Wednesday, December 31, 2014

'Tis a loovely day for a walk, they tell me

Hello, everyone.

I woke up this morning to weather that even the dogs and chickens don't want to go out in: 48F, north wind, and drizzle/rain from time to time.

In weather like this, the Irish ladies assured us that it's a "lovely day for a walk!"  

The poncho kept the pack, and contents, dry! And I needed it a lot that day. (Zubiri)
Quick comments on the rain poncho: this is the taffeta type with the extra long back that will cover the pack. It doesn't reach down to cover the lower legs, but if it did I'd probably trip over the hem. The snaps at the sides are easy to open, sometimes by accident, and if you don't use them, the whole poncho can turn around to where the long parts are down the sides instead of front and back. Especially in wind! It's also very noisy to wear--hey, it's taffeta!--and since it is water resistant and wind resistant, it will keep heat in.

I wore it over the green windbreaker because it was a day like today, and over my green sun hat, to keep the rain off of my glasses.

Note that the snaps came undone and the wind has worked its magic. (Alto del Perdon) 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

...And another one down!

Hello, everyone.

The Red Quilt is finished!

From miscellaneous squares in need of a home in September
to UFO with strong diagonal elements and sashing (the dark blue strips) to separate the squares
to completed baby/lap quilt at the end of the year.  (Which I am unwilling to wait for the final wash to complete before posting this, so y'all can refer back to the last time the Red Quilt was discussed to view the navy blue satin blanket-binding borders, instead of seeing a new picture here. There are no changes from the last picture except the final hand sewing.)

This means the decks are cleared for the Peanut Quilt: which I already have the fabrics for. I'm thinking something in the tesselated crosses line, maybe with an accent square in the center of each cross--a pieced fish square?--and with the colors being: soft greens, yellows, some oranges and golds, some purples. The fish squares, being pieced from two fabrics, will either mirror one another across the quilt--allowing me to use the "solid" prints economically--or be a mix of "solid" print and white. I haven't decided yet.

It's also possible that a pieced boat or two will materialize inside one of the tesselated crosses.

The one thing I do know for sure is that it must be completed by the middle of February!

I wish for everyone a happy and prosperous new year.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Quilting progress

Hello, everyone.

I have made progress on the Red Quilt.
Side bindings done! End bindings half done!
I hope that this will be finished this weekend. (All it needs is the hand sewing and the final wash.)

Then I can begin on the baby quilt for DD1, and none too soon as she's due in less than 2 months.

My sweetie and I  have been talking about walking, too. We find that we're drawn to return to Santiago--or maybe to try the walk from Switzerland down to Rome. All we know for sure is that the trail calls to us. We shall see what becomes of this yearning over time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas greetings

Hello, everyone.

It's 60F and my sweetie wanted to show off our mandarin oranges!

Merry Christmas to all, and may you enjoy all the blessings of the season!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Hello, everyone. I was clearing off a flat surface in my “office”—that being the room that the computer, the sewing machine, the beading stuff, and a lot of books live together in—and it occurred to me to discuss some of the books that I referred to during the Great Dress Project.
The Great Dress Project was my daughter’s wedding dress, which included a shrug and many assorted false starts. During the adventure, I bought a number of books about various embellishment techniques and formalwear/wedding projects.

One I had on hand at the beginning of the adventure was Bridal Couture, by Susan Khalje. This had been my assistant for various sewing projects over the years. When my daughter got engaged, I pulled it off the shelf and went through it again. When she settled on a shape (the first time) I used it and some off the shelf patterns to come up with the prototype strapless bodice. When she changed the bodice to include band sleeves, it was back to Bridal Couture again! I cannot say enough words about how helpful this book is. You can use it for bridesmaid dresses and high school formal dresses just as well as for wedding dresses. And its discussion of various fabrics is a good start on the process of creating the whole project.

She decided on a beaded dress, so I accumulated books on beading, to go along with one I had already: Bead Embroidery Stitch Samples, by Yasuko Endo; Beading on Fabric, by Larkin Jean Van Horn; Beyond Beading Basics, by Carol Rodgers; Fine Embellishment Techniques, by Jane Conlon; Bead & Sequin Embroidery Stitches, by Stanley Levy.

