Saturday, September 25, 2010

what I'm working on...

Here's some things I have been working on lately...
When I went on vacation in Colorado, I packed a bag of handwork projects and I usually had some time in the evenings to relax with some good fiber fun.
First, the knitting:
Maybe not Brita's most flattering pose, sorry Bubba, but you are beautiful in my eyes! Pattern by Brooklyn Tweed, yarn is washable wool.
And another littler hat in basically the same pattern but smaller:
yarn is CottonEase by Lion Brand
Some more blocks for the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt class at Bear Patch Quilting Co.
Then I spent a little time learning to use this funky little ruler that I had an idea might be kind of fun to try out. And it really is! It is called the Double Diamond 3.5 ruler from Bright Quilting Notions. It creates a dimensional design that kind of reminds me of some Seminole piecing that I did long long ago.

This shows a closeup so you can see the cut and folded triangles a little better--
I plan to teach this as a future class at the shop because I think it is a fun technique, but easier to learn with some step-by-step demonstration.
Also, I've obtained the recording of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, and it is SO GOOD! Very intriguing. My only regret is that I know it is the end of the series about my new heroine, Lisbeth Salander. I've read the rumors about the supposed 4th partially written book, but since the author, Steig Larsson, died it is doubtful that I will get to read about any more of Lisbeth's exciting life. I can still look forward to the movie of this book next year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

hanging on by a thread

This title explains how I felt driving 20 miles up the side of a mountain and then turning around to drive back down! I have been up this road, the Trail Ridge Road, previously as a passenger. I remember having to cover my eyes on some of the turns. Not so good when I am the driver! I guess I need to explain that for me, looking down from an elevation is fear-inducing, and I know it has no rational basis but I get the feeling that I am about to fly off that cliff/chair lift/rooftop, ferris wheel to my death! I have been working on conquering this annoying situation with marginal success. I can now go up on sorta tall ladders without fear, and I can ride the gondola at Mammoth Mt. to the very tiptop and now I can drive the Trail Ridge Road! Woo-hoo!
Truly, it is a very fine road and probably pales in comparison to the Old Fall River Road, which goes to the same Alpine Visitor Center at the top of the mountain, but is a much steeper grade, gravel and one-way (uphill) only because it is too narrow for 2 lanes. It gets to the top in about 10 miles instead of 20, so that gives you an idea of the steepness factor. My parents have driven that way in the past, but also walked that route, too! I think they were young and unencumbered by children at the time!
This time they were happy to sit back and enjoy the scenery on a beautiful Saturday morning in Rocky Mt. National Park. We stopped for a couple of Vista spots. We also stopped for the policeman who told us to wait because the road was blocked by wreckers and cops trying to retrieve a truck that had gone over an edge. We couldn't see the truck, but I think it must have happened the night before because there were no ambulances in the area. But kind of an ominous way to start up the mountain! We had waited until our last day in the park to make this drive because there is construction on the road during the week resulting in long delays. On a road like this there isn't any leeway for re-routing cars so everything has to stop now and then to allow the equipment and workers to do what is needed to get the job done. Thank goodness for those people who do the work, making it possible for a fraidy cat like me to have the opportunity to see the earth from a different perspective! It is a harsh world up there, cold, windy, treeless. Funny how it can be harsh yet seem so fragile, too.
But now I am back in the comfort of my own home, far removed from mountain peaks. We had 2 long days of driving, passing from Colorado to Wyoming to Nebraska to South Dakota to Minnesota to Iowa. Whew! We figured out that I chalked up over 2000 miles in about 10 days! I am grateful for reliable transportation, I did not have to worry one iota about the mechanical side of things. Finding a good radio station, that is another matter altogether! In the end, I am super glad that I had the good fortune of taking this vacation with my wonderful parents. I am very lucky to be able to do so.
One other fun thing we did--there was a film festival in Estes Park last weekend, and Friday night we went to a showing of Earthwork. It is a true story about Stan Herd, a Kansas artist who creates art on a monumental scale, best viewed from an airplane. I have tried to find a good picture to show you, but only came up with these little ones--imagine that each picture is created as big or bigger than a field. A very interesting approach to art!
So that is all for now, folks--I will be posting soon about the projects in my life!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

