Tuesday, October 27, 2009

in which the blogger offers up yet ANOTHER lame excuse...

all is well here at our house.

well, mostly.

if you don't count the computer, sewing machine and digital camera.

all of which have decided to die in various degrees of severity in the last week.

that's why you haven't heard much from me.

on more than one occasion, i have found myself drifting idly around, wondering what on earth to do with myself.

no computer?

no sewing machine?


but i have managed to find myself a new time-consuming past time.

administering medications via nebulizer.

four times daily.

times two.

BOTH little s have bronchitis.

apparently Dave was hoping that i would use some of my free time to clean.

and G was hoping that i would do some baking.

it's not looking good for either of those things, but as for snuggling on the couch and reading stories?


and double check.

Friday, October 16, 2009

it's a sneak preview for all my favorite readers!

I've been working very hard getting some special stuff ready in preparation for a giveaway that I'll be participating in at Kristen's blog.

on November 10th, she'll be hosting her weekly giveaway, and that week it will be a set of scrappy his~n~hers Christmas stockings that i made.

how cool is that?

but if you don't want to wait until then, or if, perchance, you don't win the giveaway... you can still get yourself (and your brood) your very own stockings. you can go see them here.

another thing that i was feverishly working on all last week was: QUILTS! i had an opportunity to exhibit some quilts in a local fall festival. while i was disappointed to not sell any quilts, i was able to spend more time than usual quilting. and what can be so bad about that?

in conjunction with the giveaway, i wanted to post an on-line quilt gallery for people to see what I've made, and (hopefully) purchase some of my quilts. i anticipate an increase in bloggy traffic after the 10th, so i want to have everything spiffy and ship shape for all my visitors.

the gallery is not quite done yet, but there's lots of pictures (and inspiration), so head on over and take a looky~see!

Monday, October 12, 2009

it's so easy, i know you can do it!

a little while ago i promised a free quilt tutorial from my quilting class that i taught at the Ben Franklin in September. here, (at long last) it is! (and i guess it's been even longer than i thought since i posted last. after trying unsuccessfully to log into blogger, i found that i had forgotten my password! imagine that!)

anyway- this quilt, Trip Around the Scrap Basket, (and tutorial) is taken from the book "Slice 'Em and Dice 'Em Quilts"

while this quilt may look overwhelming with all the triangles, it's actually very easy once you break it down into manageable (and understandable) parts. this quilt is made entirely of squares ~ 9 patch blocks and also larger squares.

before we really get started, remember that it's always important with quilting to have an accurate 1/4" seam allowance. a sixteenth here and a sixteenth there can quickly add up, causing your quilt to not go together properly. that's really frustrating when you've spent money and time on piecing the top. so take the time to check for accuracy- you'll be glad you did later! also, i almost always use grey thread in the top and bobbin when quilting. it's a universal match, and if you wind several bobbins ahead, you can really make good time.

this quilt, as I've already said, is made up of 9 patch blocks. (it's actually very similar to the Tossed 9 i pieced last winter.) the center square of the 9 patch is always the same- in my case, the yellow. the inner 4 blocks are your lightest fabric (tan) and the outer 4 are the colors that you've chosen to make predominant in your quilt. (blue and brown). look at my square below to help make that a bit clearer.

the selection of your fabrics is actually the most difficult part of this quilt. it is very important that the center square is different in color and/or value from all the other fabrics that you choose. and the lights need to be LIGHT ~ not just sortakinda light. (and don't use muslin either, that's too 1980's!)

i chose a multitude of blues and browns for my quilt. I've laid out all the fabrics that i used in my quilt, just to give you an idea. my quilt is significantly bigger than the one in the book, so i needed lots of different fabrics. (this is where we all do a happy dance for the invention of fat quarters~ a great way to build your stash without alot of money)

since the center square is the "dark" and the inner 4 are the "light", that leaves us with "medium" for the outer 4. it's important that all your fabrics be of the same value. an easy and quick way to determine if all your fabric choices are "keepers" is to take a digital picture of them and then change it to black and white. you can see above that all my fabrics "read" with the same "value". there are no fabrics that jump out at you. again, this is very important to the design of this quilt- you want the eye to travel around the quilt, and not get stuck on any particular fabric.

if you're still with me at this point, you're home free! the rest is easy-peasy! these squares are all 3 ½". (including seam allowance) you can either strip piece them, or do it the traditional way. (which is square by square) the orientation of the outer 4 blocks (my blue and brown) makes absolutely no difference. trust me on this one. just make sure that you've used an equal amount of each color.

once you've pieced all your 9 patch units cut them up into 4 equal sized blocks.

now, here's where the really interesting and intriguing part comes. from all your blues and browns, cut squares that are 4 3/4". draw a line from corner to corner diagonally. then match this plain square to one of your quartered 9 patches. with a 1/8 seam, sew down either side of your drawn line.

make sure you orient your quarter 9 patch unit like is in the picture. trust me on this, too.

next, cut the new unit apart on the drawn line. press, with the SA towards the square.

