6/17/18

Hot Toddy

Yesterday was the day to start on Todd's pawtrait. He's a handsome fellow, no? The lady cats probably swoon for him.


By the way, did you know a lady cat is known as a "Queen"? It only makes sense.

So these are done kind of paint-by-numbers style. The posterized version of the image is used to trace "islands" of color. The word "island" is used because the pieces need to be done so that they can be drawn in a complete "circle," although these pieces are anything but circular. I just can't think of a better way to describe it. They must begin and end at the same spot. Does that make sense?

So here's Todd and his islands of color.


Taking it off the photo, it looks like this. The dark space in the middle of the image is the reflection of my camera. There just isn't any way to keep reflections off the reflective surface of the transparency.


And these are applique, so they have to be reversed. Just to keep things straight, it helps to write a note to myself so I'm not second-guessing which side to trace onto the fusible web.


The easiest place to start is the eyes. You want to cut holes for the pupils, rather than appliqueing them over the top of the iris. It avoids having them look like bug-eyes. So I cut the iris out, cut a hole for the pupil, and then just cut a little piece of black fabric and fuse right over the top of it. Batiks are a good choice for the iris. They have a nice variability that mimics the variability of color in an actual iris.


A pressing sheet is essential for this process. You're fusing pieces to the pressing sheet and then moving them around as you go. I like to put the eyes in the right spot, fuse them to the pressing sheet and then work outward from there.


The eyes have it.


Speaking of eyes...someone else had eyes on the goings on here. He was rather offended at pictures of another cat in his sewing room. He let Todd know just what he thought of these shenanigans.

Yeah, Todd...Take a look at that. How's that fur a view?


Eventually, he settled in on my sewing chair. Fortunately for him, this was a no-sewing day. Everything was done at the ironing board, the light box, and the work table.


With so many pieces and so many colors, it was hard to tell where one piece started and another began. I figured out that I can turn the picture upside down on the light box and then lay the pattern over the top to get a better idea of the colors. Then I can trace onto the fusible right there. It was a lot easier than trying to trace from the transparency alone.


So on I went...adding pieces. When I got this far, I took a picture.


Todd wasn't popping out at me yet, and I decided I really needed to figure out the nose next. It was easier if I used the non-posterized image to draw out the shape of the nose. Todd's nose has lots of different colors, and I needed the basic shape as a guide. From there I could add colors as it made sense.


Then I added some of the orange and white to the sides of his nose, and he started looking more like Todd.


This scrap of fabric has been invaluable for the pawtraits. It once was a quilt back, and I can't even remember the quilt now. It might have been given away. In any case, it's been the best piece of fabric for pawtraits. The pinky peachy colors are perfect for cat noses and ears. It's been used in every kitty pawtrait I've done. I don't know what I'll do when it's all gone.


From there, I took it a little farther. When I got to this point, it seemed like a good place to stop. So I took a picture, turned off the iron and the lights, and headed up stairs. I even posted this image to Facebook.


Then I filled the bird feeders, watered the pots, checked in to see how Mike was coming with the iris. (He was busy digging them out, as we have been threatening for years.) I drank some water, sat around a little bit, and then I looked again at the picture on Facebook. Wait just a minute...something was wrong.

Downstairs again, I laid the transparency over the top and realized I'd put a piece over the top of another when it was supposed to go under. Oy.


You can see it where that pink line is in the image below.


Okay, so I carefully peeled up that side of the applique and tucked it under the piece below without harming either piece. Phew! Now it looks right.


So that's where I'll pick it up today. I'm hoping to finish the ears and the rest of the neck. If there's time left, I'll get going on the body.

And Happy Father's Day out there, if you happen to be one of those people. Here's my favorite dad image of all time.


This morning the kids are coming over to help me make Father's Day Eggs Benedict. We did it at their house last year, so this might be a new tradition. It should be fun. However you're planning to spend your day, I hope it's a good one.

