Friday, June 27, 2008

If it's not Scottish.....

It's Crap!

I love Scotland. Anyone who knows me knows that. I love everything about it. Every year they have the Highland Games down in Oak Brook. I usually go with my friend Amy, who I went to Scotland with the first time. Sometimes the hubbies come along, sometimes we are left to oogle men in kilts on our own. This year the hubby and I went, but didn't get in touch with Amy in time so we missed seeing her. The hubby isn't contented to sit and watch the actual games as I am. I mean really, does it get any better than Tank-like men in kilts tossing a telephone pole with the bag pipes playing in the backround? I think not. Yet he'll watch the tedium that is baseball for hours on end. Go figure. I wasn't able to get photos of the caber toss, but I did get the sheaf toss. The contestants use a pitchfork to throw the 20lb bail over a very tall pole.

This year the weather was lovely so we took the girls, Bug and Daisy, with us. They love the games. They get soooo much attention. We found out that despite being a Golden Retriever, a Scottish breed, Daisy is afraid of the bag pipes and drums. Bug doesn't mind them unless they are between her and food.
Speaking of food, there's only one place to eat. Well, there' s really a lot of places, but only one that I need. Winston's.

They have bridies (ground meat and spices in a puff pastry), sausages, meat pies, sausage rolls, fish and chips, the whole shabang.

They also have ale, not beer. And they do a whisky tasting. I'm told that Amy's hubby did the whisky tasting and was very happy the rest of the day.

The hubby only wanted to stay a couple of hours, so much to my dismay we left early. We totally missed the haggis eating contest and the haggis hurling! The haggis hurling is relatively new to the games here. It's a womens event that while balancing on a half barrel, they have to throw a 1lb frozen haggis as far as they can. How funny is that? I'm just glad the haggis is frozen. Just thinking about a splatted haggis is gross

They used to have a Border Collie sheep herding demo, but haven't the last couple of years. I'm not sure why they don't do it any more, it was great fun. Bug went ballastic over the sheep. I had to turn her away from them while I watched.

The bird of prey tent is always interesting too. I think they are just the coolest birds. This white barn owl was not happy that Bug and Daisy were in it's vacinity. It kept bobbing it's head and watching them. I thought the little fluffy owl was the cutest thing! I thought of Pigwidgeon in Harry Potter. I think it looks like a Pigwidgeon, don't you?

Current projects

I always have multiple quilting/sewing in progress at any given time. In the summer, I also have my flower and veggie gardening projects as well. I thought I would share with you my latest projects.
This is my tomato, basil and nasturtium bed. My sister started the tomatoes from seed, I don't really have the patience for it. I prefer the small leafed spicy globe basil, but I also grow classic Italian basil. My backyard neighbor keeps a close eye on the Italian basil. He loves it, but can't seem to get it to grow, so every summer I hand him tomatoes and basil over the fence. I love the way my lettuce looks! It's very inspiring. I see a lettuce colored quilt in my future. Batiks perhaps. I actually have a printed fabric that looks a lot like this. This is my first harvest of the season! Isn't it exciting?
I just thought this was such a pretty shot:
Now for my quilt/sewing projects. Can you see a theme in the colors of this quilt?
I didn't realize it until just now, but it looks a lot like my harvest!
The fabric is from multiple manufacturers, but the majority is the Princess Butterfly line by Gray Sky Studios for In the Beginning fabric. I love the line, but felt it needed some more contrast, since it's all rather mushy and soft, so Jennie and I ran around Tammy Tadd's store and pulled the others to go with them. I used the Sweet Emma Rose pattern out of the "Miss Rosie's Quilt Collection" book by Carrie Nelson. It went together super fast. I just started this quilt Sunday, June 15th. I really like it, though it's significantly larger than I had anticipated. I thought it would be a throw or twin but it turned out to be 88" x 100"!!! Yikes! In reality it's a little longer than a full/queen bed! I really should start reading the directions more throughly.
I quilted the main part free hand with swirly roses and butterflies and loopies. I used Golden Threads paper to trace the butterflies, since I can't draw. I did the rose thingies on my own. They are my fall back, since I'm good at them. I'll tell you, even though I sew on a Janome 6500 with the extended area between the needle and machine, it was not easy getting this thing through my machine!

The back is pieced together with the brown and pink roses and the left over boarder fabric.

