Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fruitcake

Hello, everyone.

A couple of weeks back, we made the annual batch of fruitcakes.

Yum.
As y'all can see, we ran short of racks for cooling.

This recipe appeared in the McAllen Monitor some 30 years ago, as part of a piece on champagne. I make it with a still white wine instead, not much liking champagne, since it calls for 1 cup (250 ml) of the stuff and there's still the rest of the bottle that needs to be drunk or otherwise used up.

We did give some away and ship some out. GS1 is said to love his first fruitcake. The remainder keeps reaching its sugary hands out to me and whispering "eat me...eat me...you know you want to!"

Tomorrow we begin the new year. May you all have un prospero aňo y felicidad. (Sorry about the strange looking enye, the symbol insert button has many things but seems to omit this common element in Spanish spelling.)


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Changes to begin the new year

Hello, everyone.

The arrangement of the studio/sewing room/computer room/craft room has become overcrowded and cramped. Possibly the excess of stuff has something to do with it? ;-)

At any rate, the large desk/hutch that holds the computer was just taking up too much space. And its "corner" shape meant that the room really couldn't be rearranged.

We decided to take the old desk out and put something smaller in its place. It will keep me from piling heaps of stuff all over the place, just because there will be no place to pile things.

It's so cute!
The printer no longer needs to be within 4 or 5 feet of the computer, since it's on the wireless these days, and I moved the file cabinet across the room and put it there instead. It's possible that I'll find some little hanging shelf bits to put on the cross brace of this desk and move the speakers down there.

The picture on the computer screen is one of our pictures from the 2014 pilgrimage, a close-up of the zero kilometer marker at Fisterra. The things vaguely seen at the bottom of the desk are the router and the modem and a couple of bits of sometimes-used stuff.



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Just because she's cute

Hello, everyone.

Just for the fun of it:


As y'all can see, things are quiet around ye Olde Homestead at the moment. We're all trying to recover from the cooking, and the wrapping, and the baking, and the visiting, and the baking, and the visiting and the eating....


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas

Hello, everyone.

As y'all know, we did tree decorating a couple of weeks back.

Well, it finished a couple of weeks back. First I tried to get out of it.


It's artistic, all by itself, right? A bold purity of form in the dark-green triangle. Simplicity. Elegance. From the other end of the sofa, these words: "you still have to decorate it."

Decorated, it is too difficult to get all of it into the phone camera view. This is the top, with one of the angels and a Wise Man or two showing.

The bow is the tree topper, now that we use fake trees, because unlike real trees the fake ones have wimpy tips. (The live trees are always pruned into a nice shape, which also means that the tip is a reasonably sturdy end that will hold up Moravian stars or angels or whatever.) The Moravian star that I tried to hard to find all those years is much too heavy to go on top of the fake tree. Likewise the little translucent-shell tree topper. The upshot was to do a florist's bow in something wire-edged and glittery.  The various star shaped tree toppers have had to find new places to be.


And the shell star has found a home for this year.

At this, the eve of Our Lord's birthday, I wish for all of you a blessed and wondrous Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Green soup

Hello, everyone.

When the cold weather hit, it was soup weather for sure.

There has been a lot of arugula and mustard around this season, and inspiration struck.

In my treasured Brother Victor soup cookbook

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Lights on the Frangipane

Hello, everyone.

This is the second morning of the cold phase of this front. Today--yay!--the sun is out. It will warm up some today.

There wasn't a photo available the other day to show what we did with the frangipane pot. I wanted to put one up.


The leaves were burned with the last front, and it only got down to the upper 40's. We hope to keep it from leafing out anew before the warm season returns in about 6 weeks--which is tomato planting time in South Texas.

In the last post, the glowing tomatoes had lights under their sheets, rather like this, except that those Christmas light strings were the small incandescent bulbs. The strings of small bulbs are longer and can be stacked up a little bit more on one plug compared to the larger bulbs.

And these days the big thing is the LED Christmas light strings which are no good at all for freeze protection. (But they are brighter.) The only heat those strings put out is at the little round transformer units scattered here and there along the wire.

