Sunday, October 30, 2011

Gorgeous Day!

What a beautiful day we had today!  Our high temp was +19ºC (+67ºF) and very calm.  We took advantage to have our last afternoon break/cold drink on the swing out back.  Jim has his favorite: orange soda, packed with vanilla ice cream.  I had my usual: diet cola.  I had to hunt around for a place to balance the camera, set the timer, and hurry back to sit next to Jim.

I did a bit of cutting and sewing on a new "angel quilt" project (no picture yet).  When I went to buy thread yesterday there were three remnants in the bin that called my name.  For just under $20 I have enough to make a lap quilt top.  I will add borders of another remnant to "stretch" the size a bit, and that will add another $6.49 to the price.  Still a big bargain.  I'm using a "rail fence" pattern, and being sorry that I decided to make 3 1/2" square blocks.  That means a total of 216 blocks for the modest sized top.  What was I thinking!  They could just as well have been 5" squares and saved lots of sewing time!

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to head downhill, so after our nice little break I came inside and made a big pot of "my kind of minestrone."  When I make soup I don't fool around.  This is a five quart Dutch oven, about as full as can be without boiling over.

I like to start with a package of soup mix, and this is Bear Creek Minestrone. I find Bear Creek soup mixes very good.  They can be hard to find here, so when I saw some the last time we were in the States, I bought all the packages on the shelf.  There were about five, I think.  Then I add some or all of the following: onion, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, fresh green beans, corn kernels, green and red peppers, Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, broken uncooked spaghetti, canned tomatoes, a can of beans in sauce (pork & beans without the pork) and the following seasonings: oregano, thyme, anise seeds, and cumin.  Amounts vary, depending on availability.  It always turns out well and is a very hearty soup, almost like a stew, as you can see.

When we were on the way to Fort St. John for Thanksgiving we had supper at a Subway Restaurant.  The sandwiches were great!  But the soup was a sad shock.  I think it came out of a can.  I guess we're spoiled with all our "made from scratch" foods. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dark Day

Yesterday morning when M. and I walked south the wind was bitingly cold.  It was about -5º and heavily overcast.  The second half of our walk home was a lot more comfortable because the wind was at our backs.  Shows the reason for the old Irish blessing: May the wind be always at your back!

I had planned to do some housecleaning, but without sunshine housecleaning is no fun.  Besides, I had done a whack of cleaning on Monday--dusting and vacuuming the upstairs (where all the living quarters are) and washing all those windows, inside and out.  That was a warm, sunny day and I'm so glad I got the windows all cleaned up before winter.  But because Friday was dark and gloomy I gave myself a day off.

Jim was working outside in the afternoon when I sat down to work on the Slave Lake quilt.  It was cozy in the sewing room, and I remembered another dark, cozy day late in 1993.

Dear Son #2 had brought his girlfriend home for Christmas to meet us for the first time.  I had knitted them matching sweaters as a way of making her feel welcome into our family.  Our previous glimpse of her was a photo that #2 sent, taken at the end of a three day canoe/camping trip with no showers, etc.  She had clamped a baseball cap over her hair, and her face was hard to see.  "Well," I thought, "she must be really sweet, 'cause she's not too pretty."  The first thing I said to her when they arrived that December was, "You're way more pretty than your picture!"

We had a nice time together, especially one afternoon when the guys were out somewhere and she and I were together in my sewing room.  That was another dark day, but we were cozy together.  She was working on a quilted hearts wreath for #2 for Valentines Day, and I was working on one of my projects.  What made that afternoon memorable, aside from the fellowship we had, was listening to a CD of the music from Shindler's List that they had brought along.  It's sad, haunting music, perfect for a dark afternoon when you just want to be stitching and drinking tea together.

So yesterday, another dark afternoon of sewing, I put that CD (which they gave to me because I loved the music so much) on the player and quilted to that sad, haunting music.  Sad and haunting in a good nostalgic way.  It's a long CD, and when it was finished I started it all over again.  Partway through the second time I turned it off and put on a record of Scott Joplin Piano Rags, also quite laid back, but quite a bit more upbeat.

By 5 p.m. I had the machine quilting finished and started sewing the binding down by hand.  I have about 65" of slip stitching to do on the back yet, but ran out of the colour thread I need.

Later today I'll go pick up a few groceries from town and another spool of black cotton thread.  Then all that remains is to print off a label.

