Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Beat the Backlist Challenge

I seem to be all about the challenges and 'a-longs' right now. Knit-a-longs (KAL), Quilt-a-longs (QAL) and now...

To Be Read-alongs (TBR)

The last one I am blaming on a delightful blogger and former swap partner, Beth, of Printcess. She makes wonder eye shadows (which I lost mine in the fire and will have to order some more) and an avid book consumer.

Actually, it's a "Beat the Backlist" challenge and includes some fun Harry Potter/Hogwarts themed point making challenges and is the brainchild of Novel Knight.

The premise is to read all those books set on the back burner because you have gotten distracted by shiny, new books. (Not me, I say, rolling my eyes!)

I am very, very guilty of having a TON of books I need to read, mainly on my Kindle, which I keep setting aside. Several of which I need to read and review from 2016. 

So Monday morning I sat down and reviewed my list of books on my Kindle and in my 'want-to-read' section on Goodreads and pulled together a list of books for the challenge. Can you say 'way-to-many'?

So there it is....

55 books to read and clear off my backlist. 

Some fiction. Some nonfiction. Some to finish up series. Some to start series. 

This should be an interesting rest of the year, especially since I know I will have several books from 2017 coming in to be read also. But then I have set myself a goal of 175 books to read this year. So I need to really chug along through some pages!

But in the meantime...

Off for more coffee and a bit of reading before Lady K is up.

How Does My Garden Grow? Or In A Garden Funk?

I'm just not feeling the 'love' this year.

I think it's because I know this house isn't permanent and we will be moving this time next year, but I'm not feeling the 'garden love' this year.

Of course, I am feeling a bit of garden envy for a couple of friends who have done wonderful, massive things in their gardens this spring (envy for the garden, not the work they've put in!).

But I/we have done a bit.

My 'tomato' bed. Along the side of the house.  Hopefully, it will actually get enough sun for them to do something. At the very back are three Roma tomatoes I'm hoping to get some fruit off of for sauce. The rest are seedlings I started, Lady K rearranged and I have no idea what they are now. I may have a dozen or so cherry tomato plants!

This is the hanging basket I received as a going-away present from the library. My plan is to overwinter it if I can and take it with me. I love the smell of geraniums.

My bucket of hollyhocks from Tizer Gardens. I dug these up from the Temple of Fire and hopefully they will be coming with me to NC too.

Along with these...

Peony plant from my friend Christine. I had pulled them up from the Temple of Fire and was afraid I had been too rough on them, but they are coming along. So I will nurse them along and hopefully they will make it back to NC.  

There are a couple of deep window wells on this house, so this winter I will set them in the well and they will be protected from the worse of the winter.

This is Lady K's 'fairy garden' tub of petunias mainly. And a dill because Texter is hoping it will attract caterpillars and we can watch them turn into butterflies. I've harvested some of it to add to a potato salad for Savvy. But all the flowers Lady K selected herself. Hopefully, it will soon be overflowing and look really nice.

By the front steps are four cucumbers which I am hoping I can train up twine to the railing...if they decide to do more than just sit there.  Also, in the corner of the front bed are two zucchini and a tomato plant.

The above is the rest of my veggie garden. A couple of pumpkin plants (which are looking a bit yellow). A planter with a couple of different basils, spearmint and oregano. This planter is coming back with us.

Some Serrano peppers and cilantro.

My Cherokee Purple tomato with a huge, double blossomed fruit on it. Can't wait to see if I can have it ripen.

A couple of tomatoes and a couple of basils (Thai and lime) and more cilantro

Another herb planter with a flower thrown in. Rosemary and chives. I pulled off the chive blossoms and threw them in a bit of white vinegar to infuse. Another planter which will hopefully be traveling with us.

Brandwine, Sungold and Chadwick cherry tomatoes with strawberries in front. Strawberry planter will also be coming with us.

So far everything seems to be toddling along, especially now that the days are warming up a bit. The tomatoes on the side of the house need watering every day and I didn't amend the soil in that bed at all. I'm practicing "Darwinism"...survival of the fittest!