A mildly off-topic rant here: the noisy, hectoring Cool People are all excited about compelling everybody on planet Earth to use their, preferred, LED bulbs for everything. And if not those, which are expensive, then they want us all to use their delicate, mercury-containing swirly flourescents in our lamps and round ceiling fixtures.  Everybody is not the same, people! Not everyone is in a year-round warm climate. Many, many people live in places where the "waste" heat from an incandescent light bulb is helping to heat the house in the winter. And some of those cold seasons are long. Furthermore, the swirly bulbs come with completely unworkable suggestions for disposal. Who is going to be able to find an approved hazardous disposal site for the broken glass after one of those gets dropped? Are the Cool People going to come around every couple of days and inquire whether they can help clean up broken glass and whatnot? I doubt it. People generally have a much better idea of what will work in their own, personal, local situation than some complaining person with an agenda that lives in another part of the country, or the world, in a different kind of building and situation. (End rant. Sorry about that. A little!)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Weather change coming!

Hello, everyone.

Today the weather is very warm--the prefrontal heating as I call it. Tomorrow it will be colder than today, by about 35 degrees F. And Monday we will probably not get out of the 40's (F) at all.

It reminds me of winters some years back, when I'd dig out all the incandescent light strings in the house, and all the worn-out bedsheets, and do things like this:

Tomatoes wrapped against the cold in February 2011. Right hand plant needed two sheets.

At night, we plugged in the extension cords.
We're not supposed to get that low this time, only in the tip-top of the 30's, so I probably won't wrap tomatoes. We did haul the potted frangipane up onto the porch, out of the wind, and draped it with incandescent C7 bulbs. And the orchids are coming inside for most of the week.

User tip, in case you are looking at sudden near-freezing weather and want to cover up a tender garden plant: bring your fabric all the way to the ground and weight it down with rocks. No openings at the top, especially not the kind of openings where if the plant had eyes it could see the stars. (Much of the freeze is by radiation of the existing warmth out to space. Overhangs or old sheets block the radiation.) Bonus points if you tie or safety-pin the fabric so it won't inflate in the rush of cold wind when the front arrives and blow over. (Or completely away!)

Down here, where it almost never freezes, we have our water service going through the air on the way into the house. These pipes need to be wrapped in fabric.

I remember in the 1983 killing freeze, we didn't know that. Our water pipe froze. I got to take a table lamp outside, and a cardboard box, and get the lamp inside the box. The wind was blowing a lot, and I had to drag a bag of BBQ charcoal out to the hose bib to hold the box against the wall so the pipe would thaw out. (Ah, memories.)

In the 1989 killing freeze, the water line was wrapped, but the air got so cold that the faucet froze that part of the line inside the wall. At least that time the wind wasn't blowing away my impromptu warming setup apart!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

This n that

Hello, everyone.

I really wanted to post a picture of something I saw this morning, but the traffic was busy and there was nowhere to pull aside and often when you pull over to look at birds they flee. There is a good-sized pond (AKA "water hazard") at the city golf course that we pass going home from church. Today I observed 12 white pelicans, 1 white crane, at least 1 dark-gray anhinga (native cormorant species) and a large flock of whistling tree ducks. It is doubtful that all would have fit into the water at once. As was, the tree ducks were hanging out on the grass alongside.

Just for pretty, from the other day when it was misty and foggy in the morning:


The young red oak is coloring this year. And this spider web is highlighted so beautifully by the dew that it had to be photographed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Banana wine

Hello, everyone.

A few months back, the neighbor's banana plants fruited. Giant stalks of yellow bananas drooped down. DH watched them ripen and droop and asked the neighbor what he was planning to do with them. The neighbor said that DH could have them all!

Banana wine
The wine is now ready for drinking and it has proved to be a dry white. We mostly just sip it chilled.

And this recipe didn't even use up all of the bananas from the plants!


Saturday, December 10, 2016

During the holiday rush, daily life and maintenance incidents continue

Hello, everyone.

It's been an incredibly busy week at ye Olde Homestead. There were family duties to attend, there was a Christmas party for (dozens of) school children to work at, and in the midst of it all, the modem died.

It was a couple of days before I could find time to figure out why the internet wasn't working.

I had two very productive phone conversations with ATT tech support (my ISP) and at the end of it, and a quick run over to Best Buy, we have a new modem in place and working.



There was a cabinet in the way of the phone plug/line filter combination. It's a tall cabinet and it was stuffed with fabric. After moving it, I concluded that this whole incident was a message from above: organize the sewing/craft room first, before other desired projects.

