I’d really like to be a better baker and the only way that can be accomplished is PRACTICE! After making three successful batches of cinnamon rolls, today I decided to bake some blueberry muffins. They turned out great!
I know for most cooks, these are mindlessly simple accomplishments but I’m starting from below-scratch with my lifelong aversion to baking and long line of disasters. I’m hoping to build my confidence with a string of successes and develop a love of the craft.
The house smells wonderful and DH definitely enjoys treats from the oven accompanying his afternoon and evening coffee. He’s always complimentary and never leaves any to go stale. He even cleans the kitchen after my baking sessions!! Unfortunately, he doesn’t eat them all and doesn’t wrestle me away from them. Willpower has never been my strong suit!
I’m sure baking is only a current trend. During our hot summers, I avoid using the oven so I will bake as long as Spring temperatures continue. I’ll give some thought to developing a new talent for Summer…. maybe I should try exercising! Not likely!!
I’ve been really pleased using my second twined rug but for the third, I decided to try tackling the stack of used jeans we’ve saved through the years. Many of them have holes in the fronts and the leg backs are faded but still usable.
I spent several days ‘de-boning’ jeans; removing the rear pockets, cutting away the zippers, yokes, waistbands and belt loops. What a chore!! I’ve gone through nearly half of them, cut the legs into strips and began twining a new rug.
For this rug, I’ve used high-quality muslin for the warp. The light, blotchy denim is from the jeans back legs and the mottled areas are where pockets were once located. The super-dark stripes are made using new midnight blue denim I’ve had in the stash for nearly 20 years. The muslin was cut into 2 ¼” strips and the denim is cut into 1 ½” strips. It takes real muscle to manipulate the thick fabric but will result in a tough, heavy duty rug/mat. It’s slow going but I’m enjoying it and plan to continue making dark and light evenly distributed stripes.
After experiencing a freeze just before Easter, we’ve planted more in the garden. We currently have 30 tomato plants, 18 bell peppers, 12 cayenne and jalapeño plants, a short row of cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, cantaloupes and watermelons. We’ve decided against planting peas this year as we still have lots in the freezer from last season. This frees up lots of space. If the garden is as successful as it’s been in previous years, we’ll have plenty of produce to enjoy fresh and to can.
I purchased a new car last week. Kia has brought out its 2016 models and offered irresistible discounts and incentives on the 2015’s still on the lot. I took advantage and bought a Soul. The entire experience was completely painless as I had no trade-in to negotiate and with perfect credit, I wasn’t required to make a down payment and got 0% financing!
I’ve continued to enjoy making rag rugs and finished my second one. I’m now debating whether the next rug will be made with denim from old jeans or the large stash of rip-stop nylon. Either will be fun and very useful.
DH is trying to cram his week with outdoor activities. The weather is beautiful and he wants to thoroughly enjoy it before he starts another round of cancer treatments next week. His hair has grown back wonderfully thick and curly (more so than before) and I hate to see him lose it again. I’m thankful he will have reliable transportation for the long trek to Houston and I’m hoping this round is not as hard as the last. We don’t really know what to expect.
I love the slower pace of living in the country. I love never hearing a car alarm and never feeling the need to set one. It’s so peacefully quiet here, we seldom listen to music and never watch TV. We like the sound of silence (accompanied by birds or crickets or frogs). We also love no traffic jams, long lines at the store and knowing our delivery drivers’ names. It’s really a laid-back existence….
Dinner was simmering on the stove (Smothered Cabbage and Sausage) and I was sitting at my desk reading some Facebook posts when I heard ‘splat’. It wasn’t loud but unfamiliar. I thought about it for a minute then turned to see what may have made the noise. I discovered a 3 foot long dark-colored snake in the doorway leading to the master bedroom/bath. I grabbed the first thing near (the white plastic tote lid) and threw it. Not effective! The second thing I grabbed was my cellphone (so I could take a photo – pardon the quality!), all the time hollering for DH to come. These days, he’s rarely inside but he happened to come in for a cup of coffee and to check when dinner would be ready. He came quickly.
We instantly forgot about dinner. DH handed me a new mop he had purchased earlier and he ran outside for a hoe. As DH tried swishing the snake out the back door, it had other ideas and crawled toward the left behind my sewing boxes and up the wall behind books on shelves there.