But it's enough to give me a feeling of 'hands in the soil' and to water every day (dry here in Montana!) Lady K and I do walk arounds to check on the plants and she helps me water. Hopefully, I will get a couple of tomatoes out of these. And maybe some cucumbers and zucchini and please.....just one big pumpkin!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Mandala

To all those, past, present and future, who have given much for our country. And to their families, who also  sacrificed -

 Thank you. 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Week In Review - May 21 - 27

I think I might be getting into this whole 'retirement' thing and having 'time'.


I think.


This past week was pretty good. Despite the wind.

Wind blows here in Montana. Like crazy. Some serious wind all day long.

And despite the cool temperatures and wind, my tomatoes are actually blooming and setting some fruit. This Cherokee Purple (of course) had a huge double bloom and hopefully this tomato will become a huge purple/red juicy delight in a few weeks.

But Lady K has been enjoying getting out in the yard and into her sandbox. I love being able to sit and work at the computer or knit and keep and eye on her. Texter did teach her to come to the window or door and let us know she was still out there every now and then. This way she can wander the yard more. There is a sidewalk beside the house and she likes to load up a 'cuddly' and put them in her little shopping cart for a stroll.

Otherwise this past week...

  • I have failed at going to the gym!
  • Finished the Colorwash Scarf and blocked it
  • Monthly "What's New" session at The Sewing Palace and signed up for the Almond Country Quilt starting in June
  • Mowed the yard
  • Finished the Fox Throw and Pillow for Texter (who is in a power struggle with Lady K on who actually gets to use it)
  • Went through and cataloged all quilting and knitting projects and updated Ravelry
  • Trip to Great Falls so Texter could drive around Benton Lake and practice driving and I could take pictures of birds. Yep, she's getting her license this summer!
  • While in Great Falls, picked up a skein of The Farmer's Daughter Knitiversary 2017 special edition yarn. Her yarns are super yummy! 
  • Trip to the playground, to Parrot Confectionary for gummies and Bridge Pizza for lunch with Lady K

This coming week is going to be FUN!!!!

  • Monday - trip to a friend's house for goat and horse time with Lady K
  • Start of ICAD
  • Start of a Twisted Sock KAL with Sockmatician
  • A day trip to YELLOWSTONE! (if all my planning goes well)
  • Friday is a trip downtown in the afternoon to watch the magic show
  • Quick trip to Avon and Birdseye Mercantile to get background fabric for the Almond Country Quilt-a-long
  • Trips to the gym
  • Lot's of knitting and hopefully complete a project
  • Reading!
  • Planning more day trips and some rock hounding for this summer. Several wool/fiber festivals around Montana and some 'quilt hops' to figure in

But for now, more coffee!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

TWO Completed Projects!

Okay, this 'retired' business is starting to pay off.

Last Monday, I went through all my surviving bins and buckets and made a list of all the projects contained therein. Actually, I was looking for (and still looking for) the pair of Gingher sewing scissors and rotary cutter I KNOW I replaced after the fire. I put them somewhere 'safe'. Really, really safe apparently.

Anyway, it's a LLLOOONNNNGGGG list of quilting and knitting projects. And I won't even go into the project bags I want to make and the clothing.


While at The Sewing Palace looking at the quilt for the Block of the Week program this summer, I found a 'kit' for a fox-themed quilt-as-you-go throw.

Texter was all for it, clearing off her computer table (she uses it for school work) so I could set up my sewing machine. My very, very basic sewing machine. 

Now I shouldn't be complaining about my machine. It's a Singer and does what it is suppose to do. However, for a 'beginner' machine, why the hell do they have a bobbin you have to dismantle the machine to put in? It's enough to make someone stop sewing before they ever start! Secondly, the tension isn't self-adjusting to any degree.

And that was my initial problem. Tension. I started sewing this 'beast' and the thread on the bottom looked like the cat threw up a hairball. After a frustrating hour, I set the project aside until I could figure out my problem.

Then in the middle of the night (of course!) it came to me and the next morning I dropped the tension in the bobbin and it sewed up like a dream.

