Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Great Window Washing Day

Today dawned bright and sunny, breezy, but not too much.  S. and I attacked the huge job of window washing in the solar space.  

When we bought our place the area under the balcony was open, part of the outdoors.  We could see that it would make an ideal solar space for overwintering geraniums, spikes and the like.  So we had our carpenter build a low wall at the front.  The side already had a wall. 

 I laid out a design for windows, alternating opening sliders with fixed panes.  We chose clear glass because we wanted to take advantage of the winter sun, and we had them argon filled.  It has proved to be a perfect winter space for plants.  The sun provides heating during the day, and we've found that only on the very coldest nights (I'm talking minus 30C) do we need to open the doors to inside to let some heat into that area.

But there was an unexpected, added bonus.  When all the plants go into the greenhouse in March, this solar space becomes a lovely area to sit in the afternoon and keep an eye on the business.  Until late afternoon the balcony above provides shade. and the view out the windows is beautiful.  

I try to get the windows down here washed once a year.  It's a huge job, and I was so fortunate to have S.'s help today.  We started at 9 a.m. and worked steadily until 12:30.  At 1:30 we were back at it, and worked again until 4 p.m.  All the sliders have to be removed, the tracks under them taken out in order to get rid of the dead flies and dirt that has seeped in.  The screens all need to be taken out, washed and hosed off, and the window surrounds washed.  When that's all done, you can wash the windows themselves.  But, Oh! it looks so wonderful when it's finished.  I just love it when the house is clean, and this is just sparkling.

I said the day dawned sunny and bright, but by noon hour the wind had trebled and the dark clouds had gathered in the west.  Not ten minutes after S. had just finished washing the outside of the west windows, the rain came down in buckets.  We had a good shower for at least twenty minutes.  We're so glad for the rain!  She and I decided we'd wash windows every week if it meant a good shower like that.  When they dried up they were surprisingly spot free.

So this is where I'm sitting relaxing now, enjoying the gardens out front and keeping an eye out for customers.  It's pretty quiet though, almost all the annuals are sold.  We will continue selling perennials, shrubs and trees, but the busy part of the summer is the early part when all the annuals move out.

Score for the day: 32 window panes washed both sides.  Not bad!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Carrot or a Stick?

The last week has been pretty busy with music things: rehearsals, both quartet and trio, and performances, both quartet and trio.  On Saturday afternoon the trio (violin, viola, cello) played classical music at the local museum open house "Pioneer Days".  It was sunny and hot!  I'm so glad I thought to wear a straw hat as I was facing directly into the sun.  It was also quite breezy, so we were all grateful for the many clothespins I took along.  We had our music clipped down top and sides, and some pins hanging off the bottom to keep the pages from flipping.  We could have used some more practice, but it was fairly good.  The folks listening got to sit on benches in the shade.

Then in the evening the quartet played for a fancy dinner at a local church.  We played Handel's Water Music, and it was just a very good fit.  We enjoyed doing it and they enjoyed hearing it.  The bonus today was that we actually got paid for playing.  Usually it's more or less community service, so it's nice to have some income to pay for the purchase of music.

But all those rehearsals, and the time I had to put in practicing to learn my part, really cut into sewing time last week.  Although I wanted VERY much to sew on the log cabin quilt (and I'm learning to appreciate how good a pattern log cabin is, with lots of possibilities) I used the sewing time I had to catch up on some old projects that I unearthed when I cleaned and reorganized.  

First one up was to take apart and then reknit the cuffs of a lovely wool tweed sweater that I knit for Jim in 1990.  I still had a little bit of yarn from that, and was able to save quite a bit from taking the old, worn cuffs apart.  Now I should really reknit the waistband ribbing, as that is quite stretched out.  The yarn is a brown and mossy green tweed, one strand of each color.

Next up was to put new webbing handles on a black quilted tote that I find very useful.  I just should have bought a little more webbing so that it would hang
 on my shoulder.  

Then it was time to finish a skirt I started the week before.  It's a 6 gore flared skirt.  I checked the size on the pattern and thought I'd better add a bit to make sure it fit.  Well, the thing was huge!  I ended up taking out about 5 inches around the waist and then had to gather it slightly onto the waist facing. But it turned out well, and is very comfortable.  The fabric is a polyester crepe.  I bought the material to match a blouse I had recently bought.  It's just nice to have a new outfit!