6/16/18

Out of Gas

The lights in the sewing room were never turned on yesterday, and so it ended up an unplanned no sewing day. The morning was pretty well taken up with my walk with Sue. The trail was so pretty yesterday, and I resisted the urge to take pictures of every blooming thing. Nevertheless, I did capture a few.


These are wild roses. They are in bloom all along the trail right now.


These are tiny...about the size of a beebee.


These little red berries are about the size of a beebee too.


In yesterday's post, I alluded to having spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen on Thursday. I was making up the mixture for Best-Ever Veggie Burgers. We're not vegetarians here, but that doesn't mean I don't loves me a killer veggie burger every now and again. I was wanting to try making my own, and this recipe came highly recommended by our CSA farmers. It's made with canned black beans, roasted beets, sauteed onions, and brown rice, among other things. The mix was made up and then refrigerated overnight. (I suspect that improves flavor, but also makes it easier to form into patties.)

So last night was the night for actually eating them, and after I got home, I made up six patties to be cooked later.


I layered them between so many layers of wax paper, and then covered them with plastic wrap, then put them back in the fridge to wait their turn in a cast iron skillet.


When that was finished, I happened to look out the window to see this little sh*t having either climbed or jumped up to our peanut feeder to feast on peanuts.


Gasp! I do believe he's mocking me!


And after that, we had some lunch. I felt a little tired after lunch, and so laid down on the couch for a short nap. I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I slept all afternoon! Geez. I hadn't planned on that, but I must have needed it. You know we get going here at the Three Cats Ranch because there is so much we need and want to do. Then at some point, our batteries run down  and we fall over in a dead sleep.

It was practically dinner time when I woke up, which was just fine because I was dying to sink my teeth into this burger. Ours kind of fell apart around the edges and ended up more like veggie sloppy joes. No matter...they were delicious.


The recipe made six patties, and you probably know how it is when you're trying to divide something up evenly...cookies, for example. You start out making them a certain size. By the time you get to the end, you're either making huge ones or tiny little ones, depending on whether you're trying to stretch out or conserve whatever you mixed up. These burgers were no different. The last ones were rather large, and this is a LIFO delivery system (Last In, First Out). The patties we ate were also the biggest. Anyway...I think in the future, I'll make them smaller and thinner. That might help them hold together a little better. It would probably be possible to get eight patties from the mix that way. There are two more in the refrigerator. We'll have those in a day or two. I froze the remaining two. We'll have them another time.

But that's not all I was doing in the kitchen. I made this Melt-in-your-Mouth Kale Salad too. Even not-fond-of-kale Mike will eat this. It's a simple recipe...no frills...but such a delicious way to eat kale.


Mine was made with golden raisins, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. As one of our members pointed out, you can substitute any green, any dried fruit, any nut, and any hard cheese in this. I think it would be really good made with dried cranberries and pistachios too. It's easy, delicious, and oh, so healthy. After dinner, I was having a hard time resisting the urge to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

But I didn't...because we were fresh out of tall buildings here at the Three Cats Ranch, and besides, day was done.


So today, there's very little on the agenda that needs doing. I expect I'll spend most of the day in the sewing room. Todd the cat awaits.

6/15/18

Garden Friends

Yesterday morning, I caught Smitty and Sadie in a rare moment of nose-bumping. Actually, they do it fairly frequently, having become fast friends...it's just rare for me to catch it with the camera.


Or maybe they're working out a strategy to catch this squirrel.


This squirrel has been with us for a number of years. Just yesterday, I asked Alexa (our AI listening machine, grocery shopping list creator, kitchen timer, and information gatherer) what the life expectancy of a squirrel is. She said it was 12 years. This is one of the fattest squirrels I've ever seen, and I'm pretty sure she's the matriarch of the squirrel herd that inhabits our field. I'm also suspicious she's the digger in our flower pots.

While I was out yesterday, I picked two cups worth of lavender blossoms to make a lavender infusion, which will be turned into lavender blossom jelly. Pretty, huh?


