A Big Bowl of Cherries

It's going to be cherry day here at the Three Cats Ranch today...and tomorrow too...and maybe the next day. Mike and I made good on our promise to get out yesterday and pick some more cherries. We picked only from the Black Tartarian tree. The Bings are pretty well gone, partly because we went out the night before and were stuffing them into our mouths straight from the tree. They were sweet as candy! Really! The Black Tartarians are very sweet as well. After zeroing out my scale to account for the weight of the bowl, I had more than nine pounds.

This is only a small percentage of the cherries still on the tree. Many are just too high to reach, but we left plenty behind. I'm still amazed the raccoons didn't eat them this year. Also, cherries were on sale at the grocery store for $1.99 per pound when I went on Thursday. Since I wasn't sure whether or when we were going to pick our own, I decided to hedge my bets and picked up four pounds there too. That means I have more than 13 pounds to work with. I have lots of things I want to make over the next several days, starting this morning with some more cherry jam and some cherry syrup too.

Before we picked the cherries, I had some time to work on my embroidery piece. I've used the last of that dark blue floss now, but I have a lead on another skein, which should arrive any day now. We'll see if its the right color. My friend Sherry thought she might have it, but her skein wasn't marked, so I need to compare them when it arrives. If not, I'll just go back to Plan A, which is to switch to a DMC floss that's a very close match.

Now I've moved my hoop to encompass the last of it. As for the blue floss, I need it to finish the "frame" around the piece, and the lettering in the middle. Not a whole lot there, but a matching floss would be nice. I'll just do the rest of it and hope the floss arrives soon.

After that, I spent about an hour perusing cherry recipes, but then I got back to work on the bird. When I left it the day before, the bird was finished, his perch, and some of the background to his left.

I wanted to do a little more stitching in the small flowers,

And then, I just continued on filling in the background,

until it was all finished.

After that, I started on the cross-hatching below the perch and on the left side. I hadn't really thought this through, but just started quilting lines back and forth. I was trying to keep them parallel (and perpendicular), but aside from that, I had no plan. When I had a few randomly stitched in both directions, I kind of liked the asymmetry there, and decided to stop.

Then I did something similar along the left side.

It makes me think of a garden trellis.

Lastly, I did some McTavishing up the skinny left border of the poppy fabric, and then I was finished with all but the outer border on the left and bottom. I pulled it off the machine and laid it on the floor. Smitty looks to be considering how he could make a meal of the bird.

And that's where I left it for the day.

As I mentioned, I'd like to experiment with making a really fancy feathered border on this with different colors of thread. After I straightened up a little, I went into the sewing room and made myself a nice long practice piece from that feather fabric and selected some threads I thought might work for the quilting.

While I was there, I realized that the two quilts I want to enter in the NW Quilting Expo in September were hanging on the walls, one with some pinch-clamp curtain rings. It seemed a good idea to take both down and give them a chance to relax before they go to the show. (And, to be clear, I don't even know if my quilts will be accepted into the show. I'm only just now ready to mail my entry form.)

So I picked something different for hanging. This is one of my older quilts, called A Gardener's Journal, from Anni Downs. I finished this quilt off several years ago. It was the first quilt I quilted on Eliza, and it was a good one to start with. I did a quilting cornucopia on it with just little samples of different motifs all over. It's being crowded a little by my quilts-to-be-quilted pile, down there on the lower right.

Also, I hung this quilt called, "A Day in the Life of Mr. Bear," by Tricia Cribbs. This was, I think, the second hand embroidered quilt I finished. The beautiful quilting was done by Marcia Wachuta of Marcia's Crafty Sewing & Quilting. She did a wonderful job, exactly the way I hoped she would.

While I was there, Sadie came in and asked to be let in the Clubhouse. She asked most politely.

This little girl is off to the dentist today. She's getting her teeth cleaned. She wants to look good for Buddy, in case we decide to start boarding ponies here at the Three Cats Ranch.

So I'm off to meet the cherry wizard...that would be me, I hope. Since I need to pick Sadie up this afternoon, I want to get on with things early this morning.


A Bird in the Hand

How many bird idioms do you suppose I can invoke while I'm quilting Working for Peanuts? Shall we have some kind of a contest? In this case, it's kind of like "A bird in the hand, is better than a bird that wins a ribbon at the state fair." I never actually start a quilt thinking it might win a ribbon, but I always hold out for the possibility. This one is never going to be one of those, but it's going to do some heavy-lifting as a piece for learning. Let me explain.

