Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crisp Fall Temps

We took the motorcycle out for a spin the other day when it was still nice and sunny. It has turned cool here in North Dakota. The leaves are falling from the trees - or rather being blown down from the trees with all the windy weather we are receiving now and for the last several days. Our motorcycle trip was fairly short since it was cool. The last ride for the year. We drove along the river and through the Fox Island boating area where all the flooding took place last spring. It was a pleasant ride. I love this time of year.

I've spent the better part of the last two days sewing, doing machine embroidery and cutting up fabric for more quilts. I'll post some pictures of my projects tomorrow when I get more photos taken. The leaf quilt I've been working on now has all its leaves embroidered. I just need to finish stitching the strips on the last blocks so I can put them together. Yeah! This quilt has been so good for using up a good chunk of my scraps. Of course there's still lots more to go. I don't seem to ever run out of scraps. That's okay, though. I absolutely adore a good scrappy quilt. Tonight I started cutting out fabric for my next quilt. This one should sew up real quick. It does not have any embroidery on it. This time it's just basic sewing and quilting. I'm looking forward to getting these quilts put on my quilting frame. It will be fun to play around with the Pfaff Grand Quilter and my Grace Next Generration quilting frame.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dishing Up Some Goodies in the Kitchen

I spent some time today cooking in the kitchen. It was the perfect day for cooking and baking since the temperature was so nice and cool. It felt just like the air-conditioner had been turned on all day and we didn't need to run it at all. Along with the cool air we got lots of wind and a bit of rain. So . . . it was the perfect day to stay indoors and do some baking and cooking.

We had all the fixings to make eggrolls. As soon as my hubby heard this info he was so gung-ho to have me get started on this. When the boys were growing up at home I could make a double batch of eggrolls and between the three guys in the house they didn't last very long. Now that it's just the two of us here at home one would think they'd last a while longer. We'll see. My hubby is talking about taking them as snacks to eat on his break-time at work, having some for breakfast, lunch and supper. I asked him if he wouldn't be tired of them that many meals in a row. The response was, "Of course not!" We'll see how long that opinion lasts. I stuck nearly half of them in the freezer just in case he's had his fill by tomorrow.

They're packaged in sandwich size zippy bags so they're quick to grab and pop in the microwave for a snack. I love them with sweet and sour sauce. Two makes a nice size meal for me. I know hubby munched on more than that.

The other baking project I worked on today was chocolate chip cookies after I was done with the eggrolls. I'd been craving cookies for several days but it seemed too warm to have the oven heating up the kitchen. This was exactly the kind of day to make them. I doubled the batch and put up lots of zippy bags filled with cookies into the freezer. I'll move some of them down stairs to the deep freeze in a day or two when I go shopping to restock the cupboards.

The last week or so I've been working on going through the food in our cupboards to sort out and use up some of the older stuff. There have been some expiration dates showing food past its prime. I hate to have spent the money on stuff only to find I ignored it so long I had to throw it out. I went through the fridge and tossed several things this weekend that hadn't even been opened but was past the expiration date. I know there's still more stuff in the cupboards to look through on the high shelves that I have to use a chair to get to.

I ate a couple cookies while I baked the last of them. They were yummy - really hit the spot with my craving. With being in the kitchen cooking up some good smells, the dogs wanted to be my best, closest friends. Near the end of the bowl I separated out the chocolate chips from some of the cookie dough and made two cookies for each of our three dogs. I gave them each a few bites tonight and saved the rest of their cookies for them to eat tomorrow.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jackets and Flu Shots

A honeymoon celebration commemoration in the form of his and hers jackets.The kids Josh & Samantha wanted something to commemorate their honeymoon after the wedding. They asked me to embroider their jackets with information about their honeymoon. So this was my project for the afternoon. I designed it with my Husqvarna Viking 4D Professional embroidery software program. Once I got their approval on the embroidery design I embroidered the jackets on my Creative Vision. Since it was just the lettering the embroideries went pretty quickly.

A view of my patriotic bandaid after getting my flu shot.My hubby and I got our flu shots today. Mine didn't hurt. In fact I could hardly feel it at all. I commented to my hubby that for all we knew he could have got the real thing (since he said he could feel it) and I could have got a placebo. Later though I could feel just a bit of a twinge there in my arm. We got patriotic bandages with images of the US flag on them. Mine is still there - on my arm - protecting me as I type. Okay, enough of the goofyness and jesting. On to more really, truly important things . . . like sewing!

