Friday, August 22, 2008

Garden goodness

Behold! The latest bounty from my garden. I just love this time of year!
I'm getting a huge amount of pear and cherry tomatoes, but only one beefsteak has ripened so far. Isn't it a beauty though? And boy are they good! I had my first BLT of the season for dinner Sunday night. The beefsteak was so large that one slice covered my bread entirely! I would have liked to use home grown lettuce, but I had to pull it out last weekend that because I had not tended it often enough and it bolted. Isn't that a funny term?
The yellow squash are patti-pan aka flying saucer squash. I didn't grow those, I got them at a farmer's market table in Rockford. I usually grow them, but nobody had plants of either those or Eight Ball zucchini this year. Both are fabulous on the grill!
The blackberries are the only ones I'll get this year. Apparently the kind of plant I have is a bi-annual and I cut down the canes from last year that would have produced berries this year. Bummer.
I've been bringing cucumber, cream cheese and dill sandwiches to work every day for lunch. They are sooo refreshing!
I'm going to try to replant the lettuce and my edamame plants to see if I can get a fall crop. If the weather holds out, I should get some more. This is the first time I've grown edamame. They were doing really well until those evil Japanese beetles ate their leaves to with in an inch of their lives. The skeletal leaves on the plant to the left are my edamame plants. The one behind it is my Japanese Eggplant. It's a pretty white and purple color. This is the first year I've gotten eggplants to grow. I think it's because I tried a new kind this year. Typically I plant the traditional dark aubergine kind. I just love that word, aubergine. It ranks up there with my all time favorite word; autumnal.
I'm hoping to get enough tomatoes to can this year, but they just aren't turning red. They did this last year too. I bought a canner last year from Farm and Fleet, but have yet to use it! I'm going to try to make some garlic pickles as well. I have yet to find a recipe for really garlicky pickles yet, so it's experiment time for me! Unless anyone out there has a good garlic pickle recipe, that it is.

Speaking of canning...DiscoJen, Jennie and I made peach jam a couple of weeks ago.
I got the peaches fresh from Georgia from the orange guy. Odd, huh? Getting peaches from the orange guy? The orange guy drives a truck up from the FL orange groves once a month during the winter, so every year at Christmas I have fresh squeezed orange juice! In the early summer he drives to Georgia and brings fresh peaches to the Midwest. Aren't the little fabric hats the cutest? I think they really add that little "something" to the jars, don't you?
I got to work from home a couple of days this week. What's the best part about being allowed to work from home, other than no aggravating commute and saving gas? This is!
There's nothing better than having your dogs at work with you! That's my desk chair on the right. This is in my very girly guest room dibbed "the purple and green room." Very original, don't you think? I'm very lucky to have a fabulous boss that I enjoy working for, and not just because she lets me work from home sometimes!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's a bird, it's a plane....

Nope, it's a hot air balloon!!
How cool is this? Last Monday night I went into the back yard to start the grill for my garden fresh eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes and what greeted me as I walked out the door? A hot air balloon! This happened a couple of years ago too.
They land in the field across the street from me. It's great fun. All the neighborhood kids come out and the balloon people let the kids help deflate the balloon.
It's just so weird to see a balloon flying so close to the rooftops across the street. Weird, but cool!
DiscoJen brought the kids over for dinner the other night. Carolina is totally fascinated with Robbie's harness for his tether. She always asks to show her how it works, so the hubby demonstrates by putting it on her! She ate dinner and walked around in it the entire time they were visiting. That's Robbie under the table hoping for some cheese. As Wallace (from Wallace and Gromit) would say he's "crackers about cheese!
Santiago saw Bug drinking water from her bowl and was intrigued. He went to the bowl, splashed in it, then leaned over to drink from it! It was hysterical! We caught him before he slurped any up. Bug was watching him with curiosity the whole time. You know she was thinking, what is this kid doing?!?!
I was happy he wasn't afraid of her because when they arrived, she yapped at him in an effort to explain that it was time to feed her, and that I was a terrible dog mom since I hadn't fed her yet despite the fact that she is clearly wasting away. Santiago didn't understand Bug speak and started crying.

Friday, August 15, 2008


Last week I made a large blanket out of Amy Butler flannel, ric-rac and minkee. The picture is a little wavy because I was in a hurry and had it folded up just before the photo.