Yesterday's activities included quilting, quilting, and more quilting, interspersed with trips back and forth to the washer and dryer. The laundry is finished; the quilting isn't. Still, I'm making some good progress. My first task yesterday was to quilt the beak of the bird, and for that I wanted a straight black thread. This one was in my collection and so I used that.

But, hey, take a look at where YLI thread is made...Rock Hill, SC. Really? That's where my brother's wife was from, and it's where they got married. So, I looked it up, and sure enough. You can read the history of YLI, which started out in California, but ended up in a renovated textile mill in Rock Hill, tripling its manufacturing and warehouse space. According to its website, YLI’s 100% long staple cotton products are purchased from Egypt, dyed in North Carolina, Georgia or Japan, and then finished, wound, and packaged in South Carolina. Huh. Well, f*ck a duck. Kind of makes me feel like I have a piece of the action when I've been to the actual place.

So, pardon my tangential brain. Here's the beak:

I made a little circle around the eye and then headed off in a back and forth motion for the beak. Nothing fancy there.

So then I was ready to move on to the legs and feet. I'd already selected this one from Coats & Clark's Star variegated collection. I first saw these in a quilt magazine, and I loved the colors so much that I bought a whole bunch of them. Now, I don't think they're making it any more, which is kind of a shame. In any case, their colors seem to have numbers rather than names.

Before I put it on the quilt, I wanted to see the full spectrum of colors so I didn't get any surprises.

And that looked pretty good to me, so I went ahead with some "talons" on the feet,

and then just some more curved back and forth action on the legs.

For the perch, I just picked one of my "Essentials" threads from Connecting Threads. I really love their threads for the range of colors and the price. It's true they are a little fuzzier than some of the higher-priced threads, but it has never bothered me. I just clean the fuzz from the machine more often.

And then I quilted the perch with more back and forth action.

Next, I was ready to start quilting the background. For that, I selected a "natural" white. I like this color. It's a white white without being too bright.

So I've been looking and looking at some sort of floral meandering design, but really not found anything I thought was quite right. What I really wanted was a design that looked like the fabric itself. Then, I got the bright idea to just use the fabric as my guide. And so I stitched inside and around the flowers.

And did something a la McTavishing where there were echoing lines.

There's enough busy-ness in the fabric that the transitions aren't obvious, and I can just kind of move from one to another without seeing any abrupt changes. I might go back and do some stitching inside the smaller flowers.

When I'd quilted to the left and above the bird, I called it quits for the day.

Not bad, eh?

And now, let's "flip the bird" and see the back.

Oy...can you see that bearding? And it's not just bearding, it's tension problems. Despite my efforts at keeping my tension correct, I'm afraid I haven't done a very good job.

So, here, I could have thrown myself on the floor, toddler-style, and had a little tantrum, or I could change my goals for this quilt. Suddenly, I realized what a great opportunity this presents for experimentation. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a feather aficionado, but I'd like to try some of the fancy stitching like that on the cover of Patsy Thompson's book.

I could see using different colors to quilt the border and this would be a great opportunity to experiment. And that made me kind of excited to try. This is the first "Ruth McDowell/Ann Shaw" type quilt that I've designed completely on my own without instructor input, and so it's not going to be my best effort. At least I hope not. But it's a place to start and learn, and that's worth quite a lot. Besides, it's a wall-hanging. If anybody lifts up the corner to take a look at the back, I'll smack their hands into next week. Good grief, you wouldn't look under a woman's dress would you? What's going on behind the quilt is nobody's business. I'm so glad we've come to an understanding about this.

So, then I went in search of Miss Sadie, who was still outside. It was time for her to come in. Usually when I call her, she comes running, lickety-split. Yesterday, I walked all the way around the house to find her sleeping in the little cat house inside her catio. The catio door was still open, but she didn't twitch a whisker when I closed and latched it for the day. I took this picture through the mesh walls of the catio so I wouldn't disturb her slumber.

Later, she grew bold and jumped onto Smitty's top rung of the kitty tree when he wasn't there to guard it.

Here he comes, Missy. You might want to get down from there.

Whoa...that was something...I love a good walk on the wild side every now and then.

