Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dracula makes a pre-Halloween visit to the Upstate

The hurricane in Florida didn't cause more than a heavy rainstorm here in the Upstate, but it ushered in a brief period of blissfully cool weather.  Just enough to get a few leaves to start changing...

...a few days of heavy dew...

...and a certain fall-loving girl very, very excited!  Thankfully we didn't have any real damage from the wind and rain, mainly minor leaf debris.

Once the storm had passed, I went into action.  I switched out my summer fabrics in the living room, took down the "summer" fireplace mantel and put up the fall-themed one, and gathered tons of acorns to make some fall centerpieces.

I put away my summer clothes, pulled out the flannel sheets and blankets and started washing...and it was back to 88 degrees within 3 days, with no end in sight.  ARGH!

On the positive side, we've still got some late-season flowers blooming here.

Some absolutely gorgeous spider webs, mostly occupied.

Lots of activity.  Our anoles are still out and about.

Look at the back of this leaf hopper.  Do you see a face too?  Perhaps a horned devil?  Maybe I've been reading too many books!  I've had trouble finding much information about this, other than a few vague references to it being a "Dracula" leafhopper, because of the face in the "coffin" of wings and the fact that it's a sucking insect...although it sucks sap, not blood.

Typical for the fall, we see the deer every night.

And our solitary beaver has taken a wife!

They're very active at dusk, nibbling on the green shoots and branches at the pond's edge.

This is, of course, one of the busiest times for squirrels, too.

I'm going to take comfort in these signs of fall and try to be patient for cooler weather.  Have a great week!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Knitted sweater and better weather!

I have curtailed my baking quite a bit, but one of my favorite baking websites is Sally's Baking Addiction.  She has a monthly baking challenge that I just started participating in, and I love it!  The September challenge:  piping sunflower cupcakes.  I bought my ingredients and set aside some time, only to discover that I didn't have the right leaf tip needed to pipe the cupcake petals.  ARGH!  I substituted a different tip, but between the incorrect tip and the near-90s temps, my petals were a little droopy.

Todd's office still liked them!

I also made one of my old standbys, half chocolate chip and half chocolate cookies.

And now that it's basically PUMPKIN SEASON (despite the forecast of, you guessed it, near 90s again by the end of the week), I'll be baking a lot more.  Next up, oversize pumpkin muffins with crumb topping and browned butter oatmeal pumpkin cookies with cinnamon chips.  Hooray for my favorite season!

Despite my sore fingers, I'm knitting on.  I started knitting a pair of gloves, but chose a yarn that contained silk.  Silk doesn't have any "give" (like cotton) and kills my fingers.  So I quit halfway through...

...and re-knitted in green wool.  I knitted the right glove in the Portuguese style, but my fingers hurt so much by the end that I used my old "clutch and throw" method for the left glove.  As you can see, it's significantly smaller, but fits so much better.  The right glove is a bit too big but will work (I'm thinking about layering with those small, tight gloves from Target).  I blocked the left glove after this picture was taken to make it a little bit bigger, so the difference is less noticeable.  Layering gloves will be fine because my hands are always so cold!

I also finished my sweater...hooray!  I knitted it to be two sizes smaller than I am currently, but since I knitted it in the Portuguese style, I think it's only one size too small.

I had a friend at the gym model it (she's a size S/M) so that I could at least see how the neck laid on the shoulders.  Taking into account both poor lighting and a poor fit on my model - I love it!  It's all blocked and waiting for cooler weather.

I have been working on my Snails quilt, but very slowly.  Our cats are very pleased with this development.  If I leave a piece of fabric out too long, a cat will claim it.

The same goes for quilts.  My Snails quilt has been in the machine so long that the cats think I've really been making them a giant bed.

I've finally had to admit to myself that while I love choosing and cutting fabric and love the actual piecing of a quilt, I despise the actual quilting of it.  I've practiced and practiced...

...but despite the addition of a quilting table, special gloves, and a slippery surface to quilt on, I stink. For my Snails quilt, I chose to quilt a giant concentric circle.  I thought it would be really easy.  But you're constantly rotating the quilt, shoving it through the tiny throat space again and again...such a pain.  Also, when quilting concentric circles, you have to stop and start (when adjusting fabric) every few inches or so.  When you start quilting again, your needle jumps, leaving an obvious jag in the line.

I was ready to pull my hair out, but thankfully someone advised me to "pool" the fabric around the needle before starting to stitch again, and that does minimize the jag.  Todd suggested that I bite the bullet and pay someone to do my quilting - it costs around $130 - but so far I'm stubbornly sticking to it.  I'm forcing myself to put in 30 minutes a day and hopefully it will be done within a couple of weeks!

Speaking of cutting up fabric, I got a package of fabric scraps through the Random Acts of Kindness forum on Ravelry.  I *love* receiving random scraps of fabric.  I took a couple of hours on Saturday and cut them up into common fabric sizes:  2", 2.5", 3", 3.5", 4", and 5".  I also have 1.5", 2", and 2.5" strips.

I would probably never purchase, say, watermelon-print fabric...but it's going to be so fun to use in a scrap quilt!

We're slowly sliding into fall in South Carolina.  Cooler evenings mean Scrabble time by the pond.

Todd is finally able to do some home improvement projects in comfort, like digging a water-diverting trench around the house.

Here's hoping for more cooler days ahead - SOON.  Have a great week!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lake Conestee Enlistee

Another string of cool, beautiful mornings and more hiking!  This weekend we went to Lake Conestee, a 400-acre nature park near Greenville.  Lots of small streams and bogs, which I love.

Much evidence of beavers...

...but no sightings.   We did see lots of great blue herons.

Even some heron nests!

Of course, lots of turtles.

Now that the weather is cooling, the juniper berries are starting to darken up.

Beautyberries are everywhere!

There's even some wisteria flowers left.  This one makes a great resting spot for a green shield bug.

Plenty of sweet autumn clematis blooming, too!

Lots of vines.

A very few leaves have started to turn.  I'm guessing we have a solid 6 weeks before we see any real change.

Of course, spiders are more active in the fall, and I saw some real beauties on our hike.  Here is a pregnant wolf spider:

This is the biggest striped garden spider that I've ever seen!

We caught this spiny-backed orb weaver in the process of making her web.  What a beauty!

We hiked a solid 5 miles before the humidity became uncomfortable.  I'm looking forward to the weeks ahead, when the temperatures will be even cooler.  Meanwhile, our cats are reacting to the stimulating temperatures in their usual way:

Have a great week!