small sample of my crazy quilt embroidery

About Me

I am a consumate crafter. I knit, quilt both sane and crazy, scrapbook, bead, mosaics and any other thing I can think of along the way. Someday I also hope to do real glass jewelery and stained glass but those have to wait until I have room and more time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Bit of the Blues

I have a daily walking partner here in Tenneessee that would literally give me the shirt off her back. All I have to do is mention that the new bag she just whipped up over the weekend would go perfectly with the new little bag I am making, and it is given to me without hesitation. Constant jars of jelly and fresh veggies are being sent home with me. And she made sure that for the first time in years, that I had a freshly baked chocolate cake on my birthday, along with a gardening apron she made just for me.

So I knew I had to do something for her birthday. Something that did not involve my sewing machine. Since I guess I took my machine in for service to the most popular place ever, and the waiting list was made longer by some surgery that the service guy apparently needed to recover from, taking off a few days in the interim. And me being the only person I know, with just 1 machine.

So I knitted this lovely little pincushion. You basically knit this wool sphere, stuff it when it is almost totally done, finish off the knitting and then felt it in your washing machine. After 3 to 4 cycles thru it is this lovely shrunken ball that needs to have the fuzzies removed with a shaver. Then you use crochet cotton to sew thru the middle and make the divisons around the pin cushion which further helps the shaping. The last thing is to sew a pretty button in the middle. The one here is a pearlized glass, not antique, but pretty.

The other item that made sense to me was a needle book. She does sew a fair bit, and embroiders some too. She had admired my crazy quilt needle book, before Holly chewed it up some, and so I knew she would like it. I did not have the time to do something quite as ornate as mine but this one seemed to be a pretty compromise. The outside is green dupioni and the inside, which I forgot to take a picture of, is a green striped silk from a blouse I bought years ago at a Goodwill. When I picked out these 2 fabrics, I was not thinking at all about the wool I would need for the pages. I knew I had a few peices put away to do needlebooks but had no idea about what colors they might be. Lo and behold, when I pulled out my stash, the only 3 colors I had were a subtle but matching green, blue and a totally unstuitable orange. So the inside pages are blue and green.

I wanted to dress up the front so I thought doing her initial would be a good fast idea. Trouble is, I can't freehand anything and I only had 2 old books with any monogram ideas. The one I chose was a bit smaller than I would have liked but it still turned out OK. The beads are vintage lucite from my much smaller stash than I remembered having. Must remedy that on ebay!! The bug is a button bought years ago at a quilt show. We both garden and this little green beetle reminds me of the hideous cucumber beetles we both battle all summer long.

So when I got ready to take them down to her I thought to myself, Good job Ann. I rarely say that when I make something for anyone. Which is why I rarely do give handmade gifts. But I just knew she was going to like these. And she did. Told me they looked so professional and expensive. And that she would treasure them forever. This morning she let me know she was already obsessing over what she was going to do for my next birthday!! Let it go, girl. I was at the top of my game with these 2 things. It's all downhill from here out!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Dismal Anniversary

Now, doesn't that sound ominous? Well, not really.

Our 34th anniversary was September 11th. Sharing our anniversary with that of the terrorist attacks of the same date has been hard. I want to remember what all that day brought to the world but then again, I feel like we should be able to celebrate a marriage that outlasted many others out there. Sometimes the attack wins out but this year I decided to not let that happen.

The weather was predicted to be a bit hairy on Saturday so I had two different destinations in mind. If it rained, we were heading to Cathedral Caverns outside of Huntsville Alabama. We could tour the cave in the rain with no problem. But our first choice was to head down to northwestern Alabama and hike thru Dismals Canyon. A last minute look at the weather predictions led us to beleive we had a large enough safe window for spending the day outside. Turns out it never really ended up raining at all, but that is a whole nuther story......

It took us about 2 hrs to get there, maybe a bit more. But you gotta knock off a few minutes for our wrong turns. They sure could mark some of the highway's a bit better around here. We drove thru some Alabama countryside we had not seen before. I must say it was not the prettiest scenery around and it made me have doubts about how nice the canyon could possibly be. Even up til the last few miles, it was flat, brown and dry. Not appealing at all. But a few miles from our final destination, it did get a bit hillier and greener. Still not as gorgeous as where we live, but not everywhere can be heaven I guess.

