Monday 25 May 2015

Serenity in Stitching Still

A little stitching update....

My first embroidered flowers on my Hazel's Summer Wildflower quilt project...

The counted cross stitch wren and magnolias are mostly finished, as I've said before.  I had a moment of panic when I realized I had mixed up the slate blue, sea blue and stone blue.  Had to wait for broad daylight to sort that out. I'm still diligently filling in all the single strand half cross stitch in light gray and there is quite a lot of it.

You can see from the filled in blocks how my progress has been.

I finally figured out how to rig up my pattern onto my floor light so it wasn't all slipping around in my lap.  This is my Ikea light I bought 7 years ago for about $20.  It has been one of my best purchases for sure.

  This set-up has been working like a charm for me.  I realize you can buy professional tools for this such as the one below I found on, but I couldn't work out exactly where it can be purchased.  I must keep it in mind.  Like a good carpenter, I do believe in having the right tools for the right job.


Both of these projects have been giving me a lot of enjoyment.  I'm usually busy all morning and look forward to the afternoon and a couple of uninterrupted hours of stitching.  It is sublime.
And I must let you know that I am going on a train trip (my favourite) and won't be back with you till next week.  I haven't traveled anywhere in almost a year so I am pretty excited.
Hope there is something sublime in your week.

Friday 22 May 2015

Any Blue Will Do

Blue is, of course, the colour of water and the sky.  But to see it in nature is a treat to spy. (Unintentional rhyme there.)

We have loads of bluejays all over the property but this is the first time I've spied a feather.  Hope the owner did not come to any harm.  I know from what I've read that this is not really blue; it is some scientific thing to do with the light refracting and  playing with my eyes, but it sure looks blue to this old brain. In fact, so blue that if I were to reproduce it on paper, I'm sure it would look too blue and therefore, false.

Some harm here I'm afraid and not a treat to spy in this condition.  From the amount of broken shell through the grass, I think a whole nest had been torn apart. I adore this colour blue.
 Robins' eggs, so sad.

Though this photo looks paled, the flowers were a really, really pale blue just as shown.  A very sweet shade, actually.  I think it is the very same plant as this one below that in another area of the trail is mostly shades of lilac and periwinkle.  There are many forms of wild violets and I think this one is the Dog Violet.
Even the front lawn which is seeded and mowed is covered with them.

I've always wondered why blue was chosen for the Facebook predominant colour.  I thought it might be because it is the favourite colour of most people.  Recently I read that its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is slightly colour blind but can see all the shades of blue so that was reason enough for the blue of Facebook.

Nature is starting to put on its show for us.

 What a wonderful season to be out and about and looking down.

 "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads."


Thursday 21 May 2015

Directionaly Challenged Me

One thing Hubby knows about me for sure is that I have a lousy sense of direction.  I was out of the room when the orienteering genes were being given out.  Now when we walk somewhere together, he will say right now, now left, okay turn here, just as if he was leading the blind.  It's my own fault he feels he has to do this.  I should never have told him about the time I got lost in the washroom at Winner's.  In fairness to myself, if you've ever been in one, it is not exactly a room,  more like an area with no doors for entrance and exit something like a mini maze really. And I did not panic; I was clever enough to wait for someone else to leave and followed her.  Now what saves me from thinking that I really am old and losing it for sure is that this happened to me many years ago.

 If anything, I think I have gotten a bit better at directions since moving to Ottawa.  Getting around in the new communities has forced me to sharpen my directional wits in that regard.  Hubby will find that statement a hoot.

 When I first moved here, I spent Sundays when there was less traffic driving to the destinations I knew I wanted.  I kept file cards and wrote down all the directions...every single turn.  This system worked really well for me and gave me the confidence to get about on my own.

 I have also had to develop a method to help me remember where I park my car.  I used to lose a serious amount of time searching a large parking lot.  But now I have a rule; I always park as close to the cart corral on the left of the store as I can get. At least I know the aisle now to begin the search. It is great when 10 year old grandson is with me; he has an unerring sense of direction.  One of his first phrases he said to me as a tiny toddler was "not here" when I had gone in the wrong direction to a friends' and had to pull into an anonymous driveway to turn around.