Phew...my little heart is racing at the excitement of it. It's almost like that note I received from Buddy yesterday when he signed off with "Lovin' Licks." It was a little forward, but hey...have you seen the fursique of that cat? Or is he a whale? Or a pony? I can't tell.

Do you think he noticed my white whisker of shame? It's from doing too much catnip while we were camping last week. Maybe Buddy likes the "bad girls." Did you know I used to be a street walker cat? And I even had some kittens who were taken into purrtective custody when I was rescued from a life of...oh, let's just not talk about it. It's usually not a good idea to dwell on past transgressions. 

But have you ever noticed Smitty's whiskers?

Yep. All white. That cat does wayyyyyy too much nip. It's a good look on him, but I have to be more careful. White whiskers on a black cat could make me look like the Cat Bride of Frankenstein, or something. But maybe Buddy would like that. Hmmmmmmm.

So this morning Mike and I are going to pick some more cherries. Also, he's been working hard to get our old fifth wheel ready to sell. He's requested my assistance there, and so I suppose I'll comply. He was a pretty good nurse while I was sick. Hopefully, I'll get some time for quilting later this afternoon.


Birds of a Feather

If the length of my posts and the number of images is any indication of how I'm feeling, then this post should be a clue that I'm almost 100% this morning. I still have just a bit of a cough, but that could easily be from the work they're doing on the road. The road paving is scheduled for September 24th, but they're continuing to dig drainage culverts and install pipes, and so quite a bit of dust is being stirred up. I am mildly asthmatic, and the dust has been murder this summer. So after I wrote yesterday's post, I needed to get out and fill the bird feeders and water the annuals. While I was at it, I took some pictures of a few things.

The poppies from Ireland are looking great. Now that I know they are biennials, I can stop worrying about them and just enjoy them. The squirrels can still be seen looking longingly at that lovely soil, wishing they could plant their own little garden there. The only surprising thing about this is that they haven't yet figured out how to pry the fencing from the top. Any day now, I'm sure they will.

It's been a while since I showed you the tomatoes in the greenhouse. They are a determinate variety, and so this is probably as tall as they will get.

They're loaded with tomatoes too...still green as grass, but they're coming. Oh yes. They. Are. Coming. Batten down the hatches.

We moved the hanging cherry tomato into the greenhouse while we were gone to the lake. (We should have done the same thing with the petunias, but, oh well.) It never seemed to get enough water when it was hanging outside, and we were sure it would fry while we were gone. Now it's getting watered twice per day, and those tomatoes are ripening nicely.

And lookie there! The first harvestable zucchini!

Another of the sunflowers has bloomed. This one is called Floristan. It's about four inches across.

And, amazingly, there are still cherries on the trees. We're planning to pick some more this weekend. We were going to pick them last week, and then...you know. Anyway, we'll pick them today or tomorrow and call it the end of cherry season. I'm awaiting on some Pomona's pectin, which should arrive on Monday, and then I'm going to make some more sweet cherry jam. The cherries in the image below are the Black Tartarians. They were a little slower to ripen than the Bings, and so they are mostly still on the tree. They are sweet as can be, although I think the Bings might be a little bit sweeter.

When I came inside, I had the harvest below. Yay! The first significant harvest from the garden this year...except for the cherries, of course. We had the cherry tomatoes with our dinner last night. I'll say more in a minute.

While I was outside, the FedEx man arrived with a package from my dear and generous friend, Ila. Ila likes to send me little care packages from time to time. She's a little like having a fairy godmother. She sent these mugs, which are perfect for making the little desserts in mugs. These have already been relocated to the RV for future employment.

There were also toys for the kitties.

We have a beach outing planned for next month, and these will give them something new and novel to play with. Take a look at this catnip refillable turtle. Who knew turtles were stuffed with catnip?

And feast your eyes on these adorable patterns. These are all minis. Did you ever wish you could work on all the quilt projects at the same time? If only I had about 20 more hands and 50 more hours in the day. I love these first two:

And this one describes my philosophy of life purrfectly.

Here's a close up of the words, in case you can't read them.


But I am pawsitively smitten with this one. Is this cute or what? It's the Alley Cat Quilter's Guild.

It took me a second to see what it was. Here's a closer image. Can you see what they're doing?