I'm planning to do more sewing tonight after I'm finished posting here, checking my email and other miscellaneous stuff like that. I want to do some playing around with couching threads and yarns so will be heading down to my sewing studio shortly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Drawing on the Past

A pen & ink pointilism drawing I made from a photograph.I found one of my uncles on facebook recently. He asked if I was still doing artwork and mentioned he still had a drawing I gave to him when I was young. I'm waiting to see a scan of that drawing to help me remember it. Meanwhile I thought I'd rummage through the artist's portfolio satchel I've kept over all these years. It contains drawings and artwork from my early years when I used to spend more time sketching, drawing and painting. Now days my artistic outlet is mostly sewing related. It has been fun to reminisce and look through these early works.

This pen & ink drawing is in the pointillism style. It is created through drawing the image with dots of ink. I used a Rapidograph pen to create it over many hours and days of work. I normally start off this type of drawing with a lightly penciled in drawing. As I pen enough dots to define the basic image I then erase the pencil marks. The remainder of the pen & ink drawing continues to be made by adding more and more dots of ink to compose the image. Dots are placed more frequently and closer together to create the darker areas, less dots for the lighter areas. You keep adding dots to create the detail, step back to take a better look from a distance to see where more detail is required, then keep adding more dots till you call it done. Obviously they take a while to create. I can remember being so absorbed making dots to create the image - in the zone - and before you know it your hand is so sore from holding the pen and several hours have gone by. I usually had classic rock (and sometimes southern rock) blaring away on my stereo at the time. Aah, the life of an artist. I loved it!

A postcard design presenting our 'staycation' in North Dakota that summer.I have to say I don't actually remember drawing this little egg guy. I believe I used it as an image for postcards? It's about that size, slightly larger. It could have been for a North Dakota postcard competition? I do remember being involved in decorative painting at this time. I made and painted all kinds of little wooden egg dolls with jointed arms and legs that moved. I made lots of these and sold them at arts and craft fairs when the kids were little. I spent many nights painting away on wood projects after the kids went to bed. The house was always more quiet then so I could get in the zone and concentrate on my painting. I'll have to see if I still have any of those little egg guys hanging around here. They were pretty cute.

I created this flyer for a Children's Christmas party.When my husband was stationed in Germany the kids and I were fortunate enough to be able to go overseas with him. He came home one day to say they needed someone to make up a flyer to advertise a kid's Christmas party for the squadron . . . and he had told them I was an artist and good at drawing. This is what I came up with. Notice the jagged lettering. Way back in the day when we had dot matrix printers. Boy did we think we were cutting edge with our own home computer at the time. I can tell you they've come a long way with graphics programs since then.

Artwork I drew for a Christmas Party flyer.Here's a closer view of the drawing. Again this was created with a very lightly drawn pencil sketch first. Then start inking the image and erase the pencil lines as soon as you have enough of the drawing to tell where you're headed with it. I can remember testing several different brands of ink. Some would smear when you went to erase the pencil lines. I usually liked to make as few pencil lines as possible to I didn't ruin it when erasing lines and have to begin again. Here again, we've got better inks and tools to use now compared to then. Actually more art is created right on the computer these days than hand drawn. I don't have an illustrator program yet, but have always wanted one. Guess I'm still 'old school' with that. LOL!

I made this pen & ink drawing for a friend. She used it for their wedding announcement.I did this drawing when a friend at our church asked me to make up a drawing to use for their wedding announcement. She was a teacher, thus the little old-fashioned school house in the background. He was a farmer, grew wheat and had cows, and liked to go hunting. I sketched out the idea in pencil, got her approval on my idea, then created the drawing. I added in the roses with the wheat because I was still doing decorative painting at this time. The roses are reminiscent of the rosemaling style I loved so much at the time.

Closer view of wheat farmer in my Farmer Couple Wedding drawing.Following are more close-up views of the Farmer Couple drawing. If you click onto the images you will be able to see them larger to see detail better.

