Tuesday 30 June 2015

Touch Quilts

Have you heard about Touch Quilts?  They are special quilts made with different textured fabrics and designed to offer both comfort and sensory stimulation to patients with dementia and Alzheimers.  Folks who have seen them put to use say they really do help to soothe and relax and lessen the need for intervention and medications.

Grace MacNab says touch quilts both calm and stimulate those dealing with dementia.

This is Grace McNab (doesn't she look happy), a member of the Ottawa Valley Quilter's Guild, who makes these lap quilts and also gives workshops on how to make them. She has received so much positive feedback about the quilts the guild has been distributing (for free) that they now provide them to nursing homes and hospital ER departments as well.  Check out  the Quirky Quilts web site to see how they are made and all the guidelines.  Grace offers a slide show of various quilts she has sewed.  I really like the Crazy Touch Quilt.
So many people are facing such a diagnosis that it seems we all know someone who has Alzheimers or dementia.  Anything that can be done to ease their confusion is welcome, I'm sure.

Meanwhile back at the farm I am working away on that first block of Hazel's Summer Wildflowers quilt.

 So far I've incorporated these stitches...satin, back, split, cross, chain, and French knots.  What a lot of fun.  I want you to know about a set of  great tutorials for 79 embroidery stitches  provided by the Wonderful Mary Corbet on Youtube.  These are easy to follow, look professional and provide enough repeats for you to work along with till you get the hang of it.

And here is a last look at my orange Icelandic poppies.  They provide such a bright note in the garden and seem to pop up all over the place.  I think they have spread since the original planting several decades ago.  Too bad they do not last long when fully opened.
 But their moment in the sun is a blazing one.

Monday 29 June 2015

5 Really Really Neat Gifts

I love the new princess name.  It was one I had considered for my own little women and I had thought of it maybe for the same reason as the royals (imagine that!).  Charlotte is the feminine version of Charles and that was the name of the grandfather I lost in the Second World War and also my father-in-law.  I love the idea of having names that make connections between the generations of a family.
Princess Charlotte Mug

This mug is available to buy at The Fairy Tale Girl if she has not already sold out.

Green Tea Oreos

How about oreos infused with green tea?  Oreo Matcha Soft Cookies from Japan are making these and the reviews are good.  Also if you think you'd like a concrete iphone case this is the place to get it.  Awesome Stuff To Buy features the sensible to the scary in products for you.

 diamond candles

This is really neat.  It is called the Diamond Candle.  The candles cost $24.95 and each contains a ring that is worth between $10 and $5000.  I guess there would be a lot of excitement burning this down to find out what kind of ring you have.  You can buy it at The Business Insider.

Bubble Pop Calendar

I know people who love popping bubble wrap; my mother is one of them and loves telling the story about the time her granddaughter's husband showed up at her door with  a huge roll of bubble wrap just for her to indulge her popping.
 This gift is a calendar where you pop a bubble for each day.  I wonder if you could stop at just one though.
You can check it out at Cool Things Addict.

This photo below was posted on 18 of the Greatest Gifts Ever Given by Jeff Wysaski, the link is  HERE if you'd like a chuckle; some of the gifts are funny.

And I"ve shown you my Sari Bag Daughter gave me a few years ago which I had loved bald just like the rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbit.  Here it is and I got more compliments on this bag than all my other bags put together.  

Well I just found a site where I can get a replacement.  Uncommon Goods offers a variety of items made from recycled saris like the bag below.  They have an interesting collection of items overall and I just browsed their online catalogue and decided to sign up for emails from them.  Neat and unusual.

If you are like me, you like to buy just the right gift for someone; having the internet has made that goal more of a reality. In my next life I'd love to be one of those secret shoppers, someone charged with sussing out just the right gifts for people.  What a job!

Friday 26 June 2015

Homemade Pizza for Saturday Night

 I often make homemade pizza especially for a Saturday night meal.

 I've been making my own version of pizza for many decades and like the way I can change up the ingredients.  It is a great way to serve casual company too...just have all the choices chopped and ready to apply and everyone can make their own. This one pictured has a very simple pizza sauce made with chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and fried onions to which I added a little honey.  It was tasty and couldn't get much easier than that.

 You can't tell from the photo but there is asparagus, spinach and red and orange peppers on it too. I grated a little mozzarella over all of it.  It was a great Saturday night meal.

Before it went in the oven...I had a hard time getting the dough to comply and stay on the edges, but I don't think it is the kind of thing that has to look perfect.  Warning: Nothing I make looks perfect!

Here is our decades old bread machine.  It is a Panasonic and used to work well though it never did  some of the fancier things the newest are able to do.  I used it often to make a loaf of peasant bread for hubby who just loves his bread.  Since there are no preservatives, this bread does not stay fresh any where near as long as store bought.  Then I used it to make up a batch of croutons; I just chopped the leftover  bread into sort of squares, tossed in olive oil and a little salt and baked in the oven at 500 degrees on broil setting for a few minutes till lightly browned.  Yummy too.

