Monday, December 28, 2009

Just a Note

Just a short note to say that today's post is further down the blog. It's dated December 21, because that is the date I started writing it. Scroll down and find a week of menus plus a few really good recipes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Greetings!

Jim joins me in wishing you all, children, relatives, friends, acquaintances out there in Blogland, a Blessed Christmas today. May the love, the joy, and the peace of God live in our hearts and in our world today, and in the days to come. Our prayer is that God will create justice in the hearts of all, that the poor may be blessed by the rich and that peace may come in place of war.

Our little country church held a Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols last night. Because this is the year of our church's centennial celebration, many of us dressed as we would have in 1909. We sang only carols that would have been sung in that year, and although we used electric lighting (candles would have given the Fire Marshal fits!), we sang from song sheets and hymnals. I played organ for the service and Brian was on piano. For special music three young men sang "We Three Kings", and for another number I played "Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne" on violin, accompanied by Brian. It was a lovely service, appropriate to those of a century ago. Though we were not many gathered in our little church, we had a joyful time together.

Today is a day of leisure for the two of us. Daughter #1 is at work as an RN in an emergency department. Daughter #2 is at her in-laws, who live much closer than we do. Son #1 is at work in Yosemite as a mechanic and tow truck driver, and son #2 and his family are also at in-laws (same situation--it's a much shorter drive). Actually, we discourage our children and grandchildren from visiting at this time of year. The roads can be treacherous and the airports can be a nightmare.

We are spending the day by the fireplace reading and knitting, with the Christmas tree lit up. If it becomes warm enough (say -18 or -16) we plan to do some cross country skiing from our back door and over the fields.

In the meantime I'm baking a bit. When the kids were home there was always fruit cake and banket (a Dutch almond ring) for this time of the year. But since it's just the two of us, we just can't get rid of all that baking. So instead, for breakfast this morning I made a Fruity Scone and now there's some Boston Brown Bread in the oven.

Fruity Scones:
1 orange peel, zested
1/2 cup of orange juice, used to soak
1/2 cup of dried cranberries.
Mix together
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt.
Cut 5 tablespoons of butter into
the flour mixture (I use my Cuisinart for this).
Beat 1 large egg into 1/4 cup of milk.
Transfer flour mixture to large bowl.
Add the cranberries and orange juice, and the
egg and milk.
Stir gently until all the flour is moistened.
Shape into a circle on a cookie tray covered
with baking parchment.
Pat the circle down, and score into 8 parts.
Bake at 375 for 18 minutes.

Enjoy warm with a good cup of coffee, and don't worry about the calories.

And to replace fruitcake as an afternoon snack, here's my take on

Boston Brown Bread
2 1/2 cups of freshly ground whole wheat flour
(Or 2 cups of w.w. flour and 1/2 cup white flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt.
2 cups of low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup of dark molasses
1 cup of raisins (rinsed with warm water).
Divide into 3 coffee cans, thoroughly greased with margerine.
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes.
Let stand in cans until cool.
Turn out of cans.

Can be frozen. Tastes great with jam or with cream cheese, or with both, or with any other suitable cheese (cheddar, provolone, etc.)

This is a very low fat, low sugar treat which we enjoy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Down, Two to Go

This afternoon I finished the first waistcoat, the one for our younger granddaughter. It turned out so well, I'm really pleased. I love the colour, and it feels so soft and comfy. The button needs to be sewed on yet, but I don't have any blue thread. The waistcoat needs to be blocked. It's a little smaller than anticipated, since after I started it, I didn't like how loosely knit it was, and switched to the next size smaller needles. It's a size 7-8, and the granddaughter just turned 7, so I think it will be fine.

Her sister's waist coat is coming along well. The back is finished and this evening I started knitting the left front.

For this first one I did change the pattern in a few minor ways: I knit the body in one piece, dividing when I reached the length for the armholes. That took away the need for a seam under the arms. After the garter stitch lower border, I started with row two, a wrong side row. That puts the nicer side of the cast on to the outside.

The larger version for her sister was too big to fit all the stitches on the needle, so I'm knitting that in sections: back and two fronts.

But the biggest change in plans was this: I liked the pattern so much that I bought pink yarn to make one for the youngest granddaughter, their cousin, to wear when she goes to ballet lessons. So that explains the "one down, two to go."

This past Sunday we had another little trip out of town. We went to Rocky Mountain House where Jim preached and I played organ for two services on Sunday. That church often invites us, and we enjoy going there.

We've become quite good friends with a couple about our age there, and we've often had dinner with them. On Sunday two of their grown boys were there with their wives and six children, aged 17 years to 6 weeks old. I enjoyed having young children around so very much. The two youngest are little girls, one 6 weeks old and one 17 months old. They are little dolls, with dark curly hair, very expressive children. There was also an angelic blond boy, almost three, who had the most amazing ability to turn down the corners of his mouth when he wasn't pleased. I could hardly keep from laughing at him! He wanted some craisins, and that was fine, but Grandpa tried to sneak some mashed potatoes along with them, and little Derek insisted that he wanted that craisin there in an empty spot on his plate.

That church has quite a nice organ, and they sing most heartily. Sunday morning we sang the Christmas hymn "As With Gladness Men of Old." When we got to the final verse, two sopranos sang the descant. What a joy it was to be in the midst of all that music, both hands and both feet busy on the organ, and all the people singing with that descant floating above it all! I was transported! That's one of my special memories from this particular Christmas season.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Week of Menus

(The date of this posting is deceiving. It spent just over a week as a draft. The actual posting date is December 28.)

Just thought it might be interesting to record our dinner menus for one week.

Sunday we were guests at friends' home. The dinner was plentiful: ham, sausage chunks, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, peas, carrots, applesauce, pineapple slices, coleslaw, raw carrots, broccoli, and yellow pepper with dip, wine, juice, Saskatoon pie with ice cream and cheesecake with Saskatoon topping for dessert. No wonder we were stuffed!

Monday at home: grilled pork (from pork tenderloin) with sweet and sour sauce, oven baked sweet potato chunks garnished with olive oil, celery salt, ground cumin and ground coriander, steamed broccoli, salad of fresh tomato slices with onion and peas, choice of Italian or Ranch dressing. No dessert.