Even turning into the parking lot was not impressive. A small gift shop/registration area was at the far end of the almost empty parking lot. We went in and met the parks registrar and resident funny man!! He was a hoot!! We paid our bucks ($8.00, I think?) and went out thru the back of the store and onto a patio. Right behind was the swimming hole and deck. Also pretty unimpressive. But you go across the swimming deck, down the stairs and the first thing you see is a waterfall that comes from under the deck. There is a very old dam holding back the creek right above you that helps form the waterfall, but there would have still been one naturally if the dam had not been built to form the swimming hole. The stairs continue down quite a ways dropping you immediately into a cool, refreshing, all natural canyon with walls going up several hundred feet on each side. The whole canyon is never that wide at any point and goes straight up on each side just steps from the path. But all along the 3/4 mile trail there are huge house sized boulders with little narrow chasms and rifts. Little slot canyons between the boulders exist and may can be travelled thru if you are skinny enough and not a bit claustrophobic!! So even tho it was less than a mile to get to the far end, we probably did twice that by going into and around every single nook and cranny. There is a nice creek running thru the entire canyon and it was filled with the nicest smooth quartz pebbles, a few just had to come home with me. They were all colors from white to brown, with lots of pinks and salmons that were almost translucent. There was some really nice flora and fauna along the way, some of it nicely identified with a sign. At the end there was a bridge that the registrar had actually built himself many years ago. You cross the creek and head back to see the sights on the other side. There was a really cool place called the Dance Hall. It was a flat mega boulder that had fallen centuries ago and the ancient indians had used it for spiritual and ceremonial dances. It was very well hidden by other boulders so it would have been a very cool place for them to hold these special events. Especially at night by firelight. The registrar tells us that after you leave the dance hall area the trail either heads back across the creek or you can take the unmarked part of the trail on the far side of the creek and then come back across a swinging bridge later on. The reason they don't mark the path is because it is a secret!! You have to really look around for it and when you find it, it is a tiny crack between 2 boulders that you shimmy thru and then follow for a ways, eventually coming out at the swinging bridge. It was so much fun to go back thru a second time to see if you could remember how you went. It was not that easy!! We had to look just as hard the 2nd time. We just loved it!!

We would really like to go back and take a night tour. They guide you down into the canyon by flashlights, then turn them off when you get down there. There are thes bioluminescent buggies that glow like fireflies. They congregate in parts of the canyon and I understand it to be quite magical in nature. The peak months are April thru June so we might just have to go back and try again this next year. After all, I need some more pebbles!!

And now for a few pics. Forgive the blurry ones. That is what happens when you didn't think to bring a tripod and the natural light is a little low. But I still think they are worth a look at.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sticky Wicket

Honey, elderberries, hummingbirds and jalapenos. What do all these have in common? They can make an incredibly sticky mess when you try and make things with them. Oh no, I am not really making anything with the hummingbirds, I promise. Just making their food!! Sorry, that did sound a bit bad up there in that prior sentence.

First off, the honey. Last weekend my darling DH comes in with 2 supers of honeycomb and plops them down and tells me I need to harvest the honey.......No time to Google and find out how best to do this for the first time.. So I grab my biggest sheet cake pan and start the task of getting honey out of the comb. I don't have an uncapping knife to help open up the cells but I find a regular sharp knife, carefully used, can open up the honey comb just fine. I throw the caps into a sieve cause I can see there is tons of honey dripping off them. Probably mistake #1. But I don't find that out for some t ime to come. I keep trying to position the supers in the pan in a way that let the most honey drain the fastest. I think the kitchen is too cool. The only day below 80 in months and that's the day we decide, well, he decides, this has to be done. So I decide to very slightly heat up the oven and put the whole shebang in there to help the honey flow faster. It works thru several brief heatings. But then, somehow, I let it heat up just a degree or two more than I should have. I hear a thud and look to see that the beeswax has now softened and the whole architecture has slumped out into the pan, on the oven floor, over the racks, ect. Lots and lots of honey to clean up. But you know, honey cleans up pretty well with lots of water and a bit of soap and patience.

I take the pan out of the oven and see this big huge conglomeration of honey with bits of comb all thru it. I for one, do not like honey comb with my honey. There are those who do, I think that is just wrong. So I dump it all into my very large mesh colander. Big mistake again. I think I am up to 3 wrongs at this point. The first sieve, the oven and the colander. But I drain over 1/2 gallon of very nice honey off the mess and I am pretty proud of myself.

Meanwhile, I Google and find that they used to just squeeze the honey out of the comb. Not a bad idea. Well, in retrospect, this becomes mistake #4 and the first dawning of where I had gone wrong. No one told me how sticky beeswax can actually be when it is liquid. When I squeezed out the honey I got about another 2 cups but when I went to wash my hands I realized that nothing wanted to take off that darned sticky goo. And it was not just on my hands but on all the equiptment used up to that point. The sieve, the colander, the oven, ect. It has taken me days to get all the stuff cleaned up and useable again. But the honey has sure been good. This year's harvest was small but they are very young hives, the supers got put on late and it has been a brutally hot and dry summer. So hopefully next year, I will learn to carefully uncap the combs, be more patient allowing the honey to drain on its own and putting whatever comb I want to drain off into a clean section of pantyhose. The combs themselves when drained of honey, can go right back into the hive which is actually a big time and energy saver for the bees. And I have no need of beeswax for candles. The light switch on the wall works fine for me!