Where the big fabric cabinet was. 


Maybe there is a better way to organize all the stuff. Sewing up some more quilts would help, of course! And using up beads.

But definitely, the new arrangement will not have a large, laminated particle-board cabinet blocking the computer bits!





Monday, December 5, 2016

The Candles Row (Christmas decorating again)

Hello, everyone.

The baby quilt is moving right along. For the fun of it, here is a picture showing what the many battery candles did last year, when there was a bit more space to put things on.


Dollar store battery candles, with a glass angel that was a gift some years ago, and almost invisible in the foreground a glass Nativity scene.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

More Christmas decorating

Hello, everyone.

As I'm still hip-deep in finishing the baby quilt--the time approaches!--a little more on the theme of Christmas decorations.

A couple of years back, I was making table centerpieces for a party. They involved battery candles, glass balls, and artificial floral picks. Seasonal floral picks, of course.


Fast forward to this year, the battery candles are sitting in the storage box and the silver trays--who knows where they are now? (Some of the glass balls are in the post a few days back showing the golden balls hanging from the other chandelier.) But! The floral picks have come into their own.


They tuck nicely into the breakfast area chandelier.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Go for a walk. Look around! You never know what you'll find

Hello, everyone.

Today we strolled down our own street, past the tall, untended hedge of oleanders, toward something we were curious about up the road.
As we walked, we looked around--and saw a completely unknown (to us) plant in the said oleander bushes.  It was a lush green (so green that I am surprised the cutter ants haven't taken it all!) leaf, with the veins all running from the base at the stem to the outside. And there were brown papery-skinned blobs on it, and fallen on the ground around it. It had already climbed most of the way to the top of the oldeander, too, and if you know oleander that isn't a mere 3 foot bush (1 meter for my metric zone readers) but more like a 12 to 20 foot one. (erm, 3 1/2 m to 6 m approximately)

Here are some photos of it (I love the camera in my new-ish Samsung Galaxy 5!)

DH held up the stem for it's glamour shot--see the baby bulbils on the stem

One that fell on the ground

We carried one home. It's on a 4 inch tile.

And I cut it open, too.
The first web search didn't help. That might be because the brown things weren't fruit. Who knew? But then I tried the old reliable Valley plants list. That turned up a possibility: Dioscorea_bulbifera.
When I searched again with this name, the pictures matched. It turns out this plant is one of the Evil Invasive Species of Florida! It can grow to 60 feet tall and overtake tall trees, killing them with the shade of its leaves, and reproduces wildly with the aid of its aerial bulbils.

It's also one of the yam family, and its tubers contain components that can be used in the manufacture of birth control pills. (Not that this has any bearing on anything, it's just interesting trivia.) Apparently it's cultivated in Panama, at least some varieties which are allegedly edible.

Encouraged by this info, I cut it in half and discovered that it does look like a potato inside. Hence its common name of Air Potato. And when I licked it, it did have a sort of bitter, pharmaceutical afternote. I don't think I'd like to eat it. Perhaps it would improve if  it were grated and flushed with plenty of water and then boiled. But we're not so desperate that we need to try such tricks. (And if we were, I'd try it with the acorns of our Chinkapin Oak instead. Flushing out the acorn tannins is actually something the North American Indians did to make oak acorns edible.)

So the thing I took away from this was, you never, never know what you will see on a walk. Even on on a paved, in-town road in your own neighborhood!




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

So I tried a Pinterest idea

Hello, everyone.

Pinterest is a time sink! But along with the silly, and the funny, and the "just too amazing for me to try and do this!" pins there are some do-able ones that appeal.


I confess, there are a few new ornaments in the mix. But the ties are from stash! (And there is plenty more of that ivory tulle still in the sewing room, too.)

I held up an ornament at about the right length, then held up a strip of tulle between that height and the ring at the bottom of the chandelier, and then doubled it. This tulle strip became the pattern to cut many strips...not all the same length, but it's tulle. It's okay, as long as the strip is at least 2 or 3 inches wide so it will hold the glass ball and accept a simple knot at the top.

And this went together in, maybe, half an hour after the glass balls had been rounded up.


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Small Tree (Egg Ornaments)

Hello, everyone.

