4/22/17

Every Blooming Thing: Feathers and Flowers Edition

It was such a lovely day for our walk yesterday. Sue and I set out on the Fanno Creek Trail. Sometimes, when it's been raining during the week, we start at the end of the trail where it passes the Tigard Library, and that was our course yesterday. We avoid the worst of the flooding by starting at the far end. Along the way, we saw lots of fun stuff. There weren't so many flowers, and most of the trees have finished blooming at this point. Nevertheless, we passed by this red flowering currant...an Oregon native and one of my personal favorites:


On the way back, we spied this hummingbird enjoying the flowers. What a lucky shot!


Also, a mama duck with about twenty ducklings. Make way!


What are these? Blue bells?


A bush loaded with pretty red camellias.


We looked off in the distance and saw what looked like a carpet of clover.


Sue correctly pointed out that they were little white daisies.


When we start at the library, our walk takes us through an old neighborhood. The Adirondack chairs in this yard caught my eye, but I love this old gingerbread-looking house.


Their neighbor was a cat lover.


When I got home, I baked cookies. These are the Chocolate-Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries. They are so good they're the last cookies recipe you'll ever need.


At Christmas, I make them with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries, but the dark chocolate and cherry ones are my favorites. The cookies are for Mike and the kids. They're taking off to watch a road rally over in Goldendale, Washington. That means I have the house to myself for the weekend.

There's plenty of sewing in my future. Before he left, Mike helped me set up my plywood/sawhorse tables in the garage so that I can sandwich some quilts. First, I'm going to finish up the Mommy & Me baby quilt, and then I'll have six quilts to sandwich. That ought to keep me out of trouble during my home alone weekend.

4/21/17

Harnessing Houdini

Well, back to the drawing board, as they say. We got Miss Sadie out on her harness again yesterday afternoon.


She hunted squirrels with Smitty for a few minutes. Smitty gave her a wide berth. It's almost as if he thought he might "catch" the harness from her if he got too close...like some dread disease.


Then, quick as a wink, she twisted her little body out of that harness, as if she'd just been humoring us up to that point. Doh!

Okay, so ix-nay on the arness-hay for now. We went shopping at our favorite mall on Amazon last night and found a different harness. It had over 1,000 reviews, and most people said they liked it. A few reviewers noted that there isn't a harness made that a cat can't get out of. However, this one seemed to be the most escape proof of the bunch. It's called the "Kitty Holster Cat Harness." Somehow the word "holster" gives us confidence. It's a sort of kitty vest that will cover most of her body. Also, it comes in this stylish "bandana" print, which will look marvelous with her red leash.

This next one is a little different, but the cat is modeling it for you. He looks thrilled, doesn't he?


We were quicker on the draw catching Sadie this time around, and we had her rounded up in a little over five minutes. After that, I took a walk around the garden just to calm my raw nerves. The tulips are looking so pretty. 


I swear I didn't have this color last year. Perhaps my garden is magical...things growing where I don't plant them, changing colors from season to season...who knows? Anything can happen here at the Three Cats Ranch, especially with Houdini in residence. The tulips are in the same whiskey barrel with these volunteer pansies.


Yesterday morning, I checked in on things in the greenhouse. What's this? Lettuce!!!


There are a couple of each variety now germinated. When I checked in at Sunflowerland...nuttin'.


But, hey, I checked in again yesterday evening, and five of the twelve had germinated. WhooHoo!


The only sewing I did yesterday was to hand stitch the binding around Smitty's little cat bed.


And I think it's a winner!


Also yesterday, the fabric I want to use for the elephant applique arrived, and this is going to be just fine. Weirdly, my brain had reversed the colors while I was waiting for it. In my mind, I had white where the aqua should be and aqua where the white should be. Anyway...with the patterns in this and the patterns in the other fabrics I've used, it should be very cute.


On the other hand, my dear and generous quilting friend Ila sent me some fabrics from her own stash. Those should arrive tomorrow or Monday, and so I'll just hold off until I see her selections. It's good to have choices.

And since I get free shipping if I order $50 worth, I ordered some more fabrics that could be used in my scrub jay quilt. I don't know if I'll use any or all of these, but they are pretty, and I'll want a lot of choices for that quilt.


One of these days, I'll actually start on it! Or maybe I'll just keep buying fabrics for it and saying...this would be nice in that scrub jay quilt...who says I actually ever have to make it? It could just be a sort of fabric black hole.