Since I was in such a groove I made a muslin of a new pants pattern, but that was way too small.  It also had very long darts over the fanny, that didn't work very well.  So I hauled out my much used pattern that has been adjusted over the years to fit the changing size and shape of me.  Made a muslin of that, and made some adjustments.  So now that's ready to go, and will be made of some striped material that matches the same blouse. The short-sleeve jacket in the back is from a simple suit I made a few years ago of silk noile.  It matches the blouse well, better than in the photo.

So today was reward day--working on the log cabin.  The second batch of 24 squares needs only one more round of strips and then it's finished.  Then it's decision time.  Do I make more squares and make the quilt larger?  The pattern is only 40" x 50", or do I use the rest of the cut strips to make a table runner or placemats?  Time will tell. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Progress Report and book recommendation

I found time today to do some more sewing on the log cabin squares, and now there are 24 finished 5-3/8" squares.  This makes the top half of the quilt, according to the pattern.  I have enough strips to make more blocks than are called for.  When the 48 are finished, I'll tally up what's left and see if I can add another row all around the quilt.

I'll need to account for the extra strips for a longer border.  This is the border as pictured in the book:

I'm really enjoying this pattern.  It goes together well, without problems.  I square each block when I set another strip on, so they are very accurate.  And I still really like the colors.

Here's a book recommendation for you: Strong Women, Strong Hearts by Miriam Nelson, Ph.D. and Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc.  This is part of a series by Dr. Nelson all related to women's health.  I read the first book in the series in the 90's, and went out and bought ankle weights and dumbbells for exercising at home.  She gives excellent advice relating to women's health, and includes exercise routines to give you strength, fitness and improved balance, all issues for older women.  She has a website:  

If you are interested in keeping yourself as healthy and youthful as possible, this is a book series that will help you achieve that.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not Another Project!

Just one week after I told my friend, D., "You won't find me making a log cabin quilt!" I started my first log cabin quilt.  Never say never!

I kind of wonder why I'm doing this: but I just couldn't resist.  Last week I was given a box of fabric.  No really large pieces, but lots of useful materials.  This morning I spent two hours cutting these related fabrics into 1 3/8" strips.  Each strip is about 13" long.  There are 24 different fabrics, and a total of 276 strips.  At least my design board isn't empty anymore. 

From my stash I used some old fashioned turkey red for the center square.  There was also plenty of a white on white print for the other half of the block.  You can see the setting in the open book page on the left.

This afternoon I started sewing, and worked for three and a half hours.  I'm making 24 blocks at a time, since there are that many different fabrics.  Here's a view of some of the unfinished blocks. There is one more round of strips to sew on each block.

This pattern is from Patchwork Quilts Made Easy, subtitled, Make a Quilt You can Be Proud of in Just Three Days! by Jean Wells, from C &T Publishing.  I've had the book for a long time, and was always attracted to this pattern. It's the old fashioned prints combined with the white that appeals to me.  I don't think this quilt will be finished in three days, but I was quite impressed with the progress from just five and a half hours of work.

On another note, we are getting heartily sick of blackbirds.  There seemed to be a host of them this spring.  They are not the most attractive birds, as they are very upset if you come near them.  Their call is a one- or two-note rusty whistle.

One pair chose this Medora juniper at the corner of the house for their nesting site.  This is an area that has lots of comings and goings, and they just get so upset, fly madly around and scold, scold, scold.

I snuck up on the nest a few days ago, and got this snap of the babies.  They looked pretty stressed.

Today S. said they were getting pretty big, so I guess that in spite of all the kerfuffle they are thriving.  If those blackbirds want to nest there next year too, I'm going to try to discourage them.  We have literally acres of excellent habitat for them.  I think they'd do much better in a more secluded area.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Big Thank You

I had intended to post a book review on the first of each month, but time got away on me.  The last book list with comments was posted on April 1!  Lots of books have crossed my lap since then, but none more interesting and inspiring than the one recommended in the comments by Sara.  So to Sara, a huge Thank You! for mentioning Dakota, A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris.
This book totally resonated with me on several levels.  She talks about moving to a small town near the northern border of South Dakota from New York City in the 70's. From our backyard in New Jersey where I lived for my first seven years you could see the afternoon sunlight glinting off the towers of New York City.  Then I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which I believe was about 300,000 population during those years.  So I was really a city girl.