I am going to keep the pattern and probably reuse the design. It was quick and easy, something I could do in a day basically. And since it's a quilt-as-you-go, once I sew the top strips together, it's done, except for the binding!

Yes, it is a bit tricky since you have two layers of minky, which is thick enough, but I also added a layer of batting (suggested by The Sewing Palace). Texter is always cold, even when it's 90 outside! It makes a nice, hefty throw and the minky makes it soft and cuddly.

The kit is by Shannon Fabrics and I only had to supply the batting, backing and thread. There is enough in the kit to make a matching pillow, which will probably be made in the next day or two, before I clean all the lint out of the machine.

The current power struggle - who will use the throw - Texter or Lady K?

Project #2 was finished about a week behind schedule. It was suppose to be done by Mother's Day on the KAL, but I got distracted by the Joji Mystery Wrap.

The Colorwash scarf has been a fun knit. An easy project with lots of yarn-overs and swapping out yarn every two rows. I was a bit hesitant about the combination of yarns, but wanted to use my stash.

It knit up all 'curvy' and you can't really see the 'holes' in it. Pretty dinky as far as a scarf goes in my opinion. But then you block it.

I will admit, as much as I am not much of a 'swatcher', I am also not much of a blocker. But I did block this one. And what a difference!

It's 2 or 3 times larger and you can see the lovely holes in it. What is interesting are the little 'bubbles' of light in it where the two yarns became very similar in color.  Great pattern and I would make one of these again.

So two projects marked off my list of to-do's. Now back to the Joji Mystery Wrap. I am still on week one and week three was just released. And I have a quilt and sock-a-long starting June 1!

Friday, May 26, 2017

A "Bitter-Sweet" Class

First off, let me say, the amount of liquor I consume monthly could, some months, be considered, none. I'm not a big drinker. But when I do drink, especially when out in public, I want a really nicely made one. 

Hence, one of the reasons I really enjoy going to Gulch Distillers (formerly Triple Divide). They continually have 'special' drinks, such as the Lilac Bee's Knees, made with lilac infused honey.

So when I found out they were offering a class on amaro, I had to go.

I have been intrigued with amaro since reviewing the book, Amaro. An Italian digestif, it's a bitter-sweet drink made with herbs and spices.  In fact, Gulch Distillers now has their own award winning Fernet and constantly is make a 'house' amaro to serve, experimenting all the time. (Saving my pennies for a bottle of it!)

Last Saturday, between rounds at the quilt show which was only a couple of blocks away, I sat down for a class on making my own amaro. It was especially fortuitous since I had in mind to use some cherries and make a cherry liqueur.

So the line-up of possible additions to the alcohol. Several of the spices and herbs I was familiar with, like cardamom, fennel seed and cinnamon. Others were completely unheard of. And since amaro is based on 'family-recipes', handed down through generations, there is no set recipe for concocting an amaro.

A run-down of the possible additions to your amaro making - 

Gentian Root - common in bitters
Angelica Root - also used in gin
Calamus Root - used in Compari, vermouth
Devil's Club Root - adds earthiness 
Licorice Root, Star Anise, Fennel Seed - for that licorice flavor
Wild Cherry Bark 
Birch Bark
Cinchona Bark - quinine
Cinnamon - and they had cinnamon which was really thin and 'fragile' compared to the honking sticks I usually get at the grocery store
Orange and Lemon Peel - dried 
Nigelia Sativa Seed - spicy flavor
Schizandra Berry - which is suppose to detox your body

Actually, if you are into homeopathy, most of these ingredients are ones you would use to aid digestion, calm an upset tummy, and the like. (Ok, am I deluding myself thinking I am creating a medicine?)

Something interesting in the discussion of making and creating your own bitters was how the two owners of Gulch Distillers sample the herbs they come across to figure out what they want to add to their mixtures. They make TEA! Actually, they take whatever herb/spice they want to see how it will taste and pour hot water over it to make a tea and then drink it. This gives them an idea of what taste it will impart.

I trotted home (actually I drove) with a bottle of 'professional proof' vodka to create my own amaro.

Since I was determined to use cherries (and they didn't laugh at my idea and in fact, encouraged it), we put together my mixture of herbals to use.

