Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Day is over, but the Christmas season continues for a little while

Hello, everyone.

I was right to think that life would get in the way of blogging for a few days.

We did get some little bits of Christmas decorating done before The Day, though:

The biggest Nativity ended up in our room.

Detail of the angel on top--it had been part of a string of angel lights but the clip broke off.

A nod to Pinterest: peanut M&M candies, candle cups with tea lites, and a condiment tray

DM gave me an ostrich egg a few years back to decorate. This year it is hanging from the chandelier in the dining room.

Two hen eggs--the front one has an angel hanging inside the opening. The one in back--it was just there when I took a photo--is painted gold with some texture. These are hanging in the kitchen eating area, from another chandelier type light. The bows were added to unify the various eggshells on the fixture.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

It's maybe a little early for this but...

Hello, everyone.

We're getting busy as the Advent season winds to a close and with all the family things going on I got a little worried that this one would not go up:

As we commemorate the birth of our Savior, I wish for all of you His blessings of grace and mercy and joy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ants, ants, ants

Hello, everyone.

I remembered again today why I hate ants so much. Well, one of the reasons: Cutter Ants.

I had 2 of these Gold Dust Crotons in the yard. This one is still pretty.

Cutter ants found this one and took every single leaf off of it. It's only now beginning to get new ones.
The Cutter Ants also bite very painfully--but my primary objection is the way they kill plants. Pine trees, roses, pecan trees, grape vines, palm trees, jacaranda trees, figs, redbud trees, perennials, annuals--they even take the leaves from okra!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Some maintenance required

Hello, everyone.

We were getting out Christmas decorations, unwrapping tissue paper blobs and tubes to see what was packed where, when we found these:

Who remembers the Michelob bottle wise men?
The taller set was made while we were gone on Pilgrimage 2014, by DD2. The shorter set was made many years ago by MIL. As you can see, the kinds of materials available more recently are different.

When DD2 left to go back to school, she asked me to put some gold braid around the necks of the wise men. And, not being Christmas season, similar braid was hard to find. I made right-angle-weave pearl collars for the wise men instead, glued their heads on, and put them aside for Christmas of last year.

Everything was cool then. They were cute and DD2 was happy at how her set of wise men was looking. But that was a year ago. Apparently things got a little too rambunctious in the storage box over the summer and one of the wise men lost his head.

Maybe I should stick something onto the bottom to fit inside the bottle neck when I glue it back together? Must consider.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Warm Spell in December

Hello, everyone.

The weather has turned a bit warmer lately, and it looks like one of those years when we want to wear shorts and tees on Christmas day.

The hibiscus is blooming.

The daffodils are waking up (paperwhites.)

The salvia that sowed itself around the garden is in bloom. The cage is to keep the animals from trampling the plant.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A refreshing bit of memories: Montes de Oca

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday was very busy, with a large party for many children, and the pleasure of working with wonderful ladies! Today I find myself needing to rest a little--rest mentally, that is, with memories of one of our 2014 Camino days.

We departed from the parish albergue in Villambistia at our usual crack-of-dawn time. We walked along seeing the dew on the flowers and watching the cloudless sky change colors. The trail wasn't a completely abandoned place, but we weren't in a huge clump of people, like you may have seen in various Camino movies (like The Way when characters depart from St. Jean.) By the time you get as far as the area of Tosantos and Villambistia everyone is thinned out and less crowded. We got to Villafranca (one of the many Villafrancas, but I can't remember which one just now) about 9:30 and had coffee.

Then we started walking over the range of hills called Montes de Oca. According to the wonderful guidebook The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (This book is highly recommended--get it on Kindle, read it before you go and refer to it as needed on the way.) the Montes de Oca had at one point been a nest of bandits. It's not at all flat, and there's loads of cover, and when there was only horse travel, feet travel, and slow clumsy wagon travel it was probably perfect for the robbers to hide in. These days there is a marked trail which connects to some dirt roads that were put in to service windmills. There are no services between the last village before this and San Juan de Orbigo.

A waymark on the side of the road

This looks remote, but in the distance there is another little group of pilgrims.

The bridge at the bottom of the ravine. This bit is steep, both going down and coming up. Note arrows painted on bridge.

Just for pretty!

Another pretty flower
At the end of this forested bit, you come to the old monastery of San Juan. San Juan is one of the Engineer Saints of the Camino. He had been a disciple of Santo Domingo de Calzada. After Santo Domingo (another Engineer Saint) died, he came to this place and made a monastery. Santo Domingo and San Juan were responsible for getting roads and bridges built that would never have been there at all back in the middle ages. The monastery is currently being restored. We saw the casket where the saint's remains rest and the church. The monastery was listed as an albergue in various guide books, but it was too early to stop so we ate bocadillo at the little cafe and took pictures of the church and headed on down the road.

