Saturday, September 08, 2012

ZINNIA'S: Who Knew?

I've discovered ZINNIA seeds!

Well, that they grow from seeds just chucked into the ground next to the bed of onions that was still empty in June. It might even have been closer to July before they got planted. I would totally have taken more care to spread them out if I had known they had time to grow AND bloom all summer!

Garden Experts should be shouting

(How did I not know this? :)
I'm buying them in bulk next year . . . I wonder if the seed pods would be worth saving? hmm . . .

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Catch and Release

Everything is an ADVENTURE when you're wearing a helmet!

Nocturnal Salamanders that hide really well in the daytime make for fairly boring terrarium watching. At 3:00 a.m. the salamander I found in our wood pile clung to the side of the glass when I let Jax out so I tried taking a picture. Not a great effort but proof it was in there at one time!

You MUST feed your guest pets. Even if you can't see them. And even if it means getting off the bicycle you just learned to ride WITHOUT TRAINING WHEELS this week!  
We placed our trust in the internet and found a dozen worms, a few slugs and assorted creepy-crawly things near an old cement foundation. I thought it would be really cool to set up the old fish tank so Ben could see the 6 inch salamander I found the day before. We opened it several times and Aunt Laurie even braved moving rocks around hoping we would catch sight of it. It hid really well! But it was the best fed Salamander in town. Ben dumped the whole jar of bugs in before I had time to suggest perhaps just a few?

From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website:
Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale)
"Most people would not consider hanging out under rotting wood feeding on a diet of spiders, centipedes, slugs and earthworms as their ideal lifestyle. The blue-spotted salamander believes it's just grand. This salamander found throughout Michigan is common in moist deciduous hardwood areas and swamp woodlands, preferably with access to vernal ponds. However, they often persist in drier, human disturbed second growth woodlands. Their diet includes insects, spiders, worms, and other small invertebrates.

Their coloration can vary but generally they are black with turquoise or pale blue flecks and spots on the sides, limbs, belly, and tail. The belly may be black or grayish black. Adults average about 3.5 to 5.5 inches (8.9 to 14 cm) long." *They seem to live in Maine, too.
Our guest has been released back into the wild. A little farther away from our wood pile. 
He was air-lifted out of the tank by a garden hoe, along with the little island oasis and all the bugs and worms that were left.
For the first time I could actually see his blue spots!
Picture of Jax by 5 year old Ben.
Her eyes may still be a little blood shot from being sprayed by a skunk last week. Tough way to celebrate your first birthday!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Grape Escape

Jax and I are still exhausted from chasing a 5 year old around all day. It was the first Aunt Laurie Day since getting Jax because we felt she was too untrained and possibly a danger to them with her mouthy biting and jumping.

By 9:30 she was let off leash to see how she would do. Turns out she's on the same 5 minute delayed-response as Ben and NEITHER of them listen to you if they don't feel like it.  "I do what I like!"

But they were inseparable!

Jax was perfectly happy shadowing him all day and soon discovered (no matter how many times told not to give her food) Ben was her new favorite FOOD DISPENSER.

She sat very close and prepared to wait for that little hand to send a grape her way...


and waited.

Finally success.

And then there were two.

One for you; one for me.


Then they were gone.

And so was he?

Edited to add: Did not know grapes were toxic to dogs until Steph & a couple of anonymous messages mentioned it. Luckily she only had 3 and seems to be fine. Good to know though!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Escape Through Stained Glass

Every quilt has a story . . .  THIS ONE has a doozy. :)
Quilt in a Day Month!
I started this stained glass version of a Stack & Slash quilt July 2nd.
My plan was to use Sharon Pederson's quilt-as-you-go method of construction.
It's my first attempt at anything bigger than a table runner quilting this way.
I enjoyed it and will look for other QAYG design ideas!

I made one of these quilts from a Clueless Quilter's Workshop years ago. That one I hand-quilted and gave to my sister-in-law. (She hugged it over and over, earning future quilt-gifting privileges!) This one was supposed to use up stash from my totes and only buy fabric as needed. So how did I manage to buy 11 yards by the time it was done? Let's just say it takes a lot of black to make the stained glass sashes! And 2 yards don't really count as I  grabbed fabric that looked perfectly black at the store, but when I got it home it looked like charcoal.

I lucked out with my first stack of 9 fabrics: slashed and re-stacked with no two fabrics in blocks together. As designed. Unfortunately my 2nd stack got shuffled wrong and EVERY block had two of the same fabrics in them.
I fixed them. Of course.
And then went to the internet to find the correct formula for stacking & slashing.

My Stitch-in-the-Ditch presser foot (or Edge foot) was getting it's first real workout and I needed to learn to look ahead at the foot guide and not where the needle goes in so the stitching would land near the "ditch". My recent discovery that my old Viking 960 indeed had needle position features - either unused or forgotten - came in amazingly useful. It's like a brand new toy!!