I hope you like it!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Wedding

It’s so nice to go to a wedding, especially one where you can tell how happy the bride and groom are to be with each other. This was one of those. They are a really cute couple. My cousin Ashley’s wedding was beautiful, and I’m not just saying that. She, as well as the entire wedding, was gorgeous.

Her colors were pink and brown, which she very cleverly worked into her ensemble. She had a creamy white dress with a chocolate satin sash around the waist, and the best pink veil/headpiece. The veil looked vintage, but was actually new. Apparently she found a lady online, told her a bit about herself, and the lady made the veil. It was stunning!

The bridesmaids wore short pink dresses with brown sashes, except the maid of honor, who wore brown with a pink sash. The girls’ bouquets were just fabulous. And they had my favorites, hydrangeas and peonies.

The men wore dark brown suits with pink vests and ties. I felt badly for them in those suits! It was hot, hot, hot and extremely humid that day. I don’t know how she did it, but Ashley looked great the whole evening. The vows were in front of a pond with three statues on pillars and Chihuly bubbles floating in it. As I mentioned, the weather was HOT, about 91 degrees, which is 9 degrees over my 82 limit. As I arrived at the Botanic Gardens large, dark, stormy clouds began rolling in, making my carefully straightened hair curl back up. The weather is always the scary part of an outdoor wedding or event. I must say though, she lucked out. There was a huge crack of thunder during the vows, but the rain didn’t start until they were announced to the guests as husband and wife. Huge drops started as they made their way back down the aisle, and everyone started running for cover. Whew that was close!

Carolina, DiscoJen’s daughter, was the flower girl. She looked so cute, but unfortunately didn’t feel well the day of the wedding. She’s normally an outgoing, talkative, smiley child, but she just felt so awful that day that there’s hardly any pictures of her smiling. She was so looking forward to being the flower girl too. It’s all she talked about up until the wedding. In the car on the way down she called excitedly to me “VICKI! I HAVE SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT TO SAY!” I asked her what was so important and she said “I’M GOING TO BE A FLOWER GIRL IN ASHLEY’S WEDDING!”

Thank goodness for the groom’s nephew, without him walking her down the very long path to where the vows took place, I don’t think she would have made it! For those planning a wedding, having the flower girl and ring bearer hold hands and walk together is a very effective way to get them down the aisle.

The reception was in the Spink Pavilion at the Gardens which was a narrow room, lined with windows. Check out the tables! Aren’t they amazing? And the flowers! Have you ever seen flowers like this?

The food was fantastic too. They had a blueberry theme going on with the catering. There was a blueberry mojito drink featured during the cocktail hour that was great. It was very refreshing in the hot weather. There were blueberries in the cake too. I forgot to ask Ashley if there was some symbolism for the blueberries, or if she and Chris were just concerned that their loved ones don’t get enough anti-oxidants.

My dad thought that they must have fortified the tables for those vases, since they were like 4 feet tall and filled with water.

I waited to post about the wedding, because I wanted to show you all what I made for their gift:

It’s from Tula Pink’s line, Moonlight Forest. As soon as I saw this line I thought of Ashley. First, it’s pink and brown. Second, it has bunnies, squirrels and various nature-like items hidden in the fabric. It’s so cool how she weaves them in! Ashley loves bunnies and used to name the squirrels when she lived in Colorado as a child. The owls in the line totally reminded me of the Beatles, and she loves the Beatles as well. I named it “All You Need is Love” I hope she likes it. I made it big enough for her and Chris to cuddle under together in cold weather.
The designing of the quilt was very different for me. I usually draw it out, have a pattern or put it together on my Electric Quilt program. For this quilt, I just grabbed a bunch of my charm packs of the Moonlight Garden and the Sweet Hearts collection by Deb Strain and Arin Turnmire and wacked them apart willy nilly. Then I sewed them all back together again into long strips. I highlighted the owls by fussy cutting them out, and making them their own row. I needed something not so busy to break up all the pattern, so Jenny helped me pick out the dark brown w/purple dots. I think it really brought the top together, don’t you?
I like to piece my backings with my leftovers, so I took the extra strips and pieced them in with the brown bunny brocade fabric.
I quilted it with hearts and swirls all over in a variegated hot pink, turquoise, and white thread by Aurifil, my thread of choice. I outlined the owls and some of their design elements. And in the border of the corner square units I quilted some free hand leaves.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Part 2 – the culture