Tuesday: Fresh spinach salad (spinach, mushrooms, onions, grated mozza, choice of dressings), Tilapia (gently heated in pan with dab of butter and sliced onions), Basmati rice (with onion and green, red, and yellow peppers), asparagus (from the freezer.) We have a prolific asparagus patch, and eat as much as we can in season. The rest goes into the freezer (boil 3 minutes, drain, freeze).

Wednesday: whole wheat spaghetti noodles, sauce: 3 mild Italian sausages, cut into rounds, sauteed with 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms chopped, 1/2 large onion chopped, green, red and yellow sweet peppers chopped, 1 clove garlic (all I had or I would have used 2 cloves). When the saute is ready, add 1 jar of Classico Tomato Basil sauce, and heat through. Add some dried oregano and a little ground anise seed. Serve with focaccia bread and red wine. Finish with a serving of frozen vanilla yogurt.

Thursday: Salad: fresh tomatoes, cut into 12
sections, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with dried dill. Main dish: Prime Rib roast (1st time I've done Prime Rib!), mashed potatoes, vegetable combination of carrot slices, onions and celery slices, boiled lightly and dressed with a little butter, sauteed mushrooms on top of prime rib, accompanied by a glass of red wine.

Friday: Christmas Dinner: turkey thigh and drumstick, slow roasted for 3 hours at 350 in an oven bag, mashed sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar, boiled Brussels sprouts, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing (from a box, alas), accompanied by a glass of red wine. Maybe a dish of frozen yogurt later on for dessert.

Here's a wonderful recipe for a big batch of stuffing, cooked in a large crockpot.
1/4 cup butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 (8 ounce) can of mushrooms, drained
(OR use fresh mushrooms)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
12 cups (or whatever) toasted bread cubes
2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups chicken bouillion
1 pound pork sausage, cooked and drained

Put all ingredients into large crock pot, stir thoroughly.
Cook on high for 1 hour.
Reduce to low and cook for 1 to 2 more hours.

Note: 22 slices of bread, cubed and toasted,
yields 12 cups of toasted bread cubes.

Saturday: We had our neighbors, our good friends L and M, over for supper this evening. I had made a huge pot of chili on Monday, refrigerated it for two days to let the flavours blend, and then froze it in quart containers. I took out four quarts in the morning to thaw and gently heated it in a crockpot throughout the afternoon. Here's how we serve chili: crumble some corn chips in the bottom of a large soup bowl, spoon hot chili over the corn chips, top with grated cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped onions and fresh tomatoes, and finish with a dollop of sour cream. Add focaccia buns on the side, along with a glass of red wine.

For dessert: a slice of homemade cheesecake with a spoonful of homemade strawberry topping.

1 pound (or more) ground beef, cooked and drained
1 1/2 chopped onions
3 large carrots, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
5 cups sliced mushrooms
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 14 ounce can of black beans, drained
2 28 ounce cans of red kidney beans, drained
1 28 ounce can of white kidney beans, drained
2 28 ounce cans of Romano beans, drained
2 28 ounce cans of diced tomatoes
1 13 ounce can of tomato paste
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup red cooking wine
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 bay leaves
Combine all ingredients in a BIG heavy pot, and simmer for the afternoon.
Remove the bay leaves and serve. (Or leave them in and give a prize to the person who finds them in his/her bowl.)

4 pkg (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups heavy cream
6 eggs
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 10 inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with baking parchment. Wrap the outside of the pan with aluminum foil, to form a collar above the pan.
Beat the softened cream cheese until smooth. (Use a few of the eggs with this or your mixer will suffer.)
Add sugar, then cornstarch, butter, cream and eggs, beating well after each addition. Pour into pan. Place pan in a pan filled with 1" of water.
Bake for 1 hour or up to two hours--until the top is golden brown. (I usually bake it for close to two hours, and it's never been overbaked.)
Cool on a wire rack for 3 hours.
Take out of pan and refrigerate, or cut (into 24 slices) and freeze.

This is a VERY rich cheesecake. Made with these ingredients it comes to about 300 calories per slice (when divided into 24 slices). Top it with some nice homemade strawberry topping.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Gardening

Since the cold weather broke, we've had gloriously sunny days. That's especially welcome as the days are at their shortest now. And when the daylight fades, I turn on the Christmas tree lights, the lights in the garlands above the kitchen cupboards, and the icicle lights on the peak of the house. It's very cheery.

But this morning was solidly overcast. The atmosphere was milky and it looked as if snow were hovering in the air. Around noon, the sun started to break through. I was just a little too late to get a really atmospheric picture of this little spruce laden with snow. We are thankful to have a good snow cover insulating the perennials and shrubs. Besides that, it's a beautiful scene outdoors these days. Our daytime highs have been in the single digits and the overnight lows dipping down to around -14C. That's pretty comfortable winter weather.

My little experiment with container gardening in the solar space is going well. These two containers were seeded late in September, and I've been picking from them for about four weeks now.
It stays very cool in the solar space, just above freezing at night, so the growth is very slow. But I'm able to harvest one spinach and one lettuce salad each week.

You can see that a few lettuce seeds accidentally fell into the spinach pot. No problem, just let them grow up together.

Other years I've seeded pots like this in the spring, starting them in the greenhouse when we begin heating it in March, and transferring them to the back patio when the weather warms sufficiently. But after the success of this fall seeding, I'll be sure to do this again. I'd much rather pick it from our own pots than buy it in a plastic bag that was shipped from 2,000 km away.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree!

FINALLY!!! We've had a break in the weather. Tues-
day evening the temperature began to edge upward. In Alberta we are treated to several "Chinooks" during the winter. A Chinook is a warm wind from B.C. The wind climbs the Rockies, and as it descends on this eastern side, becomes warm air. A Chinook is signified by an easily recognizable cloud arch. I'll take a picture when I can. So first you see the arch in the sky, and a bit later the wind begins to blow. It can be fierce! Anything not tied down will blow away. I've lost the Christmas wreath off the back door many times, only to find it in the evergreens beside the driveway.

This week's Chinook was not like that; it was a gentle warming from -38 to +5C, without the wild winds. By Wednesday afternoon it was mild enough for Jim to take our Christmas tree, which had been resting in a pot by the back door, into the greenhouse to let some of the snow burden melt off. Yesterday we took it into the house to finish the warming and put it into the Christmas tree stand. Last night I decorated it in a very simple manner: just some coloured lights, some snowflakes made of plastic looking like ice, candy canes and hand crocheted snowflakes, all different, which I made some years ago.