I really like this quilt.  It's the top I started in July when D.S.#2 and his family and D.D. #2 and her family left after a week-long visit.  It's all scraps except for the borders, binding and backing.  I managed to find a piece of batting in my stash just the right size.  The scraps encompass a lot of history--back to the early 90's at least.  I hope this "comfort" quilt warms someone's heart!

P.S. The book on the coffee table is quite interesting: Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, by William Bryant Logan.  Read it and learn lots of interesting things about the soil on which we depend for all our food.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sure a funny sock!

I mentioned when I finished the socks for D.D. #2 and her daughter that I immediately cast on stitches for a new pair.  This sock is called "Skew," and I found that pattern on line at, the winter 2009 Issue.
Here's the sock, toe up, and the flare at the left side is called the "mini gusset."  It's the addition of stitches where the inside ankle will come, the stitches being added to make room for the heel.

The straight edge of the sock is the inside of the foot, and the rounded edge goes around the outside of the foot.  At this point in the knitting I was quite confused as to what is the top of the foot and what is the sole.  D.D.#2 and I went on line and looked for others who had used this pattern.  By looking at the pictures they had posted we figured out the top and bottom of the sock.

That enabled me to proceed with the directions.  Here's the "sole" of the sock, and the heel is that funny little triangle folded backwards over the sole.

I am really enjoying this yarn.  It has a very good feel to it and I love the colour combination.  But now I'm wondering: when D.D.#2 was here last July we ordered three kinds of sock yarn.  The first one that I knit, the pink lace socks, I'm sure was one of her picks.  But the other two yarns, this one and a similar but lighter-coloured yarn, got me mixed up.  Now I'm thinking this is the yarn I ordered for myself.  Well, I'll have to have a conference with her and see if these are the socks she wants or if she wants to wait for the other yarn.

So here is the first of the pair finished.  This is the top of the sock for the right foot.  Looks like just a flat piece of knitting, but when you turn it sideways you can see the funny little triangle that is the space for the heel. (Next picture down.)

Behind the sock is the quilt top I was working on this Tuesday at Pieceful Stitchers.  I'm machine quilting it and hope to be finished by the end of this week.  This will be the comfort quilt that goes to Slave Lake.

Some workers from the Philippines who staff a meat packing plant in the next town up the highway suffered major losses when the boarding house they stay in burned to the ground.
A quilt I finished some time ago, a generously sized single bed quilt, will go to one of them as a "comfort" quilt.  The amazing thing about that fire was that all of their passports survived.  That's such a blessing because if the passports were indeed lost those poor people would have had to travel all the way to Vancouver to get new ones.

So there you see the little heel poking out back.  Maybe I should try this sock on and see how it fits!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Did It!

Remember that bag full of scraps that I needed to cut down to squares and strips?  Well, I Did It!!!  It took hours and hours of standing by the cutting table, picking out scraps, pressing them and cutting them into squares or strips measuring from 1 1/2" to 4" or larger.  A scrap needed to be about  16" long to become a strip.  Otherwise it was cut into squares.

So here's the lovely result:
From left to right according to size, biggest to smallest.  Strips are in 
the clear boxes, squares are in stacks
or bags in front of the boxes.  They will 
be so handy for making scrap quilts.  
I'll be just whizzing along!

Actually, this all came about because of the need for strips to make blocks for the Red Star Quilt.  So here are the piles of strips for that quilt.  The grey underneath the pile is a pair of trousers that needs to be mended.

The Red Star Quilt is coming along.  There are eight and a half 12" blocks finished.  I need at least twice that many.  This was supposed to be the quilt for Slave Lake, but since it will be a while before I can finish it, I think I'll use the top I made last July for the comfort quilt for Slave Lake and use the Red Star quilt for an "Angel Quilt" this coming Christmas Season.  Our local fabric store (part of IDA) distributes "Angel Quilts" locally according to need at Christmas time.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breakfast Buffet

Saturday mornings are our time to sit back and relax.  We didn't get out of bed until about 7:15, which is really, really late for us.  Jim cut up fruit for a large bowl of fresh fruit salad.  I brewed the first cups of coffee and he drove to the corner store for today's (Toronto) Globe and Mail.

Around 9a.m. I started working on breakfast: first I cut up four breakfast sausages and set them to brown in a small skillet.  I added cut up onion, red and green peppers.  The mushrooms I sautéed in a separate pot because he doesn't care for mushrooms and I like them a lot.  I had microwaved some medium sized Russet Burbank potatoes, which I cut into cubes and fried in a large skillet, sprinkled with seasoned salt, sizzling in a little butter.  When everything was ready I scrambled five farm-fresh eggs and we put together our platters from the stove, adding some grated cheddar cheese and a little catsup.

