Thursday, May 26, 2011

Favorite Things Friday - Rhubarb, Etc.

One of the many good things about spring is that it means there will be rhubarb from the garden, and rhubarb is one of my favorite things!

As kids, we used to dip a freshly pulled stalk in sugar and eat it raw.  To be honest, I took less pleasure in the mouth-puckering tartness of raw rhubarb than in the rhubarb-stalk-as-delivery-system for pure sugar.

Ironically, I have been trying to avoid refined sugar recently for health reasons (darn that Dr. Oz and my swollen cankles), and also just to see if I can.  I am only about a week into this experiment, and let me just say that if it weren't for the couple squares of dark chocolate (health benefits!) I am allowing myself per day, I might have gone a little nutty-cuckoo.

So when my dad delivered to me some fresh rhubarb today, I had a dilemma.  How am I going to make my favorite rhubarb crisp without good old/bad old sugar?

The answer was to use a couple tablespoons of agave nectar, sweeter than honey but with a lower glycemic load than table sugar.  I also mixed some naturally sweeter fruit with the rhubarb, including an apple, a couple ripe pears, and some mixed berries.  The topping is some gluten-free pancake mix, sorghum flour, a dab of shortening, and a bit more agave, mixed until crumbly.

So how'd it taste?  Pret-ty darn good.  And if I were not shunning sugar, I'd have plopped on a big scoop of dairy-free ice cream to make it even better (or, I guess, worse).

Who dat makin' all da funky noi'?
I heard some awesome new music this week, thanks to my daughter who emailed me a couple of links.  I am including her comments above each one because she said it better and more succinctly than I could have.  And, wow, does my daughter know my musical taste or what?  She couldn't have been more spot on.  I love that these are both reminiscent of the music of my youth, '70s power rock and funky soul music. And James Brown's influence runs through both (check out the white shoe shuffle on the first one).

"Love that funky fat bass."

"You can't not like this."

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wave (or Lava Lamp) Quilt Finished!

I am so happy to have finished this quilt!  It is also my last PhD Challenge quilt, so there's that to be stoked about as well.

I pieced this last year using Elizabeth Hartman's New Wave quilt pattern, but I've always thought it looked like lava lamps to me.  That's the direction I went with, both in quilting it and hanging it up to photograph. Tilt your head left or right, and it looks like the waves it was intended to be.

But with the lava lamp thought in mind, I pondered doing something bubbly or swirly with the quilting.  Mind you, I'm still a novice with free-motion quilting, but I thought if I could maybe do a meander with a loop now and then (on right in green, below), it might look something like the blobs that percolate in a lava lamp.

Except that didn't really work when I practiced it.  The meander with loop contained within the shape reminded me too much of a pinball machine.  I dunno, maybe I have an overactive imagination.

So I kept doodling and soon enough the idea of a spiraling loop was hatched.  It seemed to work on paper.  I drew it from the top down (as in a spiral), and I thought it'd be relatively easy to quilt the same way, top to bottom.

Not so much.

The vertical, clockwise motion didn't go so well on my practice quilting pad.  It was herky-jerky and just didn't feel right.  Then I turned the quilt sideways and made the same loops working from left to right, like handwriting.  That felt more natural and proceeded more smoothly.  

Working from the center of the quilt, I "wrote" the loopies, moving to the right along each row between the white "waves."  When I got half the quilt done, I turned the whole works around and did the same thing, working center to outer edge.

But before I did any of the spiral-loopy quilting, I ditch-stitched the white waves. That took a couple hours in itself but was worth it to anchor things in place for the rest of the quilting.

As I've mentioned before, the fabric is a mix of vintage and contemporary.  I like mixing it up. 

Different generations sitting at the same table; everyone gets along, even though grandma's got on a crazy print shirt.  

So, waves or lava lamps, what do you see?  Any clever ideas for a name for this quilt?  How about, "Grandma Invented the Lava Lamp"?  Too long?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Sundry - Vol. 34

Hi.  I'm still here.  You?

Some funny guy at the grocery store Saturday morning peeked at my cart and told me not to stock up on too much.  You know, just in case of the rapture and all.

Six o'clock Saturday evening found me standing at the stove, making chili for supper and feeling my knees and muscles ache in the good way that they do after gardening.

I put quilting on hold because it's supposed to rain over the next several days, and I wanted to get something—anything—accomplished outside before that happened (and the crop of mosquitoes that will also inevitably result).  

