Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Getting Organized

I purchased this little wire holder with six small glass bottles at Michael's last week. It was with a  number of end of season, 70% off items, so it came home with me for only a few dollars. I had something similar previously that looked like a small wood crate with three larger bottles. The problem was that the bottles were so tightly wedged in to the sections that it was a struggle to get them out each time it was used. The bottles in this holder slip out easily, and it makes a cute table centerpiece for the porch.

In my never ending attempt to get organized, I made a bigger purchase at Michael's today. There was a 50% off coupon in my email, so I decided to buy a rolling storage cart that I had looked at once or twice before. It's about 36" high with eight clear drawers that are 15.5 by 16.5. The good news is that I have many hobbies and interests; the bad news is that I have many hobbies and interests and that means lots of "stuff." Fortunately, I store everything related to surface design art in my cellar. This cart will be upstairs and primarily used for my fiber art "stuff." Once people see that you enjoy crazy quilting, you are often gifted with pieces of lace, rickrack, buttons, jewelry bits, etc. It's awesome! My plan is to put laces and trims in one or two drawers. Embroidery floss and yarns for wool stitching in another. There will be drawers dedicated for various types of fabrics: one for satin, one for upholstery pieces, one for surface art pieces, and one for other unusual fabrics. Goodness! At this rate I will have it filled in no time.

Over the weekend I did some sewing with a group that meets monthly in Stoughton. I spent part of the time stitching a wool candle mat which is almost done. I also began work on two placemats that are also almost done. I did make seven pillowcases; four are for gifts so I won't show those. The top two I made for myself using some Kaffe fabric while the dinosaur one was requested by my little cousin D. His brother had requested a shark pillowcase. I had cut all of the fabric at home, but while getting ready to sew it, I realized that one of those pesky sharks must have taken a bite out of the fabric because the cuff wasn't quite long enough. Fortunately, I have a bit more of the fabric to fix the problem.

Finally, I glanced up at the oak tree beside my driveway yesterday, and this is what I saw. It is positively laden with acorns. The Farmers Almanac for 2018 is predicting "snowier-than-normal" conditions for the northeast, and the extraordinary amount of acorns would suggest the same thing. That's okay; you won't hear us complain about our future weather after viewing the devastating, historic flooding in Texas and Louisiana.  There has been such deep division in our country over political issues, that it reassuring to see that so many across our country are united in trying to help in whatever way possible the victims of Hurricane Harvey. God Bless the people of Texas and Louisiana and all affected by this terrible storm.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Boosting Your Brain

In yesterday's post, I spelled "sudoku" incorrectly. When I googled "sudoku" today, I came across an interesting article, "7 ways to boost your brain (and sudoku isn't one of them.)" It turns out that some researchers have concluded that sudoku and crossword puzzles have only limited, if any, potential for sharpening your brain, but the article does provide a list of activities that do seem to help. Thank goodness I am currently doing a number of them. But now . . . if you'll excuse me . . . I have to go learn how to juggle :-).

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I've Been Reading . . .


This morning at a quilt guild board meeting I happened to mention a book that I had just finished, Will's Red Coat by Tom Ryan. My friend Janice had lent it to me knowing I would like it, and like it I did indeed. Tom Ryan is also the author of Following Atticus with which you may be familiar. As it says on the cover, "This is the Story of One Old Dog Who Chose to Live Again." There are lessons to be learned for those who read this book: lessons about love and trust and caring and about never being too old to begin again. Besides telling the story of Will, the author includes passages and quotes which enrich the experience for the reader. Here's one quote which will stay with me.

"You do not need to know precisely what 
is happening, or exactly where it is all
going. What you need is to recognize the
possibilities and challenges offered by the 
present moment, and to embrace them with
courage, faith, and hope."
                               -Thomas Merton