this and that

More walking around today--and more sunshine and light winds. This is making me think that the weather here must be perfect! We took the trail to Cub Lake, 2.4 miles one-way. We had only gone a short distance when we encountered these strange hikers on our route--
The big bull of the harem was a little bit away from the trail, but close enough to clearly hear his bugling.
When we reached Cub Lake, after a long, hot, uphill hike, we enjoyed our lunch in the shade, watching the ducks, jays and chipmunks who were waiting for some crumbs. My dad sort of wanted to continue the hike past Cub Lake but he was out-voted, which later he was thankful for as the 2.4 miles back to the car were hot and strenuous, despite being downhill most of the way.
Thursday had been a day off from hiking for us, instead we did a little walking around the main street of Estes Park, constantly amazed at the number of souvenir and tshirt shops that can co-exist! The only souvenirs I found were fabric and yarn! We explored The Stitchin' Den and Cottage Bliss, both very nice shops here in Estes Park.

more walkabout

More walking around today--and more sunshine and light winds. This is making me think that the weather here must be perfect! We took an easy walk around Lily Lake, about 1 mile on a very level graveled path for wheelchair accessibility. This makes it very nice to walk on and gaze around at the scenery instead of eyes on the ground to keep from stumbling on rocks and roots. Then we drove up to the Longs Peak trailhead and did a 3 mile hike to the site of an abandoned mine:
The first part of the trail, about .5 mile, is steep uphill and then continues way up to the top of the peak. We, however, took the road less travelled to Eugenia Mine. Much less climbing, hardly any people. I love the way that the aspen leaves change from shades of green to gold before they are blown off and drift down to earth.
We also did a lot of reminiscing about earlier trips to the top of Longs Peak--my parents went up together 55 years ago, when the trail up went in a route that involved hanging onto a steel cable bolted into the rocks on the steepest section. What were they thinking???
About 10 years ago my husband, Bob, went up with my dad and they made it to the top, a special bonding experience for them. As I recall, they ended up doing the last part in the dark. Then a couple years ago daughter Brita and Bob were here and made it up as far as they could go before the weather stopped them, it quickly gets dangerous with rain and wind at those altitudes. That trip also lead to one of those funny stories that you wonder if this really happens: Brita and Bob took shelter in a little stone hut on the side of the mountain and there were only 2 other hikers still at that level. They wanted a picture of themselves to mark the occasion of their climb, so asked the guys to take a picture. They said "No", not what you would expect! Turns out they were Amish so do not believe in taking any images! What are the chances?
Last year Bob and son, Dan, made it to the summit, setting out from their campground in the dark of the morning so they could get down from the top before the afternoon storms blew in. As for me, you will not be seeing me on the summit, I can hardly stand to walk some trails along cliffs at much lower altitudes, so mountaintops are not the place for me!

So goes the family lore of trips up Longs Peak! It is a personal accomplishment for anyone who can make it, and I do wish I were one of them. But instead, I will be happy for their achievements and cheer them on from below!

Here's a couple of happy wanderers:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

a trail of lakes

Another hiking adventure today, my flatlander lungs are sucking out every speck of oxygen from this high-altitude air. We take the uphill climbs slowly with plenty of rest stops, which I need just as much as my parents! They are troopers! Today we again used the excellent shuttle bus system to ride to Bear Lake Trailhead. Then we walked up to a string of lakes, the first (after Bear Lake) was Nymph Lake--
Then on to Dream Lake, where we chatted with a fly fisherman who caught this beauty--
a green back cutthroat trout, the state fish of Colorado. It wouldn't hold still for long and was quickly back in the water.
Finally, after many uphill steps, we reached our destination of Emerald Lake--
a beautiful and serene spot, I could have spent the entire afternoon there! We sat on the rocks in the sun and ate our lunch, admiring the surrounding peaks
And even with all these wonders of nature, I still have to show you some fabric that I picked up that I couldn't pass up! This is from Material Girls in Grand Island, NE. A great fabric and quilt shop that you would not expect to find in the middle of Nebraska! They are one of the Top Ten Shops in the American Patchwork and Quilting fall issue of Quilt Sampler.
These are pieces of a collection called Wheels by My Mind's Eye and distributed by Riley Blake Designs. They just seemed like too much fun to not add to my stash!
But back to the topic of the quilt shop--I make it a practice to always research shops that I might be able to visit when I am on a trip. Since I work in a fabulous shop I really don't get to many other shops in my home area. So when I hit the road, I love to stop at new places and look for things that are new to me. And I have developed a sort of rating system of these places in case I return there. There are basically 3 levels in my rating system: places that just don't interest me, places that I would stop at again if I was driving on that road and had all the time in the world, and then there are the places that I would go out of my way for or even plan a whole trip around! I think Material Girls fits in that last category! So I'm just saying, if you ever find yourself within 2oo miles of Grand Island, NE, get yourself in there!

