Friday, July 30, 2010

Almost Finished

Last night I sewed the binding on my scrappy
"Turning Twenty" quilt. In the summer I do the hand sewing with the quilt resting on the dining room table, for obvious reasons (too hot to hold all that in my lap). The dark green with little pink rosebuds is the flannel backing for the quilt.

I was happy to find some fabric on the $5.00/meter shelf at the LQS that co-ordinates beautifully with the colours in the quilt. This binding is on the bias because of the stripe in the material. That wouldn't look good at all going straight along the edge. But it's really nice at an angle. Usually on a straight-edged quilt I would cut a binding on the straight grain. I cut it at 2 1/2" and pressed it folded over once, then sewed it with a slightly more than 1/4" seam.

The next step is to sew the binding to the backing of the quilt by hand, using a simple, small slip stitch. This becomes almost all invisible when complete, and gives a nice finish to the quilt.

Once in a while I sew the binding to the back, press it to the front and stitch it down with machine, close to the edge. That's acceptable, and I'll do that when I'm really pressed for time, but this is a much nicer finish.

Here is the finished binding on the front. There's a small square block of this fabric in each corner. You can see a bit of the freehand vine and leaf quilting in the border. That was a suggestion by Elaine Adair a few weeks ago, and I'm very happy with it. It was fun to do.

Just drop the feed dogs, use the "free motion" or "darning" foot, and go to town. I use the Fons and Porter yellow gloves to help me hold onto the quilt and to maneuver it. The center part of the quilt is done with a medium-sized "meander" stitch. Each corner has a four petal flower.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm working on the machine quilting and binding of three quilt tops that I made since March. Sometimes it's just good to finish a few projects; helps with the crowding in the sewing room.

Yesterday while I was quilting the border of a scrappy
"Turning Twenty" I looked up from my sewing machine and this is what I saw: my dear sweetie carefully maneuvering our very tallest ladder up against the very tall spruce at the front of the yard. This is one of those "Little Giant" ladders, so it's hinged in the middle, with a spread at either end.

I couldn't look, and I couldn't not look! So I grabbed the camera and went out on the balcony to record the process.

Every year he and S. trim the spruce trees on the yard. S. trims the bottom half as far up as she is comfortable, and then Jim finishes the job by trimming the tops. But most of the trees he trims are hidden from view, so I can kind of ignore what's going on.

One comforting fact was the great care he took in
placing the ladder. Also that the side pieces splay out as much at the bottom as you can see at the top. It's a heavy ladder so it's pretty stable.

But Jim! Don't reach too far!!!

This tree is getting too tall! There's no way to reach the very top, except to rent a "cherry picker," the bucket on an arm that the linemen use on the phone and electric lines.

All's well that ends well. He soon was at the back door, well sweated up, declaring that it was time for his favorite summer treat: an orange ice cream soda. Which, of course, I was delighted to make for him

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Trouble with words

As mentioned in my profile, I love to read. I read every day, first thing in the morning, and last thing in the evening, and usually lots in between. I consider myself reasonably intelligent with a large vocabulary. I can even usually figure out the meaning of a word I haven't come across before, using my knowledge of Latin and Greek, and sometimes the clues in the context. But this week there was a word that rang no bells.

On page 130 of The Boy He Left Behind by Mark Matousek I read (regarding his Bar Mitzvah) "I couldn't understand a word of what I was reading, but the rabbi, a kindly man with...a lacquered combover, seemed impressed that I'd taught myself to read...."

What ever is a "com*bover," "a lacquered com*bover"? Is it some kind of ritual box? I'll have to look that one up, I thought, so I wrote it down, with the page number for reference, on the little square of paper I was using for a bookmark. That was Monday. Once in a while I'd notice the word on my bookmark, but never got around to checking the meaning. Today, as I was vacuuming the living room, it suddenly dawned on me: not a com*bover, but a comb over!

Sometimes I wonder how I can be so stupid!

