Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Getting Crispy

There is a definite chill in the air these days, and night-times are cuddle weather with me allegedly hogging the wool blankets.  September has been busy.   We canned a bizillion jars of tomato juice and diced tomatoes and tomato soup -- over 60 jars at last count.   I used the last few pounds to make fresh tomato sauce for Zoodle lasagna and zoodles with meatballs, both of which were delicious.  We are planning to can applesauce next, although Lord knows whether we will get to it before I bake up stuff with all the apples.   It has been a very good food month, as one would expect for harvest time in the mid-west.   Michigan is said to be second only to California in the scope of our fruits and vegetables, and I am enjoying as many of them as I can while they are fresh and plentiful.
And, to my utter amazement,  I am still sewing!    I finished the table runner that I won from Missouri Quilt, what a fun prize that went together in just a couple of hours -- just about the length of my attention span!   Kits make it SO easy!
I made a few more pillow cases, I think they make sweet little gifts and they are another super quick sew, so I make them whenever I think of it and need something mindless to work on.  So many cute fabrics out there, I pick up a couple of yards whenever I see something that shows a particular interest of some family member, and that makes it fun for me, too.
I am working on place mats, too, another quick and easy scrap buster that, despite its quick and easiness, I haven't gotten done yet -- of course, scrap busting only works as well as my own self discipline, and I am an expert at slacking and a sucker for a fun new fabric so the 'done' pile isn't getting any bigger and the scrap pile isn't getting any smaller.  And this month's purse club is next week, so there will no doubt be more purses coming soon.

On the personal front, I am happy.  My guy and I spend most of our time together, a bonus of being retired, enjoying each others company.  I never imagined life could be so sweet, so late.   And I am fighting the urge to wonder when the other shoe will drop -- happy is a place I haven't visited much,  I hope I get the chance to get used to it.  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sew Far Sew Good

 We are having the most beautiful late summer here in Mid-Michigan.  Sunny days, blue skies, and nights cool enough for a wool blanket or two.   I love this time of year.   The leaves are just beginning to turn, and the bumble bees and chipmunks are frantically trying to stock up for the winter.  The skinny bunnies are eyeing me hopefully.    Lots of sewing going on here in my world.   The tuffet is finally and truly done, legs and all.    The photo doesn't show size and it looks a little wonky, but it sits sturdily enough and better yet,  it's done and it's cute and it's going to be a gift, with a little accompanying throw, I hope.
I've made a bunch of little purses and I've just gotten a new pattern so I will be making more - hopefully I'll find someone to give them all to!
I pieced a couple of quilt tops, which haven't been photographed yet, and I finished the pillow I made as an engagement gift.
I won (yay!) a table runner kit and made that, and will try to remember to photograph that, too, before I pack it away in the Gift Box.    I know how to sew a little, but I have no practical knowledge of quilting, so I used the pillow and the table runner to practice my stitch-in-the-ditch technique.   A better seamstress (which is to say, almost anyone) would have torn it all out on both and started over, but I did not.  I have adopted Jenny Doan's mantra, "finished is better than perfect," and I don't intend to budge from that.   They are not perfect, but they are finished.

I performed one last wedding for the summer, a lovely couple who had traveled together for the past several years after their relationship first took them through college and graduate school.  They were not at all phased by the fact that their dream outdoor wedding was rained out and had to be held in a small banquet room, both were just thrilled to be taking this step, and I loved that about them.

My friend will be traveling again in the next week or so and I will miss him, so I am taking every advantage of his presence right now.    We have been canning tomatoes together this weekend -- I was gifted with the chance to pick SEVERAL bushels at a friend's house and we have been busy!   He made and canned a veggie soup and is working on a veggie-mix juice right  now with beets and peppers and celery and tomatoes and much much more.   Meanwhile, I have been canning jars and jars and jars of sauce.  Tonight we had zoodles (zucchini noodles) with fresh tomato sauce and local veggies for dinner.     Truly delicious -- I don't know why we don't do the zoodles more often, they are that good!

And the same day as the tomato bonanza  another friend brought me a bunch of eggs from her flock of hens, so there's going to be a lot of baking once the canning is done.  And I am loving it all. 
 Life is good here in the middle of the Mitten.   Perfect weather, loving family, good friends and harvest time, a happy combination.     And how about you?  