Monday, September 13, 2010

a walk in the woods

I'm relaxing with my feet up after showering off the dust and sweat of a 3+ mile hike today. I feel a very good kind of worn out. It has been a perfect weather day and I took a few pictures to share. It is very beautiful here, and it is impossible to get all that gorgeousness into a little camera.
Here's my hiking group--
On the left are my parents, Bob and Sally from Lake Park, IA, and on the right are my aunt and uncle, Alan and Mary from Ankeny, IA. They are all experienced wanderers. I felt lucky to be in this group of good people from age 74-84, showing what it means to be actively mature!
We set out from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, using the excellent shuttle bus system to get there. The water was so clear and pretty.
From there we hiked about 2 miles to Bierstadt Lake, and then another 1.2 miles to the shuttle bus stop. Thankfully, the last mile was all downhill so much easier to go that direction. The aspen trees are turning and make some beautiful scenes.
This evening will be a quiet one and I am sure I will be sleeping soundly tonight!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

trip to colorado

Saturday AM I embarked on a trip with my parents to have a little vacation in Estes Park, CO. This is a place that they have visited often, particularly in September after tourist season. Yesterday I drove about 450 miles in Iowa and Nebraska (Go Big Red!) and today another 250 or so to end up at the Saddle and Surrey Motel which will be our lodging for the week. This is their favorite place to stay, the rooms are very comfortable, extremely clean, and include kitchenettes in some. It feels good to be in one spot for a bit.
On our last leg of the trip, from Loveland to Estes Park (about 25 miles of winding road) we warily watched billowing smoke not far from our road. Thankfully, the fire was over another ridge so did not cause any problems for us, but I am sure someone somewhere is thinking otherwise. I hope it is not near any towns or areas of population. The people we talked to in Loveland said it had only started this morning. It definitely is dry around here. Smokey Bear says the fire danger is Extreme!
We will be setting out for a walk this afternoon and connecting with my Aunt and Uncle who are also vacationing here right now. It is a beautiful sunny sky and 75 degrees. Yay! That is my favorite temperature!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

a day of labor

Well, you know how Tim the Toolman always manages to run into all sorts of inconveniences with any home improvement project he takes on? Now meet Bob the Builder! Bob is really pretty good at the many varied repair and fixit jobs that go along with keeping a roof over our heads. But what started out as a simple little paint job turned into a whole different beast! You see, our 2 exterior doors needed repainting, they have been looking like this for about 20 years--
Not so bad, but needing a fresh coat of paint in some up-to-date colors. So we picked out some paint in colors we liked but it turned out to be the wrong paint for this purpose so had to take 2 steps back and start over again. The screen door is painted and things are going along pretty well until Sunday afternoon. In order to hopefully save himself some putzy taping and detail painting on the window section of the back door, Bob removed the inside and outside window framing. Not realizing that nothing else was holding the window glass in place. Window glass falls out and breaks into many, many pieces. Woops. Back to the hardware store to find out that this size of window is not a stock item but could be ordered. Bought a new door (without any glass!) and we manage to install that without any more serious mishaps. Still needs to be painted!
Here's Bob in action, working on that lovely new door into our garage.
I'm all in favor of the new door without the window, but now that corner of the garage is really dark. Do you think he would mind installing a new light?!
Amidst the fun of home repair projects, I also got 2 coats of primer in the closet and most of the previous artistic paint job is masked. I would sure like to know where Brita and Beth are when it comes time to have some more fun with painting that closet! I think that 2 more coats of regular paint should take care of it.
We also did a little cooking during our long weekend, and I want to share a simple little dipping oil with you. This is my own concoction, but it is derived from a package of dry seasoning we once had, which was mixed with olive oil. That product has been discontinued, but I decided to try to recreate it. Here's what I use:
1 scant teaspoon of McCormick Roasted Garlic and Bell Pepper Seasoning Blend
1/2 teaspoon of dry Italian salad dressing mix
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water
Mix together and let it stand for at least 5 minutes before eating with sliced italian bread. We just make this small batch because it's enough for the 2 of us. Give it a try!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