I didn't put in cinnamon because of Texter and they suggested when I get to the stage where I add a sweetener I use brown sugar. You can actually use just about any sweetener you want - honey, molasses, cane sugar, etc.

So here is one of my two pint jars with my herbals and cherries infusing away. They are on the counter in the kitchen by the coffee maker so I can remember to give them a shake or two every day.
I have one more week before I can strain it and add the sweetener and 'cut' it. 

They said, since I/we were using 'professional' strength vodka, we needed to cut it with an equal amount of water. So when we get to the point where we strain out the herbals to then take the strainer and run hot water through it to strip out additional flavoring and then put that water into our alcohol infusion. 

And since I had to use two jars to make my amaro (I didn't have one jar big enough), I will blend the two together. Which is what they do at Gulch Distillers! They said, even with the exact same proportion of ingredients, two batches can have different tastes, depending on the quality of the ingredients, when they were harvested and how long ago, the weather - lots of factors. So they will blend together different batches to get the taste profile they are looking for.  What fun!

Once it's strained and back in one bigger bottle, it will sit for several weeks, aging. I can't wait. It already smells wonderful.

June's class at Gulch Distillers is all about making syrups. I see several bottles of different flavored syrups in my future!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Helena Quilt Show 2017 Part II

So after an delightful hour learning about bitters and making bitters at Gulch Distillers, I toddled back up the street to finish up my tour of the Helena Quilt Show 2017. 

This one is designed and sewn by someone I actually know, Cheri Bergeron. However, I don't know her from quilting, but rather by another passion, orchids. She is an officer in our local orchid society. (And I have some orchids she gave me to replace ones I lost in the fire!) 

I love the gradient and it just works for me. It's always amazing to me how turning a block on it's point changes the way it looks completely.

Sewn by Nancy Gillespie, another Judy Niemeyer design. This one I don't have.

This one hit on several levels. First, I have some fabric for a Montana State quilt for a friend. Uncut. Sitting in a box. But I love the memory quilt idea. Have to get hopping on the quilt as her oldest is leaving in August to attend MSU. I think she needs a quilt to cuddle with when he's gone.

This one is by Lisa Lovell and was a graduation present to someone.

I like this quilt as I am collecting cat fabric (and foxes) for quilts for the girls. What a great idea to make this quilt, using cat fabrics for the cats! Wouldn't it?

Anyway, this is a round robin quilt by Carolyn Meier and using a pattern from a 2000 McCall's Quilting magazine.

The above two wall hanging, by Andrea Atwood, really had me looking. 

First, they appeal to one of my first loves, embroidery. Secondly, the top picture is a panel she embellished. What a super idea. If I'm not creative enough to do something like the bottom design, at least I can embellish a panel. Wheels are churning as I have several panels in mind. But what a way to combine the two, needlework and quilting merged. Yummy!

Sewn by Kathy Grant, this Elizabeth Hartman design, Fancy Forest, is sitting in my 'to-do' pile. I have her Fox and Cat patterns too (for Texter and Savvy). Those I have started on. Or at least pulled fabrics for them.  But Hartman's pattern, Tokyo Subway was one of the first 'modern' quilts I fell in love with and want to make it still.

Yep, One Block Wonder. Sitting in a box, several dozen units sewn up and needing some finishing. Of which I have an idea how I want to do it.

Sewn by LaDonna Fabian, I love how she has a panel at the top and then the blocks underneath. With the quilting done the same all over, you really can't tell when it goes from blocks to whole cloth.

Also by LaDonna Fabian, this is the 2015 Mystery Quilt from the shop hop. My Peony Quilt is done with this pattern (and isn't as nicely sewn!) What a difference fabrics can make to the design! I didn't even realize this was 'my quilt' until I read the label. Now I HAVE to find backing and get mine finished up.

Red and black. Tumbling Blocks, always a favorite of time. But look closely. Each white size of the block has a different quilt design on it!

By Mignon Waterman, she is donating this quilt to a local church. You couldn't pry this quilt out of my hands if it was mine!