Closer view of the teacher/farmer with milk cow in the Farmer Couple Wedding drawing.It has been awhile since I have taken the time to sit down and draw any pictures. I have had some ideas I want to explore for a website I am creating. Things seem to go slow. Sometimes I wish I could move faster on these things. I seem to get easily sidetracked with lots of other interests. Most of my time is spent doing stuff around the house, on the computer, sewing, cooking, baking, etc. The days are never long enough. Oh well.

Closer view of the teacher/farmer in the Farmer Couple Wedding drawing.I assembled together some materials this summer for working again with pen & ink, colored pencils (for color obviously) and various types of drawing papers, tracing paper, pens, rulers, curves and other drawing tools. I have yet to sit down and draw anything recently though. I'm thinking about it. That's where it begins. Nothing happens without a thought toward it first. As with anything else in the material world . . . it begins in the mind with a thought then gets transformed into reality in the physical world. So . . . I'm thinking about it. Smile :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thread Catchers & Snippet Baskets

Straight-on view of thread catcher I sewed last weekend.Last weekend I worked on a bit of sewing, among other things. I made two of these thread catchers from Susan E. McConnell's website: Hanging On by a Needle and Thread. She gave instructions to make a Selvage Snippet Basket. I chose to make mine with scrappy fabric strips I had laying around as left-overs from cutting 2 1/2" jelly roll strips. The strips I used would have been trash worthy because they are so thin. I usually don't keep anything less than one or one and a half inches wide. But I downloaded her pattern at the end of August and thought they would make a good substitute.

Angled view of the same thread catcher shows top stitching around perimeter.Everything I used on my thread catchers were scraps and recycled stuff from my studio. I have lots of old buttons in my stash to use as well as fabrics, threads, batting, etc. It doesn't take much to put one of these little baskets together. They are fairly fast depending upon how decorative you care to make them.

Another thread catcher without top stitching.They are each made with paisley fabric liners. But each is a different paisley with different colors. The second basket pictured was actually the first one I made. You'll notice I chose to top-stitch around the perimeter of the top basket. After making the first one I felt this would assist in keeping the edges from rolling. The other option I was considering was quilting the layers prior to sewing the basket sides. Since I wanted to keep them as simply made as possible I just went with the top-stitching. If I were to make more I would try some quilting to see how they looked that way. This 10" square area would have only needed a tiny bit of quilting so that would go fast. Maybe next time.

Another angle of this thread catcher, both have paisley lining the interiors of the containers.I chose four matching buttons for these two baskets. I think mis-matched buttons would look great and give it more of a scrappy look. I've seen a number of different ways to attach buttons for a more decorative look. Especially if you want a more decorative look with the buttons. You could attach them like crazy quilters sometimes do with extra decorative touches around the buttons. There are lots of possibilities to make these basket look more original and unique. These would also be cute with machine embroidery on the flaps or centered in the interior of the basket. It's a neat pattern for a great little basket. Give it a try.

I've been thinking about what to do with my little baskets. I already have a thread catcher by my embroidery machines. I thing one of these will go near the machine I have set up for regular, plain old stitching. I like to save snippets of thread for use in a future project. They look interesting when couched down as a decorative technique. I may use the other basket near my computer on my desk to hold memo pads, paper clips and other miscellaneous objects. They make great little organizing baskets for these kinds of small objects that get easily scattered.

I was just thinking the size of the 10" square could be altered to create a variety of different sized boxes. They would have to remain relatively small to hold their shape well unless some other stiffener was used inside instead of the quilt batting. The tim-tex and decor-bond type materials come to mind as stiffer substitutes for a slightly larger basket. Even left-over pieces of stiff interfacing could be used to help them hold their shape. Just a thought.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Grape Harvest

We've got purple Concord grapes that have turned sweet to the taste with ripeness.We harvested the grapes from the back yard this afternoon. Well most of them anyway. There are lots of the purple Concord grapes still on the vines. This should be enough to get started on for now. In the past we have just boiled the juice to make grape juice for drinking. Once I made grape jelly, but it was my first time at that and the jelly didn't turn out thick enough to jell properly. We used it as syrup on pancakes and to drizzle over toast. That was way back in 2004. Since then I've done more reading on the canning subject and think I'm up for trying this again.