DH is the kind of guy when he decides to do something, NOTHING stands in his way. Using the hoe, he proceeded to pull all the books and knick-knacks off the shelves. Stuff was flying in all directions! Then he flung my quilt frame, rug frame, rug supplies, sewing supplies, computer supplies, etc., etc., etc. After totally wrecking my room, he was able to drop the snake into a giant empty plastic tote and relocate him WAY out back. When that was done, DH politely dished up his dinner and enjoyed a peaceful evening. I was stuck cleaning up the total disaster he left behind. Nope, I wasn’t completely happy and was exhausted by bedtime.
We have no idea how the snake found his way inside but this isn’t the first time it has happened. This one is the biggest one yet and may have been inside for months! We figured he was behind the books and decided to move across the top of the door frame toward the utility closet (or vice versa). The splat I heard was him falling from the door frame onto the tile floor. For his length, he was really skinny so might have been changing locations in hopes of better hunting. I wish him well in the woods behind our property.
Though I love to cook (and totally enjoy eating!), I’ve never found pleasure in baking. When push comes to shove, I’ll put together a bundt or upside-down cake (I despise frosting!) or a pie (nut, fruit cobblers, cream or meringue) but I simply don’t enjoy the process. Other than making bread in a machine, I avoid making pastries completely.
Today’s an exception. After watching half a dozen YouTube videos, I’ve decided to try my hand at making cinnamon rolls. I love eating them and since we often have overnight visitors on the weekends, they would be a welcomed addition to our breakfasts.
Thus far, the process has been simple. The ingredients are basic and it’s almost magical to proof yeast and watch dough rise (as it’s doing now). Before long, the dough will be rolled around brown sugar/cinnamon, cut and baked. I’m looking forward to the heavenly baking smell.
With today being St. Patty’s day, I will make traditional corned beef with cabbage, carrots and potatoes for our dinner. My Scotch/Irish red-gone-grey-haired DH and I will feast!
Recently, I’ve been working on another rug. The scrappy colors in this one are more muted than the last. I’m about half finished and planning the next. In the evenings when I grow tired of ‘rugging’, I pick up String Pyramids and continue the quilting process. It’s coming along nicely too.
Later: Was hoping to snap photos of the finished cinnamon rolls but as soon as they were frosted, DH dug in and ate 3. I had 2 myself and can confirm they are YUMMY! I’ll make these babies again soon!
After reading Mary Etherington’s blog Country Threads Chicken Scratch, I noticed she offers a booklet and DVD with instructions for making rugs from scrap fabric. Upon reading through her blog archives, I decided to order. ‘Rugs from Rags’ and the accompanying DVD arrived quickly.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve not derived great satisfaction recently from quilting. I needed a change and since we also can use some new rugs, it seemed a perfect match. DH immediately began gathering materials to build the simple frame as I dug out fabric.
I was astonished to find a large stash of ‘why did I purchase this?’ fabric…. stuff I would never use for clothing or include in quilts. Yes, I have purchased extremely marked-down fabric without a purpose and it is often set aside and never used. I’ve also received ‘frequent customer’ free bundles of fabric I won’t sew. These are all perfect for rug making!
I rotary cut (with a pinking blade) an old, faded bed sheet into 2″ strips for the warp and various mostly-cotton or blends for the ‘twining’ (the part of the rug that shows). I aimed for a good mix of colors as I wanted the rug to be ‘scrappy’.
The instructions for the frame were very easy to follow. Thanks to DH, it was assembled in less than a day and I quickly became completely absorbed in the rhythm of rug-making.
In 2 days, I was nearly half finished with a rug measuring 38″ x 25″. I was surprised how tired and achy my arms, shoulders and hands became. Though I often use these same joints and muscles in quilt-making, they were being used differently…. a shock to this old body!
I slowed down over the next few days and included doing other things around the house (cleaning!!) to allow my shoulders to rest. I only worked several rows on the rug each night and the work went quickly.
After only 8 days, I have a beautiful completed rug that will last at least a lifetime. It is completely machine washable because I used all washable fabrics. The colors are bright and fun and it is comfortable to walk upon. I plan to make several more!
The next rug on the frame will be very similar to this one to use the leftover strips (and more). I then plan to make a rug for outside the kitchen door using rip-stop nylon I already have in abundance. I’m anxious to see how well the nylon performs.
DH has tilled the garden and today is out planting the first few dozen tomato and bell pepper plants. My fingers are crossed we have timely rains this growing season.
It seems since November and finishing Bright Hopes baby quilt, I’ve been wandering aimlessly without an inspired purpose. My hands have wanted to stitch but I’ve had no projects at a stage requiring hand sewing. I find it difficult to sit in the evenings with idle hands.
During the day, I enjoy machine sewing and have continued working on the Wild Goose Chase batik top. All the triangle units are complete and I’ve begun assembling them by machine. I like the pattern and fabric but the project doesn’t excite me and still requires no hand stitching.