Another entry by Sue Wheeler. This is using the Fabulous Fractures by Brenda Esslinger. I have read the book and want to give it a try one day. What a great way to use an interesting panel.

Another Irene Wilson and another idea on how to use orphan blocks. 

This is one of two antique quilts on display. And once again, one of my first loves - crazy quilts. Needlework and quilting. One day I will start on one!

This is not really a quilt entered into the show, but rather a sample from The Sewing Palace for a kit. Right up my alley. But right now I am signed up for the Almond Country Beauty BOW (Block of the Week) quilt which starts in June. Not to mention, quilt store hops will start in June and I'm sure I will have tons more 'stash' and patterns coming in as I visit the stores. After all, you can't not buy something from each store, right?

So now...

Seriously wanting a new machine to replace my better Singer which melted in the Temple of Fire. Hopefully, figuring out how to sew this minky throw on the basic Singer. And then deciding which quilt top to start on in my stash of 33 quilting projects of which are already in some form of WIP. Not to mention the 4 quilt tops ready for backing and quilting. Or the patterns I want to start.

I won't mention the knitting projects or the 'other' sewing projects. Thank goodness, I retired. I'm exhausted already!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Helena Quilt Show 2017 Drool-worthy

There is a BAD problem with attending quilt shows. It's similar to letting a drug addict loose in a drug factory. 

The GOOD thing about attending a quilt show is it really rejuvenates the creative juices and inspires me to 'good-forth-and-quilt'.

So some of the eye-candy from the 2017 show. And some revelations about my quilting plans.

By Jan Larsen, this is a merging of an image off the internet and some Celtic blocks by Philomena Wiechec. So really opened up a whole realm of quilting - taking images in pictures and turning them into a quilt.

First, it's read and black, Texter's favorite color combination. This was a BOM and done by Sue Wheeler. But just proves what a difference color combinations can make.

This is En Provence, the Mystery Quilt 2016 by Bonnie Hunter, and sewn by Irene Wilson. I didn't participate in this quilt, but may have to go back at one point and do it. 

One thing I have learned is I am learning to recognize pattern designers before I ever read who designed it. Designers have distinctive styles. I could do this with needlework patterns back in the day and now I am learning to do it with quilt designers.

Sewn by Lou Moore, this is a Jen Kingwell design (and I LOVE her stuff). Gypsy Wife is probably her pattern I will start with.

Also by Lou Moore (does she ever leave the sewing machine?), this is a Judy Niemeyer design. Of which I currently have 9 patterns for her quilts, one of which is actually a WIP and another I have the fabrics for. One day...

Ok, this one caught my eye. It's a completely random design, using up scraps and turning them into blocks and then turning the blocks into a quilt. Sewn Bobbi Bridgeman, this gives me some ideas on how to take all those orphan blocks and use them in a quilt.

By Glynis Scott, another Judy Niemeyer design. At least I am consistent. Maybe it's the use of batik fabrics?

Another quilt sewn by Irene Wilson, this is the Allietare quilt from 2015 by Bonnie Hunter. Mine is 'almost' completed in that all the parts need to be sewn together. A jab in the butt to get off mine and get it finished and in use.

Sewn by Sue Wheeler, this is an adapted pattern by Sassafras Lane. I LOVE compass/kaleidoscope patterns and designs. What a great way to combine the two.

Ok, so I need to get out my EPP and work on my La Pass quilt. This is the New Hexagon pattern by Katja Marek and hand pieced by Dawn Valle. I have mine in a box and may sit in on her class at the Sewing Palace this summer to spur me on.

One of many round robin quilts by the Helena Hot Flash group. Love, love, love it. This one is by Julia Dess.

I love this design to show off Asian-ish fabrics. What a great idea. Sewn by Sue Kissinger it's the Oriental Fujita Maze Pattern from McCall's Quilting Magazine.

Another quilt by Sue Kissinger, this is 4 Patch Posy by H.D. Designs. Love the black and how it makes the kaleidoscope blocks pop.

So this was my first hour at the show, marveling at the quilts, before I ran back down the street for a class at Gulch Distilleries (quilts and drinking in the same day!) I will feature the second part tomorrow.