We're expecting our warmest day of the year today. It will be short-lived...just one day of sunshine between days and days of rain and gloom. Sue and I are walking this morning, and I'll just bet our walk is delayed as I photograph every blooming thing in abundance. And with that in mind, I'd better get some breakfast in my belly. I'll need some fuel to keep me going.

4/20/17

Much Sewing

It was a day at home yesterday, and I was able to get quite a bit done in the sewing room. This first piece wasn't a part of the day's plan. 


Remember when I was practicing to quilt Stars and Stripes? Those practice pieces didn't turn out half bad, and I've had this one sitting in a chair where Smitty likes to nap. It keeps the fuzz off the chair, dontcha know. Today I decided I would finish the quilting in the upper right-hand corner and then bind it. So, I did the quilting, and then I was going to put it aside in the quilts-to-finish pile. Only then, I decided to look in my leftover binding strips scrap bag, and I pulled out enough leftover binding strips to make a binding. Only then, I decided I might as well sew those strips together. And then, I decided I might as well sew those on...and that's how an idea turns into a quilt. So, now I just have the hand-stitching to do, and I'll have a little kitty bed.

With that done, I cut the one dozen 3-1/2 inch squares I needed for the latest clue in the Welcome Home small quilt mystery challenge. That was simple enough.


After that, I was ready to make Block 18 for the Solstice Challenge. This week's block is called "On the Go." Now, take a look at this block. Here I am at Block 18, and this quilt started bugging me long ago. What is it with all the half square triangles? Every single block has been unnecessarily loaded with half square triangles, and I'm way more than worn out on them.


Besides, I had this rather large scale Easter print I wanted to use, and that just wasn't going to work at all. I decided to make my block using flying geese and square-in-a-square blocks, and that made a whole lot more sense to me. So here's my block to celebrate Easter.


I'm too far along with this quilt to quit now, and so I'll finish it. I like the fact that my blocks have all represented things that happened during the week. It seems there's always something to celebrate if one looks hard enough. Nevertheless, I'm going to be very happy when all the blocks have been released and the challenge is over.

Moving on, it was time to sew the rickrack to the gray strips for the Mommy & Me quilt. I'll admit I had my doubts about using rickrack on a baby quilt. It only made sense if both edges were sewn down, and that's what I decided to do. Also, I want to point out that the rickrack color was labeled as "aqua." So, there you have it.


It's a little more on the green side than blue. Just don't stray too far or you'll be into "mint" territory.
My stitch choices were blanket stitch or straight stitch. I decided to use a straight stitch. It was pinned every inch or so, and then stitched down both sides. There are two width-of-fabric strips, and this took much longer than anticipated. Still, I'm happy with the result.


The pattern specified 2 1/2 yards of rickrack, and I used all but about four inches.

Smitty was helpfully holding down the fabric while I sewed the rickrack.


Sadie was practicing for her upcoming audition to become a Lipizzan Stallion. She wants to move to Vienna and tour the world with her horsey friends.


I think she's got that high step mastered, don't you?

Today is my monthly pedicure day and I need to pick up some more peanuts and suet for the birds. Aside from that, it'll be a sewing day. Hopefully the fabric I have on order for the elephant applique will be suitable, and I can finish sewing together the Mommy & Me quilt top. Also, I'll spend some time sewing on the binding for the little kitty bed, and make some more progress on the hand quilting. It's still gray and gloomy outside, but we're expecting sunshine tomorrow. Yay!

4/19/17

Color Calamity

There was no sewing yesterday. I plum wore myself out running around. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there were five planned stops, and then I added one more unplanned stop at Joann's. It was the only fabric store close to where my travels would take me. Add to that the fact that I had to resist killing a woman at the post office (long story), and it made for one tiring day. When I got home, I took a long nap. Okay, so here's my sad tale...or if you're a cat (Molly), it's a sad tail.

Just now I tracked the fabric I'm expecting for the elephant applique on the Mommy & Me quilt,


and it's expected to arrive tomorrow. Since purchasing it, I've had second thoughts about how well it will work because of the light background fabric. So, anyway...you know how impatient quilters are...and so I stopped off at Joann. I'd really love to find something floral like the one in the picture, but so far, no dice. Nevertheless, I did find something I liked at Joann, but I'm looking for "aqua." And here's my gripe about aqua again...what the heck does it look like? And I looked at the end of the bolt and the color was described as "turquoise". Oh, sh*t. Because you know my mantra about aqua, to-wit: Is it blue? Is it green? Is it aquamarine? Only now, I had to add a whole new question, which doesn't work at all with my rhyme...Could it possibly be turquoise?