As Thanksgiving is over, and the refrigerator is slowly approaching normal (from total overload!) levels, we've begun getting Christmas things down and the decorating is slowly getting going.

The small tree is up. Next to the polyclay ribbon candy ornament is a little ceramic ornament left over from when I would give gifts to my CCD students every year. It has a painting of the Holy Family on the front. On the other side of the ribbon candy ornament is one of the ones made during the mad tassel phase: embroidery floss makes lovely tassels that are just the right size for hanging from egg shells.

One practical note: with the fake trees, the top is too floppy to hold up a tree topper of any normal kind. I had to add a stiffener to it in order to get the star to stay upright. The stiffener is wired onto the tree with green pipe cleaners and is pretty much a permanent item. Then when decorating the tree, I put the last of the white mini-bulbs up at the very tip so the star would be lit from within.

Another practical note: the small tree looks much bigger because it's on top of the coffee table. I put a table cloth over the table to protect the surface from scratching by the tree stand. This also hides at least some of the extension cord clutter.

Almost all of the eggs made it onto this one.
Some years past, when MIL would come down for several weeks at Christmas time, we would have a large tree in the living room, a 3-foot tree on top of the buffet in the dining room, and this tree in the upstairs hall. That was when there were helpers still living at home with us, of course. Now we're cutting back on the over-the-top decorations. This year I decided to put the upstairs tree in the room with the piano. (The buffet was retired to the Salvation Army with the over-large table and chairs that matched it. They weren't heirlooms or anything like that. We just felt like we were crowded out of our place a bit.) The 3-foot tree was outside in the Man Cave shelving over summer a couple of years ago and a mouse moved into it and chewed up the whole thing, so that one is gone. That left only two places to put all the egg ornaments that have been made over the years--and this tree is in better proportion for the smaller items.

The trick with eggs is to use your handy corsage pin to break up the yolk before you blow it out the holes that you carefully drilled with your Dremel. (Or chipped patiently open with the said pin and a starting hole made with the point of a sharp knife--less mess on the tools, but more eggshell breakage!) On the side, there was so much eggshell cutting going on at one point that DH got tired of finding egg white on his things and got me one of my own!

One nifty thing to do with an egg shell is to cut a slice in the shell while the egg is still inside, allowing the cleaned shell to be used to display a tiny angel or other scenic element. My grandmother's friend Mrs. Beckley was an expert at this and even made an egg shell with a tiny skating scene once. She sent us each an ornament, back when I was a child, and I still have mine.

The Beckley egg
She used graduated pearl beads and velvet cording around the opening of the egg, along with the golden fringe. There is even a bit of frou-frou on the back of the egg! She was an amazing egg artist.

(This photo taken before we stopped buying a fresh tree every year--now, sadly, we have fake. The expense of the extremely large fresh floral item over two or three years was the same as the cost of a nice fake tree which lasts for five years or more. And let's not talk about the problem of keeping smelly mold from growing in a water-filled tree stand for several weeks!)

When making Christmas eggs, I find that painting the washed and dried egg shell with gesso covers over the slight texture of the natural shell and makes it stronger. Then the shell can be perched on a bamboo skewer--one that you don't intend to re-use for food--and spray painted. That will give a smooth, shiny surface for further decorating. (Link goes to a really huge container of the stuff. My gesso is in about a 2 ounce bottle! And if you're only painting egg shells it goes a long way.)

The children and I would have "Christmas in July" over the summer holidays and make egg ornaments. They would paint words or even little scenes on the shells. They never broke an egg shell, either--they were all old enough for elementary school by then. (For younger children, I'd stick with popsicle stick crafts. There is only so much manual dexterity available before about age 8!)

Model paint works really well for painting words and tiny scenes, but requires mineral spirits for clean up. The tiny brushes sold in the model department are wonderful for the work.

Acrylic paint works well also, and is very easy to clean up, but after the paint is all dry the shell must be sprayed with sealer before any lacquer coat is added. Otherwise the carefully painted flowers or whatever will run. The tiny brushes can still be used, or one can go with a more elaborate floral kind of decoration.

