Saturday, June 28, 2014

Uh Oh

Yesterday evening I finished painting the balcony floor, in spite of the fact that there was rain forecast in the overnight and the directions for the Vinyl ReFresh specify "no rain within 24 hours."

The rain did wash some of the ReFresh off.  You can see on this photo the dividing line between what was painted on Wednesday and what was painted between 8:30 and 9:30 last night.

This shows how the colour has washed off and pooled in the slightly lower areas.

In the foreground you can see the mixed results: some still painted, but lots washed off.

Should have followed directions! and not hurried to finish the first coat.  Monday is forecast to be clear all day.  Should have waited until then.

The part that I painted before 8:30 survived the rain.

I will have to repaint the area that was affected before I roll on the second coat.  However, I'm still happy with how this is turning out.  Without the rain it would have been wonderful.  And still most of the area is fine.  That's a lesson for me: FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!!!

Friday, June 27, 2014


I thought you might enjoy seeing a few of the many flowers in our landscape right now:
Back-lit irises.

Irises are one of my favourite flowers.  Their colours are so vivid, the blossoms so enormous and the petals so velvety.  The plants themselves are very hardy.  It's just a shame that the blossoms last just a few days!
The brilliant orange poppies are actually just all orange, but the back-lighting through the petals makes them look yellow and orange.  This is the clump of flowers that greet you when you turn in our driveway.  A week or so ago the prominent blooms in this spot were those impressive Aliums, a huge purple globe of mini flowers atop a tall stem.

Across the path from the poppies are these
lupins, another favourite of mine.  Lupins are prolific.  They spread their seed all over the landscape, perhaps with the help of our large bird population.  The colours vary over the generations.  Bees love them.  You can almost always find bees busy among the blossoms.

In the background are some greeny yellow Golden Elders.

The are also irises, but a smaller variety.  These are blooming near the pond at the front of the landscape.

It's a beautiful time of year and it's important to soak it all in while it's here!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Project

No, not a quilting project this time!

Our retirement home was built in 1979 and nothing was done in terms of upkeep or repair until we bought it in 1997.  The first thing we discovered was that it needed a new roof!  I was there by myself, painting in order to freshen it up before renters moved in.  It was raining and the water was dripping from the arch between the kitchen and the hall.  Dripping fast!  I put buckets under the drips and called Jim, but there wasn't much we could do at that point.

The old fellow who owned the house before us was aware of the roof leak.  His solution was to place an empty ice cream pail on top of the kitchen cupboards to catch the drips.  Not just one pail!  He had two pails up there, the second connected to the first by a drinking straw threaded through a small hole drilled near the top of the first pail.  Very clever, eh?

So one of the first things we did was have a new roof, a torched on membrane roof, installed.  We're not totally happy with the installation as it was done in a hurry and has had a few problems, nothing insurmountable.  But it's annoying to have to repair a fairly new roof!

We also installed all new flooring, all new windows, and did some major renovations: removing two wood stoves, one upstairs and one down.  Upstairs (the main living area) we installed a gas fireplace which we really enjoy.  We were going to keep the wood stove downstairs (recreation room, Jim's office, spare bedroom and bathroom) but discovered that we would have to replace a rusted chimney that would cost megabucks.  We took out that wood stove and used it in the second greenhouse as back up heating.  The upstairs wood stove had been placed in our sales building.

We also discovered that the chimney from the furnace (a small boiler for hot water heating) was full of holes from corrosion.  That was replaced also.

The house had a rather flimsy balcony around the south and west sides of the living/dining room.  Our carpenter reinforced the balcony, firmed up the railing and installed new plywood on the floor of the balcony.  He and I together covered that floor with Ducan vinyl deck sheeting.  That worked well for many years and looked good, too.

Last summer I repainted the whole railing, and it still looks very good.  But the vinyl flooring was very faded from the sun and looking rather ragged.  I had asked last year at Home Hardware if there were any products that could be applied over vinyl sheet flooring, but was told there were none.  Recently I took that question on line and found out that Ducan makes a product specifically for that problem: Vinyl ReFresh.  When we were in Red Deer this past week we bought what was needed.

 This first photo shows the flooring being prepared.  A strong cleaner, degreaser called The Duke is mixed with hot water, 10 to 1 and the flooring is scrubbed with that.  I have a scrubbing brush on a long handle, which is just right for this job.  Yesterday afternoon I got the first half of the balcony floor scrubbed.  What hard work!  The sweat literally dripped off me.

