Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From Bush to Bottle

This morning the red currants in this jam were on bushes in our back "yard."  S. spent a few hours picking the ripe ones and came in around noon with an ice cream bucket and a half.  I washed and threw out the ones that floated, simmered the rest in a large pot for just a little while, put them through a food mill and set the result, 2 quarts of "thick" juice, to boil, mixed with two packages of "No Sugar Needed" pectin.  
Usually I put berries in the steam juicer and extract the clear juice, but that means the stove is on for a few hours.  This was much faster.

When the juice boiled I added 11 cups of sugar (red currants are pretty tart!)  After the mixture boiled for a minute (took about 10 minutes of stirring by the hot stove to return to a good boil), I ladled it into these jars.  They had been standing in the sink, having been filled with boiling water.

There was enough for almost eight pint jars.  The last, almost-full jar with the screw-on lid goes into the fridge to be eaten soon.  The others are labeled and will be stored in the spare bedroom closet, the coolest place in the house which is why my shelves of canned jars are kept there.  Good, tart jam for on toast this coming winter!

Lots Accomplished

This has been a productive time for me in terms of quilt making.  Here's a stack of quilts that are ready to be machine quilted.  Because my Janome Horizon was in for service I concentrated on making quilt tops.  The bottom quilt is a good sized quilt for a single bed, destined for my friend Susan.  There are six lap quilts in various sizes above it.  Some are for teaching examples, some are for the local long term care facility, and some are just for us to use.

I mentioned earlier that my friend S. and I had found some inspiration at a quilt show in Drumheller.  She has already finished her quilt, and what a gorgeous quilt it is!

S. started quilting just last November, and really got into it in a big way.  Her first quilt was a "rag" quilt.  She bought the material at the local quilt shop's October sale and two weeks later she had her first quilt.  It turned out very nice, and she still has it.

 Then she made a whole lot of placemats, table toppers and small pot "mats" for Christmas presents.  Since she's at the stage of welcoming new grandchildren she's been making baby quilts.

I'm delighted with the beautiful things she's made.  She picks lovely fabrics and does careful work, as you can see in this closeup of her latest quilt.  I think this is beautifully done.

S. is already working on another quilt that I haven't seen yet.  I'm looking forward to all the interesting things that she will make over this coming winter.

What an accomplishment for a "new" quilter!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Goodbye, Dickens!

Dear Daughter #2 and family have been visiting us this week.  It's always such a treat to have our kids and grandkids around!

But today when they left we also said "Goodbye," to our dear cat, Dickens.
("Sniff, sniff)

Dickens showed up almost three years ago and adopted us.  He was such a winsome cat, full of personality and very affectionate, that it became a mutual adoption.  He was definitely the best cat we ever had, and we've had about 10 or 12 over the decades.

He's an excellent hunter and kept the house free of mice.  He had lots of adventures in our landscape, which is fairly dense and covers about 5 acres, including the house and greenhouses.  It offered lots of "jungle" to a cat who thought he was a big hunter.

All in all, the arrangement was wonderful for everyone involved.

Last winter we were gone for about eight weeks and Dickens stayed home alone.  S. came every day to feed and water him and play with him for a while, but it really wasn't enough companionship for him.

We're thinking of going south for a good part of this winter also, so providing for Dickens in a responsible way became a problem.  We realized that it was time to "adopt" him out.

I asked around whenever I was with friends, and when I mentioned it to DD#2 she right away felt positive about having him, but did have to talk it over with DSIL.  He also right away said, "Sure, we'll take him."

The two grandkids are having birthdays soon and will be 10 and 14 this year.  They have a dog, Daisy, who is quite shy, not agressive at all.  I think the two pets will get along fine once they adjust to each other.

So this morning we got the cat carrier ready with a familiar "blankie" in the bottom and tried to lure Dickens into it.

He didn't go for the Greenie treat we put in there, but when I got his little catnip fish and teased him with it a little bit and then threw it in, Dickens followed and we were able to "box him up" without any fuss.  He didn't complain when we closed the door and put the carrier in the back seat of their car.

I'm wondering how the trip is going.  They plan to take two days to drive home and have a pet-friendly motel booked about half way.  We also have a harness and leash for him that I've used when taking him to the vet for an appointment.

I will really miss Dickens.  He loved to hunt all night, come in when we got up in the morning, and after a little snack of Whiskas, he would climb up on my lap and make himself very much at home, motor going a mile a minute, and eyes closed in the bliss of having his chin and ears stroked.

Goodbye, dear little cat!  It's been a very good three years with you.  Enjoy your new home, where we know you will get lots of affection and attention.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Set of Placemats

Just now I finished all the machine sewing on the set of four placemats for DD#2 and family.  They are my design, sort of.  Obviously a take-off on the Canadian flag, and also on a pattern for a small banner that our local quilt club made a few years ago.

The background is not quite as white/grey as shows on this photo.  It's a nice beige.

I would still like to make a set of four napkins to go along with this, but that may wait until a later date.