Acrylic paint is also more generally available (in scads of colors) even if there is no hobby store in the area. Wal-Mart has it, Hobby Lobby and Michaels and JoAnn all have it, and if one gets into elaborate shading and such there are even blenders and extenders to give more working time. The gesso is also sold in little plastic bottles in the acrylic craft paints section of stores.



Saturday, November 26, 2016

A new project: Bead weaving

Hello, everyone.

The beginning of the Advent/Christmas season is here. Along with the other kinds of activities of the season (gift making, gift shopping, gift wrapping, gift giving, baking and so on) there are sometimes ornament exchanges: everyone brings an ornament to the party, and leaves with a different one than she brought.


This was a challenge, even though it didn't take months to make. There is a double layer bow on the top, there is three-drop peyote weaving all around the middle, and it took three different needles to find one that would reach from the bottom of the spool to the top to add the dangle and hanger arrangement.

The components were from stash all the way. The beads, if anyone is wondering, are Japanese seed beads (Dyna-Mites size 11 in ruby red translucent, iridescent emerald translucent, and rainbow clear translucent)  in the weaving, Preciosa Fire-polish for the green faceted rounds, and a crackle round from either Hobby Lobby, Wal-Mart, or possibly JoAnn. The dove is left over from wedding decorations a few years back. There is a flat round pearl bead on the bottom, which was from Fire Mountain but I don't remember much about it except that it was part of the large collection of ivory colored beads bought in case DD's wedding dress might need them.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving

Hello, everyone.

On this day, as we give thanks for our blessings, I'd like to wish all my USA readers a happy Thanksgiving and give best wishes to all my non-USA readers.

Pecan bars
And for all of my fellow peregrinos, Buen camino.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Prepping for Thanksgiving

Hello, everyone.

We have wine corks. Oh, my, do we have wine corks. So when I saw the many, many wine cork craft ideas at Pinterest, I was very interested.

This week was the time to use up most of our wine corks on hand.



The 8 cork pumpkins are in one of the larger Amazon book boxes, the one that the Camino wall calendar came in. There isn't a lot of extra room besides the pumpkins!

The leaves are felt pieces, which I took the suggestions at Wee Folk Art to stabilize before cutting. It was a hand workout, but it went well.

The question now is whether the pumpkins should sit in their glory, unlabeled, at each place, or whether there should be name labels. (Our bunch is pretty laid-back, so I may skip the labels.)

And for a bonus, there are only 35 or so wine corks left on hand at the moment. Re-use for the win!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mustard plants in the garden

Hello, everyone.

There is a fall garden growing here, and it needs thinning regularly. I have loads of mustard leaves waiting in my refrigerator now.

I pulled them by the roots, along with arugula and assorted other edible greens that are too close together. Washed them once in the hose outside to get most of the sand off. Washed them again in a bowl to get the rest of the sand off. Soaked them in salt solution to get caterpillars off and crisp up the leaves. And stuck them in a container in the fridge.

Some turned into salad.

Some turned into this:
Egg with wilted greens and Cholula sauce

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Butterflies galore!

Hello, everyone.

When arriving back to our gate the other day, this sight greeted me:

Can you see the butterflies?
This the a Duranta shrub. It's not native to Texas, but it fits in really, really well. And when it's happy, it sends out root sprouts, too, to spread the glorious blue flowers around a little more. There are also some thorns in there, and the blue flowers make yellow berries that are rumored to be inedible, or maybe even somewhat toxic, but I see birds having a good time eating them. This day, however, the creatures eating were a great flock of butterflies. There were monarchs, queen (I think), white ones with gray spots, and even a navy-blue one with a tiny white line at the back of its wings.

And of course, the butterflies that were such an overwhelming presence in person hardly show in the photo. (I think all the dark triangular blobs are the butterflies resting on the flowers.) They were moving around a lot, too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This week's Project is done

Hello, everyone.

A small update on what has kept us so busy this week: varnish drying times.


It was time for the occasional re-varnishing of the door. As some of y'all already know, this involves sanding, wiping with the tack rag, and then applying varnish. In this case, it involved three go-rounds on this procedure. And on Monday the day was cloudy and humid all day long. It was after dark before we could close the door and keep the bugs out!

It is usual for the door to need treatment every two or three years. I just get up and get going with the sandpaper, then on a later coat it will be steel wool, and get the door to look pretty again. It's kind of like dusting, but it lasts longer.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Memories of the Camino Portugues

Hello, everyone.