The one that was already here was Designer Bead Embroidery by Kenneth D. King. It was helpful, but other than the very wise advice about underlining to give structure to the fabric and using an embroidery frame, I didn't end up using actual words in it much. It did get me started on prototyping various stitch ideas, though, and that taught me a whole lot! In particular, that less can be so much more in design, and that sequins really weren’t going to be needed.

Sequins and shapes--oops, too busy! Loopy stitches--totally not needed!

Test of various floral elements and bead combinations.
This bit of testing became the springboard of the final design. (The pinkish part on the left was the keeper. Done, of course, in ivory like the dress and silvery-white.)

Here is part of it, being added to the bodice-front pieces. (3mm Swarovski perles, Miyuki size 11 seeds and size 15 rocailles)

The blue lines are the tracing lines, which are not on the actual fabric. They're on Sulky Solvy! Which, conveniently, dissolves in water. And that's what it did at the end of the beadwork.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Hello, everyone.

I suppose y'all can tell that the Christmas seasonal rush has been keeping us busy. The group activities are done, but there are still many family things. Gift shopping. Cookie baking. This year, for my first time, cookie decorating. (I think I don't like almond extract.) Fruitcake baking. Wrapping. Checking the delivery progress of mail-order things that haven't come yet.

Today, as I was getting ready to roll out a ball of dough, my sweetie said, "What are we having for dinner?" Umm. So we pulled an octopus out of the freezer and put it into the sink to thaw. Then, because the food that goes with octopus is baguette bread, pulled the two frozen loaves out to thaw and rise. And when I sat down at the computer and riffled through the pictures in it, I came across this:
The old fortress of Carlos V--or is it San Carlos?--in Fisterra. The nice man who showed us around the Fishing Museum inside is on the right. Check out the gorgeous hydrangea bush!
 And especially this:
Lobster traps/octopus traps.
The man told us that these round boxes are lobster traps. They put the bait (chicken necks or something like that) into the trap and leave the little door open for the lobster to go into it. Apparently the lobster can't figure out how to get out again. Or he is trying to take the food with him and won't leave it. At any rate, it developed over time that the fishermen would pull up the trap and find, not a lobster, but an octopus. The octopus would come along and either go for the lobster bait himself, or even more likely, go for the lobster. Then he would look around and say, "hey, nice cave. I think I'll just live here." And he'd stay. He'd even stay while they pulled the trap up. All because he's greedy (for the food) and lazy (just moves in on this little "cave.")

I wonder, now, how many of our bad habits that we get are basically us acting like octopus? We do something because it's easy and seems to solve a little problem. Then we get comfortable in it, and don't even think about changing. Even if the little habit turns into a bad problem, often we don't open our minds to getting rid of the habit. And all the while that rope is getting tighter on the trap, and pulling it up and up...until our self-created bad habit make a big wreck of some thing that we really care about.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Frutas del bosque remembered

Hello, everyone.

The Camino lives and grows in your soul, and at the oddest times you find yourself missing one particular moment. That happened to my sweetie this weekend. He went to HEB and saw the ripe (imported) cherries and came home to say that I should pick them up. It's a great deal, he said. Well. Maybe, for midwinter, but they were still about $6/pound. (4-plus euro for the half kilo, ouch!) I didn't get them. But I thought about it--and here is where my thought led me:

In the last part of the Camino, in Galicia I think, we were walking along over green and often woody hills. We passed one particular bit with some houses, my sweetie walking ahead as he so often did, and I looked up and found I'd caught the eye of the sweetest little old lady. She was sitting on her chair in her drive, just off the trail, and arranging frutas del bosque (raspberries) in baskets for sale to the passing pilgrims. She smiled at me with the brightest twinkle in her eye...I caught up to my sweetie a few steps later and said, "I can't believe you passed that up." Well, he didn't know what I was even talking about, so he went back, and there she still was. He got a basket of berries and we munched on down the trail, quenching our thirst with the wonderful berries.