I decided to give up my ritual of watching local morning news loop (repeating the same news for 2 hours) and headed into the sewing room soon after Tom left for work. Things were going along quite nicely and by July 9th a stack of blocks were all quilted and I was beginning to sew rows together. About 8 a.m. I looked up from my sewing machine and out through the open window. TWO MEN, with GUNS and a SEARCH DOG were walking past the window - less than 3 feet away! DOC was written on the backs of their bullet proof vests!  Department of Corrections. Searching for escaped convicts and one of their grandmothers lives across the road!

Perhaps a better response would have been to for me to dive for cover UNDER the sewing machine?
Instead I said, "Um, EXCUSE ME?"
Not sure which of us were more surprised!  One asked me if I had seen two men walk by?
(No...just you two...with guns.)

Quilt progress came to a grinding halt.

August 1, 2012.

Jax tested it out first.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

So I'm still sewing . . .


My sewing machine was gently-used when I got it, and it's now been with me for nearly 30 years. 
I'm finally figuring out what it can do!  I searched through the owner's manual, trying to make the needle position move to the left or right. This would be really handy for my never-been-used Stitch in the Ditch foot and the Quilter's 1/4" seam allowance foot. (Which actually adds an extra 1/8th of an inch if you can't figure out how to move the needle!) Darned if I could figure out how to move the needle in a straight stitch setting.

Nothing clicked. I even put on reading glasses to look at the damned manual!

Then I was reading the booklet that came with my Omnigrid Drunkard's Path acrylic templates and there was the answer. Demonstrator Sharlene Jorgenson uses the same brand machine and she mentions her seam allowance settings. 
* Push the plus button that makes wider zigzags? And the mirror image setting (which I knew about for fancier stitches - but rarely used) to make the needle go the other way. 
This has come in very handy for top stitching the bags I've made. 
17 completed from June 2-July 2!

There's also a free-arm on my machine.  

It's usually hiding, encased by the wooden table where it belongs. I hate sewing with the machine set at a height other than flush with its cabinet.  It only comes out for the day-long workshops (I used to attend) or for cleaning dust bunnies - once I figured out it could be done without paying someone.

A free-arm is very convenient for sewing close to the edge of a small bag. I'm convinced!

I just don't know how often I'll bother even still.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Winning Streak

Time to buy a lottery ticket!

June has been a very lucky month for visiting Blogs.  I enjoy a chance to win something by simply leaving a friendly comment.  I don't generally jump through hoops for multiple chances if you Blog, Like, Follow, Tweet or Stand on your head.  One chance is enough!

I've been following Purse Palooza 2012 and won the collection of Noodlehead bags I mentioned in my last post.  I made another 241 Tote Bag, this time using an old denim wrap-around skirt.

Following a Purse Palooza review of the Vera Bag by Swim, Bike, Quilt!  I won one of the three patterns she offered on her blog. :)

I also won the quilt book Scrap-Appliqué Playground by Kim Jamieson-Hirst of Chatterbox Quilts. We were in the middle of building my new clothesline and Jax was being a pain-in-the-butt so I her took her inside. Out from under foot while Tom finished something without us. I got online for a few mintures and did a random search for quilt blog hops and came across the Book-A-Round blog tour. 

What a happy surprise to open an email that says you win!  I offered members of the Letterboxing group on Ravelry a chance to win my handmade log books in March & May. I was using a bit of bribery to liven up a group that had been silent for a year.  I gave 2 books each to 2 winners. 

So what goes around comes around . . . And you can't win if you don't try so GO FOR IT the next time you come across the opportunity. Friendly comments take so little time.  
Even without a chance of a prize they're most welcome. Priceless!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let's Review!

Don't know why I have to work so hard to find energy to blog.
Where to begin?

I've been sewing!

I happened across Purse Palooza 2012 just as it was set to get underway for the month of June. Celebrating bag making of all kinds! Invited bloggers review 2 purse or tote bag patterns each weekday.  Some of the patterns are free, but most are for sale.  
With lots of chances for prizes!

AND I won already!!
I received all of Noodlehead's bag patterns :)

I made the 241 Tote Bag!
I recycled an old pair of black denim jeans, including the pockets (1 inside) and part of the waistband for the strap. The pattern consists of just 3 pieces grouped at the end of the pdf. Pattern pieces are PRINTER/INK FRIENDLY if you decide to only print those. There are very detailed directions that can be followed from laptop.
The pattern also called for an outer zipped pocket that I fully intended to reuse from the jeans, but in the end I left it off this version. The pretty oriental accent fabric was some Sara gave to me as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago.