I like to vary the way the tree is decorated from year to year, and we're both pleased with how it turned out this year. Here's a close up that shows some individual decorations. The glassy looking flake at the central lower edge is one of the "icicles" made of plastic. My good friend M. gave me several one year. They came from a gift shop in Rosebud, just like the plate I gave her this year. Then I bought some more when we were there, so now we have a dozen. They reflect the light beautifully.

Our Christmas trees come from our own little nursery, which Jim started maybe eight years ago. We have a triangle of land south of the greenhouses which he's planted with spruce, pine and a few other species. In the fall we have a fellow with a tree moving truck come from Red Deer and put about 25 trees into great big pots for sale the following season. He usually moves several other trees to M and L's, or to another customer in town. This year one of the trees just kept falling over in the pot. It was just too big for the pot, so that tree was earmarked for us to use at Christmas. We think it's a really nice, full little tree.

The litany you hear wherever you go now is, "Are you ready for Christmas?" What people really mean is, "Have you bought and wrapped all the presents you feel obligated to give this year?"

Decades ago, when the kids were little, we decided to opt out of that particular pressure. They were a little taken aback when we told them there would be no more presents at Christmas. But we sweetened the sentence by adding that at some time during the year without any special occasion, they would receive a nice present. When they were a little older, I made it a special occasion, taking out each one alone for a special evening with Mom. Jim stayed home with the rest of the family, and the special child for the evening went out for a restaurant meal and little shopping trip with Mom. We would buy something that we'd never consider otherwise. For instance, one year I bought Daughter #2 a bathing suit (a bikini for a teen) for $80. Never would have done that ordinarily, but it was sure fun for both of us!

I hope the kids, all now grown ups, have pleasant memories, in spite of being deprived of the annual Christmas present bash.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Pageant Practice

Dear granddaughter #2 celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday. But there wasn't much time for a party, because she had to be at a long rehearsal for their church Christmas Pageant. She's playing two parts, one of which is the wicked King Herod. There weren't enough boys to go around, so she agreed to be King Herod.

This pageant is a BIG production with lots and lots of kids involved. So when they were all there, and the pastor managed to get them lined up and somewhat quieted down, he asked them all to close their eyes and have a prayer before the practice. Silence settled down and pastor glanced around to see if all the little kiddies were ready for prayer, but, wait, there was his own son fiddling around with the king's crown. "IF YOU DON'T PUT THAT CROWN DOWN IMMEDIATELY, IT WILL BE PERMANENTLY EMBEDDED IN YOUR HEAD!!!" the stressed father roared. One of the little angels opened troubled eyes and asked, "Is THAT the prayer?"

I thought this was funny enough to share.

Last night was so cold we used both the new winter duvet, and the summer quilt on top of it. We think it was -40 when we got up this morning, but it's hard to tell because there's snow on the thermometer. Today the sun shone brilliantly and there was hardly any wind. I bundled up in my long red parka and walked to our neighbor's house to give that lovely plate, found in Rosebud, to my good friend M. It's such a treat to find a present for a friend that delights both the giver and the receiver.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some Seasonal Fun

The deer that were munching on the garden came back with several friends. As long as they are busy with the shrubs and perennials we don't mind being the deer buffet, but when they begin munching on the fruit trees, we go out and chase them away. The little dog Honey just sits observing them until Jim goes out to scare the deer. Then she jumps up and runs after them--until one turns around to confront her. Then it's a beeline back to the safety of Jim's company on the back step.

I got busy with the pruning shears this week, day by day "shrinking" the Hibiscus until this is all that was left. I'm leaving it by the south window for a few days, and when we bring in the Christmas tree tomorrow, will put it by the south window in the Solar Space, which is just above freezing this time of the year. I'll let it rest there for a month or so, and when the Christmas decorations are put away will bring it back up and begin fertilizing it again. In about three or four months it should be ready to bloom again. This time I plan to take it out of the dirt, rinse the roots and put it in fresh soil. That may help cut down on the infestations of aphids and white flies that afflict this plant.

One of the fun events this past week was the Christmas party for the town quilt club. Only ten women were there on Tuesday evening, since it was so cold and the country roads were iffy. But we had a good time playing silly games and laughing, and finally exchanging our small Christmas gifts. I brought a 16 month quilt calendar, complete with 11 full size patterns. I took home a small ornament of Joseph with Mary and baby Jesus. I had been looking for a nice figurine along that line, but most were a little too "cutesy" for my taste. The one I received is lovely, and small enough not to dominate the living room.

Then on Thursday we had our last meeting of the year for the country quilt club, and I did a quick little experiment of a kaleidoscope quilt that I learned from Elaine Adair's blog. I grabbed some leftovers that were full width of material. Cut them in strips of 1" to 2 1/2", and sewed the strips together. Cut the strips into alternating triangles, and worked out a setting for the five full blocks that resulted. I'm not unhappy with this. It will probably be a medium sized table topper. I could have combined it with some background blocks and made a lap quilt, but this was a much more dramatic setting. It's not all sewed together yet, but when it is I'll bind it with the dark red to finish it off.

Then on Friday Jim and I went to the matinee at Rosebud. There's a buffet meal, some time to look at the art galleries and gift shops,
and then a wonderful presentation in the opera house. I always stop at the "Rosehip," a little gift shop that carries homemade soaps. My absolute favorite is "Prairie Sage" which combines sage, cedarwood and bergamot essential oils. It's a marvellous face soap that I just love. I usually buy three bars (they're not big) but there was only one. So I'm trying out a goat milk moisture bar and one called "Coulee Ceilidh" which combines orange, cinnamon, clove and ginger essential oils with oatmeal for a gentle scrub.

I also found the gorgeous plate there, which I just had to take home with me.

"A Child's Christmas in Wales" is the current production at Rosebud, and, like all their offerings, is wonderfully done, a real delight, this one with lots of good humour. We totally enjoyed it.

Then on Saturday we went to Red Deer. We each had an eye exam, and were happy that our prescriptions have not changed. We're good for another year.