I found the bread machine very convenient for making my own pizza dough.  I would let it go through the regular procedure till the dough had risen but not started to bake.  I removed it and covered in a bowl till I was ready to use it.
 Perhaps you have a pizza dough setting on your bread machine; I understand newer models do and I can't wait to get one. 

Thursday 25 June 2015

William Morris' Strawberry Thief

I've told you how I love all the William Morris designs and I've been lucky enough to find two books about his work- both at thrift stores.
This one,

The Art of William Morris in Cross Stitch by Barbara Hammet was a real find.  I've often looked through it and took note which of the 40 projects I would like to work.  I've decided that my next cross stitch for this summer will be from this book.  I'm starting with the birds, the Strawberry Thief, which is probably Morris' most famous motif.

I was fortunate to have in my supplies all I needed to complete this project which is a little surprising.  I always seem to need to buy something no matter how much I have on hand, but not this time.   

The book offers both Anchor and DMC floss numbers and I found most of the DMC and a couple of my Sullivans after checking out that conversion chart online.  Wait a minute; I don't see a rust colour here.   I must have forgotten to track that down...note to self.

Luckily 14 count Aida is the suggested cloth to use and  in navy colour; I honestly don't know if with my eyes I could work on a smaller thread count these days.  

And here is my start, part of the wing.  It is suggested the bird be embroidered first which will be fun. I worried a little about counting on dark material which is a bit more challenging, but I got the hang of it and I don't find it any more difficult than working with the cream material. 

This is another blue project for me; I have completed a number of blue cloth or thread projects with the hope of someday having them all arranged together on one wall which I think would be neat.  

This book offers some interesting information about William Morris and his methods.  I like how multi-layered his designs are; images in the foreground and chevron, triangle or diamond shapes suggested in the backgrounds and arrangements. No straight lines because natures' lines are curves. And of course, he used all natural dyes to achieve his interesting colour palettes, which to this day artists try to replicate.  You may not love all the colour choices but you have to admire the way he put them together.  


Wednesday 24 June 2015

Me A Few Weeks Ago

This is me at the spa for Mother's Day...

The most beautiful vase of purple irises was behind me.  I oohed and ahhed over them; I love them.
In my hand, a fruity strawberry cocktail of some sort served to me by a young girl wearing a feather fascinator.   Nice.

I'm a little tired in this picture.  I can tell because my right eye droops a little and a little more when I'm tired.  It's my sad dry eye so I've been told and I use Real Tears every day to help it out.

My high forehead is resolutely marching backward.  I am starting to picture myself bald.  Perhaps head dresses will come into fashion and my concern will be moot. Think Queen Elizabeth I.  Barring that unlikely fashion scenario, I guess I could be wig searching.  They do make them so realistic these days.
But no I'm really not that concerned and it seems to be only when I look at photos of myself that I think of it.  Truthfully this has been ongoing for many decades ( my second pregnancy took a toll on my hairline for some weird reason) and I've used bangs to help it out ever since.  Ironically, it was daughter from that pregnancy who was with me and it was her hubby who treated us both to the day.

Really I am gradually shedding vanity, and what a wonderful by-product of aging that is.

 Hopefully, the shedding doesn't happen to the grooming too which I hear tell of in some older folks! 

The top I'm wearing is a gorgeous colour somewhere between blue and green; I guess it would be teal.  I've been wearing brighter colours than I ever used to.  I read somewhere that older women shouldn't be afraid of colour and I always try to do what I read the fashion stylists recommend. LOL

As the Queen apparently says, I decided to give my black pearls "an outing".  They're not real of course but did cost what was a pretty penny for me at a stall in the Byward Market.  The earnest young man selling them said they were Tahitian which I didn't believe but I let him think I did just to be kind. However, this strand does have a pretty and substantial clasp which I know to be a mark of a better necklace.

 I could talk about my nose but I think I 'll save that rather lengthy conversation for another day.

This was taken just before it was time for tea with the fancy pots and dainty cups.  The tiny sandwiches and bite-sized sweets were served on a porcelain three tier cake stand. More young women, more fascinators which I couldn't resist telling daughter in the old days used to be knitted or crocheted.  Font of knowledge that I am.

Then later on a facial with luxurious and suitable anti-aging products applied to this face.

What you can't see in this picture?  Just how grateful I am.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

That Feeling You Get When You Finish a Project

Finished, pressed and filed away.