It's the first time I've tried this infusion, and I was surprised when the color completely leached out of the flowers almost instantly. They're not as pretty now, are they?


The resulting infusion isn't a pretty lavender color, as I'd hoped. Instead it's a kind of darkish brownish purple. I'm kind of wondering what the jelly will look like. I could add some food coloring, but with such a dark color, I doubt food coloring would make it look better...it could even make it look worse.


So, I'll go ahead with this. It only makes four half-pints, so it's not a big loss if it turns out ugly. Either way, it will still taste good.

There was some other kitchen business in yesterday's wanderings, but nothing I'm ready to tell you about. Late in the day, I got to work tracing out a pattern for Todd the cat. It was all going along well until I got to the nose. From there, I was having trouble discerning enough detail to make the nose look like a nose.


I tried starting over with another transparency, and just tracing the nose, but I needed a sharper image with more detail, and so I wrote an email to my friend and told her the problem I was having with this. Here's the image I'm working with.


You can see that there's just a little bit of blur. These need sharp detail to end up looking like the actual cat, especially when I'm enlarging them to make a quilt. It's one thing to have a small 3 x 2-inch image on a computer screen. When they're blown up to a larger size, a lot of the detail is lost. I could still make a cat from this image, but it probably wouldn't look like Todd. It would just be an orange cat...it could be any orange cat on the planet.

When I started this whole process, I had this image to work with. When I tried enlarging it, it ended up all pixelated because it wasn't a high enough resolution. That would be fine for making a collage, but for a pawtrait...no go.


So, now I have this image, and this one might work. I won't know for sure until I try to trace it out.


To do these, I first "posterize" the images to give me good definition on the color values. Here's "posterized" Todd.


The nose is a little easier to see now, and so I'll give it another go. Fingers crossed.

This morning I'm walking with my friend Sue. When I get home, I have some more kitchen stuff to do, but then I'll get back to work on Todd.

6/14/18

Anticipatory Gardening

There's a lot to tell you today...turns out window-washing days pack a lot of activity. The kitties had another bad day with a Man here invading their space. Kitties are purrivate people, and they do not take kindly to strange Mans invading their space. They spent most of the day skulking around and peering around corners. It was pawsitively furrightful. (Sometimes I lapse into Catonese, even when I don't have kitty pictures to show.)

So I finished off the 6th of the Sundresses.


And then I got right to work tracing out the next block for the Heart & Home quilt. This is Block 7 of 9, called "Welcome Family & Friends." Since it's always hard to see the traced lines on these, I took this picture as I had it laid out on my light box. I'll get started stitching this today.


By that time, the window washer guy was hard at work, and so I headed into the sewing room to stay out of his way. My first task was to make the black and white blocks for the Rainbow Jubilee quilt. There are 16 of these.


Yes, as a matter of fact, there is a cat on that top one. After that, I trimmed them to size, and cut them in half...half go one way, half the other.


And then, I sewed them to the sides of the colored blocks, square-in-a-square style.


And with those two colors finished, I'm caught up on the Rainbow Scrap challenge. In July, I'll only need to make the blocks for one color. Here are the blocks I've made so far, all laid out. This is such a fun design. Each new color propels me forward to make the next one.


I've posted this before, but in case you missed it, the pattern is the Jubilee Lap Quilt and can be found in this book. It's a good book with lots of good projects.


That took me well into the afternoon, and so it was time to get outside, fill the bird feeders, and water the pots. Along the way, I took some pictures. The garden is sort of between stages right now. The blooming things I showed you previously have faded, and new things are on the way. Still, these volunteer snapdragons are putting on a show, as they will throughout the season.


We have some ripening strawberries...the squirrels will enjoy these.


Also, this little rose is blooming. We rarely see blooms on this because the deer always eat them while they're still tight in their buds. And they've been eating it this season too. Fortunately, it's gotten large enough now that the deer confine their eating to only one side of the plant, and we still get some flowers on the other side. Such a good deal for us and the deer. It's a very fragrant rose.


