Monday, October 16, 2017

quilting zen and woodchuck den

My Farm Girl Vintage Sampler quilt is coming along nicely!


I'm nearly halfway done.  I organized my scraps into "rainbow order" and the bright, bright, bright is now coming more naturally! 


I'm not sure how I will feel about the finished quilt.  There's a part of me that wants to order a few mixed fabric bundles in the beautiful muted, earthy colors I love from Fig Tree and make another version of this quilt which is more suited to my color preference.  I have enjoyed making this so much, though, that I don't think I'll mind making another. 

I've also been knitting, although not nearly as much, since knitting still hurts my hands.  I'm making a pair of gingham-checkered socks and I've just started the second one.


Another fun project!  I heard about "half birthdays" earlier this year - celebrating the halfway point between your last birthday and your next one.  I definitely don't need a real reason to have a celebration, so I scheduled it on Google Calendar.  When it popped up this weekend for Todd, I had a great idea.  I didn't want to make a whole cake (to be cut in half), and a half cupcake seemed like a bit of a stretch for a celebration.  I decided to take a small-batch chocolate cookie recipe (which made 12 cookies) and press the dough into half of an 8" cake pan.  I made a foil "wall" and used pie weights as a buttress. 


The resulting cookie was a perfect half-cookie cake size.  Livened up with a little almond-tinted frosting and festooned with sprinkles, it made a very cheerful half birthday surprise!


Around the house this week we've had a lot of interesting creatures.  A wheel bug was resting in one of our ferns.  They're pretty aggressive and have a nasty bite (said to be much more painful than a bee sting), but I've found that the general wildlife rule applies:  leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.


Check out that spiky wheel!  Both males and females have them and its general purpose is unknown...perhaps an intimidation tactic?


Can you see that long, pointy rostrum?  They're in the assassin bug family.


I saw some wood ducks a week or so ago, but they're very flighty (no pun intended) and I've been unable to get close.  These ducks, though, don't seem to mind. 


I was gratified to see the growing flock.  Last year, we only had four!

Our little woodchuck has been very active too.


He's got a den under a fallen tree stump in our back yard.


I don't see him very much, but I'm always keeping an eye out!

For weeks, spiders everywhere.  Then, boom!  Nothing.  I did find a nice web in the back yard, where this yellow jacket had just been tidily wrapped up for later consumption.


I couldn't catch the spider, though...he was too fast for me!


Lots of flowers still blooming.


Our orange ginger lilies, which I transplanted around the front of the house, are blooming.  I wouldn't plant them again, though. The flowers are too short-lived and the plants themselves remind me of corn stalks.  While they last, though...


A few random gardenias are still opening up, and the japonica bushes are starting to sprout the funny 'puffballs' that will eventually become bright black berries.



Some leaves are falling...


...but I miss the bold, varied displays of the Midwest.  At least it's a little cooler this week.  Last week we hit 90 degrees again!  I dreamed about a snow storm last night.  I think it's back to winter-scene puzzles for me!

Have a great week! 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Veni, Vidi, Vinca


Our leaves aren't really changing just yet, but acorns are constantly dropping and leaves are starting to come down.

We have some slight change in color...



...berries too...


...which seems odd, with the random juxtaposition of early-blooming camellias and azaleas.




I always assumed that it was a temperature drop that caused leaves to start changing in the fall, but we're still in the mid-80s and I'm starting to see glimpses of color.  Apparently the length of daylight can also be a trigger for the reduction of chlorophyll production in plants.

Our vinca, too, is still going strong.




We have thousands of them.  Hard to believe that they all came from 2 or 3 plants, just 3 years ago!  They're rampant re-seeders and I let them do their thing.

Our evergreens are still as vibrant as ever.


Still, it feels more like fall when I see our empty birdhouses.


Our randomly-blooming gardenias are definitely done for the summer.


The turkeys have returned, although I've only gotten a few late-dusk glimpses.


When this recent bout of 99% humidity breaks, we can go back to sitting by the pond again. 


So peaceful, and even the many fallen trees contribute a little color and texture to the scene.


Our "goz" are really active right now, mainly in the early evening.  It's easy to see evidence of their presence.


I'm not seeing many insects, although they're still pretty active.


Where there are flowers, there are bees, butterflies, and skippers.  They may be the last to go!


It seems like the insects are hiding away, and we are too.  Until this weather breaks, we'll continue to find our fun indoors.


Have a great week!

Monday, October 2, 2017

cookie dough and color woe

Twice in one week is kind of a cookie record for me, since I don't bake as much any more, but I couldn't resist these no-fail pumpkin snickerdoodles.


I replaced the white chocolate with cinnamon chips (of course) and they are officially my go-to snickerdoodle now (which might sound dramatic, but I have collected over 20 recipes for snickerdoodles alone, so being able to simplify my life here is very pleasing!).  I just ordered Sally's new cookbook and think that I'll be baking cookies again this week. 

I've been sewing quite a bit.  I've started on my Farm Girl Vintage Sampler quilt and have put together four squares so far.


I continue to struggle with color choices.  I was thinking, "Bright, bright!" with gritted teeth and put together the upper left block, which has a pop of red, but wouldn't exactly be considered colorful.  I'm more pleased with the stacked bowls and chick (embroidered legs forthcoming!), but I'm going to have to toss the block on the lower right.  The pink tulips look annoyingly like leopard print from a distance, the center pinwheel doesn't "pop," and the frame around it fades into the background.  I've remade two squares three times, which might sound insane overly careful, but I really want to push myself to work with color and make squares that go together, even though a wide variety of fabrics are being used.  I spent hours this weekend tidying/organizing some "bright!  bright!" scrap fabric into mix-and-match piles...


...and hopefully it will become intuitive by the end.  I have gotten pretty good at something I used to struggle with:  fixing mistakes.

Here, a piece of fabric was probably accidentally sliced, then frayed.


I'm a perfectionist, but there's no way I was going to pull out that green piece and try to re-sew it accurately, or toss the block altogether.  I cut a piece of matching fabric, folded it, and pinned it over the mistake.


I used clear thread and whip-stitched the edges.  It took about 5 minutes to do three sides.  Then I sewed this half of the block to another one, and the "fix" basically disappears.  All you see is matching fabric.  Once this is quilted, it will be even harder to see.  Hooray for quick and easy fixes!


Other than work and sewing like a maniac, I've been enjoying the cooler weather.  We've had a resurgence of gardenias:


More beautiful fungus:




Actually, I'm not sure what that bottom one is...an insect gall, maybe?

Pretty seed pods:


Berries...


...and more abandoned webs.


I've been growing cat grass in our sunny window.  This is FIVE DAYS OF GROWTH...from seed!


Bosewichte loves it.  He sits on the kitchen rug and waits politely for me to notice and bring the pot down to his level.  It's a nice treat for him and keeps him out of my house plants.  Tabitha isn't interested, though.  She's more interested in sleeping than eating!


Have a great week!