The monastery of San Juan de Orbigo

Monday, December 7, 2015

Stringing materials

Hello, everyone.

It's been pretty busy around here, getting ready for the holidays and for the incoming houseguests, and so this will be a quick post about something kind of timeless: bead stringing materials.

Some of the stash on hand!
In the photo, there are Nymo D, Beadalon multistranded wire, Accuflex multistranded wire, Fireline braided cord, Seaguar braided cord, and elastic Powercord.

I like the way that the Nymo goes into the size 10 beading needle. I do have to pull the end together sometimes, even dampen it a little on occasion, but once the end is through the eye it moves very smoothly. It is if anything too smooth! Placing a stop bead is more of an act of faith than a way to keep the beads from rolling off the far end of the thread. Knots come undone--in fact, I've begun using Fray-check to glue them in place. (Don't use Fray-check in just any situation; it has a potential to dry with a little bit of yellowish tint. So not the thing with white beads!)

The Fireline, and the Seaguar both come in various sizes. The Seaguar, in fact, came home from Wal-Mart with me because I couldn't find any Fireline in the fishing department. This spool is 8 pound braided line, and it's not the foggy-white color of "crystal" Fireline, it's actually transparent. I used it for part of the crystal diamond tree ornament, after managing to break the strand of 10 pound Fireline I was using in the middle. (This did take effort, accidental though it was. I had frayed the living daylights out of the thread with the needle eye trying to pull too thick of needle and cord through the beads too many times. Eventually the frayed part was inside of a bead while it was being pulled on and it just broke.) I find the really transparent line hard to keep track of, but it works well so far with the beads, and I'll probably add it to the pile of threads to keep around. At least, I have a long spool to play with!

The Beadalon and the Accuflex are reasonably similar in uses and characteristics. I have had some bad luck in choosing sizes of crimps to use, but with the correct size of crimp it holds well. It doesn't get eaten by the sharp edges of beads and it's thin. I don't think I'd want to try and thread it through a needle, though.

The Powercord is useful for making bracelets. I don't have the system quite worked out yet, though--wore a bracelet (one strand of elastic and maybe 10mm round beads) to an exercise class once and the knot came undone during the bouncing. Oops. That was before I'd heard of using glue, though, and possibly a second strand of elastic would have helped.

Lately I've been doing more bead weaving than just stringing, so the Fireline and Seaguar have been used much more than the others. The Nymo did get used in making dangling snowflakes for a Christmas tree. Fraycheck was used liberally on those knots!

Dangling ornament for a Christmas tree

Thursday, December 3, 2015

More Christmas Stash-busting

Hello, everyone.

Like many people who have gone on a walking pilgrimage, we returned and found in ourselves an urge to simplify our life--to include getting rid of excess possessions.

We've taken numerous trips over to the Salvation Army drop-off, and we've taken books to the local Friends of the Library for their little bookshop.

And I've been using up craft supplies in preference to buying great loads of stuff. (Still have to buy staples like Black Kona cotton for quilting, though!) Every time I see something that looks Really Neat, I remember that I'm swimming in stash already and promise myself to come back for this Neat Thing when the decks are a little more clear.

This morning I pulled out some more marinating craft supplies and decided to use them up to make more Christmas ornaments--this time, for the Altar Society tree at church. (To replace old ones that had broken over time.)

My Dremel was involved--I drilled a small hole at the top and bottom of each snowflake.

Then I took them upstairs and strung them with beads, also from stash, using Nymo, also from stash. That Nymo D is really, really slick--and not exactly in a good way. Stop beads just slide right on off, and it's hard to get a knot to hold. I did repeat tie them a lot, and I also pulled out my handy-dandy Fray-Check to dab onto the knots. I didn't use up all the little wooden snowflakes in one day's work, but I did get 4 dangly things made for the tree. And used up a bunch of beads--seeds, crackle rounds, pearls, etc. etc.

Probably, since time is short, I'll just hang the rest of the little snowflakes on our house tree, the one the visiting baby will be able to reach, without adding lots of beads for decoration. Beads are not a good food item for babies!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Beaded ornament completed

Hello, everyone.

There's not much to say today, but I wanted to post a picture of the diamond shaped beaded Christmas ornament discussed in the last post.

Right in the middle, where it will reflect sparkle from the lights!
Also visible in the picture, some of the eggshell ornaments that have been done over the years. This was a pleasant activity to do with children when we had a larger flock of laying hens. Or ducks! Duck eggs were great to decorate--larger than hen eggs and with a tough shell.

If you should do the egg decorating thing, a word of advice: use sealer spray over acrylic paint before using gloss lacquer spray to make it shiny. (Otherwise the paint will run.) You can use model paint instead of acrylic paints. That is glossy to start with. But it's messier to clean up--uses mineral spirits. And you have to get all those tiny little jars of paint. You could use unwanted nail polish, too, if you have some that's thin enough. Last observation about eggs: if you paint the hollow eggshell with gesso it will have a smooth surface to accept spray paint, which will provide a base for the other decorating you might do.