You might notice that it's also being devoured by aphids right now. Because we so rarely see flowers on it, it gets neglected. I'll have to pick up some spray for it while I'm out today.

The lavender is blooming now. Today I'll collect some blossoms to make a lavender infusion for lavender blossom jelly...and you know we loves us some Bees Knees garnished with a little lavender blossom.


Also, the mint is lush and green right now. I'm planning to make some mint jelly from this, but I'll wait a little longer, simply because this will be around all season, and the lavender blossoms will fade soon enough.


The sage is blooming. Somehow sage blossom jelly doesn't sound that good to me, but these little flowers are edible. Some members of our CSA group enjoy putting them in salads, and they look pretty too.


I noticed one of the sunflowers has a bud. It will be weeks before this is ready to open, but it's good to see the beginnings of a flower.


Also, the first flowers are appearing on the echinacea now. Of the six plants, only five came back this year. When I see what colors I have, I'll know who's missing and plant some more in that color.


The daylilies are just days away from opening, and there are lots of flowers this year.


We're still waiting on the star lily. The bud keeps growing larger, but so far, no petals are showing.


The first flowers have appeared on the zucchini. It can't bloom soon enough because I'm on my last jar of zucchini relish.


The cherry trees are covered with cherries, and they're starting to ripen. Do you suppose we might get some this year? Doubtful, but one can always hope.


And the plum tree is positively loaded with fruit this year. I'm a little sad when I see the plums because we lost our neighbor Betty while we were traveling. She always made plum jelly from our plums. Maybe I can get her husband to give me her recipe...or else I can find one of my own. Anyway...I can only think the plums are bursting forth in her memory.


The little tomato plant that got eaten earlier in the season is making a comeback, and now it has flowers. Looks like it will survive having been eaten down to a bloody stump.


The hanging tomato plant I got at the farmer's market is covered in blossoms now, and it's doing very well.


Sorry about the blur in these pictures. I was doing pretty well up until now. Anyway...it has a lot of cherry tomatoes on it, and they keep getting larger and larger. The largest is about the size of a ping pong ball now. If it doesn't ripen soon, it will have moved beyond "cherry" tomato into "slicer" size.


Okay, now here's where the fun started. I started making dinner, and what a fiasco that turned into! I had two dishes going at very high temperatures. Unfortunately, they produced a lot of smoke, and the smoke alarms went off. And, let me tell you, those things are absolutely ear-splitting. It was bad enough, but then we couldn't get the darned things shut off. And since our alarms are hooked up to a central service, the phones started ringing too. They wanted to tell us our smoke alarms were going off...as if we didn't know. Actually, they just always want to know if they should call the fire department. NO! I'M JUST COOKING!!! Finally, we got the darned things shut off and cleared the rooms of smoke as much as was possible. Geez.

So what was I cooking? Well, this CSA broccoli for one thing. I use this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which is kind of a different way to roast broccoli. Once you've made the rub, it will last you for quite a while, and you have yourself an easy side dish.


For our main course...another smoker...these Sticky Asian Chicken Wings. These are so good, and they're on our diet. The accompanying sauce is super good.


After our smoke alarm debacle, Mike and I decided it would be better to use boneless, skinless thighs and do them on the barbecue. I'd like to try this again using the large chicken pieces with the same sauce. I could toss the thighs in the sesame oil, make the sauce, and then he can brush the sauce on as he barbecues. Now I'm itching to try this again, sans ear-splitting noise and choking smoke.

So...there you go...all in a day's work here at the Three Cats Ranch. And I can see clearly now because I have clean windows. Yahoo!

Today I'm hoping to get a start on Todd's Pawtrait. This is my June OMG project, and it's time to get going.


Once I get started on these they go pretty fast. I've pulled some appropriate fabrics from my stash, but that's as far as it goes. There are some kitchen things to do today too, and so there's not a minute to waste.