It's been busy around the Olde Homestead the last couple of days, with more busy to come tomorrow, so I thought I'd put up an art photo from the 2015 pilgrimage.


This is a depiction of the remains of St. James (Major) being transported to his eventual burial place in Spain. Two of the seated men are probably his two disciples who had accompanied him on the trip to Jerusalem. Presumably the third man is the captain of the stone-carrying ship. The two shells placed in the upper part of the picture, plus the red Cruz de Santiago on the mast of the ship, identify the subject.




Sunday, November 13, 2016

Baby Quilt: some issues

Hello, everyone.

As I mentioned in the last post, the quilt is having some growing pains.

Oops.
The other caption for this photo is "how did that happen?"


Friday, November 11, 2016

Quilt progress: Block embellishment

Hello, everyone.

Today, while I'm working out some issues on the quilt--more later on that--I'll put up the embellished version of the starred heart that y'all saw a while back as a 6 inch block. Now it is 10 inches!


You can still see the 6 inch block in the middle. You can also see that a 2 inch frame has been added all around. I made 2 inch 4-patch blocks using maroon and bluebonnets fabrics. Placed a 2 inch square of maroon at the corner with the 4-patches on either side. Added a simple strip of bluebonnets plus maroon. Got crazy and did mitered corners.

If you like the look but don't want to do mitered corners, you could change the piecing and add a 1 inch frame and then a second 1 inch frame. It would mean having seams in the middle of the corner maroon squares, but it would be okay probably if you carefully matched the seams where the fabrics change.

User tip for that matching: put a pin into the seams that must match--straight like a nail. Then secure the anchored seams by placing a pin (normally) nearby on either side. And cross your fingers that it doesn't find some way to misalign as you put it under the presser foot. (Much unpicking lies that way, grasshopper!)

This square became the top right square in the baby quilt, the one that is getting assembled still.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Progress on Baby Quilt: Assembly stages

Hello, everyone.

The baby quilt, the one that's been "in the awkward stage" for a week or so, has settled into a final arrangement and the blocks are being combined.

The last post about the quilt was about adding block borders to increase the common thread of colors in various places thoughout the quilt.

Today I post the result of combining several smaller blocks to both make assembly go easier and continue the color continuation in the blocks.

Against the pieces of pale-gray sashing, the combined 4" blocks with some other goodies. The new larger block is part of the large tribe of 9-patches, in that there are three elements in each direction. It "reads" more like a 4-patch, though, because the red pieces are obviously more of an internal sashing than a major element of the larger block. The hard hat and the tractor have a home now...with the red and blue tying them back to other elements in the quilt top, and the yellows being kin to yellows and golds all over the top. The bluebonnet strips on the two ends both tie into the tractor and make the finished block fit compatibly with the doggie block that is a few inches below this one. I was aiming for a 12 1/2" wide piece here, and to fit well with the corner pieces as they ended up this block needed to be 10 1/2" tall. Thus the framing only on the sides and not the top or bottom.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Just for fun: kitten

Hello, everyone.

This is one of our cats from a while back, when he first came to live with us.


He used to bring home rabbits. Pulled them through the wire fencing when he got home with them, too. It was amazing.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Just for fun: a dog picture

Hello, everyone.

The Cantankerous Cat has been getting publicity lately and it seemed good to also let one of the Marvelous Mutts have some blog time.

This photo was taken on the night of the Miracle Christmas Snow of 2004. It started snowing at 8 p.m. and stopped around 10-ish. The next day, the snow had all melted by noon. Snow doesn't last in deep South Texas!

Senior Dog, back when he was the only dog, contemplating the change in his world.

The barrel cactus is up on the porch, but it still got a good dusting.
 The next morning, before all the snow melted:
The native sabal palm, dressed in White Christmas beauty.
That snowfall covered pretty much the entire state of Texas. And the HEB Gocery company actually published about 5 books of peoples' snow pictures over the ensuing years. They were beautiful.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Baby quilt progress

Hello, everyone.

After the refreshing break of Camino stuff, a small bit of progress to report on the baby quilt.  Color unification proved necessary, and some regularization of sizes of blocks to get them to fit into something resembling a rectangle.