It was pure enjoyment to work on this design.  The counting was not nearly as hard on my eyes as I thought. This project is classified as Intermediate level but I think the only thing challenging about it was keeping all the threads of similar colour separate.  Setting up the strands on their own needles was a big help.  And it is the graduations in colour so necessary to give the picture its depth.
 I started this in late February and noticed as we moved into spring and summer the extra light, brighter and longer, helped with the counting.  I need to take advantage of this as my season for cross stitching. 

Now Wren and Magnolia has joined one of my groups of finished stitched projects.  Hung away is what I should have said at the start. 

I have several of these groups of finished projects.  One of these days I will get around to having them framed or sewn into cushion tops or something.
Sometimes I go through them which is fun because there is usually something I've forgotten about and rediscover.

And here are the quilt projects, mostly finished waiting patiently to be backed and properly quilted. The more organizing I do in the sewing room, the more little things I find.  Trying not to be hard on myself or guilt myself about these, .... Eeek

And can you tell me why can't I keep gardening gloves on when I'm digging in the dirt?  I start out with them on, but part way through whatever I'm doing, the gloves come off (literally). 

I actually have to use a nail brush when I come in. I guess it is a good thing I don't invest in manicures; they'd be wasted on me.

Monday 22 June 2015

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.

"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy."

                                                            John Denver

Hope you had a Happy Summer Solstice  Day yesterday.

The sun reached its highest peak in the sky yesterday and we had the longest day of light of the year.  I stood outside at noon to have a look at my shortest shadow of the year. There didn't seem to be either one at all.

The sun is a common theme in quilt making and a joyful one at that.  These patterns for sunshine quilts are available from the Quilting Inspiration Blog, a great spot to visit anytime not just for summer solstice.  Many of them are free and also have accompanying tutorials.  It is interesting to see how the sun gets represented, especially when you think we can't really see the sun as such.

I think they are each and every one glorious.

Of course, the sun is also depicted in many forms in embroidery.

Hand Embroidery Pattern.Sun Art Digital Download. Painting with Thread. Traditional Wall Decor.  7 inch Round

This hand embroidery pattern is available from the HyJackArt Shop on  ETSY for around $10.

The sun in my little Danish cross stitched piece is very simply a circle of stitches with a spot in the center like a bull's eye.  I debated working it like this and wondered if I should have used a traditional rendering of the sun.  In the end I decided to work it exactly as the pattern showed it.
You can read my post, My Danish Cross Stitched Pictures where I wrote about this set of embroidered pictures  Here.

This particular flower always makes me think of  the sun- a round circle with bright yellow beams radiating outwards. It is just the way so many children draw the sun. The sunflower enjoys a close relationship with the sun too; it tracks the sun's path across the sky during daylight as it grows.

This particular sunflower was the showstopper of the garden last summer.  At its peak, it reached almost 10 inches across.  I was proud of it and it seemed to bloom on forever which was an added bonus.

flag of japanThe flag of Japan is a wonderfully rendered sun; they say it is the rising sun. 

Probably the most famous book with sun in the title.  I read it too many decades ago to really remember it, which I guess, is my loss.  I should really read it again but I doubt I will.  But what glorious sunny colours on this cover.

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Friday 19 June 2015

Baked Fries and Chicken Wings

This is a photo of last night's supper...home made fries and baked chicken wings.  Since I had the oven turned on for one thing, I thought I'd capitalize on it and make the whole meal a baked one.  Last year, I'd read about Gwyneth Paltrow's no-fry fries, seen just about every cook on the web give them a try and. finally tried them myself.  The rest is history as they say as we have been enjoying them this way ever since.  The recipe has many slight variations but all are very simple. Here is what I do...

              Baked Fries

2 pounds russet potatoes, cut into wedges
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Soak cut fries in a bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes.  Drain and pat dry; combine potatoes with olive oil and salt and toss.
Bake till lightly brown about 45 minutes.

I love chicken wings.  When we cross the border into the U.S. at Ogdensburg, N.Y., we always go to a restaurant called Vinn's where we enjoy the wings.  They seem to be their specialty; they are always the same...delicious, and you can have them with any number of sauces. 

Here is one of my recipes...I alternate  between maple syrup or honey depending on how I feel.


            Maple Chicken Wings  

20 chicken wings
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
one half to one cup maple syrup depending on how sweet you like things
one third cup chili sauce
one half  cup diced onion
one half tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

I mix this all together and let sit for an hour; spread on a baking sheet and pour all the sauce over them, then bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes to an hour.  I try to flip them over half way along. 

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Me and The Very Old Oak Tree

Things are blooming and growing.

                                    A couple of bunches of Shasta Daisies grown from seeds.

Hubby took a picture of me standing under the oak tree; that white figure is me.  The only time I've ever looked tiny!  I'm 5' 6" so just look at the height of this very old oak tree. It grows to the left of the house on the front lawn and the home of the original pioneers was just to the right of it. I never see an acorn from it because the chipmunks and squirrels raid them.  I imagine this beautiful oak has enabled many generations of those furry fellows to survive.  