TOO MUCH!!! Oh. This is my next project. Just you wait. I've seen these Alley Cat Tales quilt patterns in quilt shops before, but I've never purchased any...no doubt in rare moments of extreme self-control. I looked for a web page devoted to the designer, but could only find merchants who carry the patterns. Here's one if you want to see more.

So, thank you, Ila. It was so much fun opening this box. Has anyone ever told you what a delightful enabler you are? Consider yourself told.

Okay, so that was enough fun for one morning. Time to get down to the real work...quilting. I know. I was having a terrible day yesterday. Fun, fun, fun...just way too much fun. It occurs to me that you might like to be reminded of the photograph I was working from when I made this quilt. Here it is...one of our own birds on our own birdfeeder (if one can claim wild birds as one's own).

First, I needed to finish this wing feather I was working on from wing to tail tip.

And then I needed to put a feather around the eye. I started at the top of the beak, and then...

took it in a U-shape around to the blue section on the breast.

And that pretty well took care of the blues. It was time to move to the gray sections. Recall that I'd already tested the blue steel color of metallic thread, and I really liked that.

But I wanted to test out the silver...it's okay, but I still like the blue better.

Tension is still looking good on the back, thankfully.

And then I tried the pearlescent metallic white. Oh, no, no, no. It makes great snow, but it's barely visible here.

Here are the three side by side. Definitely, I pick the blue. (It's nice to have a clear choice, isn't it?)

So then, I quilted a feather just above the eye and then on the cheek. Then I moved to the back.

And then the breast, and things were going along so smoothly I could scarcely believe it...

and there was a reason for that because I got this far when I looked across the quilt in horror and discovered...

CRAP! Crap, crap, crap! I knew it was too easy. I lost about an hour taking that all out, but then I was able to continue on and finish the bird. Here's how it's looking now.

Here's the back, and the quilting is barely visible. With smoky monofilament thread in my bobbin, you can safely assume that was by design. I'm having a little trouble with bearding, but it isn't as bad as I'd initially feared. Truth be told, I'm fairly certain I've loaded my batting in upside-down. I'm using Warm & White, which has a scrim. It was pure carelessness to get it upside down, but I'm stuck with it now. (If you're unfamiliar with "scrim," here's a link to the Warm Company website that explains it. Read the first question under their FAQ.)

So, I'm giving myself an attaboy for those feathers. I haven't quilted a lot of feathers, but these look pretty good to my eye. I have a couple of books for feathers on my shelf, but for this purpose, I found this one extremely helpful.

Now that I've done these, I might like to try something a little fancier. There are going to be more in the border...maybe I'll be brave and try something there.

And that was the end of my quilting day. I'd taken some time the day before to start on a new potato salad recipe that requires two days to make. One first needs to pickle the cucumbers and boil the potatoes, and then the salad can be prepared the day you plan to eat it. We had a treasure trove of cucumbers in this week's CSA share, and I still had radishes from a previous share. Also, there were potatoes and onions in this week's share. I just needed to add some fresh dill from the grocery store, and some mayonnaise from my fridge, and I had myself a nearly all CSA salad. Mae posted this recipe from Smitten Kitchen on our CSA Facebook page and said it was delicious. And I believe my daughter-in-law, who is an excellent cook, so I tried it too. Yummo! You must try this. Here's the link to the recipe for Dilled Potato and Pickled Cucumber Salad. I only made half the recipe, and there is still plenty to have with lunch today.

And it was a day for cold dinner, so I served it alongside this chilled cucumber soup. I've been making this soup for a long time, and it's one of Mike's favorites. Here's the link to the recipe for Cucumber and Avocado Soup with Tomato and Basil Salad. It first appeared in Bon Appetit magazine some years ago. I used those cherry tomatoes from our greenhouse in this. It's made with buttermilk, and so it's low calorie and low fat. Just go easy on the fried prosciutto, or leave it off altogether. You'll miss the salty crunch though...just sayin'. Most everything from dinner last night was either home grown or CSA, so we were feeling pretty smug about our fresh veggies.

Today I'm going to do some laundry, but I'm going to spend most of my time quilting. I'm hoping to get well along on Working for Peanuts. The last thing I did yesterday was to peruse my thread collections for something to use on the bird's legs. I think that one on the right is just about perfect.

Time to get going. It's going to be a good day. I hope you have a good day too.