Later in the evening when it was dry I began the painting process.  I am totally pleased with how it it turning out.

For the first coat I'm being very careful to fill all the little indentations in the vinyl.  The second coat will go on a little easier, I think.

This morning I finished scrubbing the rest of the flooring, and when it's dry I can do some more painting.

Maybe by the end of this week the first big summer project will be finished!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Roasted Veggies PLUS

About a year ago I became interested in new ways to cook and eat beets.  I guess we had lots in the garden.  First we tried a cold beet/orange salad.  Jim liked it.  I thought it was so/so.  Then I read about oven roasted beets and tried that.  They took forever to be cooked to an edible state.  Then I thought of combining them with a few other things.

Usually when I try a new recipe I do exactly what it says.  Second time around and after I alter the recipe until it turns out to be a "repeatable."  That's how this elaborate combination came about:

Preheat the oven to 350º.
Line a 9" x 9" square pan with foil.
Prepare and layer the following:
   beets, cut into strips
   parsnips, cut into strips
   carrots, cut into strips
   white or sweet potato, cut into strips
   sweet onion, cut in segments
   mild Italian sausage, cut into rounds.

Sprinkle herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, thyme--any combination) over all.

Top with fresh pineapple chunks.

Dribble extra virgin olive oil over all.

Cover with aluminum foil and roast for 45 minutes.
Add a layer of red pepper strips.
Sprinkle parmesan very liberally over top.
Return to oven covered for another 15 minutes, or as long as it takes for all the veggies to be fork tender.

This recipe makes a generous main meal for the two of us.  Of course, you could also fill a 13" x 9" pan if you are feeding more people. And you can alter the ingredients according to your preferences.

I do peel the beets, parsnips, carrots and potatoes before cutting them up.

We eat this meal as is, without any additions such as salad or dinner buns.  If you're feeding several people, you would want to make such additions.

Here's the finished dish, ready to eat.  We ate about 2/3 of this for our dinner today.  The rest went into the freezer, ready for Jim to heat up some day when I'm not at home to cook dinner.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Terrific Recital

Last Thursday I was privileged to be part of a really wonderful recital in Red Deer.  My student M, who took violin lessons from me for two years and had absorbed everything I had to give her, now takes lessons from an excellent and accomplished teacher in Red Deer.  Thursday evening that teacher and her students gave their year end recital which included a tango played by several of the violin students, with the addition of three young cellists and myself as the viola player.

What fun!  It's a very catchy piece.  With just one rehearsal the previous Thursday evening, and an hour get together before the recital, we were all set.

This was the last piece on the program.  Prior to that each student had performed a solo, most of them playing from memory.  Their accomplished, polished performances just wowed me.  They were so good!  For instance, a beautiful, moving performance of "Adoration" by Borowski, a delightful piece: "Spanish Dance" by Moszkowski, "Perpetual Motion" by C. Bohm, "La Fille aux cheveux lin" by Debussy; "Czardas" by Monti (brilliantly performed, I thought); and the first movement of "Sonata in D Major" by J.C. Bach.

What an evening!  It was a thrill to be there to hear all those polished performances, and, especially, to be part of the little group at the end.  You can enjoy the performance of the group by clicking on this link:  Stefan introduced our number and has just told the audience that if they feel like getting up and dancing to the music....

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Today's Baking

Today's baking: 2 loaves of 75% whole wheat bread, a lemon poppy seed cake (with a slice already eaten--because baking needs to be sampled, right?) and a dozen Saskatoon muffins.

For those not privileged to know: Saskatoons are like blueberries, but have a darker, kind of more purple flavour.  The bushes thrive here in our fairly alkaline soil, whereas blueberries need an acid soil.

These Saskatoons came out of an ice cream pail full in the freezer.  On the lid is the date they were picked: July 20, '07!  Saskatoons are pretty finicky, and don't produce if: 1. there is frost while they are in blossom, 2. there is wind while they are in blossom, and 3. there is not enough moisture when the berries are "plumping up."  Fortunately they keep well in the freezer.

We have four 300 foot long rows of Saskatoon bushes on the north side of the shelter belt, the low, windward side.  We don't tend them; that would be an awful lot of work.  And they have become infected with Juniper Rust, which ruins the berries.

When we first lived here, fifteen years ago, they were smaller and in better shape.  I ran a U-Pick one summer when there was a heavy crop and made $1,000 from those rows.

