Monday, March 27, 2017

Feel the vi-BURN-um

Another weekend, another walk through the botanical gardens.  Todd and I love to take early-morning walks and spring is the perfect time.  It can be bittersweet, because I saw a few favorites from my Indianapolis garden.

There, I'd planted viburnum on either side of the front door.  It's an attractive shrub (if you prune it into submission) and the flowers in the spring have a delicious scent.

Oh, the daffodils!

I just finished a book on garden theory and design by David Culp (The Layered Garden) and he advised that you can stretch out the growth of a favorite flower by planting early-, mid-season, and late-blooming varieties.  I did this with the lilac bushes I planted in our Indianapolis back yard.

Deer love hydrangeas, and I have yet to find a cage that lets our hydrangeas spread and grow but keeps the deer out.  In Indianapolis, I had both Endless Summer and Little Lime growing all season along our side fence.  At the botanical garden, I discovered something that I never knew existed...a hydrangea TREE!

My mind positively boggled at the bouquet, wreath, and landscaping possibilities.  Needless to say, this tree is going to the top of my list for our FRP, or "final resting place" - the property where we settle for good and where I'm able to throw myself into making the cottage garden I've dreamed of since childhood.

But there are things here, of course, that I've never seen thrive in the midwest.  Camellias, for example.  The botanical garden has over 60 varieties.  They've mainly bloomed and dropped by now, but the walk is still lovely.

Nice to meet an old friend on the trail, too!

I love seeing the semi-wildlife out and about, whether napping...

...or having a very serious meeting of the minds!

By the way, a group of turtles is called a bale.  This discovery led me down a rabbit hole of delight (a group of caterpillars is an army!  A group of ferrets is a busyness!  A group of wild cats is a destruction!) but I was able to pull myself away to read more about the next creature we found...a banded water snake.

Non-venomous and totally benign, just having a rest in the sun.

The dogwoods are in full bloom, both at our house and at the botanical gardens.

Redbuds are still going strong.

I love walking on petal-strewn paths!

Borga doesn't care either way...she just wants to be out.  Check out that smile!

I recently finished knitting a pair of socks, Jaywalkers.  It was a bit of an experiment.  When I first started knitting, I stocked up on any yarn that appealed to me without being particular about a specific project need or fiber content.  Now that I'm more knowledgeable and discriminating about what I buy, I have a big box of these "guilt yarns" in my cabinet.  I don't want to use them, but I hate to waste the yarn.  I'll probably end up donating a lot of it, but I'm trying to find uses for some of it first.  Self-striping yarn is just not my preference, but this pattern cleverly draws it into a kind of zig-zag design. Still, I'm just lukewarm about these.  At least they're a good fit!

I've also started  a quilt.  No, I didn't finish the big star quilt from last week.  I put it away until I feel more excited about it.  I bought a coordinated layer cake set (42 10" x 10" fabric squares, all different) called Strawberry Fields Revisited.  Beatles reference aside, I like the cheerfulness of the pieces and feel like it's a perfect spring quilt.  I'm paper-piecing large stars that showcase 8 different designs.  I'll have four (five?) squares like this:

...and four (five?) squares each of four other fabric combinations.  I'm grumpy that even with paper piecing my points still aren't lining up perfectly or even very close in some cases, but I'm going to push forward.  Practice makes perfect, and the quilting itself will hide a multitude of sins.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Disembodied heads and rainbows, instead

Part of becoming ultra-organized and taking time to appreciate the little things includes making a bigger deal out of heretofore-ignored holidays.  So when St. Patrick's Day came around, I decided to go all out.

First, the cookies.  A simple batch of chocolate and vanilla, but you divide up the vanilla batch and color it.  Rainbow order, of course!

You then roll each color into a log, Play-Doh-style, and smash them together.  In hindsight, I wish I would've rolled each color out flat so the distribution would've been more even...more like a rainbow and less like a peacock feather or a creepy rainbow eyeball.

Encase the log in chocolate...

Refrigerate, then slice and bake.

See the creepy eyeball?  Oh, well.  The chocolate isn't very sweet, and the vanilla tasted almost like frosting.  Delicious!  Here's the recipe if you want to try it yourself.  