The summer that we married we spent 10 weeks as pulpit supply in a tiny (pop. around 157) town in northwestern Minnesota.  It was a delightful summer and formed our attitude toward the west and toward small towns.  Then in the '71 we moved to a small town in Alberta.  For the first year I missed trees.  Our home in Ontario had been surrounded by four stately maples. In Alberta everything seemed so open.  But a year later, returning from a visit back East I felt myself relax into a comfortable rhythm as soon as we reached the "big sky" country of North Dakota, and realized I had come to love that openness.  From page 157 "Maybe seeing the plains is like seeing an icon: what seems stern and almost empty is merely open, a door into some simple and holy state."

She talks about small town gossip, and I chuckled.  My husband and I bought a condo in Lethbridge as an investment a few years ago.  The news of the purchase reached home here in our small town, almost before we got back.  Yes, that's the way it is in a small town; your business is everybody's business.  Mostly it's a supportive, congenial interest, but don't figure on keeping secrets.

Another topic she mentions is the way people in small towns hate change and like to hang onto the old ways.  One typically humorous remark she makes is about New Leipzig, North Dakota, "where only a radical nonconformist would hang out laundry on any day but Monday."

Norris writes at length and in depth of religious matters.  p. 91 "We go to church in order to sing, and theology is secondary."  Oh yes! the music in church has always been so much more important to me than any theological arguments or positions.  I do want to hear a solid sermon, theologically based, and meaty enough for me to ponder during the following week.  But my heart shrivels at the maudlin theology and musical poverty of so much of what passes for church music today.  Ouch!

I especially enjoyed the chapter "Getting to Hope," a rambling on about a very small country church called Hope that she preached in for some time.  She discusses the relationship of the people to the land, the prevalence of cultivation in religious images, and the modern city dissociation from the roots of life.  

Several times Norris went to a monastery for a retreat, and her recollections and ruminations on the monastic life are enlightening.  She speaks of the contrast between the contemplative life and the mad busyness of most life today, and concludes that "it is in choosing  the monastery or the Plains, places where nothing ever happens, places the world calls dull, that we can discover that we can change. In choosing a bare-bones existence, we are enriched, and can redefine success as an internal process rather than an outward display of wealth and power." (p. 203) An eloquent call to the deeper ground of our lives!

I have touched on only a few of the rich ideas and insights in this book.  If you read only one book this year, make it Kathleen Norris' Dakota, A Spiritual Geography!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Blessed Rain

We had hoped to clear out all of our annuals this weekend, but that won't happen. During the night the temperature fell, the winds blew and the rain came.  We are so grateful to have the rain, because the total so far this season was under an inch. Rain was desperately needed for the crops and gardens.  So we'll hope to sell the annuals at some later date, and enjoy the gift of moisture.

The air was so moist, and the sky so dark this morning when I went for my walk, it was like being in British Columbia.  A red-winged blackbird perched on a fence post.  A crow flew cawing from a spruce tree and a robin was having a heyday on a bare patch of earth with all the worms the rain brought up to the surface.

Today is a special day for us: we have been married for 44 years today.  We are grateful for so much: for love that has continued to grow, binding us to each other; for four children well grown and become adults whom we love and are proud of; for a fine son-in-law and a loving daughter-in-law; for seven grandchildren all healthy and talented. Most especially we thank God for his blessings and guidance throughout life.  We've come a long way from that Saturday 44 years ago when we promised to love each other forever.  We're grateful for each year, and with joy we look forward to however many years we may still have together. 

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Popon Pattern, F.O.'s, and Sewing Room

After I made the "popon" the other week, I took the "patio dress" that was its predecessor, cut it apart on the seams, and made a paper pattern from it.  That way I can make another "popon" any time.  I also charted the pattern out on a 1" = 3" grid, in order to make it available to anyone out there who would like to try the pattern.  So if you would like to have a copy, just email me at "" and I will email you a copy of the chart.  I was going to post it on the blog, but it uses so many bytes I decided to make it available by email.  If you prefer, I'll snail mail it to you.

