Saturday, January 3, 2015

Graduation Quilt #2 - Jacob

I am proud to announce that the second graduation quilt was completed and delivered within the actual year of Jacob's graduation.  Graduation Quilt #1 is here; Quilt #3 has been pieced and is ready to quilt; in the meantime, another sweet boy has graduated and I've got to get started on Graduation Quilt #4.  Yikes.  Whose bright idea was this?

One of the first quilts my Grandma Hunley sewed when she was a young girl was a Grandmother's Flower Garden (how appropriate), made up of hundreds of little hexagons cut and pieced by hand.  I loved that quilt, and one of these days, I want to make one in her honor.  But with a sewing machine and a rotary cutter!

For my start at hexagons, I thought I should try something a little easier; the key was the Riley Blake Hexi Half Ruler.  I just cut two (or more) hexi halves out of each fabric, then lined them all up and sewed them together in strips -- no fussy piecing involved at all.  A little squaring up and adding a narrow border made this very pretty, if I do say so myself.

 Here is a not-so-beautiful picture of the back.  (Yes, I was in a hurry.)  The important thing to note is the strip of guitar fabric -- Jacob is a guitar craftman.  The quilting was simply 1/4" from the seams, done with the walking foot.

Happy Graduation, Jacob.  Happy wedding, happy life with Lauren.

And peace.

Friday, January 2, 2015

A New Year of Books

Yippee!  It's a new year, which means new "Best Of ..." book lists.
And I love "best of" lists.  To me, this is the best of the best.

I read as many lists as I can, and have a little notebook where I transcribe those books I want to add to my own list.  The list just keeps growing through the year, and even though I know I'll probably never read every book on to "To Be Read" list, I don't get discouraged, because who can be discouraged by a chockablock book list?  

I pick new books by intriguing story lines, favorite time periods, beloved authors, and every once in a while, the cover.  I'm not ashamed -- someone goes to a lot of work to determine the perfect cover for the story inside, and I'm just honoring that work.   Right?

I only have two rules about books:
1)  If you love it, read it.
2)  If you don't really, really love it, put it down and move on to something you do.

There are far too many beautiful books in the world to read crap  something that doesn't capture you and make you wear a flashlight on your head so you can read into the wee hours and not disturb your bedmate.  (Thanks for that headlamp, Clay.)

The only codicil I would attach to this is that if you are in a book club, and the book chosen is something you would pitch aside immediately, try to read at least half of it, even if the main character is a talking cat or if there is a gruesome murder in the first pages (shiver).   Then read the last chapter, just so you'll know what is going on and can participate in the discussion.

This is just good manners. And don't be afraid to tell your group that you didn't like it.  It's OK -- how boring would a book group be if every single member loved every single book chosen?

(I guess I have one more codicil -- if you are reading a book for school or work, read the whole thing.  Do not watch the movie, read the Cliffs Notes or Google it.  Read it -- there is no substitute.  Don't ask me how I know this is heartbreakingly and grade-crushingly true, but you can thank me later.)

What did I read and absolutely love in the last third of 2014?

 Landline by Rainbow Rowell.  This is almost a time-travel book, and I don't really care for time travel.  Except this is amazing.  It didn't hurt that the main character's name is Georgie, and she is a cool Tina Fey-like sitcom writer.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This was on almost every "Best of 2014" list I saw, and there is a reason why -- it's beautiful.  Read it.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  I watched The Red Tent the other day on television -- I remember loving that book several years ago, and the show was OK, but it made me want to read more by Anita Diamant, so I downloaded this book and Day and Night onto my nook.  They are both great stories of strong women.

Currently, I'm reading Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie (Pulitzer Prize winner, 1985) -- it is my friend, Polly's pick for January book group, and I am loving it.

What books are on my list?  Lots.  But here are the ones I'm starting 2015 with:


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year, New Plans

Happy New Year!

I don't make resolutions any more because I just break them in the first week or so and get all discouraged with myself.

But I do make plans, and one of my plans is to blog again.  Check.

First, I'll answer your questions.  Or, what I assume your questions would be.

Q:  Why haven't you blogged since September?

A:  This --
 Olive Rose, born on September 16
(thanks for this photo, darling Kelly)
and this --
Abigail Joan, born December 2
(thanks, Holly Von Buchler Photography for this amazing picture!)

And of course, I like hanging around with these guys, too:
 Paul and his Santa letter.  Happy to report that Santa delivered!

Tommy and Nate in the elf pajamas -- I think these were my best purchase of the season.

Q)  So, what's new?

A)  The downstairs floors, Clay's car and right knee and this:

Meet my new camper.  Well, she's not new, per se, but she's younger than me (she's merely 50 years old).  I have been wishing for a vintage camper for so long -- I've had a Dream Camper Pinterest board for ages and I wrote this poem to my future camper back in October of 2011.  I'll tell you the entire fortuitous story of how I came to acquire this gem soon, but for now, imagine how cute she will look next summer, with her turquoise stripe, awning and spiffed up aluminum.  I have found the perfect upholstery fabric for the cushions inside, but I'll save that for another post, too.  This will be fun, fun, fun!

Q:  What are your other plans for 2015?

A:  New things:

Help save the Monarch butterfly.          
Make my post-high school stage debut.  (Yikes, this is really happening!  I'll tell you this long story later, too, but you just might want to keep the weekends of February 13-14 or 20-21 open, just in case ...)