We followed that up with some shopping. Jim got a pump to empty the septic tank, and I found some pink yarn plus some pink "fun fur" yarn to make another "waistcoat" for the youngest granddaughter. The other two waistcoats are for Dear Son #2's girls. I'll post pictures when those projects are finished.

We topped off a relaxing week with a concert at Red Deer College featuring a choir and a symphonic wind ensemble--lots a good music. And then a quiet night at a Red Deer Motel 6. What a lovely weekend!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winter Scene

This morning when we got up the thermometer registered minus 35C, (-31F), the moon and the stars were still shining, and the wind was very low. I heard a coyote howl once, and looked out toward the garden. There were three deer standing motionless in the moonlight. They stood still for so long I wondered if they had died and frozen in that position. Then one of them swivelled its ears, and I knew they were still living.

Our dog Honey was holed up in her box in the garage, a few sheets of rigid insulation under the box, and a sleeping bag over the box, forming a snug little cave for her where she nestled into an old crib blanket.

All of our activities went on this weekend, not quite as per normal, but with surprisingly good attendance. I missed the rehearsal on Saturday afternoon because our car was stuck in a snow drift in our driveway. Jim had it dug out by 4 p.m., so we did both make it to the performance of the Community Christmas Concert that evening, Jim to be in the audience, and I to be in the string group. That concert usually has standing room only, but Saturday evening the auditorium was only half full.

Sunday morning we picked up Jan and went to church, wondering if anyone would show up. Our pastor is gone for the week, and the pastor coming from a town one hour away was stuck in a drift along the country road. An angel on a tractor came by and pulled him out, and he was there on time to preach. The congregation gradually gathered until we had a respectable crowd. Jan and I played a violin/piano offertory on one of the versions of "Away in a Manger"

Then it was home for a bite of lunch and a chance to revel in some bright sunshine. That's when I took the above photo to show that even though Alberta has some awful storms, heavy winds, and low temperatures, winter can be beautiful.

The second performance of the Christmas Concert was very well attended. The parking lot at the large church in town was packed down to the last stall. I had to park a block away. This time a capacity crowd enjoyed the varied program: two choirs; two small bands of bass, guitar, drums, piano, clarinet and trumpet; trumpet duet; "radio" (circa 1945) skit; handbell choir; violin trio (3 young boys); string ensemble, and grand finale with both choirs, and all instruments. This particular concert has been held for many years here, a gift to the community from the Arts Academy. It has always seemed like the real beginning of the Advent Season to me, just as the performance of the "Messiah" by the Calvin College Choir and Orchestra in the Grand Rapids Civic Auditorium signalled the beginning of the Christmas festivities when I was growing up in Michigan.

Don't these traditions just do so much for our lives!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Time to Trim

Hibiscus is now about 4 feet tall (including the pot) and covered with buds. One day recently it sported 10 blooms at one time. Of course, this is transient glory, as the blooms last only one day. But it's time to trim Hibiscus down to about 8". The Christmas tree will be coming in soon, and with the furniture rearranged to accommodate the tree, there just isn't room for Hibiscus. So today I started cutting it down. I take off about three limbs each day, as more would traumatize the plant. When it's trimmed all the way down, there won't be any leaves left. Then it will go for a rest in the solar space downstairs, until maybe a month from now when it will start putting out new branches. By March it should be blooming again. It's really too bad to do this because of all the buds coming up. Pretty much every branch has a bud at its tip, and several are close to opening.

Time to trim the Philodendron in the kitchen, too. Time to move it to the freezer space and put up the Christmas garlands above the cabinets.

Both of these plants have been with us for a long time already. They submit to this annual reduction, and come back ready to grow luxuriantly. All the greenery above the cabinets and hanging down comes from just one plant, and that in a small pot.

Yesterday morning I finished the second tree skirt, the one for Daughter #2. This turned out very well, with minimum mix-ups. The gold lame really makes it sparkle. The reds are actually deeper than the photo shows. I was going to bring it to the P.O. and send it off yesterday, but by 9:30 in the morning a terrific snow storm had begun.

It snowed hard for most of the morning, and although it hasn't snowed that much since then, we've had very heavy wind which whipped it all into 3' and 4' drifts. When we got up this morning we couldn't even read the
thermometer on the balcony, as it was snow covered. There are large drifts by this south window and by the west window.

Jim did manage to get out of the driveway and pick up a Globe and Mail (Toronto newspaper) which we like to read on Saturday. But he said it was a total mess in
town. We think the County and Town are waiting for the storm to end before they begin plowing out the roads. Ordinarily our road is cleared promptly, as it is a school bus route. Of course, there's no need for school buses today.

I'm supposed to go to a rehearsal at 2 p.m. and be there for a program at 7 p.m. tonight. I really don't see how that's a possibility today. The Community Christmas Concert was just one of several events scheduled for this weekend. Last night there were supposed to be a parade of lights, Christmas carolling, hot chocolate available on Main Street, and shopping until midnight. All of this was cancelled as it would be impossible during the storm. So I guess I'll be waiting and hoping for a phone call that cancels today's activities as well.

Nevertheless, we are very happy that we've started the winter with a good snowfall. We need lots and lots of snow as our level of soil moisture is far too low. So bring on the snow!!! Fortunately both Jim and I visited the library on Thursday, so we're prepared for a long weekend. We'll just stay home and have some hot chocolate by the fireplace.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I had hoped to show you the back of the "waistcoat" for the older granddaughter, the one whose birthday is on December 12. It was coming along just great! and was already 17" long, out of 19 3/4" needed, after a quick start on Saturday, and lots of knitting on Sunday and especially Monday.

Sunday we drove to Brooks for the rehearsal and two performances of Handel's Messiah. It was a beautiful winter day, bright sun gleaming on fresh white snow, and the roads were blessedly clear. We arrived during the noon hour and got a room at the Super 8, actually, a suite with two fireplaces. I had thought that maybe we should reserve a room for that night, based on our previous experience in Brooks. In the 70's one June weekend we went for a little jaunt around Alberta to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We ended up in Brooks and looked for a motel room. Not a room to be had!! and we finally were offered what was actually a broom closet in the Brooks Hotel. We took it, and were awakened the next morning by the maid coming in to get her equipment.

But this weekend was a different story. I think we were the only people in that wing of the motel. It was a great room and perfectly quiet all night.