Well. No stranger to the modern age...I said to my phone, "Hey, Siri, are turquoise and aqua the same thing?" Then I looked around to see if anybody had seen me talking to myself. And Siri helpfully shouted out her answer. I nearly dropped the phone trying to turn down the volume. Her answers were actually no help whatsoever. Take a look (to use Siri's words):


And I don't know about you, but that didn't help me at all. So then there was this:


Oh boy...more color names to muddy the waters. And then there was this nauseatingly long diatribe at DifferenceBetween.net.

Well, that gave me a bad case of the cough syrup syndrome, which is a disease Mike and I made up. Have you ever walked into a pharmacy for some cough syrup? There are so many kinds! Plain cough syrup in 15 different brands. Cough syrup with decongestant in another 15 different brands. Cough syrups with expectorants in another dozen brands. Cough syrups with decongestants AND expectorants in twenty brands. Throat lozenges and cough drops. What's a coughing person to do? I'll tell you what we do. We usually leave without buying anything. We can't make up our minds.

And that's what happened to me yesterday at Joann. I got so confused and overwhelmed by my choices of "aqua" and my attempt to distinguish it from "turquoise" that I left without buying anything. Thus, the need for a two-hour nap yesterday afternoon. Actually, the nap probably had something to do with sleeping in the same room with two cats, but I can't bear to lock them out.

Speaking of cats, we had a lot of excitement here at the Three Cats Ranch yesterday. Fresh off my nap, I risked life and limb getting a harness on Sadie and voila! The cat got to go outside. Does she look excited or what?


It's kind of important to us that she learn to be on a leash because when we're traveling, we try to get the kitties outside for some exercise and to combat the boredom of living in a small space. It will be especially important when we're traveling in the camper.


She did surprisingly well. She stuck out her tongue at Mike who was holding the leash, but mostly, she stayed respectful and avoided using bad language.


Smitty was trying not to be noticed by the humans. 

Whoa. Bummer, Sadie. I'm just going to stroll on by and hope nobody sees me because I hate wearing a harness.


She kept trying to leap over and under things, which didn't work out well for her. Eventually, she settled into the limits of her current life situation.


So, we'll keep working on this. It would be nice if the weather would be a little more cooperative. We had periods of sunshine yesterday. Today we're back to our typical Oregon gloom.

Remember my bread from yesterday? Look how pretty that is inside.


It makes a great breakfast bread. There is a full cup of walnuts and half a cup of dried cranberries in it, and no added sugar or fat. It's surprisingly filling. It's a little like eating coffee cake, only without the sin. Today I'm going to bake another loaf of sandwich bread. Mike and I both really like the sandwich bread, and we've actually made sandwiches from it. I think it's a keeper.

I'll get back to my sewing today. There is a new Solstice block out, and there are a few little blocks to make for the Welcome Home small quilt mystery. Then, I'll get busy putting the jumbo rickrack on the Mommy & Me quilt. Finally, there's always hand quilting to do on Mumm's the Word. I've made a little progress, but there are still miles to go before it's finished.

 
Mike is down to single digits today. Nine days to go.

4/18/17

Popping the Cork

There's plenty to celebrate here at the Three Cats Ranch. We're not quite to Mike's retirement date, but we're just ten days out now. This is when most normal people would start counting the days, but we've always been overachievers that way. Also, the Quiltmaker's Garden quilt top is finished!!!!! Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay! Let that play in your head for a minute and then feast your eyes.


I don't think I've ever been so happy to finish a quilt top. Of course, it still needs quilting and binding, but that should be easy compared with what I've done so far. This is my project for

so I'll be linking up at the end of the month.

The leaves were pretty quick to top-stitch. I had 14 of the 26 finished, and then took a break for a little while.


There was a break between rain showers, and so I got outside for a few minutes to straighten my back, rest my shoulders, and clear my head.


After a short break, I went back inside and finished the rest.


This would never have been accomplished without the help of my trusty cat.


When that was finished, it was time to start dinner. First, though, I mixed up some bread dough to make a Crusty Cranberry Walnut Bread. (That's a link to the recipe there if you're interested.) I've made this bread a couple of times before, and it's always a winner. The dough is easy to mix up, and then it sits overnight to be baked off in the morning. Annnnnnd...done!