I have a friend who I suspect is worse than I am at directions.  She was driving once when we made a turn that took us east and I was pleased with myself that I could see we were heading in the opposite direction from where we wanted to go.  I was too polite to speak up right away partly because she was so sure of her driving so I assumed she knew of a turn-off that would set us right, but no.  That time we were driving for about forty minutes before we could turn around and head home.

Which brings me to another rule I have for driving here.  I try to keep the gas tank full.  These country roads are long and gas stations are far apart; it's just one less thing for a worry wart like me to worry about.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Gardening is Good

Oh Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees

That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees. 

                                   The Glory of the Garden

Hubby took this photo of me this morning doing my post Victoria Day weekend planting.  These are the tiny sprouted Morning Glories I plant each year and train to climb the wire fence that borders the driveway.  It helps to hide it somewhat and both the leaves and the flowers are so pretty.  It is an unfussy plant to grow and will provide blooms for most of the summer into early fall.

 This was very early; later the UV index climbed to a state of unbearable mugginess I would not have managed this.  I can handle high heat but I find high humidity a bit draining.  I'm curious if the skunks will bother the seeds sprouted in the egg shells.  We'll see.

This fence is for the dog's enclosure; they have approximately four acres as their area but Murphy decided to provide me with moral support and hugged the fence on her side while I worked on the other.  I'm sure she was thinking was there a treat there somewhere for her.

This one planting was a bit of work.  I had to use the pick ax to break the ground beforehand and that fence is longer than it looks, but my, it felt great to be making progress with the garden.

The view from the kitchen window; it's the back yard that is basically the dog run.  That's one of the lilac bushes in the center starting to bloom.  The fir tree on the left is now home to two nests, both by white crowned sparrows. Such a quiet bird, none of the squawking the robins make when you near their nests.  I took this photo while I was waiting for the kettle to boil.

And my lunch...cheese in cranberries, crispbread, an apple, a plum and pickled anything pickled.
Still have marigolds, cosmos, sunflowers, and impatiens to plant.  They have sprouted but can grow a little more before being put in the ground.
This article explaining why Gardening is Good for you published in the Daily Mail is an interesting read especially the part about how it is considered so good that it is now a bona fide  therapy called Horticulture Therapy.  I know it makes me feel good.

Monday 18 May 2015

Free Quilters' Patterns

I love reading about quilts and quilters on the internet.  There are so many! It is inspiration and an education quite often too.  I usually take special note of the sites that offer free patterns; yes, I have a notebook for that.  Here are three from my recent forays around the web.

At The Quilters Cache you will find just about any quilt pattern you could want in Marcia Hohn's free Quilt Blocks Galore section.  In the middle of home page there is a drop down bar that asks where  do you want to go; there you  find a complete site offering patterns, tutorials, how-tos, a series of 7 lessons for the beginner and of course, a link to the free patterns pages.
These patterns caught my eye but there are many, many more free blocks to choose from.

This one is called Sailboats and I loved the simple yet effective design. I think this would make a wonderful quilt.  Anyone who is good at triangle points would like this one. The idea of  patchwork sailboats is an old one and it is one of those blocks that has been modernized with many contemporary versions available.  I wonder would a quilt with all the different sailboat forms be interesting and pleasing.

Basket of Chips Pattern

I confess to being very fond of basket designs; there are so many and this is one of the traditional blocks like Sailboats that has been modernized with many contemporary versions now available. I would love to do a quilt using all the different basket designs you can find.  Again, the challenge would be to get the triangle points perfect but I do think it would make a fantastic quilt.
While I was at the Quilters Cache I checked out the Gallery section where readers send Marcia photos of their quilts. Just beautiful.
Marcia does host a small store on this site and I'll mention the very beautiful Baltimore Treasures quilt available as 25 appliqued blocks patterns that is for sale in that section.

At McCalls Quilting  you will find a professional site loaded with information for the quilter.  Go to Blocks and Patterns on the Home page navigation bar and it leads you to a Pattern Index with seven different categories ... vintage, modern, men's, kids, patriotic, seasonal and contemporary.  All the patterns are free and here are two that I liked.

Double Pinwheel Wall Hanging

This is a design for a wall hanging called Double Pinwheel.  I'm also fond of Pinwheel patterns in all their forms maybe because they are fairly easy to sew and make a wonderful (and more complicated looking) display.