One Year Sock Project

A year ago I was knitting a pair of lovely Ultra Alpaca Berroco socks in a dark blue for #2 son.  When they were here visiting we tried the first sock on and realized it was simply too small with no way to add or fix them.  I put them aside and started on a second pair in the same yarn, but in a charcoal colour.  Shortly after that I had to stop knitting because of a "trigger finger" on my right hand.

Throughout the past year I worked on them in short sessions.  This morning I finished and sewed the ends in.  Just on time!  They are due for a visit here some day soon.  The socks are packed in a gift bag awaiting their arrival.

In July our landscape is at its best.  Beautiful blooms all over the place.

I took these two pictures from the front patio, facing the road, looking slightly north.  South of the driveway is our Garden Centre parking lot, not an interesting subject for a photo.

Jim thoroughly enjoys his landscape, and he should have a lot of credit: he planted all of this, including placing all the many, many rocks around the edges and surrounding the little pond hear the front of the yard.  It's nice that 15 years after the start of the project we are able to enjoy the luxuriant growth that he has promoted, and the beauty at all times of the year!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Help with Planning Dinner

I'm not an enthusiastic cook at the best of times, but I do like to eat good meals.  This morning I was completely out of menu ideas, so I asked my good friend and walking partner, M., to tell me what to cook for dinner.  She came up with some good suggestions.

First on the menu was chicken breast prepared with a special marinade, all things I have in the house.  Then she suggested veggie skewers on the barbecue.  We don't have a grill, but we do have a large Betty Crocker indoor griddle.  That would work!  She even gave me a yellow zucchini, a huge mushroom and some lemon pepper.

I marinated the chicken breast after slicing it thinly.  I cut up two Russet potatoes and cooked them briefly in the microwave, prepared the zucchini, onions, mushrooms and several patio tomatoes.  These were all put in a bowl and mixed with some olive oil and some veggie seasonings, and placed on the pre warmed griddle for about 15 minutes.

The menu was rounded out with a spinach/dried cranberry/onion salad, one of our regular favourites.  The spinach came fresh from the garden.

What a nice meal that was!  Thanks, M., for the inspiration!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Apple Coffee Cake

Have I ever given you my Apple Coffee Cake recipe?  It's one I found in a magazine at the library, and then, as usual, altered to something reliable, something that we like.  It takes a while to make and 40 minutes to bake, so this is a Saturday breakfast special.


Whisk together:
   1/2 cup sugar
   1/4 cup margerine
   1 egg

In a separate bowl, mix together:
   1 cup white flour
   1/2 cup whole wheat flour
   2 tsp. baking powder
   1/2 tsp. salt
   1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Peel, core and cut up 3 or 4 apples.  Mix them into the wet ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients and enough milk to make a nice batter.  Spread in an 8 x 8 baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.  Bake at 375ยบ for 40 minutes.  Cut into 9 pieces.  200 cal/piece

I usually double this recipe and bake it in a parchment lined 9 x 12 cake pan.  The leftover freezes well, and for one preparation time you have two breakfasts (depending on how many are eating!)

If you have company coming for breakfast you could prepare the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients, separately, and keep them overnight in the fridge.  Do the apples first thing in the morning and pop the whole thing in the oven.  A real treat!

I highly recommend the Pampered Chef apple corer/peeler/slicer.  Works like a charm!  Impale the apple on the prongs, turn the handle and the apple is ready.  Throw away the peel and the core, remove any little parts of core that remain and chop up the slices.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kind of Dumb

Sometimes I'm surprised at how stupid I can be!  Because we're making this quilt from a picture, not a pattern, I had to chart out everything.  I've already told you about the ridiculous first seam.  These "losenge" blocks have given me a hard time!

The quilt needs four of these and sixteen half blocks. I made a mistake when I drafted the block.  I drew the points where the corner triangles meet to the cutting line, not the seam line.  I didn't notice what I'd done, but I really noticed that I couldn't make the block work.

After eight blocks that weren't really right I decided to redraft the block.  About time!  As soon as I drew it out I realized what was wrong and corrected that problem.

Then I tried out the new pattern in scrap material.  How come I didn't do that first time around?  What's that definition of stupidity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting it to turn out differently?
This scrap block turned out perfectly on the first try!  If I have enough material (and I think I do) I will make four good blocks when everything else is finished, before sewing the top together.

I also drafted the blocks for the inner border, and did make one of them.  The light purple is a directional fabric so I cut half the blocks horizontal and half the blocks vertical, for the sides and the top/bottom.  This inner border block will be positioned further out, not where it is in this photo, but I haven't sewed the blocks surrounding this center block yet.

After that it was easy to draft the half losenge block, though I haven't made any of them yet.

You can see a bit of the yellow that will be an accent fabric in the quilt.  It doesn't belong in the losenge block, but in its own block, show in the next photo.

I think it's quite pretty all together.


Here's S's first block.  Her colours are really pretty together!