A work friend of mine has a good friend out of state that is undergoing chemo for an extremely rare form of breast cancer. I knew from others who had undergone chemo that they get really cold during the treatments, so I suggested a blanket. My friend said "OH! Can it have minkee on it?" Minkee is a very plush, soft fabric that is just wonderful to touch. I pulled out my happiest, adult, happy colored flannels and found some light blue minkee to match.
Since the friend is tall, I made it 73" long. I had to find a complement to the flannel since fabric is only about 40" wide once you wash it, and I wanted it larger, so she can totally wrap up in it. Jennie and I picked out a cute stripe to go with it, but decided that it needed something in between the two patterns. We had a ric rac inspiration moment, and I think it makes the blanket, don't you? You can't be uncheered by ric-rac! It ended up being an nice 51" x73" size.
I preshrunk everything, including the ric-rac, by prewashing it on hot. Nothing irks me more than when you wash a duvet or pillow sham and the trim shrinks up a different rates than the main fabric and it gets all out of line and wrinkly, so I decided to make sure that wouldn't happen with one of my creations! I was lucky though, I had bought the last of the yellow ric-rac at Tammy Tadd's, and only had appox. 3" leftover!
My friend really loved it and can't wait to send it to her friend. That's what makes it all worth while to me.

My other project, that I was able to finish despite the fact that is was solely worked on during Olympic commercial breaks, was another grocery bag. I'm sending it to the Frawnch (to be pronounced like the mom in the ever popular 80's movie"Better Off Dead" starring John Cusak) cook book writer Clotilde Dusoulier. I read her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini regularly and a few weeks ago she talked about her eco-friendly bags. While she finds them useful, she thinks they are less than attractive. I emailed her to see if she'd like to beta test my bag, and to let me know what color and style of fabric she would like. She emailed me back and she'd love to try my bag! She said she likes girly fabric, polka dots, flowers, the whole bit. It's all very exciting!
The very next day I walked into Tammy Tadd's shop and what had come in? The Ava Rose line by Tanya Whelan for Free Spirit! Can I just tell you how much I LOVE this line? I literally squealed and flapped my hands at the mere site of it! They should be getting the blue colorway in soon. I'm totally gaga for the blues!!! They even match my Tiffany-blue bathroom!! I read in a Scottish decorating magazine back in 2001 about a family who runs some kind of children's clothing company out of their family's hunting lodge (translation: lodge = castle) in the Scottish Highlands. Her toddler aged daughter's room was painted Tiffany blue because the mother stated that she wanted her daughters to become accustomed to the color at an early age. I like that philosophy myself. But I digress....Tiffany will do that to a girl.
I put the large floral on the front and back, stripes for the handles, sides and bottom and polka dots for the pocket and lining. I wasn't thrilled with the polka dots on the pocket, it was just to white, so I appliqued a rose from the left over fabric onto the pocket. I think it works. What do you think, is it girly enough? I added a pocket on the bottom of this bag, per my friend Katie's suggestion. She thought it would be great to have a pocket that you can seal your money/credit card into, then you wouldn't need to carry your purse at all if you didn't want to. I made the pocket sealable along the whole opening with Velcro. It also folds into the bag so the contents are especially secure when closed. This is why it's good to talk to people and get suggestions. I never would have though of a pocket on the bottom. I hope Clotilde likes it as much as I do!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Posh Bird

I finished the bird quilt for Anna's Christmas present! It's cute, don't you think? I really like the border combo that Paige and I came up with.

I love the fabric on the back. It's a bummer it's on the backside!

I quilted it with a pastel variegated thread. I had really meant to use white thread in the white areas, and variegated in the printed blocks, but I forgot to change thread colors and didn't notice until I had 4 of the sash areas already quilted. To quote DiscoJen "Oh well! It's done now!" The variegated is nice though, it breaks up the white areas nicely. There is a saying in the quilting community to address just this situation: "There are no mistakes in quilting, only design opportunities."
I used a pattern from the AQG magazine I happened to pick up just prior to quilting, and was pleased when I leafed through it and saw the perfect pattern and it was the right size! How fortuitous!

I found a new way of marking the quilt top that I have to share with all of my quilting friends! I'm very excited because it worked exceptionally well, and is a lot less expensive than the Golden Threads paper. It doesn't wipe off like chalk, and you don't have to worry about whether ironing or washing it will make the marks permanent.