I managed to get quite a fair bit done, actually.  Transplanted all my astilbe from one bed to the north side of the house.  With the shade tree now gone, they would have shriveled in the full sun otherwise.  I moved half a dozen other things around, weeded, and generally poked around in the dirt as one does in a garden.  It felt good to get in there with a shovel and feel and smell the soil.  If that's weird, I don't want to know.

I should probably apologize to my next-door neighbors for having to view my stooped over backside for hours on end.  Maybe having a nice flower garden for them to look at in a month or so will make up for the temporary assault to their eyeballs these past couple days.

My friend Joy (Taradiddle and Malarkey) sent me this potholder recently.  How nice of her to think of me, especially when she's got so much else on her mind, like the graduation of her daughter yesterday.  Joy, if you're reading this, I hope you all came through it okay.

I sure do heart Pyrex and continue to pick up a few pieces here and there.  Like this summery Cinderella bowl...

...and these fridgie dish lids.  If I buy them (the lids), they (the dishes) will come, right?

I hope you have a wonderful day.  The sun is out now, but we're supposedly in for some strong storms later today.  

Sounds like a good time to be in my basement, quilting, listening to the Foo.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Favorite Things Friday - Smorgasbord

Lately, I've been coming up empty on ideas for Favourite Things Friday, virtually turning my pockets inside out, as in "I gots nuthin'."

Today isn't one of those days.  Nope, I've got things popping up my brain like weeds.  Let's have ourselves a smorgasbord, shall we?

My dad's new asparagus bed yielded some tasty spears this week.  I love fresh asparagus!  I've been eating a bit every evening, tossing it into a stir-fry tonight, but my favorite way is pan seared in a tiny bit of olive oil just until it turns bright green but still has a snap to it.  Maybe a bit of cracked pepper on top.  Delish!

A second favorite thing is this little kneeling cushion thingie I picked up from the dollar store recently.  I bought two, actually; one for the garden and one for use when I'm basting a quilt on the kitchen floor, like I did on Wednesday.  

These came from Dollar Tree, and I'm sure they're a seasonal thing, here today and gone tomorrow.  Comfort for a dollar—you can't beat that.  Hurry in and get one before they're gone!

Next is this coffee press we found, brand new, at the thrift store.  Now, I know one of my previous Favorite Things was all about tea, and I am a tea drinker 99 percent of the time.  But the hubs has been curious about trying a French press because he's heard coffee tastes better (i.e., not as bitter, which is one of the things I don't like so much about coffee) when made in a press.  For less than the cost of buying a cup of coffee, we nabbed this press to try it out.

Of course we had to Google how to use it—I love the internet—but then it was smooth brewing after that.  I took enough pictures today to do a whole step-by-step tutorial.  But then again, since I'm not a big coffee drinker, I may be the last person on earth to already know how to use one of these.  Anyway, good coffee!

Finally, new (to me) music by The Civil Wars.  I have listened to this song an embarrassing number of times this week.  I just love how their voices blend, the guitar playing, and the hauntingly folky kind of song it is.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Inching Forward in the Queue

I seem to have quite a few projects all at the same stage—needing backing, basting, quilting and binding.  It's not really surprising that I work this way, doing multiple things at a time or alternately, then arriving at a similar point with all of them, yet nothing entirely finished.  

I've fallen in love with this thread, Mettler Metrosene, for piecing.
This is a spool from my mom's thread stash.  Must buy more!

One could look at it from the perspective, I suppose, of something along the lines of chain-piecing.  Chain-finishing?  Whether it's making good use of my time by nudging everything toward the same end, or frittering my energy away, I don't know.  It's how I roll.

I bought some fabric for the backing of the Sudoku quilt.  All prewashed now and waiting for me.

The last PhD project to be completed is this New Wave quilt that I pieced last year.  As in, a whole year ago (where does the time go?).  I lacked the skills to free-motion quilt it decently then, but thanks to a bit of learning and practicing, I'm there now.  So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.*

I had picked up a vintage muslin sheet at a thrift store several months ago, still in its original package, which looked to be about as old as I am.  I'm using that for the backing.  It wasn't quite wide enough though (it was a twin fitted sheet), so I'm having to piece it.  Like the quilt top, I'm using both vintage and contemporary fabric for the strip I'm adding in, and I like how it's coming together. 