But it reminded me of a similar misunderstanding that my brother-in-law Jack had once. He looked at the word "two" and somehow didn't recognize it. "T/woe" he said, "What kind of word is that!" (He was a perfectly intelligent person, a pastor for a while, and then a social worker.)

Sometimes our brains play funny tricks on us! But it was worth a good laugh for me today, and I immediately shared it with Jim. Of course, I was telling him; he wasn't reading it, so I pronounced it, com/bover. He would have recognized it in print immediately, just as you did.

This is a poor year for our vegetable garden. I keep a garden journal from year to year, and by this date we're usually picking peas, zucchini, sugar snap peas, even cabbage and squash. So far we've had a few small strawberries whereas we'd usually have had several mounded colanders full by now. I've also picked lettuce, Swiss chard and onions this year, but that seems like not much compared to the usual bounty.

However, the flowers are looking great. The first
picture shows the garden right in front of the house. I don't know what the little round bubble is, probably just the sun on the camera lens.

The second picture is the rose garden immediately in front of the house. This was full of Bleeding Hearts, but their bloom is finished and now the Adelaide Hoodless Roses are taking over.

There are Virginia Creeper vines crawling up the stucco and screens on the downstairs. In the fall they'll add welcome colour to the landscape.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Best Potato Salad

Some time ago I promised a recipe for potato salad, and never got around to posting it, so here it is:

Potato Salad for a crowd

10 pounds of potatoes
12 hard-cooked eggs, sliced
1 cup sliced radishes
1 bunch green onions, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 large onions, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
2 cups diced celery

Peel and cook potatoes in boiling salt water until just fork tender. Drain well. Cool. Dice potatoes and combine with rest of ingredients,being careful not to mash the potatoes or hard cooked eggs. Carefully fold in dressing. Refrigerate until serving time. Garnish with paprika, parsley and carrot curls.

2 quarts salad dressing
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon prepared mustard.
Mix all ingredients well.

Notes: This potato salad recipe is said to be enough for 30 people. I made half of it for our employee barbecue, and the 10 of us ate not quite half of that. So, depending on what else you serve, it could be enough potato salad for 40.

I like to make this a day ahead, as it always tastes better after some time in the fridge. I peel the potatoes, cut them into small pieces, rather than dicing them later, and boil them very briefly, maybe 2 or 3 minutes. Then I cover them and leave them in the hot water for an hour or so. They don't get so mushy this way. Drain and proceed with the recipe.

I usually omit the boiled eggs.

When you make it a day ahead, leave out the radishes until a few hours before serving--otherwise they lose their colour.

If you use a long English cucumber you get that green in there too, which is attractive. It's also attractive to use some green pepper and some red pepper.

I like to use cider vinegar.

The original recipe called for 3 tablespoons of salt in the dressing. I find 3 teaspoons is plenty, but then, we are used to not much salt in our food. Salt can always be added if someone prefers it saltier.

This potato salad is quite a bit of work, so make plenty. It stays good in the fridge for several days, and just tastes better as time goes by.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Little "Toot"

Yesterday afternoon Jim and I took what my dear Sis refers to as a "little toot"--a tiny little trip, this one just an afternoon's jaunt. We left after the morning church service and drove to Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park. The day was beautiful, with sunshine and puffy white clouds.

Alberta is looking so lush this summer, the result of plenty of rain. The canola fields are in the prime of their bloom, and huge patches of the countryside are a glowing, greeny-yellow. Theyellow is not so evident in this top photo, as the sun was partially behind the clouds.

Canola is a very popular, healthy oil. The name is a shortened form of "Canadian Oil," because Canadian scientists figured out a way to make the oil derived from rapeseed edible. It contains an acid (I think it's called euruchic acid) that is poisonous in its natural form. This oil was used as lubrication for vehicles during the second World War.

The second photo shows the view from the top of the cliff overlooking the Red Deer River Valley. It's about 45 meters (close to 150 ft.) above the valley floor. It's not really a cliff at all, but the level of the prairie above the floor of the valley the river has carved over the centuries.