I love everything about this bag! It's a perfect size - not really as big as I was afraid it was going to be.
The curved inset with side pockets were a little tricky to sew without puckering. I was determined!
The lining has a few gathers, but I let it go! I didn't top stitch the side pockets - mostly because of the bulk - because if it didn't go well it would ruin the entire thing.
It was such a pleasure to actually follow a pattern, rather than my usual Just Wing It method.

Which is what I did making this bag. I used a pair of UFO quilt blocks that were part of a Block of the Month series I abandoned long ago. Easily diverted as usual! I had been reading about Snap Bags - using metal carpenters measuring tapes for snap shut closures. I wanted to make one. But of course I wasn't content to make my first Snap Bag a simple envelope style sack as most of the tutorials I found described. NO. I wanted to quilt-as-you-go using Sharon Pederson's method for reversible quilts.  And it should have sides, rather than be a flat pocket.

The tape measure is on the inside pocket... but I cut a slit to remove it and then put it back in afterwards.
Technically this bag is actually reversible, using sashing - sewn by hand - to hide every seam.  YES. Make it harder than it needs to be. As usual.

In between these bags I also sewed the Naughty Secretary Bag ... Lindsay Tote on the Pellon site.

I may have jinxed my sewing machine by deciding after all this sewing it needed to be cleaned. Took it apart, cleaned the dust bunnies and had it all back together the easiest I ever remember. Usually the back panels take forever to line up so the screws can go back in.

This week in CRAZY.
So, Jax was running around the yard crazy-pleased with herself for finding a long strip of fabric. Hanging a foot from either side of her mouth, it streamed out like a banner while she trotted around with her find - just far enough out of reach for me to possibly take it away from her. Fine. KEEP IT!
She had dragged one of the girls poor baby dolls from down over the bank where they used to play house. I assumed she had found a piece of clothing or an old blanket they left behind (20+ years ago!). Chewed to bits all over the front yard with just the doll head left.

Later, while I'm sitting in the recliner knitting my latest project, she decides I should have her banner. Shoves it into my lap. Perhaps I would like to play tug of war? WITH A SNAKE SKIN! Shed recently, no doubt, from the big-ass snake tormenting me everywhere I go lately. At least 3 times I've run screaming for my damn life after nearly stepping on it. I don't care if it's harmless. Make it be GONE with whatever means you like, honey!

Meanwhile. Just before daylight one morning last week Jax let out a low growling warning while looking out the bedroom window. I bent down to look in the direction of her concern just in time to see a basketball on legs walk across the front lawn. Went to the door and turned on the light just as a small porcupine waddled up onto the deck. It then marched up and put it's paws up on the door like it was asking to come in. NO.

No wonder I never blog. Where has the time gone? Time to get moving!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Keeping the hands busy . . .

The longer you put off updating the blog, the harder it seems to be to get back to. I blame Facebook - where it's easier to pop a few photos into an album and see what the girls are doing.

Both daughters were home for Christmas and it was wonderful getting outside together. Winter this year has been so mild that trails were open enough to go hiking in search of several new local Letterboxes. Most of them were frozen solid in the holes they were buried in though, thanks to the melt/freeze weather conditions.
We introduced Jax to hiking while looking for letterboxes, but getting her to sit nicely while we stamped in will need some work. She does climb onto stumps and halt all forward momentum at a moments notice. She seems to think they make the perfect resting spot!

By Christmas I had about burned myself out with all the knitting mitten projects. By the time the girls left Maine once again I was ready for a different craft to take over my interest - and help keep the empty nest blues from taking over for too long!
First up was rediscovering Coptic bookbinding - logbooks for Letterboxing! I picked up one of the Crop-A-Dile eyelet setters. I love it - although it does take more hand strength than some of the promos advertised. Also the name brand eyelets are no longer readily available and the backs of the ones local craft departments carry really don't spread flat and smooth. Some of the edges are quite jagged and require an extra squish to hide the fact as best I can. The main thing is to get them squished enough so there are no sharp edges to snag a finger on! 
Of course as with all craft projects of mine, any can be tackled to the point of obsession! At last count I was up to about 30 finished logbooks. I had several packages of index cards and a pair of jeans to recycle into denim pocket logbooks. 
I'm thinking of holding a crafty yard sale this spring.

Next up on the crafting front was to dig out the crochet supplies and make a couple new bunnies. My box of finished things is always available for the girls to dig into and choose items for their friends or their little ones. It was getting depleted of bunnies!
As the 2nd bunny was nearly completed I "discovered" a free Dice Bag of Doom! pouch. It totally tickles me no end. I've finished 3 now using up odd balls of yarn.  (Nothing obsessive to see here folks. I bought 2 packages of eyes and there's one left :)

(Did I say Blogger had gotten easier? WHY is so hard to move pictures to where you want them?)