Here are a few cloud pictures that I took from the back door patio yesterday evening.  They looked pretty formidable from the ground, but on the government radar site they weren't all that threatening.  I did hear rain and thunder during the night, but nothing that amounted to much.

It was cold, rainy and windy this morning.  The thermometer read +8ºC which is about +48ºF.  Now the sky has cleared up but still with a lot of clouds and the thermometer reads +19ºC which is the equivalent of +66ºF, and it's still very windy.

One evening this week, about 9:45 p.m. there was a beautiful, full rainbow in the east.

This is the longest day of the year.  Sun rise was at 5:13 a.m. and sunset will be at 9:55 p.m.  Being this far north we have wonderfully long evenings in the summer--actually wonderfully long mornings also.
Civil twilight today extends from 4:25 a.m. to 10:44 p.m.  That means it's plenty light outside from before 4:30 to almost quarter to eleven.  It's one of the features of Alberta that I really enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Making Choices

 I've been working on a "Grandmother's Fan" quilt top.  This is intended to use up one large remnant from a king-size quilt I made for D.D.#1 some years ago.  That's the black background with fans.  The fans themselves are smaller remnants of several related pinks in the stash.

I found I could cut 32, 10&1/2" squares from the black background.  After several days of putting fans together I had 33.

So the first question to be answered: Should they become 2 lap quilts, or 1 single bed sized quilt.  I'm leaning toward 2 lap quilts, as that seems to be the best, balanced use.

The next step is trying out different arrangements of the blocks.  The different possibilities are in these four pictures.  There are probably more ideas possible, but this is enough for me!

The top two use some green on black background that I bought to finish this quilt.  When I laid out some blocks I thought it would be too busy.

Number 3 and 4 are the same blocks laid out on a beige background that picks up the beige
fans on the black background, and is a lot less busy.  This piece of fabric is one of two that have been more or less saved for another quilt I have in mind.  This fabric is no longer available, but I like it as a background better than the green.

Number 4 picture is the same combination, but with the blocks laid out in alternating directions, which gives is a little bit more "oomph," I think.

The "handle" of the fan will be the pinky brown you see on two of the fans in the middle row.  This is what I'm leaning toward as design choice for now.

I'm going into town to get the mail and will stop at IDA (the local fabric shop) to see if I can find some nice beige for the background, so this fabric can still be saved for the intended use.

P.S. So far, the three people who read the last blog post have said they would like me to continue.  

Monday, June 16, 2014

The end?

I'm leaning toward quitting my blog.  I've been doing this for over 5 years, and it's getting a little stale.  I have 9 followers (actually 8, that I know of, as one of them died this past year) but I know that several other friends and relatives do read the blog on a regular basis.

If you want me to keep on blogging, please leave a comment or send me an email at

Louise aka Grammilou 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

This Week's Brainstorm

When I'm piecing I like to press very often.  It makes the finished product much neater and more precise.  To my left as I sew is this old student desk, measuring 20" x 36".  I keep my iron and spray bottle there, and also a 12" x 12" June Taylor Quilter's  Cut 'n Press.  That's a lot handier than jumping up to use the ironing board for each little seam.

But the little Cut 'n Press tends to slide around on the Formica surface of the desk.  And quite often I have a long string of seams to press, making it necessary to drag them over the Cut 'n Press.  So this week I had an inspiration: Why not make the entire desk top a pressing station?

I got out some muslim and made a cover with a drawstring edge.  Then I cut three layers of batting to pad it, and put a fourth layer of the kind of insulating batting used for hot pads on the bottom.

It works like an absolute charm!  Plenty of room to press most anything.  I'm delighted!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Stormy Weather

We are currently stuck in a productive weather pattern.  The days begin with clear skies and cool temps--+5ºC.  By noon hour puffy little white clouds have begun to dot the sky.  As the afternoon goes along, they build and become taller.  Pretty soon the sky is filled with towering white clouds rising from flat, dark bottoms.

Then the rumbling starts.  The sky here is so big that you can see two or three separate storms building.  Sometimes we get hit by one, and sometimes they just go to the north or the south.

On Sunday a good one came through here and stripped many blossoms off the old apple tree.  This year the trees are so overloaded with blossoms that they need to be thinned out.

Last night at 9:45 p.m. there were a few showers falling between us and the sun setting in the west.  The sun's rays penetrating from below and behind the showers turned them into a spectacular show of red and orange shifting curtains of rain.

What a lot of beauty we see every day!