And that was what he was really after with the cherries. He wanted to be there again, on the trail, meeting this nice old lady and getting a basket of berries to eat.

Once I figured that out, I looked around for something that was a little closer to frutas del bosque. And there were fresh blackberries there, marked down to about a dollar for 6 ounces. I got two packages of those and handed them to my sweetie with "I got your frutas del bosque at the store."

Now I want to be back there, smiling at that sweet lady, and then tasting the lovely juicy berries. (and as with so much we saw toward the end, neither of us had a camera out!)

This and the next one were both on the same day. The path was slanted and rocky, so we walked on the road instead. That bright red speck is my sweetie, up ahead.

We saw so many different pilgrim statues. You can see, he has his staff, his water gourd, his Cross of Santiago on his coat, and his shell on his hat.

Top of the pilgrim monument at the overlook Monte de Gozo just before Santiago.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Doggie love

Hello, everyone.

This morning, at our doggies' cookie time, the bag was almost empty. Oops. Forgot to put dog cookies onto the grocery list.

So--rather than going back to the grocery store for the second time in two days--it was dog cookie baking time.

My Bo Friberg pastry book has a secret recipe buried in the introduction; it's the dog cookie recipe he makes for his own dogs. I adapted it a little. Our dogs love the homemade cookies.

 The cookbook--actually the link is to the 4th edition, mine is the 3rd. I'll bet the dog cookie recipe is still there.
His recipe is basically milk-flavored. I substitute beef bouillon from the cube, and use the saved grease from frying various yummy foods on the stove instead of just pouring plain vegetable oil.
Flour, gluten flour, whole wheat flour, a wee bit of salt

The oil has been poured in.
The finished dog cookies. My buddies will love me tomorrow morning!

I used the dough hook instead of the mixing blade. I'm not sure why--just did. It worked fine. You can see below that I skipped using the spiffy dog-bone shaped cookie cutters. Strips are fine. The dogs aren't particular about the shape.
I used 5 small eggs instead of 3 large ones--drilled them with the Dremel so the shells can be used in the future. (Possibly for an Easter decoration, we'll see.) And the bouillon cubes instead of the milk powder. Because my doggies like beef-broth dipped cookies!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Post-Thanksgiving food pictures

Hello, everyone.

I did take a few pictures while cooking for Thanksgiving this year...I think it's all pies. (Yum.)

Ripe Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced, with cranberries, sugar, flour, and a wee bit of cinnamon
 I gave the apple peels to my birdies. They weren't quite sure what to make of them.
THE pie book. Which should be brought back into print! 
 Last year I scoured the internet to find a copy of this for my sweet DIL. It has great dough recipes, fruit pie recipes, and a wonderful after-turkey-meal pie recipe. (Calls for cooked chicken, works great with turkey.)
The Cranberry-Apple pie recipe. I followed their crust instructions this time, but in future I'll stick with a solid crust, so the fruity juicy stuff won't dry out in the top half of the pie.

Completed Cranberry Apple pie. Crust for Lemon Meringue pie in background.

The 6 separated eggs for the lemon pie.

The foolproof lemon pie recipe. When the card looks like this, you know it's been loved.
The lemon pie is from the Blue Ribbon recipes book, hand copied years and years ago. And unlike most of the lemon meringue pie recipes I've tried, this one always thickens. It has a bit of flour to go with the cornstarch.
My sweetie made a pie, too: Bourbon Pecan pie from the Encyclopedia of Cajun Cooking. The flavor was superb, but in my opinion the filling recipe needs another egg yolk so it will thicken properly.
(I see while hunting up the link for this book that the price has risen. It's still worth it! There is a corn salad recipe, too!)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Remembering Margaret Leonard

Hello, everyone.

I wrote yesterday about Mrs. Beckley. Her beautiful eggs certainly led me to want to make elaborately decorated eggs like hers. (My sweetie finally gave up trying to get all the egg white out of his Dremel and gave me one of my own for Christmas. Thank you, Sweetie!)

Another influence on my crafting was my mother in law, Margaret Leonard. She was always very particular about her work, and because she was meticulous, it was beautiful.