Here we are descending into the river valley.
The cliff you see to the left is a gradual one, compared with the cliff used for the buffalo jump.

Now it was not the buffalo's idea to jump. This was the way the old time Indians used to slaughter a herd of buffalo, on which they depended for most of their needs. There are several buffalo jumps in the west, one of the best to visit is west of Fort Macleod in southern Alberta. There is a very interesting Visitor Centre at Smashed in Head Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, depicting the whole process. You can even buy a "buffalo" burger at the canteen there. (And, yes, I know the proper name is Bison!)

Since we were not going to be near any restaurants I had packed a very simple picnic lunch: 5 slices of bread (3 with mustard, 2 with butter), a can of spam, some pickles, two helpings of marinated bean salad, 2 apples, and 2 cans of Orange Crush, which we enjoyed at the small picnic grounds.

From the park we cut across country on gravel roads to the highway that runs east from Trochu, stopping to have a look at the small campsite by Tolman Bridge.

Turning south, we visited the tiny, decaying town of Rumsey. The only new building we saw there belongs to Trident, which I believe is an oil/gas exploration company. At the south end of town we came upon a great crowd of people, sporting shorts and tank tops, clutching cans of pop or beer, spectators at one of two ball games going on at the grandly named "Agriplex." We're sure there was at least ten times the usual population present. Just never know what you'll find on a little "toot."

Arriving in Drumheller about 4p.m. we were ready for a cold milk shake, which we found at the Dairy Queen. (You're allowed to treat yourself on a little "toot.") We were surprised to see a couple we know from our hometown in the same Dairy Queen.

From there it was on to Rosebud, where we attended a performance of the play "Woza, Alberta" about the time of Apartheid in South Africa. As with all performances in Rosebud, in both the Opera House and the Studio Stage, this was exceedingly well done, a powerful presentation that made you quiet with thought.

And then we turned toward home again, noticing how those puffy white clouds had multiplied and darkened over the course of the day. This gives a little idea of how they thickened. As we drove I wanted to stop and take a short movie pan of the massing storms, but thought I could do it from our yard. Too bad--the trees and shrubs spoiled the view, as the clouds were mostly in the north and east. We thought we might be up during the night with thunderstorms, but to our happy surprise it was a quiet night, and we both slept well until almost 6:30 this morning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

After the Storm

We seem to be stuck in a weather pattern: the mornings are sunny and the day warms up. In the afternoon the storm clouds build up, and sometime late in the afternoon or early evening, the storm arrives.

These pictures were taken yesterday. This one shows the retreating storm, moving off to the east.

Today there was another, even more severe weather system that went through. Calgary suffered a lot of wind and hail damage.
The Calgary Stampede, a world-renowed rodeo event with a midway is open this week. Around noon to 2 p.m. everyone cleared out in a hurry, when the sky blackened and the rain and hail came thundering down. Kind of spoils the party!

Here we are looking north last evening, where the sky is becoming light and peaceful.

Here's the south view, with the back end of
what had been a big, black cloud, now made rosy gold by the setting sun.

This morning was a perfect time to weed all the vegetable beds, since the ground was soaking, and Jim and I were able to pull the weeds out easily with the roots.

The garden is not producing well at all this year. Oh, actually, the peas look quite happy. The beans are doing o.k., but the corn is lagging. Hope it develops fully before the growing season is over. Strawberries are few and small, a total contrast with last year. We'll still hope for some good picking, as most of our strawberries are "day neutral" or, as they used to be known, "ever-bearing."

The sun is setting; the sky is peaceful. The night air is cool, and conducive to a good sleep.

Wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Here are some poppy pictures from this morning.

There are also some lovely, large pink poppies, and one gorgeous deep red one.