Some folks do suduko or crossword puzzles to keep their minds sharp; I read Italian novels. Now don't get the wrong impression; though I would like to be, I am definitely not fluent in Italian. I began studying Italian after I retired and continued to do so for a number of years. When I went on various trips to Italy, I was able to converse with the people that I met if they spoke "Per favore, peu lentamente = Please, very slowly." I used to have the RAI or the Italian channel on cable, but while I could follow the storyline, the dialogue was always too fast for me to comprehend it. Still, I didn't want to forget all that I had learned, and so I choose to read novels in Italian.  Giula Beyman is an Italian novelist whose books are also published in German and English. As you can see, I read the Italian version. I am pleased to say that I read Un Cuore Nell'Oscurita (A Heart in Darkness) in just a matter of days since it was so good. What I find most interesting is that Italian author, Giula Beyman, sets her novels in Martha's Vineyard of all places!!! The protagonist Nora Cooper, a real estate agent, has the gift of being able to solve crimes and to receive messages from the other side. This particular mystery involved the kidnapping of a young girl. No one was searching for her as all had believed she had died in a tragic accident. Well, as you can imagine, I just couldn't put it down until I found out what happened. (Note: I don't know if this one is, but a couple of her previous mysteries are available in English from Amazon.) 

My third book of note is Al Franken - Giant of the Senate.  Al Franken seems to me to be a very smart, committed, caring, hard working senator, and he is very, very funny. If you are happy with our current administration, I am happy for you; but you might want to skip this book since some of his comments about the current administration and some of this colleagues are very "frank"en though he does respect many from both sides of the aisle. Having warned you of this, people of all political persuasions could learn from this book about our congress: the political process, how and why bills do and do not get passed, the challenges and obstacles faced by politicians, political realities, etc. For instance, do you have any idea how many hours a week all senators and representative spend soliciting money for upcoming elections instead of working on legislative matters? It's simple wrong.
 Giant of the Senate is a good and very enlightening read.

So, what books have you been recommending to your friends?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ready for the 4th of July

I enjoy hand stitching of all kinds and find it very relaxing. In the last couple of years, I have discovered the wonderful world of wool stitching. This cute little sheep with wagon was a kit from Buttermilk Basin. Each year they have a Mystery BOM and offer a free download of the month's pattern. I am not doing this year's BOM, but I thought July's pattern with the flags was so cute that I ordered that kit.

I had originally made embroidery stitched flowers spilling out of the watering can, but then changed my mind and cut these teenie, tiny little flowers and added french knot centers instead. A friend suggested that I add a few "happy" bees buzzing around the hive, and so I did.

The finished piece was 9.5 by 14.5 which presented a problem. What was I to do with it as it was intended to be part of a much larger piece? Then I had an idea. I ordered this wire frame display piece from Ackfeld Manufacturing. I was not able to slip my piece on to the stand, so I simply attached it with these cute little clothespins.

It's a bit gray today although it is supposed to clear up soon. In the meantime, here are some bright spots of color.

Finally, we are living in troubling times. The events of recent days and months have left many of us feeling angry, discouraged, disheartened, and fearful about what is happening in our country. I keep coming back to the words of Irish statesman Edmund Burke . . . "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men do nothing." Now is the time for each of us to decide what we can do make a difference to ensure that our beloved country truly reflects the ideals upon which it was founded. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

All 'Aflutter' in My Garden

There is nothing that I enjoy photographing more then the butterflies that visit my garden, and I'm pleased that there seem to be more of them this year. Friends have also reported seeing more as well.

This midnight blue one was lovely, and the blue and yellow spotted underside was even more colorful. I think it is a female swallowtail.

Now for something a tad more unusual . . . I spent quite a few hours in my garden this morning, and every half hour or so, I would stop to rest by plopping myself into one of my pink chairs to survey my estate. :-) Well, one time, I happened to glance down and was startled to see something moving in the grass.  .  . This was splitting open

and out emerged this. Fortunately, I always have my camera handy.

 The wings were moist and glistening in the sun and for a few moments nothing happened. Then he/she began making its way slowly through the grass. Move . . . then rest . . .  then move again. It took him/her about twenty minutes to move a yard. How do I know this? Because I was crawling on the grass beside it trying to get these photos!!! :-)  Actually, I was crawling around it trying to get a catchlight in its eyes. (Photographers reading this will smile and nod agreement while I'm quite sure the rest of my readers will think I'm nuts!)

Anyway, it was a harmless, fun, interesting way to pass some time before I went back to my gardening.

Just look at this cute little face. Really, it's adorable; click on the photo to see a larger view for yourself.

