Monday, July 17, 2017

Cat Grass Fever

It is hot, it is humid, and the insects are out!

These common skippers are out looking for pollen.  And we've got it!

Another cool moth I've seen is the hummingbird moth.  Another great mimic, their rapidly beating wings and large size make them look like a hummingbird from a distance.  They even have an unusually long proboscis that mimics the hummingbird beak!

I love to see these unusual creatures.  Of course, we have the usual fellows, too.  Dragonflies...


...and bees.

See the little grains of pollen collecting on his back?  Another possibility for pollination!

The cicadas are loud here right now.  I'm finding their discarded shells everywhere!

Someone gave me a packet of cat grass (or wheatgrass) seeds last weekend.  I planted them on a Sunday afternoon.  By Monday, they'd sprouted.

Each day I'd see at least an inch of growth.

They are definitely cat-approved!

It seems to be conducive to lounging.

I finished my quilt top!  Phew, what a job!  I sped things up a little by doing what's known as chain piecing.  Half the quilt top is made up of blocks and half of stars.  For making the stars, I needed several sets of what's known as "half square triangles" and "flying geese."  The directions are basically the same for both...draw a diagonal line down the center and sew a line 1/4" on either side. To avoid wasting thread and time, you can continue sewing your line from piece to piece.  Then flip, and do the same on the other side.  See?  It's all chained together.  Now just cut those tiny threads holding the pieces together and cut each piece on the original diagonal line.

Those tiny squares become...ta da!...half square triangles.

The geese are similarly cut.  The top triangle pictured here is the uncut "goose" with another square sewn on top. Cut down the middle...

...and iron flat.  Flying geese!

I have to say, I didn't enjoy making these stars.  The margin of error on the geese pieces was almost nonexistent.  Each needed to be cut down to 3.5" x 6.5", but mine started out that way...or smaller. Although the directions seemed foolproof, and I was sure my measurements were correct, most of my geese ended up wonky, some off by as much as 1/4".  I really sweated over putting the stars together. I just wasn't as precise on my 1/4" margins as I needed to be (my old bugaboo) and there were a lot of mistakes.  I pressed on, though, sewing the rows together...

...and voila!  The top is complete!  Although I never thought I'd use fabric with big sprawling modern flowers and sprinkles, the end result is SO cheerful.

I never realized how big a queen-sized quilt was until now.  I had to lay it out in the driveway to get a picture (which is why it has random sun splotches)!  I'm pretty nervous about quilting this.  I need to make my quilt sandwich and decide on a quilting pattern.  This will be a slow process, but hopefully I'll learn to be more confident about larger quilts if I can pull this off!

Have a great week!

Monday, July 10, 2017

spirals, spheres, and turtle ears

A lovely Fourth of July here, and the highlight was a trip to the Botanical Gardens.  It's not exactly a "hike," but it's nicely shaded, has lots of walking trails, and exposes me to plants I most likely wouldn't see on a typical trail hike:

As a Midwesterner, I haven't had much contact with these big tropical plants and their giant leaves, but I've definitely developed an appreciation for them.  I especially love the juxtaposition of deep purple and chartreuse.

I love their big, bold patterns.

And, of course, I love how they gather water in their basins.

I always talk about repeating patterns in nature, but once you start noticing them, they're hard to ignore.  Spirals are everywhere.


Bowed-out curves...



I love the unexpected, like the bright blue of a jay.  This one has recently died, but his feathers have lost none of their luster.

Coming upon a group of water fowl, hungry for handouts...

A warm spread of black-eyed Susans, picturesquely bordering a fence...

A painted turtle, surveying his domain:

Of course, everywhere there was a buzz of insects...