Speaking of recipes, a few of you have written to me asking for the recipe for the sweet daikon radish pickles. It seems a good time to say that I'll always share links to recipes when I can find them online or if it's my own creation. Often enough, I'm using a recipe from a published cookbook. When that is the case, I'll do a search for it online, but if I don't find it there, then I won't share it publicly on this blog. There are too many horror stories circulating about copyright infringement, and I had one bad experience myself. Now, I'm pretty careful. That doesn't stop me from sharing it with you privately, however. If I write about something I've cooked and I don't link to the recipe, it's always perfectly okay to email me (my email address is in my right sidebar), and I can share it with you that way. And if you say you got the recipe from me, I'll deny it to my dying day.

Today is a run-around day. There are five stops on my list, which is stretching my patience a little. It means I'll have a day at home tomorrow, however, and so I'll suffer through. If there's still time to sew when I get home, I'll get to work sewing the jumbo rickrack onto the Mommy & Me baby quilt.


I'm still waiting for the elephant applique fabric, and I can't rule out a trip to the fabric store today to look for something else that might work better. If time allows, I just might do it. The baby isn't due until June, but I'd like to have the top finished before we take off for some traveling next month.

4/17/17

A Fine Vine

We had a lovely weekend weather-wise. Mike was able to get quite a bit accomplished outside. Of course, I was out and about as well. Sunday was a little more cloudy, although one of the warmer days we've had. I checked in on things in the greenhouse. For now, I'm watching those little lettuce seeds like a hawk. They need to be uncovered as soon as they germinate. I made the mistake of going off one August after planting and covering some seeds for a new round of lettuce. The weekend was especially warm, and the poor things germinated and then boiled in their own wet soil. I'm much more careful now.

Things are moving along in the sewing room. The random square sections of the Mommy & Me baby quilt are sewn together now, and I laid them out with the other sections so that I could get a look at the whole background.


Before sewing together the 5-inch blocks, I spent a little time getting the colors and patterns random, but I kind of like Sharon's no-stress, grab-and-sew method. With that in mind, I didn't spend too much time on it, and I'm happy with where it ended up. 

Until I receive the jumbo rickrack and the fabric for the elephant applique, I'm afraid I've taken this as far as I can. I'll want to trim those sections to size once the rickrack and the applique are sewn on. For now, I'll just fold this up and work on some other things. The fabric I chose for the elephant applique might not work because the background is rather light. It might mean a trip to the fabric store to find what I want. That would just be terrible wouldn't it? I just hate it when I have to go to the fabric store! It's all part of being a quilter...wandering through bolt after bolt...fondling all that fabric...sigh...Okay. Shaking it off now. 

With that done, it seemed as though I couldn't avoid the vine on the Quiltmaker's Garden any longer. The vine is made from a one-inch wide strip of fabric cut on the bias. There were some instructions accompanying the pattern and, true to form, they made no sense whatsoever. Thank you, Quiltmaker. Just consider this my newest reminder that I will never forgive you for the crappy instructions that accompanied this quilt.

Going it alone, I decided to first fold it in half and press in a crease. Then I folded each edge to the middle crease and pressed again...essentially making a double-fold bias tape. I have a tool for that, but mine was too large to be of any use. When I talked about doing this in an earlier post, several of you had excellent ideas for making the vine wind around the trellis to make it look more natural. They were all good ideas, and I thank you for your suggestions. Frankly, the fight went out of me long ago on this quilt. The paper-piecing really did me in. With that in mind, I ended up doing it more or less the way it was pictured on the pattern. It was pinned about every inch and then stitched down using the blanket stitch on my sewing machine.


As you might guess, I had plenty of help doing this. The vine was long and so much fun(!), if you get my drift.


Once that was stitched down, I needed to make 26 leaves for applique: 11 small ones, and 15 large ones. That actually went more quickly than expected, and in short order, I had them fused down.


Today I'll work on getting them all top-stitched. The quilt is rather large now, and I'm going to need to do this on my domestic machine. I'll need to get my arms in shape for plenty of wrestling, I'm afraid.

It'll be a good project to work on while I tackle Mt. Laundry on this rainy Monday. There is one other housework chore to do. Nevertheless, getting this quilt top finished is my highest priority. Then I'll pile it in the middle of the room, plant a flag, and declare victory over this, my nemesis quilt. It would be a good name for it, don't you think? The Quiltmaker's Nemesis.