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Little Miss Muffet

I am not a fan of spiders, but I signed up for a tuffet class.    What a fun project -- much faster and easier than I had expected and cute as the proverbial button.  It still needs legs, which have not yet been delivered, and it is intended as a Christmas gift.   My guy friend says it has no practical use at all, but that won't stop me from making another -- I just won't make one for him!  He's right, too, it would be no support for his big feet!
He and my grandson spent a day doing a soldering project, the second they've worked on.   I love seeing my 11-year-old grand develop skills I hadn't even discovered until I was in my 60s.  He is a quick learner and a good student, it makes my heart swell.  And I love watching the big and little hands working patiently together.
I performed a couple more weddings in the past week, one Bride happy and relaxed, the other less so. It is always amusing to me to see what mountains can be made of molehills.  I wish them all the very best and hope they all find contentment once the stress of their wedding day is past.    And our search team was called out this week to look for a local man who had gone missing.   We were not there long, and it was not a happy ending, but we know from experience that it helps the family a little to know that they had the support and encouragement of strangers and that they did everything they could.

In between it all, I am working on the usual hodgepodge of sewing projects, trying to use scraps in order to justify buying ever more fabric.     In honor of the impending birth of my latest great niece, the daddy's sister organized a quilt circle.  When older sister Frannie was born a couple of years ago, the aunts and uncles and grandparents all joined together to make the building blocks of a baby quilt, and now we are doing it again for the new baby.  Frannie's square, two years ago, went so quickly for me and turned out exactly the way I'd hoped. 
But this time, inspiration was slow to strike and, even after I decided to make a bunny square,  things did not go well.  Bunny Number One looked demented, a bit like a bunny serial killer.  
But thanks to a few suggestions from my granddaughter and guy friend, I ended up with a bunny I could live with even if I didn't exactly love it.   I hope the new baby will be forgiving.  :)
If you could see the mess on my kitchen table you would expect me to have a lot more to show for the effort!  It is time to get serious about Christmas sewing, and the list of projects is getting longer every day.

Summer is quickly drawing to an end.   The Littles go back to school next week and it won't be long before most of my time will be spent indoors.   Hopefully that fabric pile will shrink a bit then.  In the meantime, I am enjoying as much outdoor time as I can.   We are hoping for one last canoe trip next week, fingers crossed for good weather.   I hope your end of summer is as happy as mine has been.   There is much to be grateful for.  :)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Showers of Blessings

This week was the Perseid Meteor Shower, predicted to be the best in years.    They claimed that, at its peak, there could be 200 meteors an hour, a mind boggling thought!  Although my results were not quite as spectacular,  I did see a few gorgeous, meaty meteors and several handfuls of shooting stars.   A long, long way from the media claims, but well worth missing a little sleep.


In hopes of finding a darker place to star gaze, we drove last week to the west coast of Michigan, to a small town called Ludington, and spent the wee hours of one morning laying on a blanket on the sand dunes a little north of there, watching falling stars.    We used my Golden Passport to park for free in the National Forest there and walked to the beach.  This area of Michigan has rolling hills of sand that go right up to the edge of Lake Michigan.  The area is absolutely gorgeous and, after dark, absolutely dark.  We snuggled into the sand and ooo-ed and ahhh-ed until past 3 am.  With the stars above, clearer than they are near civilization with a wide swath of milky way, and the sound of the water a few feet away, I could have stayed there all night if only there had been a potty!

On our drive there and back we stopped at four quilt shops to pick up their row-by-row patterns and a bunch of other stuff I just couldn't resist.   When I got home I discovered that the prices at one shop were lower than my local JoAnn Fabrics, so I will be driving back that way again soon!  All in all, the trip added a new stack of to-do items to my endless pile of sewing projects.

A day or so later, when skies cleared again, we went out into the countryside nearer home and saw a dozen or more shooting stars that (late) night, too.   It has been raining since then, but we are watching the sky, hoping for another chance or two to witness the celebration in the sky.  It is such a thrill to watch those trails of light!

Today I helped as one of the "communicators" at a 5k Walk for Hope, sponsored by Survivors of Suicide.   My job was an easy one, I acted as liaison between the officer in charge of the course and the communicators who relayed messages about people who needed water or assistance.   It was a hot and sunny day so I was exhausted at the end of the race, even though I was not the one running.    The message of today's race is one dear to me -- it is okay to ask for help.   Be gentle with yourself and let's take good care of one another!