Aggie symbol and a farm print (shows dairy cows,
which are common in the general area of College Station, Texas)

The plane returns! And like the perfect jacket to finish an outfit, now has a frame.

There are frames being added to other blocks as well, some on two sides like the top combination block and some on all four sides like the plane.

As Baby is coming right along, this quilt needs to Get Finished!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Another picture from the Camino Portugues: Fresco at Tomar Templar Castle

Hello, everyone.

As long as I'm revisiting the (large) stock of pictures from the 2015 pilgrimage, I thought I'd put up  another one.

This fresco (I don't think it's a framed painting.) is in the chapel at the Templar castle in Tomar. It depicts the second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, Christ's Ascension into heaven.


You will note the feet suspended in the air, with angels in attendance. This is actually one of the more standard old-style ways of depicting the Ascension. It's found on Eastern icons as well. The crowd of exclaiming people has their backs toward the viewer, because they're not the point of the operation. Their purpose is to direct our attention to the rising, vanishing feet, the open entrance to heaven, and secondarily to the angels.


Friday, November 4, 2016

A memory from the Camino Portugues: Forte de Nossa Senhora das Neves

Hello, everyone.

Today, a picture from the day we bussed out of Porto to Matosinhos (on the outskirts of the city) and started walking from there along the beach.



This fortification was near the path as we walked through the town of Matosinhos.

As you can see by the light in the photos, it was too early to expect to visit and see it. (This was, after all, the day we encountered a McDonald's that wasn't going to open for the day until 11 a.m.)


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Just for fun: gifts from the little birdies

Hello, everyone.

While in a calm moment during the late days of the big project, I found and potted up some little surprises.  They're probably sprouts from the Night Blooming Cereus in the yard. (The birdies are fond of the red fruits.) One sprouted in the sand alongside the patio and the other in the flower bed. We often find them in the fence line, too, fighting it out with little hackberry trees.


Given space and our USDA Zone 9B climate, these turn into large, blocky shrubs that usually have big, white, nighttime flowers and red oval fruit. The probable parent plant is probably 12 or 15 feet tall and 6 or 8 feet wide. There is an offspring planted in the front, which is already about 6 or 8 feet tall and it's only been in the ground for a few years.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Just for fun: a kitty photo

Hello, everyone.

This is another picture of Cantankerous Cat.


On the big project, the weather held clear for most of the day today, and only clouded up toward the end. We got most of the big work done! Still a few bits to go, though, but the forecast is for rain tomorrow.

The baby quilt has arrived at that awkward stage, where there are a number of blocks completed, and they move around on the staging area floor trying to form a workable overall design. There will be sashing, which helps the arrangement some because the blocks will all be separated from one another. More details as they develop!




Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Just for pretty: a crop of a photo from Pilgrimage 2014

Hello, everyone.

The big project at the Olde Homestead is still in progress. The weather is still holding...knock on wood as they say. In lieu of a new project of some kind, here is a "blast from the past" photo for today.

This is a crop of a photo of one of the church ceilings in Salamanca. The 2014 Pilgrimage photos are a rotating wallpaper on my computer these days, and the computer zooms in on some of them. There are interesting things, that I didn't really notice at the time, that appear.  This photo, zoomed in, wasn't just "hey, look at the cool medallions on the arch overhead." It was, "hey, that is a really neat picture. Maybe I should make a zoomed in copy to possibly use as an embroidery pattern."

Here it is:


Isn't that central Coronation of the Blessed Virgin neat?  Maybe when the current cross stitch project gets finished...note that I make no time forecast!...this could become an embroidered picture.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Block Play: Train engine (steam type)

Hello, everyone.

The block has finally been finished!

Here is a picture of the elements, just before the final seaming:


I was going to put up the sketch, but it's covered with scribbled letters and such.

This is an incremental development of the train engine block that is on Pinterest, and possibly also at About.com. (I don't remember seeing it there, but it probably is. A lot of blocks are!) The original had a shorter red body section and the two wheels were the same size. Also, though it's hardly an innovation, I decided to make the cow catcher black. It just seemed a little more true to the old-time steam engines' shape.

This is the list of fabric pieces, instead:

The background is blue. The main body of the engine is red. Stack and wheels are black. Cab top can be either black or gray, cowcatcher can be either black or red. Smoke puff is white.
Measurements are in inches. The block overall is in two parts: upper and lower.