after you've done this to each of the quarter units of the original 9 patch, you'll have 8 new blocks.

here's what happens if you're not paying attention and orient the square units the wrong way on the quarter 9 patch. since these are the only 2 that i did wrong in my whole quilt, I'm not feeling too bad about it! (and besides, i needed this example to show to all my students, right?)

for each 9 patch that you sew, you'll get 8 of the new blocks, so plan accordingly. my quilt is 14X18 units square. that means i only had to make 32 9 patch blocks. with quick and easy strip piecing, surely that's not an unmanageable number! with an inner border of 2" and the outer border at 4" my quilt finished at 67" X 83"

if you click on the picture of my completed quilt, you'll be able to see how to arrange all your squares. if you have a design wall, more power to ya! otherwise, wait until the kids are in bed and lay it out on the living room floor. you'll want to do this to make sure that you don't have 2 like fabrics next to each other.

i quilted this quilt (in a evening) using invisible thread (and a walking foot, of course), and stitch-in-the-ditch. (the backing is brown)

if you really love this quilt, but don't want to make your own, it's for sale. contact me if you're interested in buying it. soon my quilt gallery will be up and running, so you'll be able to see some of the other quilts that i've made.

this quilt was fun (and easy) to make, and since the old-fashioned 9 patch is one of my favorite blocks i really enjoyed the new challenge and look that resulted from this old standby. already I've had one of my children drop a not-so-subtle hint that this quilt would make a wonderful graduation-from-college gift.

I'll have to ponder that one for a spell.

8 women signed up for this class, and i remembered to take pictures of 3 of the quilts. you can see the great variety that is accomplished just in the different fabrics chosen.

Sondra made this quilt for her dog (!)

Carla's grand daughter will be the happy recipient of this quilt.

and (???) made this quilt for her bed. notice that she did hers differently, and it turned out just fine. all her 9 patch squares used only blue (in the outer 4), and her other square units were brown exclusively. i was worried that it would not work, but obviously this is a beautiful quilt!

if you decide to make a quilt of your own using this pattern, please feel free to ask any questions about some of the important information I'm sure I've inadvertently omitted.

and by all means, e-mail me a picture of your competed (or not) quilt! I'd love to see what you've made.

so would my 8 other faithful readers!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

i would even go so far as to say that it made 26 hours in the car worth it!

when we took M and N down to Bob Jones University in August, the highlight of the trip was that Papa and Nanny drove up from Florida to spend time with us.

the girls regularly talk to nanny and papa on the phone, but it had been over a year since they saw them.

it took the little girls some time to warm up to the real people behind the loving voices on the phone, but both A and B were so happy to see their grandparents.

we didn't do anything more special together other than visit and spend time talking and catching up.

A is quite happy and secure in the knowledge of how much her papa loves her.

she loved interacting with him, and teasing him, as well as being teased right back!

baby B was a little bit more reserved and hesitant to be so exuberant, but she was full of smiles and giggles too!

i had a special quilt that i wanted to give Bud and Joyce. even though they live so far away, and we rarely see them, it's no doubt that they love our whole family. i wanted to give them a little something to let them know how much they mean to me, and how much we all love them right back.

our visit was much too short, but we were so happy to see them, and are looking forward to seeing nanny and papa again.

hopefully sooner rather than later!

Friday, October 02, 2009

but only if you're a world famous blogger...

on the first Friday of every month our downtown has a little shindig. there's discounts at all the stores, giveaways, activities for the children and just general frivolity and happiness. all in the spirit of Spend Money At A Local Buisness And Buy More Stuff.

i usually go and participate. that is, me and my faithful sewing machine, Miss Bernina.

we go and demonstrate whatever quilting class I'll be teaching that month at the Ben Franklin. it's just a time for me to sew in piece and quiet, and chat with any prospective students, encouraging them to come to my classes.

this month the Dry Goods Store had a little contest. an apple bake-off. with gift certificates being awarded to first, second and third place.

i thought that it would be fun to participate, being the domestic homemaker that i am.


so i signed up early in the week, paid my entry fee, bought a handful of granny smith apples and this afternoon while the girls were sleeping i made PW's Upside Down Apple Cake.

i figured that the odds were pretty good for me to win something.


i got fourth place.

and that's only if you're being polite.

there were only three other entries: emergency cake (whatever that is!), apple dumplings and a spicy pie.

so really, i came in last.

what's with that, anyway?

PW got 444 comments on that post, saying how wonderful her cake is, it's so delicious, we had it for dinner last night when George Bush came over, it's my dog's favorite dessert, this cake changed my life and saved my marriage, I'm going to run out and buy a cast iron skillet... blah, blah, blah.


so now we know 2 things: I'm really whiny tonight.

and I'm obviously not a world famous blogger.