The muslin sheet has been great to work with—soft, yet it presses and sews like a dream, as if there were a bit of starch to it, even after prewashing.  I hope it quilts just as smoothly.  I won't hesitate to snap up more of these if I see them in the thrifts.

Also in the to-be-quilted queue are the black and white quilt and the H2H quilt.

Ideally, I would crank these out systematically, one right after another.  I am hopeful that will happen, but...

The other thing that's clamoring for my attention now is my neglected flower beds and other containers that are usually planted by now. We've had a long, cool spring but it looks like things are finally turning around this week.  So, do I sew in my basement or work outside?  Hm, let's see...

*Bill Murray as Carl Spackler in Caddyshack.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Garden Jewels

I managed to get over myself and get this wall hanging done this week. 

And do you hear that?  That is one tremendous sigh of relief coming from me for having finally finished this.

I have felt a little blocked with this project, mainly because I wasn't sure exactly how to approach quilting the cross stitched sections.  Even as I was ditch quilting the frames around the cross stitching, I still wasn't sure, so I proceeded to do the general meandering and quilt everything else but.  

Finally, after some practice on a separate piece, I decided to outline quilt around the veggies and then do a smaller stipple in the outer white spaces. machine had its own plans.  It had issues with the type of thread I had switched to on the Aida cloth, and tension troubles, and generally started acting schizophrenic about halfway around the outlining on each block. 


Finally, by stitching v-e-r-y slowly so as to circumvent the machine spazzing out on me, I was able to get the outline quilting done.  Then I did what any sane person would, at that point.  I switched back to my old Singer and a walking foot and straight-line quilted diagonal lines to anchor each block a bit more.

I do like the way it turned out, and I think my sister is going to be tickled pink with it.  She gave me the dresses (the center floral/veggie print and the blue fabric) to repurpose, as well as the piece of fabric that I used for the back.  The cross stitched pieces were thrifted.  They were in dingy frames, 99 cents apiece, and I bought the lot of them, removed the frames and soaked the stitchery clean. They were so excellently done, they deserved to have a new life.

Sis has a spot on her kitchen wall reserved for this piece, and it's going to look nice hanging there. 


I'm calling this one "Garden Jewels."  The inspiration was right there in front of me!

Another PhD Challenge project completed—one more to go!  

I'm linking to Sarah's Can I Get a Whoop-Whoop?  Come join the fun!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother's Day Gift!

I'm so excited, I just have to share!  My daughter Michelle stopped in today and, in addition to bringing me a sweet basket of yellow pansies, made me this:

My new blogger image!  I love it!

Half the fun was watching her create it.  She brought her program along on a flash drive, and I got to sit next to her and breathe down her neck make suggestions while she designed it.  It amazed me to watch her skill with a mouse and a gazillion gadgets in the software.  She knows exactly what does what and is really quick about it.  

In contrast, it just took me an hour to figure out how to add the text at the bottom, after I figured out I didn't have the ability to do that with the original PNG file, which would be much cleaner looking.

I have wanted a different image for quite some time.  I am embarrassed to admit that I "borrowed" the former image from somewhere else.  It's so cool to finally have something original that I can call my own, created by one of my favorite peeps, my kiddo!*

*I can't believe I just used the words "peeps" and "kiddo" (who is 23) in the same sentence. 

Sunday Sundry - Vol. 33

Happy Mother's Day!

Oh mama, did I get a lot done yesterday, and much of it before noon.  Norm was working, the house was quiet, and I just kept moving...floors vacuumed and mopped, surfaces dusted, laundry folded and put away, etc.  I even baked a gluten free carrot cake from scratch.

I also finished the borders on the black and white quilt top.

The backing fabric arrived on Friday, this black and white paisley.  I think it will do nicely.

Also got the veggie cross stitch wall hanging basted. 

I know, right?  Wonder of wonders.  I hope you were sitting down for that one.

It was quite the productive day, I'm telling you.  I know some of you do all that and much more every single day, and all I can say is, God bless you!  Also, where do you get your energy?

Today I am going to kick back a bit.  After a trip to the cemetery to plant some flowers, I am going to a program this afternoon where my father is a guest speaker for the local Bird Festival going on this weekend.  Later on, my daughter is going to drop by for a visit, which I'm looking forward to.

I hope you all have a wonderful day!