Elementary-school aged children love to paint eggs with little bitty paintbrushes. It will keep them busy for an entire afternoon during summer vacation.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thinking Christmas often means thinking decorations

Hello, everyone.

We got the tree boxes out yesterday. (Sorry, gang, we went with fake trees a few years back. Even if they don't smell wonderful.) And all the boxes of decorations and lights.

Somewhere in the midst of all this Thanksgiving, Christmas, decorating mood I trolled around on Pinterest and found a really cute instruction that was supposed to be for earrings. Well, if you have a long neck, and/or if you're wearing your hair up to show them off! The smaller bead size recommended is already 2" (5 cm) long, which is pretty showy. If you go the next bead size up, the lady says, you're looking at 3". The link is to a Youtube video by the amazingly relaxed sounding Miss Gina. Who gives very clear instructions.

Ornament in progress

I am using Fire Mountain Gems 4mm bicones, from the stash.
I'm only about half of the way through with this cute little dangle--intended for the Christmas tree--and I've already learned some things.

Miss Gina doesn't follow the standard Right Angle Weave thread path, as I had expected at the start of her video. When I broke a bead on the fourth or fifth pass through it, I learned why. If you follow her thread path there is one less strand going through the middle of various connecting beads, and thus less use of the pliers to pull the needle through, and less risk of breaking a bead in the previous row. With all the unthreading that creates! So I adopted her thread path.

I also dug out my handy-dandy little container of Thread Heaven. I am using 10 pound Fireline thread, and it seems like the thread itself is creating friction inside the bead and causing some of the binding, even before the thickness comes into play. So a quick run across the surface of the Thread Heaven is being tried. It will make the thread a little slicker and less likely to hang on the previous strands.

One of the things I like best about doing crafts projects is that, as long as you are trying to to a well-crafted piece and try new techniques, you are constantly learning new things about the materials, the patterns, the techniques, and sometimes even yourself.

Thank you, Miss Gina, for putting up your lovely video on making sparkly diamonds.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Too busy cooking to make a post yesterday

Hello, everyone.

For all USAians, I hope you had a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.

We were busy all day, cooking and then enjoying family, so there was no post written.

The theme of the season changes, of course, once Thanksgiving is over, from:

to Advent, the season of preparation:

Cross-stitch Advent calendar, made by DM
I wish you all a blessed and fruitful Advent.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The season is turning

Hello, everyone.

I almost called this post "winter is here"--except that in my area the winters are so mild that anyone who lives where snow is regular would laugh themselves silly at the idea of our winter weather getting the name "winter."

Still, for a couple of nights this past weekend the low temperatures hit in the low to mid 50's. (That is in the 12 C temperature area. Quit laughing at us!) We brought in all of DH's orchids so they wouldn't get a fatal chill. The weather forecast for this coming weekend says we'll be doing it again, too. Our kitchen corner looked like this for a couple of days:

We also brought in the hanging spider plant.

This was given to me last May as a young plant with only one or two pups hanging down. The summer outside in the lemon tree agreed with it!

Monday, November 23, 2015

It's odd how busy one can be, while still having nothing to talk about...

Hello, everyone.

As the title says, we've been busy on a myriad of little, boring things around here.

We did make fruitcake, to share with our friends and relative who like it...and also to have some for DH to eat!

Fruitcake ingredients, ready to rumble.

And DH saw some unusual guests in the yard the other day.

He was sitting out in the "steel palapa"--a.k.a. under the carport--and he observed not one, not two, but three redbirds in the yard. Unfortunately, they were not inclined to all pose in a tidy row for him!

I'm so lucky that he grabbed my camera and snapped a few pictures of them.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It was Camino-like weather for a few days

Hello, everyone.

Our minds returned to the Camino in 2014 recently when the weather turned cool and we were able to open our windows for a few days.

We got frozen peeled-and-deveined shrimp for Friday evening's meal and made barra bread to eat with it. DH turned the shrimp into gambon al ajillo, and we ate the garlicky, olive-oil covered shrimp bits on slices of the bread. (Barra is a Spanish version of the French baguette. All of 4 ingredients, and you need to add steam to the first half of the baking.)

As part of the winding-down experience of remembering the Camino, a new quilting project came on deck. (Hey, the stash is still at tsunami-like levels around here. Using up fabric is winding down.)

This is a tree block that is about 12 inches square, before piecing together to make a runner.
 I had found a table runner pattern on Pinterest, for pieced trees in a really interesting gray and white assortment. The pattern is for 4 trees, plus edgings, and it seemed a little too long for my little table, so after making the 4 tree blocks, I only assembled 3 of them into the runner. (The fourth will become a smaller item of some kind.) The picture shows the piece (partly quilted) with basting pins.

