite napping chair to await my return. Smitty was miffed at having to share his chair with a bunch of rowdy cats. There goes the neighborhood.

Well. He just left and headed out to his catio where we could get some peace and quiet.

When I came upstairs this morning, I left Sadie stretched out on Mike's lap. Her life is so stressful, it's hard to relax. Can we all pause here with a moment of silence for Sadie's terrible life?

I have a pretty easy day planned for myself. We're having a wrap sandwich for dinner. I'll make that ahead of time. Also to be made ahead of time, I'm going to try a new recipe for Spicy Mexican Street Corn. I'll let you know how it turns out in tomorrow's post. The last lesson of my online Photoshop Elements class was released yesterday. I'll read through that today, and I'll get in a walk on the treadmill. After that, I expect it'll be mostly slow stitching today. I'm still working away at my embroidery, and I'd like to make a good amount of progress on my quilt binding. Some people don't like hand-sewing the binding...maybe you're one of them. I happen to find it relaxing. I can sit in our recliner with my feet up. If I get sleepy, I can tip back and take a nap. If I'm really lucky, I might get a cat on my lap. What's not to like about that?

Okay, so breakfast is next, and then I'll spend some time with my embroidery. We're expecting a hot day today. Our A/C is already running, and it's not even 8:00 a.m. 


Line By Line

Good morning, my friends. My morning started too early today. I don't know about you, but I have this notion of a "witching hour," and if I wake up during that hour...any time after about 3:30 a.m....I can't get back to sleep. My brain seems to think I've slept long enough, and it winds up into full-blown thinking mode, making it difficult to relax and return to peaceful slumber. Usually, I give myself about an hour, and if I'm still awake, I might as well get up. The warm weather is part of the problem, and this has happened with more frequency over the past couple of weeks. And so, all of that to say we're going grocery shopping this morning, but I expect to come home and take a long nap. You can join me, if you like. 

As for yesterday, it was time to bottle the cherry vinegar I had sitting on the countertop. This turned out to be not as flavorful as I was hoping. I found only one recipe when I looked online. Maybe there are others. Mine used apple cider vinegar. I added halved cherries, and then let it sit at room temperature overnight. When I bottled it, it looked like this:

It looks pretty. I'll give one of these to Erik and Mae. My only problem with it is that it doesn't really taste like cherries. All I can taste is the apple cider vinegar. The recipe gave the option of using white wine vinegar, and that might have tasted more like cherries. I'll try this again some other time.

When I make chive blossom vinegar, it's allowed to sit for two weeks before bottling. It makes me wonder if using the flowers from the chive plant vs. fresh fruit makes a difference in the time it's allowed to sit. I know the flowers will stay intact for the full two weeks. Would the cherries spoil in that length of time? I don't know. The acid in the vinegar would help prevent spoilage, but I'm not sure if they could go two weeks. Maybe one of you has some ideas about this. In any case, I'll still use the vinegar, but it probably won't add much cherry flavoring to anything.

When that was finished, I went outside with the kitties and took a little walk around. Most of the blooming things are finishing up their season. We still have the dahlias to look forward to, but they are still weeks from blooming. The daylilies are still going strong.

The purple hydrangea is looking magnificent right now. It doesn't like that bright morning sunshine, and the petals on the flowers curl up some. Still, it's very pretty right now.

The rest of the morning was spent slow-stitching, and I got in a Bowflex workout. It was mid-afternoon before I started on my quilting. I really had no idea how much I had left to do on this, and so I just started quilting lines this way and that way until I ran out of bobbin thread. After that, I had only about three more lines until it was finished. I had to take it off the machine to be sure. Here's how it looks.

Here's a closer shot of the top.

And here's how it looks from the back.

Here's a little closer shot of that.

When I folded it up to head downstairs, I found Miss Sadie waiting for me. She was thinking she could score some treats if she engaged in adorableness.

So I'm hoping I'll find the bleary-eyed energy to get the binding sewn onto my quilt this afternoon. I'll enjoy sitting and stitching it over the next couple of days.

The only other thing I did yesterday was to spend some more time with our Alaska trip. The route is pretty well laid out now. We're keeping things flexible by not making any reservations anywhere for the time being. I'll probably make some reservations when the time gets closer, but I'm wanting to keep our time flexible. We'll wait until we're a few days out from each stop to look ahead and find a place to stay. Also, we're told by many, many, many travelers that there are lots of places to pull off the road and camp for the night for free. 

So here's our route as it stands. I ended up adding one of Alaska's many state parks to what I already had.

We'll be backtracking in some areas, and that's okay. Unlike the network of roadways in the lower 48, roads in Alaska are more spread out and remote. Not all of the roads will be paved.