I thought I had some good pictures of her bead-woven ornaments, but this is the best one I found. And the camera apparently decided that it liked the tree branches better than the ornament! But even in this picture, you can see that her tension was very even and the colors harmonious.
She was not only a meticulous artisan, she was also very generous with her knowledge. She gave me the instruction sheets for this and many other lovely Christmas ornaments--and one of these days I'll figure out which of my beads are the right size to make more like them.

I miss her dearly, especially at this time of the year when I am cooking the recipes she gave me and hanging the ornaments she made on our tree.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Remembering Mrs. Beckley

Hello, everyone.

When I was young, and my grandmother was still alive, she had a dear friend, Mrs. Beckley. I'm sure we all met her a couple of times at my grandparents' apartment. One year, when I was about nine years old, a package arrived in December. It was from Grandmother, and it contained gifts from Mrs. Beckley: three eggshells, each decorated differently, for the three grandchildren. I still have my egg from Mrs. Beckley.

Mrs. Beckley's art
You can't really see it from the front, but the egg has not one, not two, but three edge decorations around the opening in the front. There is the golden fringe, there is the strand of graduated pearly beads, and there is a rope of velvet cording. Which is accented by the bejeweled flower on top. There is another bejeweled flower on the back of the egg, too. As well as the glitter surface behind the angel. All in all, a beautifully decorated egg. (And you should have seen it when it was newer!)

Mrs. Beckley's art took root in me, and in later years I made my own scenic eggs.
A pearl in the midst of the sea?
This egg is simpler--there is only one edge decoration. It's a woven strand of pearl beads. I don't think I put any decoration onto the back of the egg, either. (It's been quite a while since it was made.)

This year, we have a pair of guineas. We have a collection of guinea eggs in the refrigerator, all of them in their hard little shells. Who knows? Maybe it's time to get out the Dremel and blow out eggs again. (Or cut a section off with baby nail scissors, to get the pretty oval hole on one side.)

It would use up some more bead stash. That's it! A reason to decorate eggs again.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas season is rushing up at us

Hello, everyone.

Since we came back from the Camino, we've been trying to simplify. There's just too much stuff! You have, no doubt, noticed that I'm trying to use up stash. And we've got a pile of things that need to go to charity, or a garage sale, whichever comes first. (It's a lot easier to drive over to the Salvation Army place!)

We realized Christmas, and Christmas decorating, was come upon us and looked at one another and said, hey, those natural Christmas trees are doggoned expensive. How is that simplifying things if we have to drive all over every year looking for one, and then drive all over getting rid of the dried out tree after the holiday? Especially since on "black Friday" this year we encountered a fake tree that costs less than we typically spend over two years of natural trees. If this thing looks good for three years, we win.

You see that there is a bow instead of a more normal star or angel on the top. We have a lovely Moravian star, but it's too heavy for the tree. We also have a smaller, flatter shell star and it's too heavy too. The top of the tree just folds over! So I looked on the web and watched some Youtube videos and got out some of my stash of ribbons and tied a bow. A delicate, small bow, not one of those monstrosities that is almost as wide as the base of the tree and with gewgaws stuck into it besides. (Really?)
And, instead of putting it into the dining room on the buffet, which is full of centerpieces for the Altar Society potluck pretty soon, I put the Nativity on the floor under the tree. We won't need room to water it, after all.
We even have a trumpeting angel on top of the shed! As long as he perches, that is. Often no matter what I do with him, he tips over.
Speaking of those centerpieces:
The underpinnings: a slice of foam that has been spray-painted silver so it won't show too badly through the tinsel.

One of the finished centerpieces. 
Dollar store supplies for the win! 3-packs of candles for $3, silver colored trays for $1 apiece, box ornaments 8/$1 and round ornaments from our stash. Also bought silver tinsel, and used up a package of gold tinsel we had on hand. Bows were in the stash, too, and bits of floral goodies. I don't reckon in the batteries that we need to put into the candles, but the centerpieces are coming in at around $3 each. Add batteries and it's still way under $5. Because the point of Christmas decorating is not to see how much money we can spend, but to give a visual "Merry Christmas!" to all who see it.