Note to self: get some quilt basting spray and try it out!

The hibiscus in the garden bloomed. 

In the lemon tree at the back door, a whitewing dove. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

It wouldn't be a pilgrimage without at least one steep climb, right?

Hello, everyone.

We left Ponte de Lima after having the (totally unexpected) experience of drinking coffee at 7 in the morning. This was the on this trip that a coffee shop or bar was open that early in the morning.  We promptly found ourselves walking on lovely forest area paths and passed a dam with pretty water flowing over the top.

After that we came to a Fishing Park, a place where people could borrow poles and catch fish (pay by the pound for the fish) in a pleasant location. There was a snack bar with a nice, clean bathroom. (Don't laugh! Someone, somewhere will be glad to know that, if they make it to the Fishing Park, there is food, drink, and a bathroom.)

We passed the famous Fonte de Tres Bicas (Fountain of Three Mouths) and shortly thereafter came to a road crossing. Our way along the trail continued on dirt--not only straight ahead but steeply up! We stood there looking at it and trying to get up nerve to go. While we, and some other pilgrims, were doing that a young man walking solo came up, said "huh," and trotted right up the hill! After seeing that, we had to quit waffling and go.

We saw sap-gatherers marks on the pine tree trunks.

After we got to the top, and rested a bit on the considerately placed bench, we got to go down. There were even more rocks on the downhill side.

Note the yellow arrow hidden in the electric pylon. This was a standard place to put them on the Portuguese way--apparently folks aren't so in love with having yellow spray paint on their walls and rocks as all that.

DH went out onto the top of the dam to get this picture.

It's amazing how much less steep this things look when you aren't walking them! This is the uphill side. 

The down hill side. 

We reached Valencia/Tui on this day. This is the fort on the Portuguese side of the border.
 We reached the Spanish-Portuguese border this day and crossed over. There is an albergue close by the cathedral in Tui and we happily stayed there. An afternoon snack of tortilla de patata, a tour of the interesting cathedral, and dinner ended the day.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Returning to our pilgrim notes

Hello, everyone.

The mind returns to the pilgrimage over and over, when any little thing cues the thought. DH got a book of Portuguese home cooking--written by a person whose family came to the US before she was born, but who was raised in touch with the ancestral culture and foods--and we found a recipe that reminded us of the next day of walking in the sequence: after the day in Braga, the day walking from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima.
The recipe calls itself "Beans with Rice" and I got my hopes up--beans cooked separately from rice, then mixed for the plate, with onion and garlic. No ham bone, but we could fix that. Oddly, there is a bit of vinegar in the recipe in this cookbook. So I made it today--it turns out to be somewhat similar in taste, but not quite the same.

As you can see, there are both older and newer route marks.

This was just a little place on the side of the road. But this was the best meal we ate of the entire trip.

The tomatoes had a light vinaigrette, the pork cutlets were tasty, and the beans-and-rice was the perfect food for a pair of walkers that needed food, liquid, and salt. The soupiness of the dish was a major feature for us.

The ancient stone bridge of Ponte de Lima. The water was beautifully blue and calm. There were rowers rowing and a set of fake Roman soldiers on the bank of the river.
This was a beautiful walking day for much of it. We got into the town at a reasonable time (not as early as we like, but not hugely late) and had time to shower, wash clothes, and wander the town in search of dinner.

Zachary, Elizabeth, and the young John? Note that Elizabeth has a stuffed lamb in one hand.

The parish at Ponte de Lima was having a procession--this was the very last day of the weeks-long Festas de Sao Joao--with Roman "soldiers" in red, various Biblical personages in costumes, young ladies representing the Works of Mercy, a band, and even the parish priest. It was very festive.

After watching them all go by, we wandered around, found a grocery to buy some Pringles and fruit, and then we found a place to eat.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Stash bustin' again

Hello, everyone.

Some several years ago, I bought a floral rayon knit. The plan was to make one of the Burda World of Fashion wrap look tops with the integrated tie sash. As happens sometimes, the plan was never accomplished and the brown-and-cream knit languished in a box in the sewing room.

Yesterday I bumped into it again and pulled it out.

The pattern:

I have made this before and it comes out to  nice, flexible little tank top that can go under things or stand alone. The FBA (full bust adjustment) is already marked on my pattern piece tracings, too, so it was a straightforward layout. I did cut the front of the neck a little higher than the pattern shows and the hem a little longer.

I added Fusiknit to the shoulder seams for stability.

A general look at the print. It's busy by itself but by the time it's combined with a solid bottom and maybe a sweater or jacket it will be fine.

Fusiknit strips to add to the side seams.

Today I'll finish it up and have something to wear for fall. And a little less fabric in the stash!