List of materials

Size
Red
Black
Gray
White
Blue
3.5 square

1



2.5 x 7.5
1




2.5 x 3.5

1


1
2.5 x 4.5




2
2.5 x 2.5
1
1
1

3
1.5 x 4.5
1



1
1.5 x 2.5
2



4
1.5 x 3.5




3
1.5 x 1.5
3
5

1
4
1” square
2



2
Opt. scraps to decorate stack




Upper portion:

Stack section:

(Optional: add a bit of ribbon or fabric strip to make a painted stripe on the stack before proceeding with the rest of the stack construction.)
Sew a 1.5” black square to the 1.5” white square and add another 1.5” black square to the other side. Press, trim, set aside.
Sew 1.5” blue squares to the 4 corners of the 2.5” x 3.5” black piece snowball style. Press, trim and set aside.
Sew a 1.5” blue square to a 1.5” black square and add another 1.5” blue square to the other side. Press and trim.
Sew the blue-white-blue strip to the top of the 2.5” x 3.5” piece. Sew the blue-black-blue strip to the bottom. Press and trim. Sew the 1.5” x 4.5” blue piece onto the front end of the rectangle just created. The sub-assembly is now 4.5” square. Press and trim. Set aside.

Cab section:

Sew the gray 2.5” square to a blue 2.5” square. Press and trim. Sew the unit to the long front side of a 2.5” x 4.5” blue rectangle. Sew the other 2.5” x 4.5” blue rectangle to the other side. Press and trim. Sub-assembly is now 6.5” wide and 4.5” tall.
Sew the cab section to the rear of the stack section, press, and trim. Set aside.

Lower portion:

Wheel section:

Sew two red 1.5” squares to the upper corners of the black 3.5” square snowball style. Sew two 1.5” blue squares to the lower corners of the same square likewise.  Press and trim. Sew a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip across the bottom of the square. Press and trim.(large drive wheel)
Sew two red 1” squares to the top corners of the 2.5” black square snowball style. Sew two 1” blue squares to the lower corners of the same square likewise.  Press and trim.  Sew a 1.5 x 2.5” red strip to the top of the black square. Sew a 1.5” x 2.5” blue strip to the bottom of the square. Press and trim.(front wheel)
Sew the 2.5” red square to a 2.5” blue square. Press and trim. (middle of chassis)
Sew the drive wheel to the rear side of the red/blue rectangle, press and trim. Sew the front wheel assembly to the front side of the red/blue rectangle.
Sew the 2.5” x 7.5” red strip across the top of the wheel assembly, press and trim.

Cowcatcher section:

Sew a 1.5” x 2.5” red (or black) strip to a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip, placing the red strip crosswise and 1.5” in from the end and using a diagonal seam. Be sure to check the way the pieces will press out before doing any trimming. The idea is to create a 4.5” long strip with an angled seam  that goes from 1.25” up at the front to 2.25” up at the back on a 1.5” wide strip. (Think of joining strips to make bias here!) Press, check to make sure the edges are straight, and trim the back side of the diagonal seam to a ¼” seam allowance. (cowcatcher)
Join the 1.5” x 4.5” strip of red to the back edge of the cowcatcher. Press and trim. Sew a 2.5” blue square to the bottom edge of the cowcatcher assembly, press and trim.

Step section:

Sew a 1.5” red square to the end of a 1.5” x 3.5” blue strip. Sew the end of a 1.5” x 2.5” blue strip on the opposite side. Press and trim.
Sew the step strip to the rear of the wheel section. Sew the cowcatcher section to the front of the wheel section. Press and trim.

Sew the upper section to the lower section, press and trim. Final size of the block is 10.5” square.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Just for pretty: Butterfly

Hello, everyone.

DH is still fully engaged on the big project at the Olde Homestead. The quilt block has had only a small amount of progress since yesterday morning.

But! I found a picture from the Edinburg Birding Center that y'all might like.


Butterfly beauty for the weekend. The purple flowered thing is not actually ageratum, it's a native Texas shrub that needs a little extra water in our area, but is amazingly attractive to the monarch family of butterflies.

(Link is to a summary of the genus on Wikipedia. I don't know which of several blue-flowered ones this is.)