Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brewing experiments

Hello, everyone.

DH is a beer maker, as our friends know, and he's been taken with the urge to use up grapefruits this year. (With two mature trees, we have a lot of grapefruit to use up!) He dug up some information about grapefruit wine making online and got  yeast and suchlike supplies from the local brewing supply shop. Then picked about 60 fruit to squeeze. The juice marinated for a few days and then he, following the directions, put the yeast, sugar, and water in. It took almost two days to start bubbling, but then it was a champ!

Today he moved the grapefruit juice mixture to the secondary fermentation carboy, and covered it with its carboy jacket.

Then he started making one of the little one-gallon beer kits that were on special at the Giant Book Store that is more interested in selling non-book stuff. I knew he'd started that when he turned up in my sewing room with the small carboy in his hand. (Think of a 1 gallon moonshine jug here, in clear glass.) A new, small-sized carboy jacket was needed.

I pulled out a piece of stash fabric: polished cotton from the dining room window swags. Added the back half of a stained linen top, which was still black. Cut both to size and attached at the bottom edge.
The jug is a smidge less than 21 inches in circumference, plus seam allowance gives 22"

Base of jug to neck is around 11 inches--the neck itself will stick out a bit.
Bottom seam pressed open. 
 I had cut the lining piece a little shorter than the outside piece, so the selvage you see at the seam is folded up in the pressing.
Bottom folded up, sides sewn together and serged to prevent fraying. The layers are treated as one piece from now on.
The next step was to sew the short sides together to make a tube to fit over the jug. Then press that seam open, so it wouldn't be a big lump inside the cover.
Sewn into a tube. 
 The top edge was folded down and pinned for a casing. A piece of stash ribbon (1/4" or 3/8" wide satin and about 12 inches long) was used for the drawstring.
Sewing the casing with a 1/2" seam.
 Threaded the ribbon through the casing with the always-useful safety pin, then sewed the ends together so it would stay threaded.
Completed carboy jacket!

Father-and-son carboy jackets

 The fermenting grapefruit wine is in the 5 gallon carboy in back. The 1 gallon carboy in front is ready for action.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Little updates

Hello, everyone.

It's been chilly here the last couple of nights, with yesterday bottoming out in the mid 30'sF (about 2 or 3C) as dry cold fronts wash over us and the clear night sky radiates out all the warmth that builds up in the sunny day. We did get perhaps a quarter inch of rain on Wednesday this week.

Baby broccoli (gai lan I think it's also called) are beginning to really produce. Arugula is still ahead of me and the loads of dill that God planted are almost ready to run the row of cabbages out of town on a rail. Some beets are making roots now, and the Natasha endive is trying to make heads...very tiny heads at this point, but that's more heading out of lettuce than I've ever had before.

And there has been some sewing on little things inside.

Mug rugs!
 Mug rugs are all over Pinterest these days, and they're a great way to use up some stash.
One of the night blooming cacti is trying to make a fruit.
This cactus has tried to fruit several times over the years, but I've never seen a ripe, red one on the plant.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter in South Texas

Hello, eveyone.

The Chamber of Commerce down here will probably love me for this post. But I saw a bird--while holding a camera--the other day, and also took some other pictures.

Sunshine coming through the branches of the Olmos tree.
 The Olmos tree hasn't dropped its leaves yet, because it waits until the new leaves come out in the spring to do that. It's fairly fast-growing (with water) and the birds love to perch in its branches.

"Are you looking at me?"
 The mockingbird is the Texas state bird. This one looks like he's a little suspicious of that strange human with the camera.

A rare bit of leaf color in the Valley
 This little Red Oak isn't growing very fast, but it did color up this winter. Behind it, the grapefruit trees and the tangerine tree. DH is going to try and make a batch of grapefruit wine this year.

Curly-leafed kale

And a couple of things from my cool-season garden. There is also a row of arugula that is going crazy. I'm trying all kinds of things to use it up!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Thank you St Nick

Hello, everyone.

St. Nicholas was very generous to me this year.

This is the new sewing machine, which has *adjustable presser foot pressure.* It doesn't have a zillion computerized stitches and I have to manually move the needle up and down if it stops in the wrong level, but it does hum in a way that's unbelievable.

Also visible is the really neat add-on lighting kit: a set of LED bulbs attached to stickum, with their own on/off switch.