Mike is making good progress getting our Jeep Wrangler set up for towing. I only mention this because it means the garage will be freed up soon for sandwiching quilts. For now, I'll get busy sewing the blocks for A Joyful Journey into a finished quilt top. There's always plenty to keep me busy in the sewing room.


Busy Kitchen Day and a Winner!

 Good morning, my friends! It's a coolish morning here at the Three Cats Ranch. Our temperature was into the 50's this morning...nice. It's much better sleeping weather when we can turn off the A/C and open some windows. 

So who's up for some winning action this morning? I'm going to spin the random number generator and see who wins the fat quarter bundle I'm giving away to celebrate my 14th Blogiversary. And the winner is...


Congratulations, Abelian! I've sent you an email, so check your inbox. And thanks to all who played along. The many kind comments and remembrances you left where special and fun to read.

Okay, so let's just talk about what happened yesterday. It was a busy day in the kitchen. Nothing I did was particularly difficult or time-consuming, but it was all done in stages. I'd have only a half hour or so between necessary tasks, and then I'd be on to the next thing. Knowing it would be a busy day, I was out to water the annuals early. Along my way, I stopped to admire the echinacea. More flowers are opening up every day.

The lavender is nearly bloomed out. I don't usually do anything with the lavender except to collect the blossoms for drying. I use them to make a lavender tea used in the simple syrup we add to our Bee's Knees cocktails. Also, I float a flower on the top of the cocktail as a garnish.

Our two large plants are nearly bloomed out, and so I was happy to see new blossoms forming on this smaller plant. I can only think it's a different variety. (And why have I not noticed this before?) Obviously, the flowers are longer than the ones in the image above. They're only in bud right now, so I'm curious to get a better look at a mature flower.

I've been checking the dahlias obsessively looking for any sign of a bud. I see a few suspects, but nothing I can be certain about. I had to stake the 2nd one from the left. When I purchased the tubers, I tried for ones that wouldn't require staking, but I found this one listing decidedly forward when I saw it yesterday morning.

You might remember that it fell over while we were traveling last year. We returned home to find it face down in the gutter. Obviously, it partied too hard while we were away. So sad.

Checking the apple tree, the apples look exactly the same as they did when I checked it a week or two ago. They're still small...about the size of golf balls...and I think the deer have been after them. There were too many apples for such a small tree, and so the deer are welcome to them. Just leave a few for us, okay?

Back in the house, I went to work making a Cherry Galette. The crust had to chill in the refrigerator for two hours before I could roll it out. I did some other things while I waited. Eventually, I could add the fruit and bake it. Here's how it looked when I took it out of the oven.

The cherries are very juicy when they're straight from the tree. When I made the cherry crisp recently, it was a little soupy, and I worried the galette would be the same way. As it turns out, it absorbed all the extra juiciness while it cooled through the afternoon, and it was perfect and delicious when we had it for our dessert last night. We served it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The recipe can be used with almost any kind of fruit with minor adjustments made for the level of sweetness and juiciness. It's another NYTimes recipe, and so you'll need a subscription to open it. If you have trouble and you want the recipe, just email me, and I'll send it to you.

Okay, and while I was awaiting the stages on the galette, I went to work making the component parts for this Black Rice Salad with Cherries and Plums. This recipe was set aside some time ago, thinking I'd make it when the cherries were ready. It was an interesting combination of flavors, and we really liked it. I used the cherries from our tree, and I used some black plums I picked up at the grocery store.

It was a nice side dish to serve with our Tortellini with Snap Peas and Pesto. I had some fresh basil I wanted to use up, and this filled the bill. I've made this before. It's super simple to do.

After all that, I still had cherries leftover. I have some sitting downstairs waiting to be strained and bottled for use. I'll have to report back on the flavor. The Black Rice Salad above used a champagne vinaigrette. I can imagine this cherry vinegar being a good substitute for the champagne vinegar.

So with all that going on in the kitchen, there wasn't a lot of time to work on my quilt. Nevertheless, I made some progress. I can't really tell how much is left, but I'm going to work on it throughout the day today and see if I can get it to binding stage. If not today, I'm pretty sure I'll get it there by tomorrow.

My slow-stitching awaits. Mike was up too early this morning, and so he's gone back to bed. I'm just about to settle down with a cat on my lap and work on my embroidery piece. I see a nice day ahead. How about you?


Going Straight

Good morning, my friends. It's a stay-at-home day for me. Our window washer guy was supposed to be here, but he had a family emergency. It seems to be a week for canceled appointments for family emergencies. It's really fine with me though. I'm needing a quiet day without visitors. It's not quite as bad as going out in public, but it does put a crimp in my routine. Scott, the window washer, has been washing our windows for around 35 years. He did the windows at our previous home, and now he keeps the windows clean here at the Three Cats Ranch. He seems like family, but I still try to stay out of his way while he's here. He'll be here next week, and I'll enjoy not having a visitor today.