Friday, July 29, 2016

End of July

Another month has slipped through my fingers!   It's been a fun time, but moving way too fast.   It's really true what they say about this journey on the down-hill of life, time gathers speed as I go.   My darling granddaughter had a nasty scooter accident this month and banged herself up badly enough to force her to take things more slowly for a bit.  Of course I hate that for her, but the forced respite has given us time for her to practice making art on my fingernails.   She is quite the little artist in many modes, and she really got a kick this week out of using fingernails as her canvas.   Right now she is using a book as a tutorial, but it will be fun to see what she comes up with when she's gone through the index of owls and tennis shoes and koalas and penguins.


I finally (almost) finished my first bag; it just needs me to add the long strap and strap hardware.  I made so many mistakes on this bag; the pattern was so confusing that it was a very frustrating experience, and a miracle that it turned out as well as it did.    And with any luck at all, no one will know where the mistakes are except me . . . oh, and you, of course.     Seriously, SO many mistakes.  I botched the inner bindings, I forgot the end pockets, I cut off one of the double zipper pulls . . . it goes on and on.     And did I learn anything about slowing down and following directions?   Apparently not.  When I started to cut out the next attempt, I made my first goof with my first cut, so the bag will be smaller than the directions intended it to be.  Oh well, I will hack everything into place and live with the result. 
My honey is still out of town, probably for another week, but we talk almost daily and text and write letters . . .  and today he sent me flowers!   So very sweet.   It's been a long time since anyone sent me flowers, and I have never known anyone so thoughtful.    So far so good . . . and fingers crossed.  :)
The weather dropped more than 20 glorious degrees after raining the other day, from 93 to a perfect 68.  It has bounced back up again but only to the low 80s, perfect summer weather.  The lack of rain has kept my grass from growing much -- a good side effect -- and it has made my backyard birdbath a very popular place.   When I was filling it today one of the local squirrels came out to chat and with very clear 'hand' gestures he indicated that he would like me to get him some peanuts.   And then he waited patiently by the back door while I did exactly that.   Scary cute.

Summer is passing by way too quickly but it's been a good one here in my part of the world.   I hope you are having summer fun, too, wherever you are!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hot Time, Summer in Saginaw

Today is my son's 40th birthday -- how time flies!  He has been a joy to me from the minute he was born.  I remember it like it was yesterday, which clearly it was not.  Both of us are a lot older than when this photo was taken right after he was born.
I made him a birthday cheesecake last night, which is something of a tradition for me, and I burned my hand in the process, which is probably also something of a tradition.   I have always been clumsy in the kitchen and it gets worse every year!    But we enjoyed the cheesecake today, and I love hearing his children sing to him.  They decorated their house last night to surprise him.   Their happy family makes for a very happy grandma.  :)

It feels like I am so very busy but really there is nothing much new to report.   Our Search and Rescue group has gone on a couple of recent searches and those are always learning experiences.  Our hope is that we will get more skilled and provide more education with each search so that local communities and families won't have to face search emergencies alone.  Local law enforcement is not trained in search science but is often hesitant to accept our free, trained assistance, so it's a constant up hill battle just to get allowed in and too many people stay lost for too long as a result.  Law enforcement will actually tell us that they don't need our help because they don't know where to look, and it is hard to convince them that we can help them by determining the best place to start.   In many states, including ours, hundreds of people go missing every year and too many searches are postponed and abandoned.  There really is a better way, and we keep trying to teach people about it.

We are having a burst of brutal summer heat this month.   My daughter in Louisiana says it is cooler there than it has been here, so you know it is way too hot for my Michigan blood.   Meanwhile, on the home front, my air conditioning is not working properly.   Even with the AC running at full tilt, the house hasn't gotten hotter than 85 degrees  (or cooler than 83, so it is not an emergency, but it is annoying).    I am hot, but I am also anxious to learn how much it will cost to fix.   But since there are people in this recent heat wave who are in way worse shape, my appointment is not for several more days.   The heat has cut into my energy level but I am an excellent slacker, so it's not as great hardship as it would be for some, but it is definitely not ideal. 