Moving on to decorations...I found this 4-leaf clover banner at a thrift store for a quarter.

Green placemats and flowers (helleborus from the yard)...a green box to set the mini vase in...

...and green ribbons for the chairs.

We felt very festive eating our rainbow cookies here!  Time-wise, the cookies were made over 2 days. The slice-and-baking day was very quick.  The "greening" of the dining room was done amid shifting batches of cookies in and out of the oven, so the whole thing was done in 30 minutes.  Not a huge time investment for a lot of enjoyment!

Speaking of time investment, though, I'm ready to put a fork in Fancy Baking Day.  My March effort was a total bomb.  I tried to make a strawberry fraizier - a lemon chiffon layer cake with homemade almond paste, homemade pastry cream, and homemade whipped cream.  I took a morning off work to make it and it ended up taking over 4 hours in total, not counting the clean-up after (which was considerable).  My pastry cream was runny, I didn't have enough almond paste, and the thought of trying to stack and decorate it in the fancy way the example showed was too overwhelming at the end.  I did it my own sad, slanting way, with strawberries sliding in the wet pastry cream and big empty patches from the scarcity of whipped cream.

At least the taste was amazing.  But...NEVER AGAIN.

I've very slowly been working on a new quilt, but my heart hasn't been in it.  I'm not crazy about the scrap fabrics (by the way, those corner stars have been fixed and now align with the rest of the quilt), and my lack of enthusiasm affected my work, with sloppy joins and wonky seams.

I guess I'll go ahead and sew it together.  Maybe I'll be more inspired.

Here is the quilt on day 2.  I'd thought it would be fine on the floor overnight, but I underestimated the vigor of our cats!

Speaking of cats and quilts...they might love them more than I do.

We're back to the season of beautiful sunsets...

But alas, the warm and intermittently very cold days have decimated our azaleas.  They should be going full-bore until late April, but the blooms are all spent now.  I got one poor-quality picture of the two under our living room window last week...

...and have eked one last limp bouquet out of one of the front bushes.

The real disappointment is that my very favorite double-ruffled azaleas didn't even get a chance to open up before the frost got them.  No more until next year...sob!

I've got a few last camellia blossoms around, their blooms frequently toppling over and rolling around on the floor like disembodied heads.  I'm not ready to rely on dyed carnations from the grocery store yet...I went out and cut tons of helleborus.

Helleborus last FOREVER in vases - weeks! - but I just don't like them much.  Maybe the brevity of the other bouquets make them a little more special?  Whatever the reason, I'm just glad that I've got SOMETHING to enjoy!  And there's always next year!

At least Todd is in a good mood, despite our poor flower season.  ;)

Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Green & Bear It

Despite a recent cold snap, I'm seeing more and more green every day.

The yard is an absolute riot of color.  I love seeing all the different shades of pink, even though I have not traditionally liked pink flowers (except for peonies...swoon!).

I'm still out picking...

...and making my bouquets.

The robins keep me company while I gather!

I take note of all the spring growth.  Every day, a little more progress on sprouting out.

I've been bringing some spring into the house, too, and not just the flowers.  I changed all the fabrics to light-colored ones...

...made up some little 'nests' with ceramic eggs I bought years ago...

...and set out, here and there, some of the needlework that belonged to Todd's grandma.

So cheerful and spring-like...and I've added to the visual inspiration this pair of 'vintage' embroidered strawberry pillow shams from Garnet Hill...snagged at a thrift store for a dollar!

I've been very, very slowly working on my quilt.  I have random stars everywhere.

Making this particular quilt was a spontaneous decision, and one that I'm regretting a little.  I miss paper piecing.  Also, I wish I would've ordered a coordinated fat quarter bundle so that the overall appearance would be more cohesive.  All the fabric I used came from my stash, so it's very random.  I have learned some valuable lessons, though...pressing seams to the side instead of open creates more accurate points.  And, since this is my first time making HST (half-square triangles), I've been able to experiment and find a really accurate way to square them up.  So even if this quilt isn't as beloved as my other two, I'm glad that I made it.

Meanwhile, we'll just continue to enjoy the sun, the flowers, and the birds, and keep an eye on future spring developments!

Have a great week!