Rainbow Hearts: FREE Quilt Block Pattern.

This pretty design is called Rainbow Hearts.  I was able to download the Pdf file for it no problem. It is termed a Beginner level project and I think it is very sweet.  I know hearts are very popular as a quilting motif and I never tire of looking at  them myself.

Another great site offering free designs is Ludlow Quilt and Sew which is a UK site named after a town in England.  This site has the distinction of offering videos made by Rose Smith to go with each free pattern so you really have great support.  Again on their Home page navigation bar, go to the Free Quilt and Sew Patterns section, click it and another bar drops down with all the different categories such as quilts, table runners, baby quilts, etc.  Under quilts I found the following.

This Medallion quilt- as- you go block caught my eye.  It seems like it would be fairly easy.  The video is quite good and is one of the better ones explaining the quilt as you go process that I've watched..

Medallion quilt as you go pattern

As did the pattern called Prairie Flower below.

Prairie flower quilt

I would also like to call your attention to another section on the Home page navigation bar and that is Quilting For Beginners.  There are numerous articles, tutorials, etc. for the new quilter, a wonderful resource.
I also liked the section featuring a quilt block pattern for each (I think) American state.
Here is the block for Illinois

Kansas quilt block

I can't help but think what a wonderful time we live in to be able to have the internet with all its amazing resources literally at our fingertips.  I just love it.

Friday 15 May 2015

Ten Things My Ideal World Would Have

Some people wish that things could go back to the way they used to be; I would only want that if I cherry pick what I could have from the past.  For instance, smoking in elevators, no thanks, or animals kept in concrete cages at zoos, no way.  But believing in Santa still, sure.

As it is, in the here and now of my life, these 10 things would be good ....

1. I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted with no thought whatsoever about vanilla pudding thighs.

2. I wouldn't have to worry about having reading glasses stashed in every corner of the house because I am blind for close up things without them.

3. I wouldn't hear another news item (because it no longer exists) about some abuse, misuse or neglect of women and children. I'm sick of it.

4. I wouldn't hear another story about animal abuse; sickens me too.

5. I would enjoy the outdoors like I did as a kid; no worry about sunscreen, tick bites, or West Nile Virus carrying mosquitoes.

6. I would have both my grandmothers back and take copious notes on all their cooking, rug hooking and stitching.

7. I would have one room in my house devoted to William Morris...there would be William Morris wall paper, cushions, quilts, rugs, and a big easy chair upholstered in William Morris fabric to sit in and read.

8. My dogs would live as long as I do.

9. I would have an indoor swimming pool.  Swimming daily is the only thing that tames these wobbly thighs of mine.

10. Blueberries would taste like they did when I would pick them as a kid.  Warmed by the sun and so much delicious blueberry taste.

Of course, an ideal world, it goes without having to say would have all the other 'big' things too...

Long life for all my loved ones, peaceful times and healthy food for all, someone or something to comfort in sorrowful times, pretty things in everyone's life, etc., etc.

Does your ideal world include any that are in mine?

Thursday 14 May 2015

Green in Greenhouse

Lots of sprouting happening in the greenhouse...

Just about everything is doing its duty and germinating.  It's always gratifying when this happens.

We have a healthy population of wild turkeys here in the Ottawa Valley. They are welcomed for the most part because they eat a lot of insects.  At this time of year, the toms are displaying and it is quite the sight.  I was happy to take these photos at Daughter's.

This one was strutting around looking so literally puffed up, if it wasn't so beautiful, would be foolish.

Meanwhile the females were busy looking for food; as far as I could see, heedless of his efforts.

A week later I spied this little fellow below, a ground hog, foraging in the same area. Just can't believe what a difference a week made to the greening of the lawn.  Amazing.

This is the same back yard where I spied the fox so their house came with a zoo, though they didn't know that when they bought there two years ago.

Meanwhile back at our house, I am so happy to see the rose-breasted grosbeak back.  We had a pair last year that visited our feeder regularly and later this same evening I spied a female also at this feeder.  Could it be the same pair?  I must research again how long these birds live and would they return to the very same house.  Sorry for the poor photo quality but this was taken through the living room window.

