Friday, September 21, 2012

a favorite thing

I'm going to share today about a simple little goodness.  Maybe it will become a favorite for you, too!  this is a food combo that can either be my breakfast or lunch.  It's really quite simple--granola, fruit, yogurt.  Nothing wild and crazy about that!  but here's the particulars:
Silk yogurt, vanilla flavored, in the large container that holds enough for several servings.  I don't measure, just spoon out enough to seem right.  Silk yogurt in the large container isn't a requirement, but I choose to buy it because a) I am lactose intolerant and b) the little Silk yogurt flavored containers are way overpriced.  But all that vanilla flavor gets kind of boring, and I found that adding in some fruit is a good thing.  But because I don't always have a reliable fresh fruit supply at home, I have come to be a big fan of frozen fruit.  Like these dark cherries.  Or raspberries.  Or strawberries.  Or blueberries.  Very convenient to keep on hand.  I usually mix the yogurt and fruit and let stand for 5-10 minutes to get the iciness tempered down, then top off with 1/3 cup of my homemade granola.  This makes a great food to pack for my lunch, because I can mix the yogurt and fruit in a plastic container and put the granola in a snack bag.  By the time lunchtime rolls around, the fruit is thawed and just needs a little stir.

So there you go, one of my favorite things!  Nothin' fancy, guess I'm not a high maintenance girl!

I have been pressing on with a very large customer quilt that needs to get finished--

This was made from a Quiltsmart pattern.  If you haven't tried one of the Quiltsmart designs, you really should.  I learned about this company several years ago, and found out they are based right here in MN.  I even went to their place of business, along with a couple of friends, and got a little tour of their manufacturing process.  Their patterns are all printed onto interfacing, which is sewn right into the blocks.  This one is called Baskets Around.  Baskets have been a theme in quilting for centuries.  Can you see the baskets in these blocks?  The 4 large red arcs are the handles of baskets connected at their base.  The quilting on this one is taking me awhile, there is a lot of outlining to be done.  Outlining is a tedious but necessary step in quilting, especially in an applique block like this one.  It can't be done quickly, so takes a lot of my patience!  I stitched around the big circle, then the smaller circle, and on both sides of the "handles".  Then filled with feathers and meandering.  I am on the last row of blocks, then need to stitch between all the blocks and in the wide border.  

I know this is going to the daughter of the maker for a wedding gift, and needs to be done in October, so the pressure is on to get it back to her for binding.  There are 20 of those large basket blocks, measuring 20" square and taking me about 1/2 hour each to quilt.  My neck and shoulders can't take long periods of this kind of close work, and my eyes go buggy, too, so I have to pace myself with breaks to stretch and do my neck exercises.  And take some ibuprofen!

So you know what I will be doing today!  What will you be doing?

Monday, September 17, 2012

fun with Ian

We just had a wonderfully rewarding and busy weekend, taking care of our sweet little Ian for 4 days and 3 nights.  He's much more entertaining than anything else going on around here!  And totally consuming of our attention and thought.  I guess when our kids were little we were just so absorbed in it that it did not seem remarkable, but at this stage in my life, it seems like a daunting task to raise up a child.  

We were a little bit pleased with ourselves that we actually managed a couple of outings with him.  On Saturday afternoon we drove about 15 miles to an orchard to stock up on delicious things.  But we also got to introduce Ian to some farm animals and implements--

Ian the tractor jockey
 He really liked sitting up on that little seat, and the fact that he can sit pretty independently made it all the more fun.  He sits pretty good now on the floor, although we do keep some soft stuff piled up behind him for the occasional topple over.
The orchard we visited was the Sunrise River Farm in Wyoming, MN.  I also bought some pumpkin butter, something I had not tried before.

I sampled it on my breakfast toast, and it passed the taste test!  Sort of like apple butter.  But why are these things called butter when there isn't a speck of butter in the contents?  Just wondering.  

On the jar lid I found these instructions for using the contents to make a pumpkin pie.  Might need to make another visit to the orchard for more jars!