This evening at 6 we are holding our "employee appreciation" barbecue. I have everything ready; just need to start the coffee, put the tablecloths on the picnic tables on the deck, and grill the hamburgs. Tomorrow I'll share the super good potato salad recipe that I use each year for this barbecue.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Something Different

No poppy pictures today. It's one of those cold, gray, rainy summer Sundays. Nice to sit and chat together, making plans for a holiday.

This coming Friday I am going to an art retreat at King's Fold Retreat Centre west of Cochrane. There will be lectures, guided projects, and time to work on your own ideas. I thought of taking along my watercolours, but was intimidated by the fact that there will probably be much more talented and accomplished painters there. So I decided to warp my backstrap loom and start a project on that.

The backstrap loom is totally portable, and can be set up almost anywhere, even outdoors, attached to a tree. Here you see it with the warp beam tied to a post of the desk, and the cloth beam tied to a chair.
When I'm working on the loom, the end tied to the chair is tied around my waist. The tension is achieved by leaning back.

I haven't used this loom for several years, so I had to look up the directions for warping it. I followed the directions that came with the loom, which called for putting on a continuous warp and then later cutting and tying the ends at the cloth beam. That led to humongous problems with warp threads crossing over each other. I had to go through thread by thread to make sure there were not crosses.

Then I was able to tension the warp. That had to be done twice, by tying the ends around the cloth beam, starting from the middle and working to the outsides, and then doing the same thing over again to even them out.

Yesterday afternoon (after way too many hours of work) it was finally all set up. Here you see just the very beginning of the weaving. There are four rows of shoelaces at the beginning. They are there to get the warp threads all evenly spaced out. In this pic, I've woven just three rows of the dark brown weft. I don't want to go very far with the weaving, as I want enough to do at the retreat.

I'm planning to use this to make a tote bag. Using yarn from my stash (real wool) I planned to make a plaid bag with dark brown, gold, wheat, light green and dark green. But when I started to warp the loom with the dark brown, the thread immediately broke. It's a homespun, and just not tight enough to withstand the pressure of warping. So the plans were changed from a plaid bag to a striped bag. I found a reasonably tough cream coloured wool that will make a good warp.

The plan is to make stripes of various widths. I'll post other photos as the project goes along. But, for now, I'm happy with this as an "art retreat" take-along project. It took a really long time to set up because it was a learning curve. Next project the warping will go a lot faster!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another Good Recipe

Next week Wednesday we plan to hold our annual "Employee Appreciation Barbecue." And on the menu will be, as always, this very tasty and very easy make-ahead salad.

Marinated Bean Salad
Drain a 1 lb. can of
1. cut green beans
2. red kidney beans
3. chick peas.
Pour into large container.
one half coarsely chopped red onion and a coarsely chopped green pepper.
Make a dressing of
1/2 cup each of sugar and olive oil
2/3 cup of cider vinegar
1/2 tsp. of Worchestershire Sauce
two drops of Louisiana hot sauce
1 tsp each salt and pepper.
Pour dressing over beans and leave in fridge at least 24 hours before serving. Stir occasionally. Serve with slotted spoon.

That was the original recipe that I cut out of a newspaper decades ago. My changes:
two big cans of red kidney beans
1 can of chick peas
1 can of black beans
1 can of white kidney beans
1 can of mushrooms, cut into quarters
2 cans of green beans
(optional: cans of yellow beans)
up the amount of onion to a whole onion.
Then I double the amount of dressing.

This salad tastes even better as you go along. And it's a simple, open a can of this and that recipe. The sort I don't rely on, but am happy to use when it turns out this well.

The front "yard" is looking very colourful. This is a large stand of Lupins. The originals were planted about 30 feet at least to the left of what you see here. They've colonized a large part of the yard.

It's funny: now that people see them blooming, they want to buy lupins. When we had them to sell, just the nice green plant in a pot, customers didn't find them appealing. We see that all the time: people want to buy pots of flowers in bloom, not realizing that you'll get much better results starting with a smaller green plant that can get itself all settled in before the blooms arrive.

Poppies are also coming into bloom now. Maybe tomorrow there'll be a picture of them.