No cross stitching today; my eyes feel a bit tired for the counting.  Instead I am having some quiet time with a bit of a rest and a read.

These I picked up at the library but I am fortunate Hubby figured out how to make the Ottawa Public Library's connection to Zinio, the world's largest online newstand, so I can read magazines online now if I've a mind to.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

"I Like Yellow Things" too

I must show you the trail that was winter white just several weeks ago.

As usual Rex, though leading the way,  keeps a close eye on us.

The instant 'greening' of the forest floor is thanks to one plant, the Trout Lily which sprouts a yellow lily-like flower. It is also known as Adder's Tongue and though this looks like dense ground cover, you can see up close it is all separate plants.  There are masses of them along the trail  and the yellow flower is very pretty and the leaf is mottled, one of its identifying features.

Further along, we go over the moss covered tree across the path that's lain there for years.

  I always feel a little ping seeing it because in her later years this is where our Lady Lacie, the Dalmatian, would decide she couldn't go any further.  I wrote a post about Lacie and what Hubby went through when we lost her.  You can read that here....  All About Lacie

I filled one of the feeders with Nyger seed just to help out the finches.  They love it and I can count another lovely yellow thing that's brightening my world right now.

Here are the American Goldfinches changing into their summer lemon plumage.  Little beauties.

"I Like Yellow Things", which was my post title,  it turns out, is a song. Yellow is not my favourite colour but this song made me realize how many wonderful things are yellow and I love all of them.  You can listen to The Song on Youtube Here.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Sentimental Stitching

I have been busily working on my cross stitch project, Wren and  Magnolia by Jill  Schultz McGannon; most days I can manage to fit in an hour of sewing. I have a couple more buds and finishing stitches on the bottom to do still. But I'm nearing the end.

In light of that I set up the 1953 Hazels' Summer Wildflowers Quilt-along project on Saturday.
 I repotted all my geraniums to the outside containers in the morning.  They all look like they took to the transition well.  I was taking a bit of a chance doing this as the traditional date for planting here is after the May 24th weekend when all risk of frost is over.  I figure if we have a frost warning I can cover these three pots easily which I've done before and they've been fine.  With that little chore done, the seedlings in the greenhouse all watered and the dogs walked, I could settle down  in the afternoon and get busy with the light box and tracing my designs onto cloth.

I've been interested in how Jenny of Elefantz  produces such sublime stitching and discovered in her blog she generously shares her own methods and materials.  She prefers vintage cloth if she can get it and keeps her stitches tiny.  She can make 15 stitches to the inch.  I tried that out myself just to see how many I would be comfortable fitting in.  I'd never counted before.

This is what my 15 back stitches per inch looked like, kind of wobbly and with a slight gap in a couple of places which is a real no-no.  They also varied slightly in length, another no-no; I forgave myself this though because I haven't been working this kind of embroidery in months so will have to get back into practice.  This number felt a little too tight for me; I think I'm more comfortable with about 12 per inch. I've read that it doesn't really matter how tiny or large the stitches are as long as you stay consistent in your piece.  But Jenny sets the standard for beautiful stitching and I think it is because she does make such tiny perfect stitches.

I like to use a Micron pen for the tracing onto cloth.  I use the thinnest one you can buy, 005, and it doesn't matter which colour; hopefully the thread will cover it.  These are not cheap and I often purchase them with the 40% off coupon from Michaels which is where I buy mine.

I have old sheets that have the most wonderful texture to embroider on; they are pure white and have a slightly weathered feel from numerous washings.  I think this particularly suits an old-fashioned quilt like Hazel's.  I cut 6 fifteen inch squares from the old sheeting. ( The cloth has a pinkish tint in these photos because I photographed them at night...that's the only explanation I can think of because this cloth is definitely white!)

I like John James  needles. For this project I'll probably use the number 5.

It does take time to carefully trace each design onto the cloth.  I don't press hard with the pen and do try to make the lines light but yet easy to see.   I was happy when it was all done and six blocks are all ready to be embroidered.

As I've mentioned I've opted to work these blocks the 'fancy' way as Shelly calls it using a number of embroidery stitches and many colours.