...but I'll have to add most of those pictures to the next entry.  All in all, a very nice stroll.  We've got some exciting coastal trips planned over the next few months, so I'll be glad to stretch out a little and photograph some different subject matters!  Until then...have a great week!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Gosling beaks and sugar peaks

Have I been outside in the past week?  Not very much!  It is hot, humid, and unpleasant.  I'm mainly working indoors until...well, it might be a while before it cools off here!  I *do* go outside if I've got a good hanging out with our "goz."  I love their sweet faces.

The one we call "Flipper" because of his floppy wings is always the first out of the water.  I'm nearly certain that his wing condition is the result of a birth defect.  If you look closely at his wings, you'll see that the feathers just stopped growing.

He's still fat and sleek like the others, but we'll definitely be keeping an eye on him.  I also enjoy our visiting strays, like Clotilde.

I'm done planting flowers for the year, but I'm amazed at the self-seeding that goes on now that we have massive amounts of sun.  I bought ONE vinca plant two years ago.  From that single plant came a million seeds.  Now we have vincas completely lining one portion of the driveway on both sides. This year, I spent weeks thinning out the seedlings and painstakingly replanting them, interspersing them in the front beds and along our side slope.  They've really filled in!  It's hard to tell from these pictures, but maybe if you blow them up...

Anyway, the high humidity has mainly kept me inside.  Todd built a small "extension table" that lines up with my sewing table and has a recessed compartment for my sewing machine to fit into.  Now the table surface is even with the needle plate, and I can't tell you how much easier it has made sewing.

I started on a new quilt, the Wallflower Quilt from Craftsy.  I expected a queen-size quilt to take many months to make, but after spending one day cutting fabric and a few days putting together huge 18" blocks, I realized that I was HALFWAY DONE with the top!  It's because the fabric pieces are so big.

Fabric pieces:

A block, laid out:

Several blocks, sewn together:

They're going to alternate with star blocks, but you get the idea.  It takes about 15 - 20 minutes to sew one block, and in four days I've already got a quilt top that, although unfinished, is larger than any quilt I've made before.  Talk about instant gratification!  I've got a ton of fabric left over, too, for future scrappy quilts.  Heck, I might have this whole quilt completely done by August!

I've been baking a lot too.  A friend had something to celebrate, so I made cookies.

Although I don't particularly enjoy working with royal icing (that hardens), making the roses was easy, and the piping was surprisingly easy, too.  I made way too many for just one person who actually doesn't have much of a sweet tooth... I decided to mail one or two to anyone I knew that had something to celebrate.  It was so fun!  I used my go-to no-fridge sugar cookie recipe that never lets me down.

I also made patriotic cookie cups for Todd's office.  I couldn't find a cookie cup recipe that I liked, and wondered if ANY cookie recipe could make cookie cups.  Apparently so.  I took a chocolate chip cookie dough recipe, rolled the dough into large balls, and dropped the balls into greased muffin tins. I baked at 350 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes.  The cookies had a natural depression in the middle, which I increased by pressing down with a small glass.

I tried a new frosting method.  I made a standard buttercream and separated the batch into three bowls.  One bowl I dyed burgundy (out of red, argh!), one batch blue, and one I left white.  I took my piping bag and smeared a generous stripe of burgundy on one side, blue on the opposite side, and then stuffed white in the center.  Voila!  A patriotic swirl!

And SO delicious.  Cookie cups, where have you been all my life??

The baking is not done for the week, either!  Today is "Fourth of July Eve" and therefore I decided to make a patriotic flag pie.  Recommended fillings online were blueberry on one side, strawberry or cherry on the other, but that was just too fussy for me.  I made my favorite three berry pie (blueberry, raspberry, blackberry) with a simple all-butter crust.  I used a cookie cutter to cut out stars for the flag.

It is NO FAIL and so simple that I don't even need to pull out my recipe binder.  Six cups of fruit...3/4 cup sugar...1/4 cup cornstarch.  It's not too sweet and the filling is delightfully thick, which is important to those of us who can't stand runny pies.

After this week of treats, I'm going to be ready for a major sugar detox!

Have a great week!