It's been getting its first workouts on the bibs and now on some mug rugs. Next up, either going back to R's dress--coming up on its finish date now--or starting the pink/blue/white quilt that has been going through square choices recently.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

More on those lovely Michael Miller charm squares

Hello, everyone.

It's been a while since anything was said about the charm pack.  In fact, other than the pitcher mat, nothing has been done with them. Christmas, of course, takes over in its season.

The squares were not forgotten, of course, and they sat there in their color groupings until an opportune moment arrived. Now the blues have found a place to be, and a lot of new friends to be there with.

The squares ready to be sewn into half-square triangles.
(the gray and the bluebirds from stash, as also the white that is out of sight.)

Counting squares, playing with color. (Pink squares from stash)

Final layout, labelled
The layout gets its labels when the color choices are firm. The MM charms were fleshed out with the two grays and with the blue birdies and the blue with white stars, plus the pinks and whites. They all go together nicely and DH wandered through and expressed his opinion that a graphic design like this suits him. (This is a lap/baby sized project, but still, it's nice to know his tastes.)

When pressing the half square triangles with the little blue birdies, I discovered that the print is directional. The change in orientation at the bottom right keeps the birdies upright, which pleases me, even though it is a switch from the rest of the design. It might still change a bit...this orientation switch had escaped my attention earlier.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

After Denver, a half day or so drive up to Miles City, Montana

Hello, everyone.

Miles City is a biggish town in eastern Montana. It at one time had a railhead that gathered sheep for shipment. Now it's pretty quiet, though there's supposedly a big horse sale there every year. It's in convenient driving distance of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Ruins near the old sheep pens outside of Miles City

Old Tourist Court (early style motel) in Miles City

IIRC this was a creek in the area, which drains into the Yellowstone River.
 In this picture you see why Montana calls itself the Big Sky Country. It just goes on and on, and it's usually blue like this.
Oenothera species blooming on the prairie.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

More on the trip to Montana: Colorado

Hello, everyone.

I started with pictures from a drive to Montana in the last post. The pictures there are from the first day's drive.

Today a little bit from the trip up the Rockies stopping off at Colorado Springs and at Pike's Peak.

The Garden of the Gods is a spectacular set of rock formations that, in 2007, was almost inside the city of Colorado Springs.
By now it may have been enveloped. 

The park is very popular with local people and with tourists.
 We also drove up Pike's Peak, and saw the view that inspired the famous poem, which begins:
O beautiful, for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain....

View from the road.
 We had to change a flat tire before beginning, and the park staff insisted that each vehicle driving up have at least half a tank of gasoline. We didn't understand why until we came back down, and the tank gave a false reading of "almost empty" because of the slope!
At the top, even in June, there is snow. It was about 80F at the bottom, and about 40F at the top.

Not much grows at the top of the mountain where it's pretty chilly all summer and really cold in the winter. Plus I think there isn't a whole lot of water available for the plants.
Pike's Peak also had a train ride up and back. It was tough enough on me to ride in a truck--the (14,000 feet?) altitude at the top was like about 3 stiff drinks. And we had stopped from time to time to take a picture as we went! There was a little concession there that sold hot chocolate, which helped a lot. I was still woozy. But it was beautiful to be up there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Three Kings' Day is past, and Christmas is officially over

Hello, everyone.

The tree is put away, the ornaments are (almost all) in their boxes, and sadly the house is back to its quiet norm.

But quiet times are also productive times--trees are getting trimmed and a row of snap peas and half a row of lettuce seed are in the ground. One hopes! Especially one hopes that the cutworms have all gone to little buggy heaven.

It's much colder in Montana at this time of year. The last time we were there, it was June. We passed through the length of Texas and crossed Colorado, visited eastern Montana and then passed on to northern Wyoming before driving home again. These are just a couple of the pictures from that trip.

Wild horsemint. (It might be one of the other native monardas, but you can find several at this site to consider.)

Badlands of north Texas: Palo Duro Canyon, a beautiful sight, and in 2007 it was green.
For my non-US readers: it takes about 14 hours to drive from the bottom of Texas, where we live, to the top of Texas. And that's using quiet, smooth roads and going about 70 miles per hour! (I seem to remember that we did have a tire blow out near Lubbock, though, which was about an hour of the day. Still, it's at least 13 hours from the Rio Grande Valley to Amarillo.) We did drive through some lovely Hill Country towns before we headed off into West Texas and on up.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Camino memories: Valdeiglesias

Hello, everyone.