Same old things as last year:

Love and be kind.
Play more music, read more books and write more letters.
Finish sewing/crafty projects before starting anything new or buying new fabric or yarn.  Ugh.
Go to the gym and ride my bike on a more regular basis.
Garden and can.
Paint the upstairs hallway.

And the big one:  publish my book.  We'll talk more about that later, too.

Q:  So, are you going to blog more consistently, or is this just a big tease?

A:  Please, be nice.  I never claimed to be a consistent person, did I?   Have you had my meatloaf?

I was, however, thinking about dedicating a blogging day to each of the following:  books; food; crafty bits; my gorgeous kids and grandchildren; and general thoughts and whimsy.  So tomorrow, be ready for my first book post of the year.  I'm not promising that will happen every Friday, but I'll try.  Luckily for me, tomorrow's is already written.

So now, peace to you.  I'm off to eat some black-eyed peas, watch a little football and finish off one of those projects I had hoped to have completed by Christmas.  2012.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day -- A Busy End to Quite A Week

This week, after helping our neighbors celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary,

we remembered my mom on her birthday, 

determined that it's a lot easier to make tomato juice (left -- 12 quarts in about 3 hours) than tomato sauce (right-- 6 quarts in 6 hours),

cooked for a beautifully unique wedding with 300 guests,

and made a cake.

Plus, after many years of thinking about it, we're replacing our flooring downstairs.
And yippee!  Pictures to follow.

I am one happy, but tired, girl.


Thursday, August 21, 2014

Tomato Powder. Huh?

Maggie and Nate planted our little garden this spring -- they are much better gardeners than we are.  
They garden, I can.

They have tomatoes like crazy, and on Monday, I put up 10 quarts of juice, using my cool new Norpro Sauce Master strainer: 
which you can purchase here at Amazon, or at the Ace Hardware if you live in my town!
(I really need to monetize my blog, don't I?  I just made a commercial.)

Anyway, you get this fantastic juice after you put the tomatoes through the strainer, and you get a mess of seeds and skins, which would be perfect for the compost.

But I had read on other blogs about dehydrating the skins and re-using them.  So that's what I did.

I don't have a dehydrator, so I just spread the refuse out on a  Silpat and put the cookie sheet in a low oven for many hours (probably around 6) with the door held ajar with a kitchen towel until the mess seemed nice and dry.  (It was suggested to dry them at 140 degrees -- my oven only goes down to 170, but it seemed to work just fine.)

Then I put the dry bits into the Cuisinart and pulverized the crap out of them:

I tossed this stuff around in a sieve, separating the powder from the seeds, which were really bitter.  (Are tomato seeds always bitter, or is that a result of the cooking and drying process?  Do we just not notice because the tomato is so delicious?  Further research warranted ...)

Then I processed the mix once more, sieved again, and got this:

Tomato powder.
It is really delicious and extra tomato-y, and I am looking forward to trying it out this winter.
I don't know, but I am open to suggestions ...


Monday, August 18, 2014

A Volunteer Quilt

It's been a lovely summer.

I had hoped to have 3 graduation quilts completed before we went on vacation with the graduation boys and their families in early July.

One was completed last week.

Luckily, the moms of these boys are my dear friends and completely understand me and how it is that I roll.

This first one is Tim's.  He graduated from the University of Tennessee with an engineering degree in May.  I had been thinking about this quilt and collecting oranges for a few months.  5" squares set in a checkerboard, (a la the UT end zones) machine quilted with an X.  Then, because Tim is also a Chicago Bears fan, I bound the quilt in deep navy blue

and added blue strips on the back side.

Happy graduation, sweet guy.

PS  I took these pictures at my sister's house.  How cute is that bike?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Blackberry Summer

In July, we did this.  

Probably about 4 gallons of blackberries there, picked in about an hour.

Yep.  That's how awesome that blackberry patch is.
(Lots of pretty little jars of blackberry jam and a couple of cobblers from this picking.)

I posted this picture on facebook, and everyone wanted blackberries!  But I couldn't help anyone out, because these aren't from my patch.  I don't have a patch.


Do now.  Or at least we have the beginnings of one.

Jenny had the space out on her sweet little farm, she has parents with blackberry expertise, and parents who were willing to give us starts off of their blackberries.

I had enthusiasm.

Saturday (because we had time and because the Farmer's Almanac and Jenny's dad said it was the right phase of the moon) with the help of our husbands, we did this:

We plotted out two nice straight rows (far enough apart to mow between) then dug holes 36" apart.
We filled in those holes with some dry sweet corn shucks and sand.

Because we both hate to weed, we covered the sand mounds with landscape fabric,

which Jenny's dad later told us was a mistake, because we want the vines to fill in between the holes.  So we peeled back the fabric between the holes so that the vines can spread.  

Then we loaded up and went to gather blackberry plants, which was a huge job, and made us glad we married strong men who don't complain at their wives' schemes.  Much.

Here's a nice little row.  Isn't that beautiful?    

Jenny's dad says the key to good blackberries is lots of sand and lots of dry matter.  So we piled on lots of sand from his sand farm.  Which is a whole other interesting story.

We helped Brian put in the fence posts and wire supports, had a beer, a nice supper and a good night's sleep.
Dreaming of blackberries next summer . . .