The rehearsal was very poor, but you know what they say, "Bad rehearsal, good performance." The 4:30 performance was o.k., but needed some tweaking. The 7:30 performance was much better. It was a smallish stage (in a school auditorium) for the 100 or so singers, so they had to stand on risers for the entire concert, mercifully brief at about 70 minutes. But counting the rehearsal and the two performances, by the end of the evening, the choir had been standing for over three hours.

At the end of the second performance, just before the "Hallelujah Chorus" a soprano fainted, and knocked the soprano in front of her off the stage and into the orchestra, where she knocked over the bass player's music stand and fell between the risers holding the cello and the bass. Fortunately, she was only shaken up,not injured, and the fainting soprano revived and said, "I'm all right, I'm all right." She was helped off the stage and the other gal was helped back up onto the stage, and we gave a rousing rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus. A concert that we'll all remember!

After a relaxing start to Monday morning, as Jim drove home, I knitted diligently on the waistcoat, and continued knitting at home until 6 p.m. when my right arm started to ache. Then I quit since I needed that arm to play on Tuesday evening.

So last night we were in Rosebud giving the final performance, a very fun concert because it included two other Rosebud choirs, and the children's group which always gives a good and polished skit at the Christmas concert. I took along my knitting, since I knew it would be a very relaxed atmosphere, and worked on it before the concert and during the first half.

After the concert there were refreshments served, and Susan and I grabbed a bite to eat before we left for home. It was only when I parked the car and gathered up my things to take them inside that I realized I HAD LEFT THE KNITTING BAG BEHIND!!! Alas! It means that there's no way on earth that waistcoat will be ready to be mailed on Friday. It means that dear granddaughter will have to wait for her present.

So today I'm back to working on the waistcoat for the younger granddaughter. It's coming along well, so maybe this one will be finished on time for her birthday.

Sorry, Sweetie!!! Grammy meant well, but just didn't hit the mark this time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Time Flies

Time flies when you're having fun, they say. Well, time also flies when you're busy. And since my last post I've had just one day without "extra" activities. There's been a quilt club meeting, two days of quilt workshops, another 8 hour quilt club meeting (just sewing), and another 9:30 to 4 p.m. quilt club day. Probably so much activity because I belong to two quilting groups. It's all fun, but sometimes gets to seem like too much.

Especially when the same stretch of time included two string ensemble rehearsals, two Messiah orchestra rehearsals, a wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and a wedding plus reception. Fortunately I didn't have to play at the reception, just the rehearsal and the wedding. By the way, it was a lovely wedding. Our pastor commented to me, "This is one wedding I'm just happy to be part of!"

After a very mild November we had a beautiful snowfall yesterday, big, fat, fluffy flakes. And today the sun is shining brilliantly on the clean new snow. What a gorgeous sight!

I started one new project yesterday and a second today. Dear Son #2 has two daughters who each celebrate a December birthday. I usually make something quilted or knitted for them. There was a very attractive "Aran Waistcoat" pattern in Mary Maxim catalogues. When it disappeared from the most recent catalogues, I thought I'd better order it before it was no longer available. It came a few days ago, and yesterday I had time to begin. The first version is for
the younger girl, whose birthday is on the 17th. I'm changing the pattern in a few ways: I'm knitting the two fronts and the back all at once up to the armholes. Then I'll separate them and finish the fronts and back separately. Saves sewing the side seams when the vest is finished. So this is the smaller vest, taking up both needles. It's a light blue/dark blue twist, but comes out looking mainly light blue. It had to go down a half size in needles ( 4 1/2 mm rather than 5 mm) because the kntting seemed just too loose on the 5's.

In following the pattern, the "backside" of the cast on became the right side of the knitting. I wonder why patterns are often written this way. The instructions were to knit 6 rows garter stitch, then a row of knit with increases, and then begin row 1 of the pattern. Following that makes the cast on come out backwards to my way of thinking.

In order to avoid that, I began with row 2 of
the pattern, and that puts what seems to be the right side of the cast on on the right side of the knitting. Don't you think the nice little stitches on the bottom of this second picture look better on the outside than the bumps of stitches on the upper picture?

Well, maybe it's not too clear in these
pictures. I had to use the "memory stick" on
my video camera to take these, since the
battery on the new digital needed to be re-
charged. The colour is pretty poor, and I
even lightened them up in the iPhoto program.

The last pic is a really neat needle for sewing up knitted items that I bought some years ago from "Philosopher's Wool". The needle has a turned up point that makes it so easy to slip in and out of knitted fabric. I took a class at a Sewing and Crafts Alive Expo on how to knit a "Philosopher's Fair Isle". It was great!!! Learned how to knit fair isle with one colour in the right hand, and the other in the left, and not just strand the colours, but actually weave them together behind the knitting. The wrong side of the knitting looks as interesting as the right side.

Ann Bourgeois and Eugene Bourgeois are the originators of "Philosopher's Wool" and their fair isle technique is available in a beautiful book, "Fair Isle Sweaters Simplified" published by Martingale & Company, ISBN 1-56477-311-6.

I'm using the "tapestry" needle as a cable needle, since I've never bothered to buy a cable needle. This sturdy needle for sewing together knitted fabric works just fine.

This morning I went to our local wool/fabric shop and picked up a darker blue for the older granddaughter, and started working on the one also, since her birthday comes up first, and I have to have this vest ready to mail by next week Friday. Wonder if I can finish it on time!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Outdoor Projects and F.O.'s

Our wacky weather this year included a very cool dry summer, hot weather in September (our first 30+C [85F] days), very heavy frost early in October, including several snowy days, and now FINALLY in November we're having lovely fall weather. Today we had a high of +15C [55F], when our average high would be only +2C. It gives us the chance to get our fall work done. But I wondered what Jim was busy inspecting down by the pond in the front yard. So I finally went out to look.

He had begun a project that he wanted to do
this summer, but never had time for. He's building a small waterfall in front of the spruce tree at the north end of a little decorative pond we dug in the front yard.

There was a rather boggy spot of low-lying land near the front of the property, and we decided quite early on not to fight that tendency, but to take advantage of it. We had a backhoe come in and dig a large hole about 8 feet deep, filled it with rocks, (to provide drainage), and then scooped out a shallow pond around it.