Indoors, the African violets are doing well and have been blooming continuously for many months.  However, the solid pink one looks like it's about ready to take a rest.  It took a little readjusting to find the 'right' window for them.  The big bow window was too bright but like Goldilocks, the skinny side window was just right.  

A bouquet of wild flowers...oxeye daisies and sunspots.  I love to keep a bouquet going of whatever is in bloom.  Sadly some of the prettiest wildflowers don't have any "last" to them, fade almost as soon as picked, but these daisies do well.
I'm equally pleased with the coleus which was just a tiny sprig when I started it.  I like how I can see it grow these days with all the long hours of light.

Last Saturday was a sunny day with just a little breeze...perfect June weather for a line of bed clothes.

"I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June."

                                                                                                         L.M. Montgomery
                                                                                                         Anne of Green Gables

Hmmm, yes I wonder.

Social Season

There are now two nests attached to the house.  
 Here is Number 1 on the lights by the front door.
There is always a nest here every summer.

 It is an Eastern Phoebe nest and I was intrigued to see her choice of building material.  Looks like moss on the outside.
I stood on a stool and held my camera above and took a very quick shot.  I had waited for her to leave and had noted she is making very quick darting trips away from the nest and I didn't want to disturb her.

So delighted when I had a chance to look at the photo and see no less than five eggs laid.  She is a smallish bird with a distinctive upright carriage sitting in a tree.  Of course her song is most notable because she repeats her name over and over.  I wonder what the bits of blue are in the nest. What a clever way to coat the outside of the nest with the moss giving it a very interesting textured look.  I wonder how does she do that.
 This door is seldom used so she won't be bothered much.

This is the view of the light with her nest from the living room side window. I watch her making her frequent trips grabbing flying insects.  Daughter gave me this lovely wooden hanging of a bird...I wonder why.
You can hear the Phoebe Call Its Name Here.

Here's the robin's nest on the light by the back patio door.  Always a nest here too.
And sitting in it...

Four of the prettiest coloured eggs you could find.  Unlike the silent Phoebe, Mother Robin is quite stident; she flies out of her nest with a squawk each time I open the door to let the dogs out.  I want to say to her well if you don't like the noise, you shouldn't have built right beside a door.

In the backyard fir tree...this sparrow's nest located very low down and completely covered by the branches.  Hubby lifted the branch so I could snap a picture real quick and I didn't know the momma would be sitting there. Didn't seem to bother her though; she stayed put.   There are always sparrows' nests in that tree.  Several days later the eggs hatched and again I got a very quick shot.

I think there are four babies and I won't be looking again.  I am always afraid of startling the little fledglings out of the nest before they are really ready.

And under the feeder all week this little trio.  It is a male bronze headed cowbird with two females.  I'm not sure what is going on there but they have been together for awhile.  I want to tell them they can actually visit the feeder itself; they don't have to use the ground plate.  Anyway, I wish I could have gotten a better photo; the females are beautiful soft shades of creamy brown with the very distinctive lighter head colouring.  Designed for disguise, of course.

It is the birding high season, that's for sure.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Pop Maker and Betsy Makes

A Couple of Bits For Today

We went from experiencing humid conditions one day to a heavy frost overnight a while back. Weird, but also hard on the newly blooming things.  Those apple blossoms I showed you took a real hit as did the sumac blossoms.  I worried about all the little plantings but most pulled through. But it was a little like the season was beginning but reluctant I will call it.
The hint of humid weather we did get made me immediately think of cool things. The cool in the winds we've had made me think of working in wool again.

And so two totally unrelated items with the word make.

Make Thing #1

I saw this small appliance/gadget in a flyer and have decided to look for it.

Zoku Classic Pop Maker
It is the Zoku Classic Pop Maker.  First thing you think of is popsicles, but I've now read a number of recipes for many great and healthier mixtures to freeze and enjoy on a hot day. I think it is at Bed, Bath and Beyond and I'm going to take a look.

Make Thing #2

I just love a blog called  Betsy Makes by Samantha Roberts and she is one busy Betsy because she is always posting lovely things that she has made.  Her photos are beautiful and her colour choices sublime.
 Here is one of her crochet projects... her Pretty Flower Granny Square cushion.  What makes this blog special is that Sam also includes many easy to follow tutorials with photos and the one she has written for this particular square is no exception.

Sam also made the beautiful Japanese flower scarf that I still dream about...

Just look at the afghan below.  Isn't the colour combination in this afghan lovely? There is something about a border in white that really sets off the colours.  You can read all about her Magic Hexagon Blanket  HERE.

And Samantha, clever girl that she is, also quilts...

So check out  Betsy Makes ; there is always a good reason to keep current with her postings.