And, of course, we brought home some apples.  Two varieties -- Sweet Sixteen and Zestar.  So good!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

misc. notes

Not so very long ago, I wrote about making some cement pots.  In the spring, I planted some succulents in my pots.  I have kept them on the patio table where I could watch the progress.  The chipmunks and/or squirrels were watching, too.  Seems they like to snack on those fleshy leaves a bit.  But they have all survived, and I was especially happy with this one...

I wasn't aware that this would bloom!  I saw that tall stalk sprouting up, but just thought it was a quirky kind of plant.  It made kind of an interesting architectural element.  Then, voila!  Out popped some pretty little orange blossoms!  I will have to see if I can get this one to grow indoors over the winter.

Some progress on finishing up a few things around here lately:
This is a pillow called Jaw Breaker from Jaybird Quilts.  It is made from a great group of Christmas prints from Bear Patch.  It fits a 20" pillowform.  I used the Creative Grids Double Strip 60 degree triangle ruler for it.

Here's a little bit of a project that I put together to display at the store.  I made use of one of our fall-colored homespun towels and a strip of fabric cut from a border print.  Add a little bit of rick rack and it really comes up with a nice finish.  And so easy!

 Now for some knitting...
I made this Mini Mania scarf once earlier this year and liked it so much that I started up another one.  This one is already promised to Debbie for her July birthday.  I finally got it to the point where I thought it was wide enough to be suitable.  So that means it is time to bind off, which generally is an easy task.  But I recalled that when I made the first one and started the bind off, I was not happy with the appearance of the edge that formed.  I think it was because every other stitch is a slip stitch and made some kind of loose loops on that edge.  At that point, I consulted with my knitting guru (Thora Lee) and she steered me to an alternative type of bind off that really worked out well for this.  When it came time for the bind off this time, I was searching high and low for any notes that I might have kept about what I did, but alas, found none.  So back to the guru, and this time, I am documenting it here for not only myself, but you, too!

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Sewn Bind Off

Working the Sewn Bind-Off
You may work it on either the right or wrong sides.  There is a slight difference between the side so it’s your preference depending upon the pattern.  You’ll need a blunt-tipped tapestry needle.  Follow the two steps below.
1.      Insert the tapestry needle into the first 2 sts p-wise (as though to purl 2 tog), draw the yarn through and leaving both sts on the knitting needle.
2.      Insert the tapestry needle into the first st k-wise, draw yarn through and drop the st off the knitting needle.  Repeat these two steps.

If you are not real proficient with the knitter terms, it can be simplified like this:
With the knitting needle and all the stitches held in the left hand, insert the threaded needle into the first 2 stitches from right towards left.

Pull the needle and thread through, then come back through the first stitch from left to right.

Pull the needle and yarn all the way through, then slide the stitches close enough to the tip of the knitting needle to ease the first one off.

Pull a bit to get the stitch tension to even out with the knitted fabric, and repeat all over again.  This scarf has 300+ stitches to bind off, so it is not a quickie.  But slow and steady wins the race, right?  This is sort of how the edge is supposed to look, although it is a little bit bumpier and more uneven (not keeping even tension) than I would like.

But I am pretty sure that when it is finished and I wash and block it, everything will come out just fine.  I have learned that a little bit of water does wonders for shaping and molding knits.

So just in case you ever need to try an alternative bind off that results in a stretchier edge, this is the one to try!  I do have to admit something, though.  I took all these pictures earlier this morning, loaded them up on the computer with the intent of getting this post done.  But I was horrified to see the close-ups of my fingers, they looked like old hag hands!  Would be good for scaring some poor little children on Halloween!  So I had to lotion up and scrap the first set of pictures, and take the time to do it over again.  Amazing how the dry, cracked, flaky, peeling skin and cuticles become so everyday.  I'm not much for maintaining a professional manicure, but I could easily hit the lotion bottle more often.  That will be my goal!