The first lining, two layers of black plastic, was all too soon pierced by deer hooves, so Jim did some research and found that the very heavy black plastic used to line oil tank containment levees would do the job. Since he installed that we haven't had problems with leakage. This past summer he saw a lovely little rock waterfall in some friends' backyard, and that appealed to him.

With this fine weather he was able to begin constructing his own little waterfall. At this point he was just running water over the rocks with a hose, to check if the positioning was good. Next spring we'll get a submersible pump, and circulate the pond water. It makes a lovely trickling sound that will be a bonus in the landscape during hot weather. It will probably also help the water quality in this small pond.

I've used the good weather to get some fall work done also. You heard about the window washing. Well, I also managed to get the icicle lights hung on the peak of the house, get the car washed, and get the garage cleaned up. Now I feel prepared for winter.

Here's a pair of wool socks I knit for Jim, to keep his cold feet warm during the coming winter. Socks make such a good knitting project to do in the car, so I was busy with these during our summer trip.

Last week I really wanted to finish some quilting projects, but only managed one F.O., the first of the two Christmas tree skirts. This is the one that I made the stupid mistakes on, but in spite of that, it looks very nice. The reds are a little deeper tints
than is evident in this picture. The "grout" is gold lame, left over from D.D.#2's wedding dress. I was having lots of trouble with it fraying, when one of the women in the town quilting club suggested using iron on inter-facing. It worked like a charm.

This week I'd like to finish the other tree skirt, and provided that turns out well, that's the one I'll send to D.D. #2.

There was lots of music going on lately also. Our string ensemble gave its first concert of the season a week ago Sunday. We combined with the chamber choir, each doing half of the program. We were missing two members, who were out with the H1N1, and since we are a small group, we really did miss them! But it went fairly well, and the audience enjoyed both groups.

Now it's time to work on the Messiah, which Rosebud Chorale is going to present the last Sunday and Tuesday of November. So on Saturday four of us drove to Rosebud for a rehearsal. This is the first time I'm playing the viola part, and I kind of miss the busy work that the violins do. I LOVE making music in a group!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Peaceful Scene

A few weeks ago the farmer across the road brought his cattle back from summer pasture to graze the remnants of the cropped field. There is something about watching cattle graze that is terrifically calming. They mosey along with head down, peacefully munching up whatever the combines unintentionally scattered. Once in a while one of them starts to amble away, and pretty soon the majority of them are travelling in a line behind the leader. Then they all settle down again in a new spot.

One interesting thing about this herd this year, is that there is a little coterie of 8 purebread Black Angus that were in the pens together earlier, and formed their own little hierarchy. These eight stick together and shun the "motley" newcomers, preferring their own company, and their comfortable, predictable "pecking order" that was established early on.
I find it so peaceful to sit knitting or doing some handsewing by the front window, looking up now and then at this lovely scene.

Jim designed our landscape in such a way that we have colour throughout the year. In the early spring the Larch are fresh green, and the tulips bloom. The Forsythia add bright yellow and the Muckle Plum sports beautiful pink blossoms. Summer time our landscape is covered with flowers, but in the Fall, we rely on the Asters, the High Bush Cranberries, the Amur Maple, the Burning Bush to give that spark of colour. This Fall we had a very heavy frost early in October, and the leaves all froze on the trees and bushes before they had a chance to colour up. The result was a very dull landscape, as you can see in
these two photos, taken at the same time of year, comparing last year's colour of the Tower Poplar at the end of our drive with this year's dullness. Very disappointing.

This month a lovely young couple in our church is getting married. I have the honor of playing string music for their wedding, and I'll use my viola, with its rich tones. Yesterday I got around to making a present for them, a "marriage banner" from a pattern that I've had for several years but never used. It was actually just a drawing, but since it is quite simple, it wasn't hard to translate into reality.

I made it quite small, just 8 1/2" x 13 1/2", so they can hang it perhaps by the shelf where they keep their devotional books. Not too big so that it's intrusive, but will fit into a little corner somewhere. I always think it's pretty "iffy" to choose something decorative for someone else's home.

The colours, except for the candles themselves, are all different from the pattern's suggestions. And the original had words on it. Rather than clutter it up with words, I printed out an explanation of the symbolism, as follows:

"TWO SHALL BECOME ONE 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.' Mark 10:7-8

This marriage banner portrays the union of two lives, blended in matrimony, becoming one with the Creator of that holy union.

The two pure white candles represent the lives of two pure(ified) children of God. The two distinct flames, representing the separate natures of man and woman, fuse into the greater, more richly-coloured flame, signify that the two have become one in Christ, and that their lives are enriched by the blending of the two. The circle encompassing the flames represents the eternal nature of married love as ordained by God. The deep purple background shows that the two are royal children of the King, our Creator. The small rings across the bottom of the banner represent the outward sign of the inward love, the wedding rings. The fact that there are three rings shows that you are not alone in your marriage--God is there with you. Three rings also symbolize the Trinity.

God bless you richly, P. and K. as you enter this union of your lives in Christ."

One thing remains to be done: the three bronze coloured rings need to be hung from the bottom hem of the banner.

Monday, November 9, 2009

R.I.P., Sam

There are tears on my cheeks right now. Our cat Sam was just put down. The last two weeks he struggled with pain. As long as he sat perfectly still he was all right, but getting up or down caused him to cry. For a little bit we thought he was getting better, but this weekend he took a sharp turn for the worse. His cries of pain were piteous. So we made the hard decision and had him put down this morning.

I will miss him! He was very attached to me, since his mother died when he was only four weeks old, and I took care of him after that. He hadn't had enough nursing, though he was able to lap up enough moisture and eat kitten chow. So for a while he loved to sit on my lap and nuzzle the little pads on my palms just beneath each finger. I actually had to wean him from that by hiding my hands for a while.

Wherever I went in the house, Sam soon showed up. He couldn't be denied when he wanted to go through his greeting ritual. But once he had enough petting and purring, he'd settle down somewhere near and keep me company. He was a good house cat, and never made messes.

Sam really hated wind, rain and snow, but in the summer he spent huge amounts of time outside, roaming around our acreage. When we first lived here I would call to him in the evening, and he would come running. At that time I wanted to keep him safe from the coyotes that come right on our yard during the night. But later both he and our dog Honey somehow knew how to stay outside all night and not tangle with the wildlife.