chill pill updated

A couple years ago I put together a pattern that I titled Chill Pill. It is a very easy design and uses 5" squares if you want to use a pack of pre-cut fabrics of that size. I made the first one from a Christmas Thimbleberries collection, which honestly has not been my favorite but was handy at the time. And the photography left a lot to be desired!
Several years back these colors would have been my preference, but I have moved to lighter and brighter choices. This pattern has been a good solid basic design, something I recommend to people who might have done a beginner quilt or two and want to learn how to construct a quilt with blocks set on point. Recently, Debbie made this quilt from a great fabric group designed by local designer Linda Hohag for P&B Fabrics. Her pattern company, Brandywine Designs, is a favorite.
I have been outside on this lovely sunny day snapping some pictures to get a good one to put on the cover of Chill Pill. It's a bit of a process to get a good picture. First, press the quilt to get out the wrinkles where it was folded for hanging on display at the store. Then get the step ladder out of the garage, find blue tacks, pull some of the grape vines back and then tack up the quilt to the boards. Get out the level and reposition the quilt. Get out the tripod and set up the camera level and centered. Wait for the breeze to stop and clouds to move and start snapping pictures. Get the pictures onto the computer and delete most of them--I think I took 40 pictures and ended up with 2 keepers! And then realized that the thermometer on the post and the rain gutter are in the picture! Email the pictures to Dan and leave a message to tell him to check his email. It is Sunday morning so I'm guessing he's sleeping in! Go back outside and remove the thermometer and rain gutter and shoot more pictures. Hope Dan wakes up soon so I can get his OK and finish up this little job. What I think is so great is that I can take pictures, see what they are, adjust size and lighting on the photo, send them out to Dan in CA and get his opinion all within minutes, that is, if he wakes up! I know there are pitfalls to modern technology,but it is extremely useful, too. And I can put up these photos on this page and get feedback from whoever is interested, too!

I have been working on the Martinique quilt, too, and have the blocks and borders all done, finally! Just need to get a backing and spend a little quality time with my longarm machine to get it finished! Here's what it is looking like:
The rest of the day plus tomorrow will probably not see much sewing/quilting. We have some fix-up clean-up projects to do around here while we both have 2 days off work together. Probably some fun watching a movie, too! Happy holiday weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

in pursuit of the perfect brownie

My brownie baking has reached a new level! I am trying to solve the problem I have with baking to perfection, or not. I am plagued by brownies that seem to be done but turn out to be crusty hard around the edge of the pan and gooey mess in the middle. Now, I don't mind this if it is just me and the brownies at home alone, but it bothers me when serving up my brownies for others. So I found one of those brownie edge pans and tried it out, with somewhat better results. I was going to show you what they looked like, but when I took out my camera this morning and uncovered the pan, this is what I found:
I forgot that Bob was taking them to work today and left home before I hit the deck. But you can still see the pan and the crumbs he left for me! And here's a look at the 1/2 pound of melted bittersweet chocolate in the double boiler, I wish I had smell-o-vision for you!
After all this talk of brownie goodness, I have to show you that I found a new pair of boots for hiking around in Rocky Mt. National Park in a couple weeks. Trying to walk off a few brownies! Seriously, the last time I was there I had a bad ankle sprain and don't want to repeat that mishap. The shoes I was wearing then weren't "high tops" so that is what I am going to wear this time.
Today I have been working on a quilt made of some great fun retro holiday fabrics. It is called the 12 Joys of Christmas by Sheri Berry Designs for Lyndhurst Studio. The pattern is Lady Fingers by Cozy Quilt Designs. It needed to be done in a hurry, so I used a pantogram that I rely on for this type of circumstance because it goes quickly and looks good on a lot of fabrics.
This will be hanging at the store in a couple days and will be a class this fall. It was a fun quilt to work on.
Varying between sunshine and rain today after the second night this week with thunderstorms and heavy rain (~2" so far). I'm thinking about Ben and Brita at the MN State Fair today, hope they are staying dry. Ben had not attended this fair before, so Brita was adamant that she would take him as part of his MN citizenship test. I wonder if they will get to the animal barns to see the giant hog? He weighs 1450 pounds! That's a lot of bacon!