(but i guess we knew that already, didn't we?)

next month the bake-off is for a pumpkin dessert.

if I'm done whining about it, i think i might try again.

and no hard feelings, PW.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thursday's Livestock and Garden Report ~ Week 27

although we still have just a few things going on in the gardens, i will reluctantly call this the last L&G post for 2009. it's been a busy growing season for us, but not nearly as busy as it could have been. we'll remember all the things that we've learned this year, and by doing better next year, we'll be busier~ and have more of a harvest. but all-in-all, it's been a good year.

here's a view of the upper garden from the duck puddle. you can see the buckwheat and pole bean cover crop. the soil is not that great, as evidenced by the stunted buckwheat, but we're still working on it!

we did finally pick the beans, and i got enough to freeze for 3 meals. the yield was disappointing, but I'm thankful for what we did get.

note to self: although i did plant these beans (back in July) as a cover crop, i was certainly hoping to harvest a fair amount of beans, both to eat and to sell. however, all that was available at Agway were pole beans. i wasn't able to stake all the beans, so we just let them crawl over the ground. they did their main job of shading out the weeds in an area of the garden that had just been tilled up. (we decided halfway through the summer that we wanted less yard and more garden) however, pole beans apparently really do need to climb. (go figure) consequently, the beans were in all stages of maturity- from blossoms to tiny beans to nicely edible to cigar size. i sorted them out for people consumption and animal consumption and just called it a lesson learned.

we pulled all the beans out, and tilled the green stuff under,

including the buckwheat. already we have a winter cover crop of annual rye and oats in. with the rain that we've received in the last few days, the shoots are already peeking through the soil. both of these crops are not winter hardy, so at some point we'll roll out some of our mulch hay.

last week we butchered our 2nd crop of chickens. that was the batch that we had such a miserable time with, having only 21 chickens to butcher! (out of the 50 that we started with!) 15 were sold, and the remaining 6 i put in our own freezer.

the chickens are winding down as well, with our final batch of 50 4 weeks old today, giving them another 6-8 weeks to get pleasingly plump.

the first crop of green beans that i planted is still growing! we left them on the tomato cages and just planted the rye around them. the girls love to go out and pick beans for the chickens.

the chickens are always eager for something green, and B is quite adept at poking the beans through the wire without getting pecked by a greedy hen.

we are getting almost a dozen eggs nearly every day, and it's hard to keep up with that production rate! i freely share with some friends from church~ but still...

soon the older hens will be destined for the pot. it seems such a shame (disloyal, even) but they're getting ragged looking and old. from the 5 older hens, we're only getting 2 or 3 eggs a day now, so there's definitely some slackers in there!

B is still enjoying some of our fresh peppers- what's left of them. i forgot all about them down in the lower garden, so we definitely could have had more for the freezer if i had remembered!

the big red pig was ready to butcher, and i was able to sell him at the last minute to someone we found through our butcher! Dave still wants to try our hand at butchering our own pig, and since it's still too warm to do that, i was so glad to not be stuck with this gigantic pig!

we got him all crated up and i drove him on his final journey to the butcher shop. we got a call later in the week that he hung at 223lb! that's some pig!

we found this praying mantis while working down in the lower garden

and had a fascinating time looking at him. a praying mantis is a cool looking bug~ in a freaky sort of way!

but the really big news is~ we bought a potato plow! with 5+ rows of potatoes to dig, any help we can get is appreciated!

it's actually a horse drawn walking plow (close-up pictures later, hopefully) but easily adaptable to our horses Massey and Ferguson. i was elected to drive, while Dave wrestled with the plow behind. the idea is to run the tip of the plow right down the middle of the potato hill, and all the potatoes just pop up and out, neatly laying in the row for the happy helpers to gather up.


there's definitely a technique for using this implement, and we're still learning. but even with several stops and starts, we were able to dig a whole row rather quickly.

we filled the wagon with Red Pontiac and kennebec, plus a few renegade pumpkins.

next year perhaps I'll grow all my veggies like we did these pumpkins- benign neglect. (and come to think of it, the whole gardening thing would be so much easier!) we did not plant one. single. pumpkin. seed. and at the beginning of the season, i was even pulling the baby pumpkin shoots like weeds! but still~ we got a respectable showing of pumpkins, did we not?

however, i can say that the philosophy of benign neglect does not work for flower beds! i really need to get out and weed before we close everything down for the winter.

i also have bulbs to plant- garlic and spring flower bulbs. i ordered some bulbs from gurney's and Dave got me tons of tulips and daffodils for my birthday so i can see another gardening day in my near future!

I've never planted garlic before, so I'm looking forward to trying it. i still haven't decided where in the garden to put them- i don't want to forget about them and accidentally till them under in the spring!

our freezing and canning is also winding to a close- just some grape jelly (today) and applesauce (next week) to do yet.

we also need to put the cover back on the high tunnel. it's getting chilly here at night (no frost) and the broccoli and cauliflower are doing well. hopefully well enough to actually produce something!

I'd also like to get a planing of lettuce and spinach in the high tunnel and cold frames. i should have done that a few weeks ago, but never got to it... i have noticed, in all my second plantings, that the plants do well, but take longer to mature and produce.

so- i guess that's it! we learned alot, and had a good time with our gardens this year. before you know it, the seed catalogs will be pourning in again, encouraging us to dream and plan for next year.


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