With all the drafting work I've done for this quilt I should make a second top, just using a different colour combination.  That would take a fraction of the time this top has taken!

Sorry about the strange positioning in this post.  Sometimes the post doesn't look like what I make up. Pictures wander here and there and gaps appear.  Who knows why or how to fix it?  Not me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Quilty Inspiration

On Saturday my friend S. and I went to a quilt show in Drumheller.  It was so enjoyable!  We parked a little over a block away from Main Street and explored a few of the nifty (touristy) shops before hitting the quilt display.  I found a few little presents. We looked at some lovely quilts and some beautiful paintings and photographs.

Main Street was blocked off for the show and there were a LOT of quilts there.  One thing we noticed that somewhat surprised us was that so many of the quilts had really big blocks.  That, of course, makes the construction of a large quilt so much quicker and easier.

S. was looking for some inspiration for a quilty present for her daughter in law whom they will visit in August.  She found it in a good sized lap quilt in purples and greens with a bright yellow accent.  I suggested she take a picture, which she did, as I promised to chart out the pattern for her.

Monday morning I got busy and became really quite fascinated with it.  It's not a complicated quilt, so after about 3 hours I had drawn the blocks, figured out the construction procedure and got a pretty good estimate of the yardages needed.

Monday afternoon she and I went to town here and we both bought what was needed.  This morning I started cutting and sewing.

The first seam was a big OOPS! shown in the first picture.  I'm so used to sewing a square diagonally on the corner of a block I never stopped to think that a diagonal in a rectangle doesn't work the same way.  Was I ever surprised when I trimmed and turned it over to press.  This needs some more figuring out!

Then I got as far as the second photo.  The diamonds in rectangles need some more work.  There's not enough seam allowance at the centres.  Also
when I saw how the greens were really too
 close in value to stand out from each other I was disappointed.  The bolts seemed to have plenty of contrast, but when sewed together in a four patch, they just didn't do a good job.

So this afternoon S. and I went to town again, she for some other light green and a different background.  We had realized that her background fabric, which we both really liked, was directional and would present good sized headaches in this pattern.  I was looking for either a different light green, or something completely other.  Mary (at Mary's Quilt Shop) helped me find the fabrics in the last picture.  They are bluey green batiks that relate so much better to the other fabrics in the quilt.

I finished redoing that centre block just before 9 tonight.  Time for a shower and a snack before bedtime.  Tomorrow is another day and you can bet that there will be some sewing in it!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Finished Grandmother's Fans

I just finished the Grandmother's Fans lap top quilt.  This is very different from my original plan.  I had hoped to make a good sized quilt for a single bed, but wasn't able to make enough of the fan blocks.  So I changed the plan to making a few lap top quilts from the fan blocks. This is the first one and uses only 10 of the 33 fan blocks.

This is the fifth lap top quilt I've made since the end of April.  Pretty soon I need to get back to working on a queen sized quilt that I started a few years ago, the "Cascades" quilt.  It needs the top put together (it's in three pieces now) and borders added.

I was organizing my pictures of projects that
I've finished in 2014, checking back through
the blog to see what was published here.  I didn't find a picture of the "I Wanna Be a Cowboy" quilt that I made in May.

This is the "Colour Block" pattern from "Fun & Easy Scrap Quilting," a publication of House of White Birches.  It's a pattern I've used several times.  The fabric is from a collection called "I Wanna Be a Cowboy."  If you look closely, you can see cowboy hats and boots in the brown/beige blocks.  Each of the other fabrics has circles in it.  The border, which was the only blue that would match, also has brown circles and small light dots running diagonally. That just happened to be the perfect fabric for a border, and was on the $5 a meter table to boot.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

More Choices

I'm going back to the quilt I wrote about on June 19, the Grandmother's Fan quilt.  The fan needed some lace around the edge, so I looked at the Fabric Nook, my LQS, but there was nothing at all appropriate.  So I decided to make the lace.

In my yarn stash was some appropriate beige cotton thread that worked up just right.  But the tricky thing was going to be inserting the lace between the fan and the background.

I decided to sew the fan to the background with a very narrow seam, the needle position set at 5.3, the farthest right setting that can be used with the 1/4" seam foot.

Then I inserted the lace, upside down into the crevice of that seam and resewed the seam with the needle set at 4.00.

These two pictures show how that was done.

The first few tries left sections of the lace unanchored.  I had to go back and resew with a slightly wider seam.  That was when I set the needle to 5.3, rather than just 5.0.  This morning I sewed two of these fan blocks together, and they worked perfectly the first time.

I dampened the seam lightly with spray starch and pressed it toward the fan.  Here on the wrong side you can see the two seams, just slightly apart from each other.

The next decision will be the layout of the
quilt.  It's helpful to put the loose blocks up on the design board and try out different arrangements.

I'm not sure which of these two I like better, but I know that the first one will be easier to sew together and finish quickly.

What do you think, which arrangement is more appealing?