Sam was a beautiful cat and lived with us for fourteen and a half years. By far the longest any of our cats have survived. So here's to Sam, a beautiful, graceful creature who was close to my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Didn't Plan To

I didn't really plan to wash windows today.
There was plenty of other work to do. The laundry was waiting, more loads than usual since it had been postponed for a while. I don't have a particular day to do the wash, just whenever it piles up enough to make it worthwhile.

But since it was such a lovely day, and the temperature rose to around +10C (+50F) I just couldn't pass up the opportunity. But I did the really, really quick method. With about five inches of hot water, laced with Palmolive dishwashing detergent, and several good big dollops of white vinegar, I quickly soap the window using the sponge on a stick. Blade off the soapy water, rinse with lots of plain hot water (a trick I learned from my friend M. who trained as a hair dresser), blade off the water, and wipe the edges with a dry rag.

Our house is built into a berm, so the main
living areas are upstairs with ground level
access at the back. Fortunately for me, a
balcony wraps around the front of the upstairs and I can easily reach most of the windows. Here's the lovely clean living room window, just sparkling in the sun.

And here's the dining room windows and door to the balcony on the other side of the room. These windows were washed inside and out. The rest of the upstairs windows
had only the outside washed. In the back of the house it was too cold to wash the inside.
I'll have to catch them some morning when the sun is on that side.

Nothing like clean windows to make a house sparkle. Sure am glad I did that this afternoon.

Earlier this morning I had finished redoing
this sweater of Jim's. I knit it for him in 1990, and it's pure wool. The edges of the cuffs had become frayed, so I removed the cuffs and reknit them. The ribbing at the waist was knit one, purl one, and there was just no elasticity left in it. So I raveled that out also and reknit it in a knit two, purl two. The whole redo turned out really well, and now the sweater is ready for another 10? years of wear. The elbows are getting a little thin, and I may need to either reknit them sometime in the future, or sew a suede patch over them.
I had saved a small amount of yarn that was left from the sweater as originally knit, and was also able to reuse much of the yarn from the cuffs and the waistband ribbing. Since the waistband was the last thing redone, I just knit until I thought I was running out, and then began the bind off. There were lots of stitches, and I worried that I'd run out of yarn before it was complete. Look at how close it came! I couldn't have done it closer if I had measured it all out. Love it when something turns out like that!

Well, the moon is coming up huge and yellow behind the shelter belt, and it's time to turn up the thermostat again. Have a cozy evening!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Mini Holiday

Sometimes a little 24-hour jaunt feels as good as a whole holiday away from home. That was our experience yesterday. We had been invited to a fund-raising concert for King's Fold Retreat Centre and promised to come if the weather permitted. After weeks of cold, gloomy weather, the sun came out and the temperature moderated. Right now it's +11C which for the second of November is pretty mild.

We left Sunday morning around 10 and drove west to Airdrie, did a little shopping and then went on to Rock Pointe Church, which is on Hwy 1A, west of Calgary, but a little east of Cochrane. Tisha Murvihill, principal harpist with the Calgary Philharmonic, was donating her time and talent to raise funds for King's Fold Retreat Centre, a non-denominational Christian retreat centre in the foothills of the Rockies. She was playing excerpts from her new CD, "A Quiet Afternoon," for an audience of about 180 people. It was just marvelous. She's very talented and very personable. Meditations interspersed the music, which included "Change My Heart, Oh God," "Create in Me a Clean Heart," and "You are My Hiding Place." The entire two hours was just uplifting and satisfying.

Then we met our friends, who had recently moved to King's Fold where O. is the new director, and went to their home at the Retreat Centre for supper and an evening visit. It was dark when we arrived, so we didn't get to see the spectacular scenery until this morning. When we got up the morning sun had coloured the snow-covered mountains pink, but by the time I got out to take a picture, the colours had changed. Didn't get a very good shot, but this at least
gives you an idea of what it's like there.

O. gave us a tour this morning, and we were very impressed with how clean, neat, well organized and thoughtfully built the centre is. There is a main lodge with bedrooms, meeting rooms, a gorgeous dining room with large windows framing the view. There are several smaller outbuildings, including some cabins for fasting retreats, and a very beautiful small chapel. This picture of the
carved entrance door gives you a glimpse of the care that went into the details. A very peaceful place, surrounded by pines and inspiring views of the Rockies.

Google King's Fold, Alberta for some better pictures and information about the centre. If you live anywhere in the area, I recommend a visit or a short or extended stay. Their rates are reasonable, and breakfast, lunch and dinner are available. That is not "camp food" by any means. The meals are wonderful.

It was a treat to visit with O. and D. and their two little boys. They just recently moved to King's Fold from our small town, and we miss them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Finished Objects

Even though we returned from our holiday trip on the 4th of September, I didn't completely catch up on my blog reading until this week. There was just too much to do! Our little country church celebrated its centennial on October 10, which was Canadian Thanksgiving Sunday. I was committed to finishing these two lovely banners by that week. I had started one of the banners about 9 months ago, but felt that I had loads of time, and dawdled along with it.

Getting ready for our trip I made seven of those inset heart table toppers to give to my cousins as hostess gifts. That was very well received. But it meant that when I got back from holidays, I had to concentrate pretty much on finishing up these banners in time for the celebration. I took the last stitches at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, the 9th. That's really too close for comfort.
I like to be prepared well ahead of time.

The last two weeks, Jan, another quilter and musician in our church offered to help. She ironed on the separate pieces for the Bread of Life banner. Shirley, another quilter, did the stitching on the heads of wheat. I finished the rest of the work on both banners.

We are very pleased with how they turned out. They look lovely up front in the pulpit area. Especially since the walls are painted blue.

My more recent project has been finishing the winter duvet for our bed. This time was about my third try. The first try was the multiple layer batt that was totally too warm for us and went to Daughter #1.
The second try was a single layer of Warm and Natural in a cover of sheeting. That wasn't warm enough for a winter duvet.

The third try was the one in the recent post. I sandwiched the heaviest polyester batt I could find between two layers of white sheets. This picture shows the taped outline on the rug downstairs that helped me know how big to make it. I had ordered a duvet cover from Sears that was 96 x 104" so the batt had to be pretty close to that size.
When I finished stitching 15 seams lengthwise on the batt to hold the polyester stable within the sheeting, I took it downstairs and pinned along the edges just inside the tape on the rug. Then I stitched just inside the pinned line, cut off the extra, and the batt was finished. Someday I might bind the edges, but for now they are secure enough.