Mom and Dad headed home after the buffet, and I spent the day wandering around the museum. What a lovely museum. The bummer was that I missed the Winterthur Quilt Exhibit by less than a week! It ended on Memorial Day. They had 5 or 6 others on display, mostly from the 1930’s. I was surprised to find a Gee’s Bend quilt that was on the floor with the modern art instead of with the quilts.
I didn’t really appreciate oil paintings as such until my sister and I traveled to Venice and Florence. Botticelli changed my mind. The Birth of Venus (which my ever witty sister calls Venus on the half shell) and Primavera were amazing. The photos you see of them everywhere do not do them justice. They are luminous in person. That paintings created in the 1400’s can still be that brilliant boggles my mind.
The St. Louis museum had 3 oil paintings that really made an impression on me. One was of a cathedral in Rome. I can’t recall which one, but it was amazing. I should have taken a picture or written down the information on it.
The other two were Thaddeus and Eunice Burr, painted by Copley in the late 1700’s in Fairfield, Connecticut. I enjoyed the portrait room at the museum. I stood in the middle and played a little game with myself. I tried to tell which country they were from based on their clothes and poses. I was mostly right too. The ones that threw me were a couple paintings of young men from England a few hundred years ago. With all the frills and long curly hair, I really thought they were French monarchy, not English. One striking difference I noticed in the portraits was a between a couple from England who were in their mid 20’s, during the late 1700’s and the Burr’s. The British couple looked like they were in their 50’s, yet Thaddeus and Eunice, also in their 20’s, actually looked like they were in their 20’s. I did a little research to find out more about the Burr’s, but there isn’t much out there other than Thaddeus is Aaron Burr’s uncle, they were good people, very hospitable, signed up for American Independence very early on and Thaddeus may have been a spy. John Hancock was married at their house, and after their house was burnt down during the war, it was rebuilt to look like John Hancock’s residence in Boston, at Hancock’s request. I also found out that the Fairfield Historical Society has a quilt that they believe Eunice made! Now that was an exciting snippet to happen upon. That’s pretty early for quilt making in America, so I’d love to see what it looks like.
The zoo and several museums, including the art museum reside in a gorgeous park in the middle of St. Louis. It was beautiful! There was a golf course, running paths, a long pool with fountains, places to picnic, bikes to rent. You could really spend a lovely day there. There was a wedding in front of the fountains that afternoon (at the top part in the photo above). The bridesmaids wore bright red and the groom was in military finery. The last bridesmaid in line, as well as the last groomsman, each held a dog on leashes that were both wearing red dresses! The one on the bride’s side was a greyhound; the one on the groom’s side was a small, terrier-type of mutt. It was very cute.

I would have liked to have more time to explore the downtown area, so I guess that means I need to go back!

Ashley’s wedding was in the rose garden at the Botanic Garden. I didn’t have time to explore the rest of the garden with all the wedding craziness, so I guess that's another reason to go back! The garden had several Chihuly’s on the grounds. Aren’t these great? I love a good Chihuhly installation! They also had weird statues everywhere, made by a local artist, that I didn’t care for overly much. The iris garden was in full bloom though, and they were beautiful! The colors were amazing.
DiscoJen kept trying to talk me into going up into the arch, but I refused. I don’t do heights, much less in a claustrophobic pod car. I don’t even like to go within 10 feet of the windows in a skyscraper, there’s no way I’m going up into an arch. I mean really, it’s just hanging there!

We also made a trip to the Italian Hill. DiscoJen and I are both of Italian decent, so we really wanted to make it to the grocery store there this trip. It was an interesting neighborhood, but it was a Monday, so most places were closed. We did go to Viviano’s grocery store and get some wonderful Italian specialties to bring back with us. They had 2 different kinds of artichoke hearts that I brought back for Jenny. They had a great special on wine, so I purchased several bottles. You can never have too much wine, can you? If we had brought a cooler, I probably would have gotten more to bring back.
On the corner by Vivano's is a little coffee shop, Shaw’s, that roasts their own coffee right there in the store. DiscoJen was thrilled to find the shade-grown, organic, fair trade, decaf coffee that she had been looking for! You think that’s hard to remember, try going with her to Starbuck’s sometime. I thought I was Sally, from When Harry Met Sally, but she is really Sally. Every time we go, she has this really complicated order, then turns to me and says “they’re never going to get it right.” To which I reply, “of course not, I don’t even know what you ordered and I’ve heard it hundreds of times!”