Here is the Sullivan's Summer collection of floss and it is fitting that I use these colours for the summer wildflowers in my project.
I feel a little sentimental about this project.  I'm sure it is just the kind of stitching my grandmothers would have done as well as my mother in her younger years.  Perhaps that is why it appealed to me so much.
Here's to many happy hours of stitching ahead!

Monday 11 May 2015

Composting, Another Good Thing

Composting suits my recycling nature.
 We do our own here which starts in the kitchen.  I have this nice little container kept under the sink  for all the table raw scraps.  I never include meat, bones, or cooked food.

 This then gets dumped into the two outdoor bins.

This is a photograph from several summers ago.  I was able to get the best soil ever from these bins.  Hubby had not bothered to clear out the soil for a number of years and it had formed itself into the best that I have ever seen.  The flower and vegetable patches benefited greatly that year.

 There is a little work to the process as most days the material in the bins must be turned with a pitch fork and also watered if the weather is dry.  Even with lots of vigilance, it takes ages for most things to completely break down and for you to see the fruits of your labour as real soil.  Corn cobs for instance are still recognizable for years.  Along with the brown (table scraps) we have to remember to include green, so we add grass clippings from time to time in the summer.

You can buy products that will speed up the decomposing process and there are lots of helpful sites around the internet.  Over at the EDEN PROJECT you can read 10 great tips on getting kitchen composting right.  I learned that you can add egg cartons or a little cardboard to the mixture.

Snakes also love to curl up inside our bins which luckily Hubby had warned me about.  One day I found the most beautiful pale lemon snake in one.  It was huge so definitely frightening but snakes don't scare me.  I have two members of the family who have real phobias about snakes; this property would not be the place for them! Snakes are spotted all over, in the garage, barn, greenhouse.  I was unable to identify that snake; Hubby thinks it was a corn snake.

And speaking of snakes...

My first snake sighting for 2015.  It is a young garter snake hanging around the last of the garage woodpile.

We've had a problem with skunks getting into the compost bins once.  Whatever had been thrown out must have had meat of some kind to attract them. They managed to make a hole in one side, dig a tunnel and drag out a lot of the material.  The next day, I wound up shovelling all the stuff back in that they had pulled out.
It is the strangest thing but I don't notice much of a smell from these bins.  Maybe because the material is not meat of any sort.  There are always lots of flies in them though.

Friday 8 May 2015

Beating The Sugar Habit and Winter is Dead; Long Live Summer

Today fighting the usual demons, in particular sloth and gluttony, which are sins but thankfully not mortal ones or a lot of folks would be in serious trouble.  I have my reasons for the sloth; if you have tried keeping up with an 18 month old recently for a couple of days, then you will understand.  The next day you deserve a little slothfulness.  So I have earned the sloth one but no excuse at all for the gluttony.  Just seems some days are hungrier than others.  I just try to keep myself busier on those days or else I would live in the light of the fridge combing the shelves for munchies.

My new favourite apples...Pink Ladies, very crisp and sweet. They also tend to be a larger apple which makes for a more filling snack.

Lunch often and I have to say this is filling...pita bread with peanut butter and banana.  I've eaten an orange just about every day this winter; this is a blood orange.

I  read recently that 60% of women suffer from TAT.  What is that you ask?  It is Tired All the Time Syndrome. Would you happen to be one of the 60% ? In this house though, it is Hubby who has mild TAT. We are in a discussion about iron.  I posed a concern because we eat very little red meat which means his iron levels could be depressed.  He understood old folks don't need extra iron.  We will have to do a little research.

Something I am trying hard to curb...sugar in my coffee and tea...still working on it.  I decided to use the half teaspoon to remind myself of how much sugar I was using.  I am now good with the half.  I know my tastebuds are finally adjusting because one day out and about, I absentmindedly put a whole packet of sugar in my coffee and I couldn't drink it...too sweet.  But you know what, this process has taken me almost a year.  Talk about old habits dying hard.

I am happy to show you brave daffodils;  poor things were above ground but unopened for about a week.  One day of warmth and sun and finally like gardening magic....
                                           What a welcome sight!

"She turned to the sunlight
And shook her pretty head,
And whispered to her neighbour:

      "Winter is dead."

                       A.A. Milne

Good grief sure hope so.  Since writing this, I just heard of snow falling out in Alberta.  Fingers crossed it is not heading our way.