What a great breakfast that was!  Right up there at a 10, and for me, it was the sautéed mushrooms that pushed it right over the top.

As we were enjoying our breakfast a little parade of deer came ambling down the driveway from the back of the property.  They live in the field across the railroad tracks that border our land to the East, and consider our landscape their "morning buffet."  This snap shows a few of the crowd that came.  There were more off to the left.

They've got their ears forward because Jim has just opened the front door.

If you want to make them go away, it's not enough to just show yourself.  They are so accustomed to people, and so sure that they are safe because of the lack of predators here, that to scare them off you need to run at them, waving your arms above your head and shrieking as loudly as possible.

So here they are leaving in response to Jim's antics.

They trot across the road, sometimes even stopping by the end of the driveway.  This herd made it across the road to the neighbor's field.  They'll be back later on their way home again.

After a few minutes a straggler came through looking as if he was wondering where everybody went.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Visit

An old friend of ours stopped by yesterday for a visit and shared our dinner with us.  We were happy to see him again, and have known him and his family since 1967.  He is a widower and lives a 3 hour drive southeast of us, while six of his eight children live a 2 1/2 hour drive to the north.  So he will often stop by on his way there or back again.

He's in his early eighties, but is in pretty good shape, having lost 34 pounds over the last year, which helps control his type II diabetes.  He lives alone and does all his own cooking, housework and yardwork.  Like Jim, he's a transplanted Dutchman, and like so many of them, just can't sit around doing nothing, but needs, as Jim says, a reason to get up in the morning.

His wife died six years ago following an operation on a brain aneurism.  She was expected to survive, but during the operation the surgeon discovered a large hardened area of previous bleeds from the aneurism, and it proved inoperable.  It was a big shock to the family to lose her like that.  We attended her funeral and it was particularly moving, since their family was close and loving and well supported by faith in God and a good and helpful congregation.

Yesterday he spoke with us about the whole experience.  I was very moved by his words and the calm yet sad way in which he spoke.  Theirs was a loving relationship, and though they had not always had smooth sailing, they had a good life together and with their eight children, and now many grandchildren.

After the meal was finished we sat at the table for a long time recalling incidents and people from our shared past.  He said a few times that he should be going, but seemed reluctant to leave.  When he did leave he said, Well, if I don't see you again here (on earth) I will see you (and he pointed upward).  It seemed that he really felt he was saying a final goodbye to us.

I felt touched and sobered by his remarks and his obvious feelings of friendship and leave-taking.  We are coming to a time of farewells in life.  If he is still living a year from now, I think we should go especially to visit him.  It's the relationships in life that have lasting meaning and it's the relationships that need to be cared for while we are still around to do that.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Done and To Do

This past weekend we traveled to Fort St. John, B.C., to visit our daughter and her family.  On the way I was able to finish a pair of socks for our dear granddaughter, identical to the ones I had already made for her mom, D.D.#2. (See the sock in progress in the post of August 16.)

I had ordered yarn in July from Mary Maxim, a well known yarn company with headquarters in Paris, Ontario.  When the yarn came, I used my wool winder to turn it into balls that pulled from the center.  But this very pretty, striped pink yarn, 100% bamboo, from Turkey, had several knots and breaks in the skein.  I was very disappointed, as Mary Maxim yarns are usually just fine.  I took pictures of the problems and sent them an email on a Saturday evening.  Monday morning there was a return email, assuring me that a whole new skein was in the mail.  I hadn't expected or asked for that, but it was good customer service, and welcome.

So when I finished the socks for D.D.#2,
I started an identical small pair for her 7 year old daughter.

This yarn was not fun to work with, as it felt more like crochet cotton than sock yarn, but I thought the socks were very pretty, and would probably feel quite silky.  They took a long time to knit as the gauge was very fine: 32 stitches to 4 inches.  The second pair were a treat to knit because they were so much smaller.  I finished them on Saturday.

So here are the two pair, really nice socks for two dear ones.

As soon as they were off the needles I cast on a new pair, these of a slightly thicker yarn, 75% superwash wool, and 25% nylon for strength.  The pattern is something I've never used before, called Skew, which I got from  I've had the pattern for about a year, and wanted to try this strange method.  I'll show those socks when they are finished.