I decided to dig out String Pyramids and prepare it for hand quilting. This top is twin+ bed size and after conferring with DH, he suggested I use a lightweight batting to make a warm weather quilt. I already have Thermore batting in my stash so decided to use it.
I found some pieces of wide fabric to use for backing and began basting the quilt. It took 3 days to accomplish this as basting is my least favorite step. During this time, I tried to allow the top to tell me the design I should hand quilt. I could only ‘hear’ mumbles and no definite answer but I kept thinking about the old traditional Bishop’s Fan design and how I’ve never done it. Well, the time has come!
After some research on the Net for marking a Bishop’s Fan design, I made the required tool from clear plastic salvaged from a disposable salad container. It’s perfect!
Because of all the seams in the quilt pattern, I decided the fan arcs should be no closer than 1¼” apart. Using a Dremel, I drilled holes into the clear plastic.
I stick a stylus into the hole farthest left (in the point) and with a Crayola marker in the next hole, I’m able to draw a perfectly curved arc. I repeat the process with each hole until I have a 5-arc fan marked on the quilt. Though the tool is a bit crude, it works wonderfully and will last through marking this quilt. The price was right and repurposing a throwaway makes me smile!
FINALLY, I have a hand-stitching project to keep my hands busy and busy they will be for quite a while since it takes 2-3 evenings to quilt one row of fans on the quilt. All the seams in those String Pyramids make the job a challenge but I’m enjoying the mindless work as I relax and watch movies. It’s fun enough to keep me up an extra hour each night!
I just noticed DH in the garden patch removing last season’s tomato cages and trellises. He’s been feeling pretty well so I’m wondering if he plans to crank and wrestle the tiller. I haven’t dared to hope for a garden this year but if he’s able to till, I can certainly plant. After last year’s big, BIG garden, I’m hoping he will limit the size to a more manageable proportion.
Spring is here!
As I’m preparing to see my 65th year (horrors!), I’ve decided to prove I’m still young enough to learn a new trick. At this advancing age and with many finished quilts to my credit, I’m still curious to try different methods to achieve new results. Foundation paper piecing is my newest challenge.
In the photo are the first triangle units (loosely laid out) of a foundation paper pieced ‘Wild Goose Chase’ quilt top. This pattern and instructions are available online (pricey!!) but I was able to develop my own patterns (printed on used printer paper) and follow general instructions I found on YouTube.
The big benefit of foundation piecing is accuracy. It also offers the ability to assemble intricate designs including small slivers of fabric with total success. This first top is making me comfortable with the process before diving into something more intricate and detailed. Thus far, I’m loving it!
We were delighted with a visit from Jacob last weekend. He was able to stay over to accompany DH on his Monday oncology appointment for the biopsy results. The news was not as good as we had hoped but not as bad as it could have been. We’re learning through this experience to pray for miracles and adjust to reality. We continue to be hopeful.
At the closing of 2015, I can’t help but look back at the highs and lows the year has brought to our home and hearts.
At the top of the list of blessings is our son’s success in his life. Though his job is often stressful, he seems overall happy and healthy. We are tremendously proud.
Our most difficult struggle came with DH Bob’s cancer diagnosis. After two surgeries and multiple treatments, he continues to work at regaining his health. He improves a bit each day and I pray for continued betterment. Other than minor issues, my own health has been uneventful.
This year marked our most successful in gardening. Although we had enough rain to rot most area gardens, our sandy hill garden thrived. I am so thankful our shelves and freezer are full of the bounty.
The quilts I’ve finished this year include:
- Bright Hopes baby quilt gifted to Braxton
- Scrappy Split-16 queen+ quilt for my bed
- Wonky Stars sofa quilt for the foot of my bed
- Batik Winding Ways sofa quilt gifted to Hearmon and Theresa
I continue hand stitching on String Pyramids quilt nearly every day. The twin+ top is almost complete. There are also some unfinished quilt projects in the stack but I continue to slowly work on them too.
This is also a year that saw me sewing. I’ve made 2 PJ pants for Jacob and 5 for Bob. Bob also got a new hooded robe. Jake has added 5 new shirts to his office wardrobe while my clothing stash increased with 2 long-sleeved tees and a few pairs of shorts. Yesterday, I finished a stuffed dog bed for Lolita (filled with fabric snips, crumbs and threads. The cover is removable for washing. She LOVES it!
Overall, our year was full of blessings and as we ring in the new year, I wish you good health, success, laughter and love.