Anyone know what it is? I'm thinking that it is some kind of cicada.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Princess Quilt Fit for a Princess

The princess quilt based on designs in Beth Helfter 's Once Upon a Time Fairy Tale Puzzle Quilts book is finished. You may scroll back to earlier posts to see close-ups of some of these blocks. 

I am not proficient at FMQ (free motion quilting). I realize with practice, I would be able to learn this skill, but for now, it's not on my radar. So, you might be wondering how I quilted this piece. First, I stitched in the ditch (seam lines). Next, I outlined the subject of each block as in this coach. 

I wasn't sure how to handle the blocks with the lettering. If I background stippled those, then I would have had to stipple all of the blocks. Instead, I decided to underline the words using one of the decorative stitches on my machine.

That worked fine on "Once Upon a Time," but there would have been too much empty space in the princess block, so I added a star.

My final challenge was the long strip of background fabric that I had added on each side of the castle to make the blocks fit. I looked in a book I have that features 501 Quilting Motiffs, and found just what I needed. . .

a star with trails. I used tracing paper to make two copies of the motif. When I pinned them in place, I flipped one facing the other way, and elongated the trails to better fit the area. After stitching, it was super easy to remove the tracing paper.

You may notice that I also added two nine patches which feature crowns. See, it's good to have an eclectic group of fat quarters on hand. :-)

For the back, I used "Candy Dot" fabric that I had come across in my travels. The colors echo the colors on the front and will hopefully guarantee sweet dreams.

This quilt makes me happy as I hope it will the little girl who receives it. I pray that she gets through her treatments and goes on to live happily ever after.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Touch of Red

Today's post is for Emma's fans. I never know what she will be sporting when I pick her up at the groomers: sometimes it's jewel stick-on ear bling or perhaps a colorful scarf. Today it was a big red bow. Emma always looks adorable after a visit to with Cheryl at Pooch Paws in Rockland.

Continuing the red theme, I was delighted Sunday morning to see all of the blossoms on this hibiscus sitting on my picnic table. It has been a while between blooms, but now it has many buds.

I also love this apricot hibiscus on my deck. This shot was taken later in the day when the light was a bit "cool,"  but let me assure you that the color is simply glorious.

The other day while picking up a bag of fertilizer at Lowes,  these coneflower plants caught my eye. That's not quite true; they stopped me dead in my tracks. They are called Cheyenne Spirit Coneflowers, and the colors are deep and rich.  Three plants came home with me. :-) (So much for not buying any more plants this summer!) I love coneflowers, and these are spectacular.

 I had breakfast with friends this morning, and then spent some time sewing the binding on to the princess quilt. Since I have only one side left to bind, I should be able to post photos tomorrow.

Next, I have a few projects lined up to work on. My cousin and her two little boys came to visit on Friday, and they put in requests for pillowcases. The eight year old wants a shark pillowcase while the five year old wants a dinosaur one. :-)

Time to go finish the binding . . .

Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Every Princess Needs . . .

Besides her castle, a princess needs a rich wardrobe of colorful dresses and shoes.

All of the shoes feature sparkly fabric; the blue ones are my favorite. :-)

A princess must have a wand . . .

a bejeweled crown . . .
and a fine coach.

I finished these and a few other blocks earlier this week, and tonight stitched the princess quilt top together. My goal is to layer and quilt it this weekend.  After it is quilted, I will add a few more  embellishments. (All of the blocks have the same bright white background which appears darker in these photos than it really is.)

Speaking of princesses, my cousin and her girls came yesterday for "Ladies Lunch." The adults decided that lunch would be at Tony's Clam Shop on Wollaston Beach where we enjoyed delicious lobster rolls while the girls had hot dogs! The eight year old kept asking if we could do a craft project as we usually do, but I hadn't prepared anything this time. Finally, we decided to making pillowcases. Miss L , age eleven, quickly selected some turquoise fabric with tiny flowers from my stash. Miss T, age eight, took a bit more time looking to find just the right fabric. In the end, she chose some watermelon fabric which I think I had originally purchased to make some placemats. I did the rotary cutting, but the girls did the pinning and a bit of the machine stitching. Eventually, they decided to have me finish the pillowcases which I did. Sweet dreams guaranteed . . .