I used Sulky transparent water soluble interfacing that I got at Joanne Fabrics when it was on sale for half off a few weeks ago. I did find (on a test scrap, luckily) that you need to use a washable marker to trace your patterns onto the interfacing though. Once you trace your pattern, pin it to the quilt top, stitch on the lines, then pull off. Anything left or caught in the stitching will dissolve when you wash the quilt! I found that I like it better than the golden threads paper, because the paper sometimes pulls at the stitches, and is a royal pain in the patooty to pick out of smaller stitched areas.
The bolt that you find behind the cutting counter, in with the interfacing is significantly cheaper than the packets that are on the notions wall. It was $1.50/yd on the bolt! And you can cut much longer sections from the bolt so as to not have to piece the patterns together, making for smoother free motion.

Here's a close up of the quilting patterns:

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Block of the Month

In parallel with all of my other projects, I'm also working on a $5 Block of the Month series at Quilter's General Store in Rockford. It's great fun! My friends Debbie, Linda, Robin and I all meet up for the drive out to Rockford the 3rd Saturday morning of the month. That way we each only need to drive 3 times total for the year long program.

We meet up Karen (yet another Karen) at the Machine Shed in Rockford for breakfast prior to our class. If you are ever in the area, we all highly recommend the Machine Shed for all meals. Debbie and I split the chicken dinner when we go to Rockford for our annual quilt guild weekend retreat.
The $5 block of the month is an interesting concept. You go to the first class, pay five dollars, and they give you a fat quarter (an 18"x22" square of fabric, not a body part!) The instructor explains the assembly of the block for that month. The following month, you come back w/the block finished and the provided fabric in that block. If you meet the requirements, then you get your next fat quarter for free! You essentially get 12 fat quarters for $5! It's a great deal.
I decided to try the program because I totally love the Madeira fabric line by Blackbird Designs that they chose for the program. The blocks are a sampler quilt design from the Kansas Spirit book by Jeanne Poore. The blocks are nice, but I have to say - none of us are all that impressed with the directions. I have never done a sampler quilt, so I figured it would be fun.
I've been trying to do 2 blocks each time, one with a light background and one with a dark one. Sometimes I forget that plan though and end up with 2 light backgrounds. I plan to make 2 different quilts out of them. The only problem I've had so far with the program is that there is one fabric design in the line that I totally don't like, and of course we've been given that one in like 3 different colors as our one to use! I always use it as the absolute smallest piece possible in the block.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Works in Progress

I have multiple projects going this week. I'm trying to finish up this wall hanging:
It's going to be a Christmas present for Anna. It's a pattern from the book "Have your cake & eat it too!" by Dodi Lee Poulsen. The book has recipes in it as well as quilt patterns. The patterns are nice, smaller projects that I generally don't do a lot of. I have a weird belief that if it's not at least 55" square, it's just too small!

The fabric is the Posh line by Chez Moi for Moda fabrics. I LOVE THIS FABRIC! I had originally acquired it for my personal enjoyment, but I know that Anna will also appreciate it, so I decided to make her something out of it instead of keeping it all for myself. I also like that it's not too childish, so hopefully she will like it for at least a few years. The photo on the right shows some of the border fabric auditioning that I did. I wasn't thrilled with either option because I felt both overpowered the middle section. I ended up taking it to my friend Paige's for a second opinion. We played with the fabrics I had until we came up with a combo we liked. Quilting is fun, but it's more fun with friends!

The beak was a light bulb moment for me. I couldn't figure out how to do it by machine, so I looked through the list of the few special stitches I have on my machine for inspiration. Then I realized that a V would look like a beak! I was pretty darn proud that I figured it out. I should have it finished tonight, so I'll post some follow up pictures when it's done.

I'm also working on this:
Can you guess what these parts will become when they are assembled?

And finally, here is my grocery bag!

Isn't it cute? It's loosely based on the old size of Trader Joe's paper grocery bags. Both The Trader and the Dominick's near me have gone to much shorter paper grocery bags. You can't fit anything in them, so you need more bags! This doesn't save any resources or money, if you ask me. The finished bag is 16" h x 14" w x 7" d and folds up into a small 6"x4" pouch! I've been using it for a few weeks now, and I must say, it holds a lot of stuff. Not only did it hold all those cereal boxes, but I could have fit a couple of loaves of bread and chip bags on top. It also holds up well to heavy items.

I used the "Fresh Picked" line of 1930's reproductions from Darlene Zimmerman on the outside and a new bamboo/cotton blend fabric on the inside, both from Robert Kaufman fabrics. The bamboo fabric is great! It's soooo soft. And sews just like high quality cotton. There's literature out there that says it has antibacterial properties. I'm not sure how that translates to a blend.