Then the hummingbird story. Really quite simple. I mix nectar and fill 2 glass hummingbird feeders. I head out the door and drop one sending nectar all over the laundry room floor and walls. I think I have now mopped 3 times and still I find sticky places I must be missing.

On to the elderberries. Elderberries make wonderful wine. It takes a great deal of effort to find enough along side the roads and ditches to make all I would love to make each year. Stripping the berries off the stems is even more of a time suck. But I do it, cause the outcome is so worth it. But in making elderberry wine, you get this scummy stuff in your primary fermenter that should be investigated as a industrial glue!! There are lots of speculation on what the goo actually is from. My thought is that it has to be a reaction between something in the elderberries and the yeast. You don't get this scum if you just make elderberry juice. But if you then take the juice and make wine, you get the goo. But after the first step, you don't get it anymore so at least there is only one big clean up involved per batch.

Last year, I had a dicken's of a time getting the goo off. I tried everything I could think off to mechanically get it off. Really, really hot water. Soaking with dishsoap multiple times. Scrubbing til my arms ached. A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But to minimal avail. The primary fermenting bucket got clean enough to be used again but the stain was permanent.

Meanwhile, I discover this year that some really sticky things can be cleaned up well by applying olive oil, then after letting it sit, coat well with liquid dish detergent and rinse. Actually any vegetable oil will do. Obviously, these gluey things are fat soluble chemicals and melt into the oil which is then washed away by the dishsoap. BTW-Dawn is still the best. So when I had elderberry goo on my hands I thought, let me give the oil trick a try. It worked like magic!! So I thought I would share this great discovery with the rest of the wine making world. Well, if you Google the right words you find out all kinds of things. Like, most, but not all of the world already knew this. I am always a day late and a dollar short. But now I will still be that, but with a clean fermenting bucket!

The last but not least fiasco involves me trying to use up some surplus jalapeno's I had brought in from the garden. Jalapeno jelly was just the most sensible thing to make. I looked up a recipe and got going. I was in the process of bringing my mixture to a boil when I turned for just a second to put my jar lids into a pan of boiling water to have them ready when I needed them. Oh yeah, that's right. In just a matter of a few seconds, the mixture came to a full rolling boil and went all over my glass cooktop and quickly became carmelized jalapeno jelly cement. No amount of scrubbing has cleaned it all off. And you gotta trust me on this, I gave it all one could give. I have decided my next option is to carefully take a razor blade to the last bit of remaining spots. This is, BTW, recommended by the users manual. But the jelly did turn out very well. Ken almost licked the bowl clean that I brought to the table last night to serve on crackers with cream cheese.

This batch was made with all green peppers but I want to go ahead and push my luck this coming week and work with the red ones I still have out in the garden. I found a recipe that uses cranberry juice with red hot peppers. I think if it turns out it will be great at Christmas as gifts. But Lord, I sure need all the help I can get to not turn this into any more sticky messes!!

So yes, watch out for these sweet, innocent appearing food products. Behind each one of them lurks a heart of pure sticky evilness that may never be permanently removed from my well used kitchen.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Evening From My Front Porch

The weather is finally cooling off, especially in the evenings. We had some rain predicted for today, but it totally fizzled out here in the middle of Tennessee. But what was left over was some high thin clouds just in time for a jaw dropping sunset.

So picture yourself on my big front porch. Sleeping dog at my feet, glass of my very own elderberry wine made last fall, at least 50 hummingbirds dashing and darting about all around the feeders and then this. A sunset that takes your breath away. Mind you, there has been absolutely no photo editing done on these. It was really this spectacular. And all about me was the peace and quiet that comes from living way out in the country. So my day ends with this post to share it all the best I can with you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Icarus Ascending

A die hard Dan Fogelberg fan like me. How is it I could have missed an entire album? And a song as amazing as this one. The lyrics to this are a testament to what endeared him to so many of his fans.

I discovered it just today as I was reading a newspaper article about the memorial service/dedication they had this past weekend in his home town of Peoria Illinois. This, and 2 other of his important works were inscribed on the stone that makes up his public memorial. The other 2 peices are favorites of mine but this song I could not even place. A Google search later and I am reading words that speak straight to the strength of spirit of the human soul. It immediately had me thinking about 2 close friends who are just starting out with their personal battles with cancer. And also, of my daughter and another close friend, who have recently divorced and are learning to fly solo for the first time in many years. Sometimes we just have to trust our faith and know that we are headed in the right direction.

