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


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.

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.