This building on The Hill cracked me up:
Exactly which "family" do you think it refers to?

Even though there was a ton more to St. Louis, I think I’ll stop there. I have some sewing to do. I’m working on some great eco-friendly, reusable grocery bags. Maybe DiscoJen will get one for Christmas, then she can put her shade-grown, organic, fair trade, decaf coffee in it when she finds it!
I made a couple of them in St. Louis, not as many as I would have liked, but we were on the go a lot. And the children didn't sleep a lot either. The great part of driving and staying at someone’s house is that you can bring your sewing machine along! I’ve been developing my own pattern for the bags, and think I finally have it down. I’ll post some pictures this weekend maybe. So much great fabric, so little time!

Friday, June 6, 2008

St. Louis in 3 parts

Part one: The food

DiscoJen and I took her 3 and 1 year old children to St. Louis last week for two reasons: 1) to visit her 92 year old grandmother and 2) attend my cousin Ashley’s wedding.

I must say, Jen’s grandmother is spunky. She does quite well for being 92. We stayed at Grandma’s house since Grandma recently moved to a very nice assisted living facility. She said “I don’t ever want to move back! They cook and clean for me here!” Grandma’s house was a cute 1940’s type of row house, just 15 minutes or less from all the good stuff St. Louis offers, yet it has real small town neighborliness to it.

I really liked St. Louis. I think the heat is the only drawback. 82 degrees is my limit. 83 is right out! St. Louis feels like a small town, but has all the great things that a big city has. Not a lot of quilt stores though. More on that in a separate post.

The night we arrived, we ate at the Macaroni Grill. This generally goes against both of our travel sensibilities, since we would both rather eat at local places, but it was right next the Trader Joe’s and we had 2 small children to feed and fast. This was the first time I have ever seen Carolina get anything from the children’s menu. She usually has half each of what DiscoJen and I have. She really wanted macaroni and cheese though, so DiscoJen ordered the chicken fingers w/mac and cheese, hoping to give some to Santiago (the one year old). We also both gave her part of our meals as well.

After dinner, the waitress brought out Carolina’s ice cream sundae for her. Carolina asked me why she got a special treat when I didn’t. I explained to her that we ordered her dinner from the kids menu, and that comes with a special treat. Being 3 years old, she responded: “why?” I told her that kid’s portions were smaller and come with ice cream. “Why?” I explained that kids are smaller and don’t eat as much as adults do, so they get ice cream with their meal. I could see the little wheels in her brain turning as she digested this information. Then she looked at me and said “but I do.” Meaning that she eats as much as adults eat! I totally cracked up. The thing is that she’s right! But you wouldn’t know it looking at her. She’s tall, but not too round.
After dinner we went to Trader Joe’s to stock up, not 2 steps into the store, Carolina wanted to know when she could go get her snack at the snack counter. The bonus is that we can take her anywhere with us, and not worry that she’ll be picky about it. The only thing she really dislikes is potatoes.

I got a lovely manicure/pedicure for the wedding at the Chase Park Plaza spa. The manicurist kept calling me “baby-doll”, which I really liked, as it makes me feel I’m younger than I am. Much better than M’am. What a great Art Deco hotel in a great location! They started building the hotel in 1922 but didn’t finish until 1931, due to the depression. Everyone there was pretty, the men included. Every woman I saw, even the ones in line for the movies (there was a theater in the hotel) had 4” heels on. The area around the hotel was fantastic too. It was surrounded by large brick and stone manses from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

The shops and eateries around it were wonderful as well. I found the Cupcakery and Crepes: etc! And they both had my favorite things! The Cupcakery’s cupcake of the week was red velvet. I have been looking for a good red velvet cake that matches my memory of the one I had in college, and I found it! Their dark chocolate cake was phenomenal too. Disco Jen and I thought they really didn’t need icing.
After my cupcake purchase, I went around the corner (in an effort to give my nails time to dry) to Crepes: etc. They had crepes of all kind, like you find at the little crepe stands in France. But the best part was that they had Nutella crepes, and Gianduja gelato! Since an order was 2 crepes, the nice man taking my order suggested that I get one filled with Nutella and one w/the Gianduja gelato. Pure inspiration! It was in the upper 80’s that day, so the gelato really hit the spot. I couldn’t take a picture though, as I left my phone in the car and my camera at home, which is a shame, since it was a really pretty plate.