I hope you will all take just a moment to read thru these lyrics and understand how they apply to your life.

Icarus Ascending

Soaring alone upon a threatening wind
Just fix your eyes on the horizon
Cut off from everything
You've known or have been
I shouldn't think it's so surprisin'
Spiralling upward on a freshening lift
Reaching the realms of fleet Apollo
You have been given the most sacred of gifts
You must be fearless now and follow

Don't look down
Though your heart may be weary
Don't look down
Though your wings are on fire
Don't look down
Though the night may seem endless
There's a reason you're flying
This fast and this far

Let your faith be your strength
And your love be your guiding star
Venturing further than
The length of your sight
Out past the reach of your beginnings
There is a gamble in each
Proud act of flight
But the losses pale before the winnings
Circling and diving with this
Freedom you've found
Illusion blows apart and scatters
There is no darkness in this place
That we're bound
Love is the only thing that matters



Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Just Forever....and a day

It has been a long time hasn't it. Sorry as always. But let's let that go and hope for a fresh start with this blogging thing.

Alot of life has gone on since last I chatted with most of you. Tons of gardening, a very very hot dry summer which exhausted me, a visit from the granddaughters, another visit with my dad and then very recently a short visit from my Aunt Judy, my dad's sister whom I had also not seen in almost 50 years. All the visits were great and never lasted quite long enough for anyones liking.

Probably the best visit is when I took the girl's down to Atlanta to meet my dad the day before they flew back to New Hampshire. The day before had been a tough one. I think Maddy was a bit out of sorts about the entire idea of meeting a grandfather she didn't already know, leaving and going back home and maybe flying out of Atlanta. Who knows what had her on edge. But she just didn't have the best of days and exhausted herself and everyone around her. But the day we left to go down, she was great and both girls enjoyed meeting my dad and his wife. They were on the very best behavior the entire time, especially when we were out to dinner. I am sure the conversation bored them to tears but you would have never known it. We left late to go to a hotel closer to the airport cause their flight in the morning was so very early. Maddy was an amazing navigator and both girls held up well when we couldn't find a hotel for over 2 hrs. They were very tired when they got on the plane the next morning. They are now back home, in their brand new house and at a brand new school. All is going well from what I have been told.

The sitting garden has made alot of progress since the last posting and pictures. Even thru a very hot summer, lots of things bloomed well and provided me with a quiet spot to drink my coffee in the morning. Well, at least after I found this vintage cafe set at a junk shop and painted it this bright blue. After all, a girl needs a place to sit in the garden in order to have that coffee. I have also managed to place alot of found objects thru out the space this summer. I have a "made" birdbath out of terra cotta pots. I am going to mosaic the large saucer part here soon and use the orange globe from an old hummingbird feeder in the center for an accent. I brought several gazing balls with us from Oklahoma and they are all in their places now. Our local Salvation Army had a nice armillary sundial for 5 bucks that came home with me and is nestled where it hardly even sees the sun!! Oh well, I am not smart enough to tell time in such a complicated way!! The little patio that the table sits on is almost big enough and soon I will move all the pavers and level it all out a bit better. My bottle tree looks right at home next to the french doors to the apartment. And yes, we did drink all that wine at some point! I still have not found the perfect bird house that I see in my mind, living a corner of the garden. But I will find it and get it out there someday soon. By this time next year, it will all have changed again as I plan on letting the beds get a bit wider and there of course, will be alot more growth on all the plants. So stay tuned...or of course, come for a visit and see for yourself!

Another thing that I have not done in forever. A real forever. And a day.......crazy quilting. But this little purse is something I whipped up to replace a bag I had worn plumb out. It is just big enough to carry my money, credit cards & ID, and my cell phone when I leave the car to go into a store. I honestly had not done any CQ in so long that every step of the way I had to really think about what I was doing. Going thru some of my bins, I felt like I was making new friends of all my old supplies. I really need to get back to doing more of this and maybe even finish my big wall hanging that already has so much work put into it.

The slightly bigger bag is one my friend Crystal made for herself or her daughter. But when I saw it I commented on how well it would match my little bag. Being Crystal, the very next day she came down and gifted it to me. I have such great friends!! And alot of the fabric for the CQ bag was from my Lizzie on-line friends. A few years ago, they all sent fabric in my birthday cards. Every time I opened a card, some sort of blue fabric came tumbling out. They swear it was not a coordinated effort and I beleive them. They are just all in sync some times. But I knew at some point I would use that fabric for something that would remind me of all of them. I think I did good with this one.

I have lots of other projects in the works and may have some more to post about soon. So see you next time, when ever that ends up being!