My honey is out of town (and I am missing him terribly),  so I am home more this week with a lot less fun stuff to distract me, and the warm environment has caused me to reduce my activities in general,  specifically my sewing.   But I sewed quite a bit last week at his much cooler house.   I've made a number of little bags and am working on a carry-on-sized travel bag that I hope will be useful and pretty enough to justify making more as gifts.  I'm also hoping it cools off a little so that I can comfortably sew here at home again soon -- I've moved my machine downstairs where it is cooler, and have a whole stack of projects I'd like to get to this week. 
This is the very best time for food, our local farmers' markets are bursting at the seams.   I've tried a couple of new okra recipes and am loving the fresh fruit and sweet corn and tomatoes!   But back to school stuff is on sale in our local stores, so I know it won't last much longer, even though I am hoping for a lot more summer.   I have that mix of emotions, wishing for cooler weather but not wanting the summer to end!   I haven't been out in the kayak yet or dipped a fishing pole into a river, so I have lots to do in the next few weeks.    Things are good in my part of the world.  I hope the same is true for you. 


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Mid-Way

The year is now half over and I would slow it down if I could because this has been a good one!   It has been a beautiful summer here in Mid-Michigan.   It gets hot, but not for long enough to suffer, and then it gets cool, but not for long enough to matter.  Lots of sun and, although we could definitely use some rain, it has been otherwise perfect.   My kids have opened their pool after a lot of work and the Littles (and I) are loving it!  Not that I have had much time for pool-ishness, it's been a busy few weeks.
The 4th of July was lots of fun.   I saw a fireworks display on purpose for the first time since my kids were small.   And I loved it!   I was surprised at what a great job my town does with fireworks,  I never would have believed it could put on so amazing a show.

I have been sewing an assortment of stash-busters.   I made a gift basket for the girlfriend who introduced me to my Sweetie, using a cute (free) pattern I found on Craftsy.  I loved the way it turned out, except that the final step, top stitching along the upper edge,  ended up with a nightmare of birds' nest tangles on my old (now gone) machine.   I needed to pick it all out and then do it over on someone else's machine.    The basket took me about an hour to make (not counting the tear down and re-sew that wasn't as much fun).   I am guessing that future ones will go faster, so I am planning to make more, maybe to use as packing boxes for Christmas gifts.   My friend's gift basket included a candle (soylicious, the melted 'wax' turns into a massage oil), Cupid socks, a bracelet with an "unexpected miracle" charm, bath gel and some wine.   It made her laugh.
I am using smaller scraps to make little cosmetic zipper bags and I want to try a bag soon that uses an old metal retractable ruler inside for the closure.   I love these quick projects that take so little time and make, if only the smallest, dent in the clutter in my sewing cabinet that is stuffed full of fabric.

I am also pulling out all my pre-cuts and sewing them into quilt tops.  Nothing fancy, nothing planned.   Some of them work, some not so much.  I like the bright quilt top I made from the Kaffe Collective Cool 2016 layer cake that was one of the Daily Deals at Missouri Quilt.   
I am not so crazy about the quickie jelly roll quilt, also a Daily Deal from long ago so I don't remember what it was called, and plan to cut that one up into squares and try again.    

I am working on a duffle bag from other Kaffe Cool 2016 prints, working my way through my gaudy phase.

I struggled so much about which sewing machine to buy and ended up with a much less expensive model than I had planned and I don't regret it.  I can see now that the best way to figure out what I need in a machine is to have one that I can actually use, and I am using this one a lot and making mental notes about what I do and do not like about it.

My mail carrier has been busy bringing me packages of fabric, trim, hardware and -- most exciting of all! -- the most beautiful sari skirts.   I am not sure I will ever wear them; I don't like drawing attention to myself and I feel old and dumpy.   Even so, they are the most beautiful fabric I have ever owned and I love them.   I've already bought some for my DIL who will be beautiful in them,  but even if I never wear them out of the house I do not regret buying some for myself.   The photo, a selfie of the skirt over my nightie, doesn't do justice to how pretty the silk is.   I am tempted to throw the skirts over a curtain rod and display them that way.   I'll try to get a sunny photo the next time I think of it.   I got them from Darn Good Yarn and no kidding they are worth every penny!  Besides that, they eliminate wasting the fabric and create jobs for women who would otherwise suffer from poverty.  
Less is going on in the kitchen than in the sewing room these days, which is rare for me, but I did make a fantastic lasagna using thin cuts of farmers' market zucchini instead of pasta.   We didn't miss the noodles at all, to my surprise.   All the taste and texture was still there.    What an easy way to eat low-carb without feeling deprived!   Yum.
I hope you are all having a wonderful summer, too.   Be happy. :)