On Tuesday our town quilt club met from 1 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m. to work on quilts for the people of Slave Lake, Alberta who lost their homes and possessions in forest fires this summer.  I brought my whole fabric stash along and said, Use whatever!  That's what it's for.  The only things I held back were projects in process, including a large queen size quilt for our bed that I hope to make this winter.  Sadly, it didn't seem as if that much fabric disappeared.  One woman joked that they had all been secretly adding to my stash as the day went along.

So I took home more than a basket full of scraps.  This afternoon I got busy and trimmed all the scraps to useable squares, alá Bonnie Hunter of Quiltville's Quips and Snips.  So here are the containers, with the scraps sorted by size from 1 1/2" to 4" and up.  Most have been cut into squares but some of the longer ones I left in strips.  The basket to the left of them was full, almost overflowing, when I started.  I actually worked until it was empty, and then I was able to put the lovely Briggs and Little Sock yarn in the basket.

But, sad to say, look what's left in another even bigger container that needs to be sorted and cut up:
I bet there's about three days work there!  It will have to wait for another day.

To the right of the clear boxes on the design wall are the four squares of "Red Star" that I finished on Tuesday.  I need to make at least another four, maybe more to finish the quilt for Slave Lake.  They take longer to make than I figured. But then, it seems every project takes longer than I think it will.

The poppy print above them is a piece of art that Dear Son #1 made and sent me via email.  I took it to the upholstery shop and had it printed, first on canvas, but that was too dull, and now on this white material.  I plan to put it on "stretchers" and send it to him for a present.  I think it's really neat.  He based it on a photo I took a year ago of a fabulous poppy in our garden.

Do you also find that there are more interesting things to do than there is time to do them?  I guess that's a good problem to have, and I can't imagine ever being bored.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Quick Quilt

Seems that I've had trouble finding time to blog lately.  Only four posts in September!  I know I like the bloggers I read to post often.  Here's a list of the blogs I visit regularly: Under knitting blogs: Modeknit/Knitting Heretic, Yarn Harlot, Zarzuela knits and crochets, and Knitty blog; under Friends: Suzie Foods, The Question of the Day, The Organic Writer, and Memoirs of a Prairie Boy; Under Quilting Blogs: Elaine Adair Pieces, Quiltvilles' Quips and Snips, Gipsy Quilter, Sara's Scraps, Creative Quilter, and Rogue Quilter; under Sewing Garments: A Dress A Day; Sew Intriguing, and Sew Nancy; Under Music: Musical Assumptions.  Quite a long list, and I don't read each one every day, but try to keep current with them.

At our first meeting of the town quilting club our attention was called to an article in the Country Register, a monthly newspaper that features many quilting stores in Alberta, by region, that asked for donations of "quilts of comfort" for the devastated people of Slave Lake, Alberta, the community that was almost wiped out by wild forest fires this summer.  As a club we are dedicating our first meeting in October to creating quilts to meet this need.

I decided to get a head start on a gift quilt and hauled out a bag of odds 'n ends, sorted by colour compatibility.  Since "Turning Twenty" is such a quick sew, I used that pattern and started cutting the squares for the blocks this past Tuesday at our meeting.  Friday morning I decided the quilt needed some "brightening up" and bought seven other fabrics--just .3 meter of each.  All but two were from the $5.00 shelf.  By Friday evening I had most of the squares needed, and this morning I dug through my stash of fabrics to finish cutting.  I needed: 20 - 10 1/2" squares, 20 -   6 1/2 x 10 1/2" rectangles, 20 - 6 1/2 x 16 1/2" rectangles, and 20 - 3 1/2 x 16 1/2" rectangles.  It took quite a while to cut all of them.

Here are the blocks, partly sewed, with
The next piece laid right sides together on top of the 10 1/2" squares.  The finished blocks are 16 1/2" x 16 1/2" with only three seams, so they go together very quickly.

All the blocks were finished with just one hour of fast sewing.  I was on a roll!

Next I started sewing the blocks into rows.  That didn't take long either.  Before I knew it I was ready to sew the rows together.  I couldn't wait to get the top finished and take it in to the Fabric Nook to show it to Brenda.

Total sewing time: 3 hours!

This is really a scrap quilt, with a bit of colour control, but some pretty scrappy combinations too.

While I was there I bought 2 1/2 meters of one of the fabrics to use for a backing.  This evening I was planning how to piece the back and realized 2 1/2 meters won't cover it.  Have to go back on Monday and buy some more.

That's what happens when you think you'll use up some of the scraps in your stash of fabric!  Inevitably you end up adding to your stash.