In 2014, we stayed in the newer albergue in Valdeiglesias.

Y'all might remember this patio picture.
 We met a wonderfully friendly pair of hikers from Belgium there. They told us about their village in Belgium, called LaChouffe. The village has a brewery.

This past weekend, in Spec's wine shop in San Antonio (mmm, Rioja!) we found a bottle of the beer from LaChouffe. The hat worn by the little elf in the label picture is the regional hat of the village. He's wearing wooden shoes, too, so one supposes that the land around LaChouffe is rather damp. I'd love to visit the village some day.

We haven't opened it yet. It's a huge bottle and one wants to be able to do it justice.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Little things

Hello, everyone.

After the holidays, we discovered some baby bibs belonging to GS1 had been left behind and I thought perhaps a few more would be useful for him. (He's a "drooly" baby.)

Bib being measured on cutting mat: first the neck
Checking the front width

 I needed to know the neck size and the approximate width of the whole project, so I took a couple measurements from one of the bibs left behind. The neck, closed, had a diameter a little over 4 inches and the front was around 8 inches across.

Stack of bibs-to-be after some cutting
 I cut up an old hand towel--with somewhat thin terrycloth--for the backs.

One of the terrycloth pieces
I sewed the terrycloth backs to suitably patterned quilting cotton. Then I added cotton bias binding to finish the edges all around.

The fasteners were a question: the purchased bib had used 1 metal snap. I was nervous that my snaps wouldn't go through the layers of fabric, so went with Velcro instead. (On the turtle bib, there is even an extra bit of the fuzzy side so the hook side can fold up against it in the wash. By the time I got to that point on the fish bib, I had decided that she can close the bibs in the wash, or put them into a mesh bag, and skipped the extra bit of fuzzy-side.) Velcro can be cut to size, pinned down or glued for the basting, and zigzagged over all 4 edges to make a secure attachment. The only tricky thing is getting the hook side placed so it won't irritate the baby's neck.

Bias binding pinned for the second seam.

Two of the bibs ready to roll.
Baby bibs are cute little things, they use up materials I have in the stash, and I may make more of them to give to the Pregnancy Testing Center in my town. (They like to give baby things to their clients.)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

Hello, everyone.

This old picture, and recent news accounts about Mississippi flooding, brought memories to mind:

Piasa bird (early 2000's renewal)
This is the Piasa bird. The people of the Alton, Illinois area put this local sight onto tee shirts and other things--and when the paint fades out, someone crawls up there to renew the picture.

The Piasa bird has been on the cliffs overlooking the mighty Mississippi since Pere Marquette came through in his little flotilla of canoes. Likely it was quite old even then. The local folks are so attached to it that, when the original cliffside was wrecked in building a riverside road, they restored the bird to another, nearby, cliffside. Occasionally someone will get silly about the risk of falling and put up a wooden billboard with the Piasa bird in the area. It is neither worthy of the local people nor of the Piasa bird art to do this, in my opinion.

The Victorian/Edwardian enthusiasm for lovely stories about things of interest--think of George Washington's thrown quarter here--also has affected the Piasa bird. A local paper in the very early years of the 20th century, or the late years of the 19th century, published a long article about Chief
Quatoga, the self sacrificing Indian chief who died saving the Illini from the Piasa bird. (Well, I think it was the Illini tribe--but it's been years since I read the article.) Apparently the local Indians had engaged war, bloody warfare without end or mercy, and the Piasa bird had become an eater of the fallen warriors (and noncombatant villagers) to the extent that Quatoga had to hunt the Piasa bird down. The brave warrior Quatoga died in his successful attempt to rid the area of the man-eating menace. It would be really interesting if we could find out the folkloric roots behind this tale, and get some idea of the actual age of the Piasa bird on the cliffs of southern Illinois.

There is an old--very old--map of the Mississippi which shows the Piasa bird in approximately where it is now. I think that this map is either one made by Marquette or copied from his notes. But I don't have any image of it, nor any further information about it.

If you should go to the southern Illinois-eastern Missouri area of the United States, you should drive down the Great River Road past Alton and the other towns along the Mississippi area and see the Piasa bird for yourself.