There was just a little time to spend on my slow-stitching yesterday morning. I took the first stitches on Block 5 of Grandpa's Bridges.

This will be a good project to take along on the short trip we have planned for Moab this coming fall. All the blocks are printed on Sticky Fabri-Solvy, and so I won't need to drag a lot of equipment along to continue on my merry stitching way.

So I headed into town, got my hair cut, and then I stopped off at one of the specialty markets. I was still on the hunt for some champagne vinegar...found it. While I was there, I picked up some apples. I really love apples, and I usually eat one every day. Recently I learned the flavenols in apples can help prevent frailty in old age. And, hey...I'm not one to deny my age. I'm just glad I already like apples, and eat them regularly. Also, I got a couple of plums and some gorgonzola cheese. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I want to try a recipe for Black Rice Salad with Cherries and Plums. It sounds interesting, and it was one of the things I wanted to try with the cherries we picked recently. 

When I got home, I had a good long nap, and then I got back to my quilting. I'm just quilting line after line after line until I have the whole thing finished. Reaching a good stopping place, I took the quilt off the machine to have a look. I'm going to guesstimate that I have it about 40% finished now.

 It's a little hard to see the quilting on the back with those dark fabrics, but here's a peek.

It's a large quilt, filling in the space between the walls of our upstairs dormer.

I like the look of a straight line diagonal grid on these kinds of quilts set in a checkerboard style. Usually, I'm working on smaller quilts when I do this. Having the lines extend such a long distance makes this a little tedious to work on, but I'll just keep on keeping on until it's finished.

Okay, and there was still time left in the day. When I've finished with the quilting, I'm going to start sewing together the quilt top for A Joyful Journey. As a reminder, here are all the blocks I have for this quilt.

The patterns were a gift from one of my friends, although I've forgotten who. If it was you, then thank you. I enjoyed stitching this one. There are some free assembly directions online, and I printed them out some time ago. I might have tried something different, but I like this setting.

So I looked at the fabric requirements and then perused my stash for things I could use. I pulled these fabrics. The light one on the right will work for the star cornerstones. The leaf print will work as the medium brown. The lighter brown, second from the left will work for the dark stop border. It looks as if there are borders around the blocks too. The one on the left will work as a binding.

And then I went in search of a fabric I could use as a backing. I used this fabric to back a different quilt, but I still have a skosh over two yards in addition to a large cut-off piece. I kind of like this one, given the name of the quilt, "A Joyful Journey." It made me think of the barns I watch for when we're traveling.

As an alternative, I have nearly three yards of the one below. The pattern calls for three yards, and so this one might be large enough to get the job done. I like the colors. If need be, I have a green that I can use to piece one or the other of these choices to make a larger back.

As I was selecting fabrics, Sadie came in to give me some more instruction on organizing my projects. She doesn't understand why I don't make better use of the floor.

Upstairs, Smitty had the do not disturb sign out.

And who can blame him when he's been so busy outside digging for gophers.

We've had a dinner planned with Erik and Mae for several weeks. Last night we met them at the local Amaterra Winery. We attended an event there this past Christmas, and it was very nice. They have a beautiful tasting room. If you click on that link I've given you, you can see the place. Erik has wanted to have dinner on their patio ever since he first saw the place. It was too cold to be out there in December, but we scheduled a late dinner for last night. Late because we wanted the sun to be low in the sky and avoid the heat of the day. This was the view from our table. See that mound far off in the distance near the middle of the image? That's our hill.

It was a very nice dinner with good food served up family style and good wines, of course. We enjoyed our evening with them, as always.

Okay, so I have some work to do in the kitchen making my black rice salad. (Probably I should check my supply of black rice before I get too far along.) Also, I'm going to make a cherry galette today. That should pretty well take care of the rest of the cherries. If there are some left, I'll try making some cherry vinegar

It's time again to water the annuals and feed the birds. Also, I'll be reading through Lesson 11 of 12 for my online Photoshop Elements class. When all of that is finished, I'll get back to my quilting. Sometime soon, I'll get busy sandwiching that stack of finished quilt tops that sits mocking me in my sewing room. Mike is doing some work in the garage, and so I've been waiting for him to finish what he's doing, and I'm waiting for the weather to cool off some. Eventually, the conditions will be perfect, and I can finish that dreadful job. It's my least favorite part of quilting, but it's a happy day when they're all sandwiched and ready to go...like having a full tank of gas...or like reading page one of a good book. When it comes to sandwiching quilts, it's the destination, not the journey.

Okay, my friends. It's time to get on with my day. Don't forget to head over to my giveaway post and leave a comment there. Today is the last day. I'll announce the winner in tomorrow's post.