Last night we slept under the new duvet for the first time. It felt JUST RIGHT!! Hooray!
The cover is a very smooth, 340 thread count, 100% cotton. The duvet is large enough to reach almost to the floor, and heavy enough, because it's so big, that one person can hardly move it when it's on the bed. But it doesn't feel heavy when you're lying underneath it. I'm SO GLAD!!! This has been a long time coming. Now we're set for winter in Alberta.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More about Duvets and Quilts

Here's a picture of the Pennsylvania Dutch Hex quilt on our bed, right after it was completed. The colours are bright. You can see the lovely pattern of the quilting on the side that hangs down.

Peeking out from under the quilt you can see the new puffy duvet that I made for us to replace the hassle of sheets and blankets. It was wonderful to sleep under in the winter. Lightweight but warm. Now that duvet is history, having been worn out and discarded. The quilt is still on our bed, but the colours have faded terrifically from the sun coming in the window. Too bad!!! I refuse to draw the shades just to protect the quilt. I'm too much of a light and bright lover.

But having found out how peaceful it is to sleep
under a duvet, I decided to make a summer weight duvet for us. With lightweight white cotton for background and left-over red print from an earlier quilt, I made this quilt with a 3 oz. polyester batting for use in the summer. I washed it this morning and hung it on the line. You can see we have gloomy weather again! I pieced this one on machine, but handquilted the perimeter of each square, and then around each of the red print pieces. We've been using this for our summer cover for about nine years now. It's also just wonderful for sleeping in the summer. Lightweight, cool to the touch, and MUCH bigger than the original duvet. We needed the extra width to ensure both of us were still covered in the morning.

When I accuse Jim of hogging the covers, he says he's just helping me not overheat during the night. But I prefer to regulate my covers myself! (Although I do usually spend at least part of the night completely uncovered.)

Our new duvet is not my first try at replacing the original. I had some king sized polyester batts (quite thin) in the closet, having bought them on sale one time. I used two of them and hand stitched them to a layer of warm and natural. I made a "bag" out
of some sheets I had, and put this new compound batt into the bag. Here's a picture of part that I had to cut off, since I had made it huge. In fact, it folded over on the floor on either side of the bed.

It was way too warm from either one of us. But the blooming thing was completely stitched together. What to do?

Daughter #1 complains about trying to keep warm in bed, so I knew who should receive this duvet. I finished it up, bundled it into a plastic zip bag (one of those hardy ones you can buy at SuperStore) and took it along on a plane trip to visit her. She LOVES it. She's warm in bed in the winter now. But that left us without a winter duvet. And that led me to the last post, another try at a winter duvet for us.

At this point I have less than 1/12th of the hand stitching to finish. Then I want to bind the edges, to give them some amount of firmness so they don't fold over in the duvet cover that I bought. When it's finished I'll show you how it turned out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A New Duvet

In 1997 I finished this hand appliqued, hand quilted cover for our bed. I had bought the pattern in 1976, then bought the material and began work on it in 1986. Memorably, the white squares were cut out the day Challenger went down. It was meant to be a leisurely project, and the great fun of it was choosing all the different fabrics for the squares. Some of the squares needed to be redesigned, or changed in size. I chose a theme of three red based squares, three green, three blue and three yellow. The real turkey red of the toothed circles and the binding tied the squares together. Some years there was no progress at all, but eventually the quilt was finished and adorned our bed. I was very pleased with it. It took an estimated 1,000 hours to make. A labor of love indeed.

But now the colours have faded severely, and I am starting on a new quilt. This is the first square of the new quilt. The photo doesn't do justice to the colours, which are much brighter and deeper than in the picture.

For the first 32 years of our marriage we used regular sheets and blankets on our bed. But I hate the feel of the blanket rubbing up against my cheek. I want to have the sheet neatly folded over the blanket. Sad to say, it never stays that way, since Jim rumples up the sheets and blankets together. So 12 years ago I made a duvet to use instead of sheets and blankets.

Why did I bother to make one? Because the one I ordered from Sears was way too hot for me, and too noisy for Jim. Noisy? Yeah, it had a kind of polished cotton cover that crinkled quite loudly whenever one of us moved. It didn't last even one night on the bed. The next morning it was sent back.

So I bought the heaviest batting I could find, plus enough yardage of plain, light weight, white cotton, and made a duvet. It measured 90 x 100 inches, was light weight, gave a nice level of warmth, and quiet. It was too heavy to quilt, so I tied it every six inches. We loved it. Well, Jim would rather have had sheets and blankets, but I said, "After another 32 years we can go back to sheets and blankets." Since I'm the one makes the bed every morning, that's what we're doing.

After ten years of use, the duvet was worn out, mainly from being washed frequently and made a trip to the burning barrel. We limped along with a combination of quilts, sheets, blankets, whatever. When I was in Edmonton to take a knitting class with D.D. #2 from Annie Modesett, we went to a Fabricland and found some of that heavy polyester batting, wide enough that it doesn't need to be seamed.

My first attempt with this new duvet involved making a kind of bag to put the batting in. That way the bag could be washed and the batting wouldn't suffer from going through the wash each time. But it was soon evident that the batting would just roll up inside the bag.

So this is the new formula: I'm channel quilting the batt between sheet material. I've bought a duvet cover (from Sears again), which is 380 threads per inch, but soft. The colour is called "Cracked Wheat" so it should harmonize with the new quilt (whenever that gets done!). It takes a while to stitch all these seams by hand, but I'm not doing the careful, even 10 stitches per inch. Probably about 5 per inch, and not bothering to remove any too big stitches.

I really like the Q Snap quilting frame that I use. It's 2 ft by 3 ft, so it doesn't dominate the room. The clips on the edges go on and off easily, so you can quickly the move the quilt to a new area.

And here are my two indispensable quilting tools. My coin thimble and a scissors-handled tweezer. I find that necessary to pull the loaded needle through the fabric. Don't know if anyone else quilts that way, but that's what works for me.

I'm hoping to finish this up this week, and get on to some other projects. Wish me good speed!