Had several days of celebration with son Jacob before Christmas. We visited, giggled and ate like kings (standing rib roast, yellow and red potatoes with green onions and Texas Cream peas from our garden [frozen]) . . . all so tasty! We had received our gifts from him several weeks ago (the calendar doesn’t dictate our lives!) but I recently made things to give to him.
Because Jake’s girlfriend/roommate mentioned he wears his flannel PJ pants often, I made him another pair with lightweight navy blue fleece. These are less obviously PJ’s and can be worn outside or for a quick run to the Dollar store (a common occurrence). Though our weather is currently too warm to wear fleece (80°F!), I have faith we will see cold weather in a few days.
I also made two shirts for Jacob. Both are seersucker with chevron pockets and back yokes. The first is charcoal and white stripe with a tiny silver thread along each stripe. The fabric is gorgeous with a subtle bling when the light catches it just right. It has a rounded collar and contrasting inner band. I thought I’d have to hide this shirt to keep Bob from swiping it. He absolutely loves it and even tried it on to find it fits him perfectly. I’ve made note to make him a new shirt for his birthday. With his recent weight loss due to chemotherapy, most of his shirts swallow him. Though he has a closet full of clothes, I know he would love a new, well-fitted shirt.
The second shirt I made for Jacob is aqua and white stripe seersucker with a standard collar, contrasting collar band and chevron pocket and back yoke. This is my personal favorite simply because of the color. I’m a fool for any fabric in the aqua through teal color range. I find it so appealing.
I also made Jake a huge batch of beef jerky from 2 large shoulder roasts. I presented him with one stuffed quart bag to enjoy during his visit and saved another bag until he was departing. He loves the stuff so much, this is the only way to make it last in hopes there’s some to share with his girlfriend when he gets back home. I sent homemade cookies with him too.
Jacob stuck around to take Bob for his recent biopsy at M.D. Anderson in Houston. We won’t get the results until after the first of the year. Our fingers and toes are crossed the cancer is gone or can be removed via surgery without spread, especially since the oncologist says Bob can’t tolerate any more chemo. The last treatment darned near did him in.
After Jacob departed late Tuesday, I began to get a sore throat and fever. I had been to the doctor’s office several days prior for routine blood work so I figure I picked up a bug there. The nurse was sneezy. Jacob was also suffering with an upper respiratory bug when he was here. Two days later, Bob caught it so needless to say, our house was suffering.
Except for potty breaks, Bob stayed in bed for 4 days, eating nothing and feeling like death-warmed-over. He’s so anemic, I was really worried this illness might turn into pneumonia. We did nothing for Christmas day but suffer. Finally a week after it all started, though we are still coughing and not 100%, we are up and eating and handling some of our daily affairs.
I will say, this hasn’t been my favorite Christmas season because of illness, Bob’s surgery, the miserable 80°F temps/99% humidity and deadly storms in the area. Last night, the Dallas area was hammered and it looks as if it may be our turn today. We’re prepped and as ready as we can be.
I haven’t posted lately because I’ve been busy making gifts. I’ve taken a few pictures and will share them after they are given.
We don’t celebrate the holidays in any traditional way and never on the day the calendar suggests. We dance to our own tune and keep things as stress free as possible. That being said, I still like giving (and receiving) gifts.
I had a conversation a couple of weeks ago with DH about his illness and chemo treatments. I frankly told him he CAN’T die because I won’t be able to afford fabric if he does. He chuckled but said nothing at the time.
Late last evening, FedEx came to the door with a weighty package. I knew I hadn’t ordered anything though my name was on the shipping label. I tried to hand it off to the hubs but he said it was for me. Hmmm. I opened it to discover a full pack of 90 (!!!) fat quarters of Benartex Fossil Fern fabric. I was floored. Fossil Fern has been a very favorite fabric line for years and I’ve been privileged to have a very few small pieces visit my fabric stash.
Oh my stars! I can’t believe how beautiful it is and the box full is much too pretty to tear apart and use. I’ll be petting this fabric for a while before I’ll bring myself to cut into it. What a NEAT gift that I’ll enjoy for quilting years to come!
Because the chemotherapy treatments have left hubs extremely ill and severely anemic, when he’s not too nauseous to eat, I’ve been feeding him healthy, iron-rich foods. He’s mostly enjoyed eating the bean soups I’ve canned. Today, I’m replenishing some of the store with navy beans flavored with lots of ham, garden tomatoes and bell peppers, onions, carrots, yummy herbs and spices. The house smells super as they simmer. I’m hoping to pressure can 7 pint jars with enough left for dinner tonight. We will enjoy them. I think we need cornbread!