On another note, Daughter #1 (not a quilter) wondered, "What are F.O.'s?"  Her 17 year old son thought he knew!  This gave me a chuckle, so I was sharing that with my good friend M. this morning as we went for our walk.  She had a chuckle, too, and then said, "What is an F.O.?"  So for all of you out there who don't read quilting blogs: a F.O. is a Finished Object!  Joy to a quilter's heart!  Since so many of us have so many U.F.O.'s in our sewing rooms.

I'm in the midst of giving my sewing room a good clean up.  It had reached an unbearable state of piled up U.F.O.'s and scraps scattered hither and yon.  I even took all the snips and bits down from my design wall.  It's empty!  That should inspire some new creations.  Projects in the works are organized in plastic containers, patterns are filed in loose leaf notebooks, the window has been washed (two more to go), and I've vacuumed behind my sewing and cutting tables.  We're getting there!

My sewing room is simply and inexpensively furnished.  I bought see-through, stackable drawers and topped them with one 4' x 8' sheet of melamine that the Home Building Supply store cut in half for me.  I covered the edge with a snap-on, plastic edging (no idea what it's called).  One half of the melamine became a sewing table and the other half the cutting table.  I propped that up a little higher with two styrofoam fruit cartons, so it's at a comfortable working height.  The design board is a sheet of rigid pink insulation covered with cheap batting, and simply nailed to the wall.  This set up works very well, and I'm very pleased with how useful this area is.


The design board is the empty white space above the cutting table.  In a recent blog post on F.O.'s you can see part of the design board in the photo of "Green Dreams #2".

My machine is a Janome, Memory Craft 6500.  It's the third Janome I've had.  The first I bought in 1982 and used with pleasure until June of '05.  Then it seemed time for an upgrade.  The 6500 is a lovely machine with two features I didn't think I needed, but enjoy greatly: the built in scissors, and the option to stop sewing with the needle up or down.  I'd hate to do without either feature now. 

I also have a Janome SchoolMate that I bought in January of '04.  The previous September I joined the local quilting club and found my old Janome too heavy and precarious to carry back and forth, so soon purchased the lighter weight portable, which is very handy for taking back and forth.  Something especially appreciated since I now belong to two quilting groups, and often leave home with lots of gear.  The SchoolMate is adequate for almost anything, but I sure do miss the built in scissors.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Blossom Time

Well, last Thursday I said spring had sprung, but on Friday summer arrived!  The high temperature for the day was +28C (84F).  Strangers on the street greet each other joyfully with gleeful comments about the weather.  When you live in a cold climate, the coming of warm weather is a cause for celebration, especially when it comes late, as it did this year.  The Schubert Chokecherry trees that line Main Street are bursting with blooms, strewing pollen so liberally that it's a hazard to your breathing.  All around our yard the shrubs and trees are dazzling with blossoms.  This is the first year our pear tree is in bloom.  I do wonder if we will get any pears!

These two beauties are 1) a Double Flowering Plum (a shrub) and


2) a Russian Almond, also a shrub. 

The asparagus patch is finally swinging into high gear.  I picked
 this sinkful on Friday. Enough for each of us
 to have 20+ stalks for dinner, and enough remaining to freeze 92 stalks for enjoyment throughout next winter.  Last summer I put away a total of 456 stalks for our winter eating.  I was a little too stingy with them, though, because we still have a full bag left.  

I freeze all our veggies on cookie trays, and store them loosely in gallon bags.  That way we can use only as much as we need at a time.  Especially handy when you make soup often.


When we picked up our "plugs" (trays of very small plants) at HighQ Greenhouse, we bought several of their "samplers".  Although I wrote out labels, we somehow lost the identification of this lovely plant.  We had just three of them (because they were samplers), and used them in the center of three pots.  Everyone remarks on how lovely they are, but no one has been able to tell us their name.  Do any of you know what this plant is?  We'd like to buy more of them for next year, as they are a real hit.