For those who don’t know what those flavors are, Nutella is a chocolate/hazelnut spread that’s amazing. Gianduja is an Italian concoction, also of chocolate and hazelnuts. It’s pronounced something like this: jenduuya. The g is a soft sound, not really a j, but something to that effect. Actually, I think Nutella might be Italian too. My sister can confirm that for me, since she lived in Italy.

DiscoJen took me to her childhood favorite, Ted Drewes frozen custard. They invented the Concrete, which “inspired” the Dairy Queen Blizzard. We went twice, calories don’t count when you are on vacation.

We had Ashley and Chris’ rehearsal dinner at a place in downtown that Chris found called Kitchen K. They had the greatest mod lighting. The food was good too. Well, mine was. The waiter wasn’t very helpful. When DiscoJen asked for her shrimp pad Thai to be made mild so she could share it with Carolina, he gave her a hard time, even though the waitress had said it would be no problem. Then when her meal came, it had no sauce at all! Just the noodles and shrimp! Blah! I had a fabulous steak. The appetizers and salad were so good though that I only had 2 bites and took the rest home for later. As a side note, I totally forgot my Audrey Hepburn hat. Ashley did a “Tina Turner” wardrobe change between the rehearsal and the dinner because she had found this vintage dress she was dying to wear. It was so cute on her! The hat would have gone perfectly with it! Look at that cute little pleated bustle on the back.

The wedding took place in the rose garden at the Missouri Botanic Gardens. The food at the wedding reception in the Spink Pavilion was fantastic too. Everyone got a fillet, 2 jumbo grilled shrimp, and perfectly done vericots and carrot sticks. There was a blueberry theme going on, I’ll have to ask Ashley if they symbolize something in particular or if she was concerned her friends and family weren’t getting enough antioxidants. There was a very refreshing blueberry mojito and blueberries in the wedding cake. More on the wedding in a separate post as well.

On Sunday, Mom, Dad and I went to St. Louis Art museum for the Wolfgang Puck breakfast buffet that Karen (the binding guru) told us about. It was out of this world. There was a gorgeous Chihuly hanging in the entryway (that’s a chalupa to you, Donna). The fruit alone was worth the price of admission. It was all so juicy and flavorful! They also had eggs benedict w/avocado and chipotle hollandaise, biscuits and gravy, and the best bacon I think I’ve ever had.

I think that’s enough for now. I hope you enjoyed our culinary adventures in St. Louis!

My Soapbox

Please excuse a little indulgent ranting. As I'm sure you've guessed by previous entries, I am an animal lover. When the Michael Vick dog fighting came to light, the Humane Society sent out a note to tell your legislators that you oppose animal fighting in all forms. Needless to say, I did. They also talked about refusing to pull books and magazines that promote and encourage animal fighting. The hubby wrote Amazon a note about it, as he is a very good Amazon customer. The response he received was appalling. It basically stated that even though he was against it, others view it as “entertainment” so they will continue to sell them. As of that moment, I vowed to never buy from Amazon again.

I recently received an update email from the Human Society that detailed some animal rights laws that Congress passed, overriding W’s veto. I'm sure there were good reasons to not want the bill passed, there are always things that shouldn't be in them. But, it also contains good things to help stop puppy mills and ups the jail time and fines for animal fighting. The update also included this:

Animal Fighting Magazine to be Pulled from
On Tuesday, in another blow to animal fighters, we reached a settlement with one of the defendants in our federal lawsuit challenging the sale of two criminal animal fighting magazines on in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The publishers of “The Gamecock” magazine agreed to permanently change the magazine’s format to exclude all ads for fighting animals, knives, and other illegal paraphernalia, and to stop selling the magazine on until it has demonstrated full compliance with federal law for one year.
Sadly, has vowed to fight on in the case, arguing that the First Amendment gives it the right to sell illegal animal fighting contraband. It wants to remain the only online retailer selling “The Feathered Warrior,” soon to be the sole remaining cockfighting trade publication sold on in violation of federal law.

Tell what you think of its decision to continue profiting from illegal animal fighting.

I was completely outraged. I would encourage anyone who cares for the well being of all animals to send their outrage to Amazon and to not buy from them. Unfortunately, as with most corporations, dollars, not morals, will be the only thing that matter to them, so please, speak with your wallet.

I will leave you with this fabulous quote I saw as a tagline on a colleague’s email:
The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men and women who can dream of things that never were..." -- John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963