Three years ago I planted green grapes thinking I was planting seedless - come to find out they have seeds.Last year we lost nearly all the green grapes to the birds. Today while picking the grapes I saw we may have been putting all the blame on the birds when we should have been looking further. While picking the grapes I saw lots of bees eating the green grapes. It was quite interesting. They land on a grape, bite into it and keep going, burying their heads and upper bodies halfway into a grape to get the juice. Then they fly off and come back to get another big mouthful. It never occurred to me to think the bees may have been the ones to consume our grape crop last year. Of course it could have been both the bees and the birds.

I bought a Granite-ware canner and jars this year to try my hand at some canning projects again.When I tried canning jelly for the first time in 2004 we borrowed the canning supplies and just purchased jars that year. This year I invested in my own canning equipment and some new jars and lids. I got this Granite-ware canner with the interior jar rack, the jar lifter/grabber tool, a canning funnel, etc. I am hoping to make good use of these over the upcoming years. At this point it will be used mostly canning grapes for jelly and juice. We didn't plant much in the way of a garden this year so I don't have much more than that to can for now. I hope to plant more next year. I've been reading up about Square Foot Gardening and checking out a few other garden resources. We plan on redoing our patio to create an area of the yard to make a Square-foot garden next year. At this point I haven't made it to very many farmer's markets, but may pick up some more produce over the next few weeks for more canning if all goes well. I was hoping to put up some cucumbers as pickles. We'll see how it goes.

So far we've harvested five containers full of grapes from the backyard.For now I've got these five large containers filled with grapes. We picked all the green grapes we could see, and about half of the Concord grapes. In the process of harvesting the Concords we managed to discover where a hive a bees had made a home under the railroad ties that border that area of the patio near the grapes. The bees were getting pretty stirred up with us messing around getting grapes. At that point when we saw them starting to be agitated we decided it was time to take a break to go indoors and cool off with a cold drink. Besides, we had collected about all the grapes we could deal with for the moment anyway. We'll let the rest stay on the vines a few more days to sweeten more. If the bees or the birds take the rest before we get back out there, we're willing to share.

These Concord grapes will make great juice and jelly. Yum!I have no idea yet how many jars this much grapes will fill. It will be interesting to see if I've got the right amount of pectin and jars for this project. Since I'm so new to this I'm bound to learn a lot for next time. If we've got any expert canners reading this blog, leave me a comment about the most important thing to watch out for - me being a newbie and all, I'm sure it will come in handy. What's your best canning advice?

Tomorrow I've got sewing plans with my friend. That will take care of most of the afternoon. Then I'll be busy picking grapes off the vine to prep for jelly-making. What fun!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Yummy Long Weekend

Chicken BadgesThese chicken badges are another embroidery item I have been working on to keep my machine running. They are for a little project I've been slow to complete. I need to make a few more for my project. I might post more about that sometime later. For now I'm just trying to wrap up a few unfinished projects.

It has been a great weekend so far. On Saturday we attended a wedding for a young couple who moved into a house down the street from us. It was a very nice wedding for a really nice young couple. Today has been quiet. I've been working on digitizing some embroidery designs, tending to blogs and working on my website. The U.S. Open is playing so the TV has been tuned to that channel off and on throughout the weekend. I've currently got the Hallmark channel showing the Little House on the Prairie Marathon while I type.

Earlier today I made quick bread. Yep . . . you know me, the one who doesn't like to follow instructions exactly . . . I veered off and changed the recipe. Here's the banana bread recipe after I changed it to make a very yummy . . . ta-da!

Almond Banana Raisin Bread
1 stick margarine (I used Parkay, softened in microwave for approx. 15-20 seconds)
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 bananas, mashed (they were just starting to get brown spots)
a generous squirt of Minute Maid Lemon juice (from the squeeze bottle while mashing bananas so they don't turn brown) - this was probably approx. 1 tblspn's worth
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup quick rolled oats (the instant kind, dry measure)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 to 3/4 cup raisins (I just poured a sufficient amount into the bowl)

Generously grease a loaf pan, set aside. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees approx. 50-55 minutes till toothpick inserted comes out clean.

This turns out to be a very tasty fruit/nut bread that is lower in sugar than the typical banana breads. Since we like to cut back on the sugar it would probably taste just fine with only a 1/2 cup of sugar, especially considering all the sweetness of the bananas and raisins. It's yummy, moist and filling. Spread a little butter on a slice once it has cooled off a bit then go ahead and sink your teeth into it. Yum!