Saturday, August 30, 2008

The End of an Era

Not much I can say here. I have enjoyed this strip for years, own some of the books, and will miss new story lines. I have a lot of respect and admiration for what Lynn Johnson has created here.

Standing ovation, two thumbs up.... thanks for letting us all into your world for so many years.

Friday, August 29, 2008

of Pigs and Ducks and other beasties...

OK - you are probably all scratching your heads now and looking at this picture and going "HUH?"

"Um - we see the turtles - but what's this about Pigs and Ducks"

"Do you see any pigs and ducks on this fabric?"

"The girl has finally lost her mind!"

Well, I can't deny that the mind is precariously balanced at times - but I reassure you that there is a correlation here. Just "bear" with me a bit. (couldn't resist-sorry)

What I'm really talking about are "Prize Pigs" and "Lucky Ducks"

In the radio and TV world of promotions and giveaways and freebies, the "Prize Pig" is the person who enters all sorts of different contests every single chance they get, and often walks away with more than the average person's share of prizes. Somewhat like Lazlo Hollyfeld, but less scientific, and sometimes more annoying. This has now carried over into the internet as well.

I try not to be one of those - I will admit to visiting a few blogs because I see on someone else's blog that "so and so is having a great giveaway" - and I click over and see what it is all about. Sometimes I enter, sometimes I don't. I will say that a couple blogs on my daily read list I "discovered" because of posts like these - and I liked what I read beyond the giveaway stuff and I stuck around.

There are even blogs and websites that do nothing but list giveaways that other blogs and websites are having. But rather than randomly trolling the internet for "free stuff" I much prefer to frequent certain blogs because I like the people, enjoy their posts, and usually share similar interests. When they happen to have a giveaway for whatever reason, I usually throw my name in the hat.

That's where the "Lucky Duck" comes in - where I was fortunate enough to be the winner of two different giveaways - one from Carolyn (fabric on the right) and one from Connie (fabric on the left) And as Connie knows me and my weakness for all things "turtley", she sent me a little bonus fabric above and beyond what she had planned (the fabric at front left - isn't it just darling?!?!) That would not happen to a "Prize Pig"... that's the personal touch!

But I don't think the "Lucky Duck" comes so much from winning something from these two great ladies, but having found them and their blogs and being able to share ideas, inspiration, motivation and support as we all share our adventures, trials and tribulations out here in blog land for all to see. My daily reads are mostly this type of blogger - ones I hope are getting the same thing back from me, too.

And perhaps next time I have a giveaway here - it will be one of their turns to be the "Lucky Duck."

Hmmm....when will that be??!! Hmmm......

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Take 2 Take 2...or is it Take 3?

I liked this pattern so much the first time (well, actually the 2nd time...) and had so much brown/cream stash still left over that I decided to make another one of these. It's a Christmas present, so at present just a flimsy.

I like how this one turned out - different contrast than the brown/tan of "It Takes Two"

Not sure what it's name is yet, though.
Oh - and the Phoenix is beginning to arise from the ashes.
More updates on that in the weeks to come - after I finish one or two more quilts for an October 1 deadline.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The other day the Munchkin and I decided to get crafty and make a "milk jug birdfeeder" - of course we ended up grabbing more out of the recycle bin, so orange juice jugs and soda bottles of various sizes got put to use as well.

This started out as a project to make ONE - one for our friend who recently bought a new house. The plan was to make a small milk jug feeder decorated by the Munchkin, and to put the feeder and a bag of seed into a cleaned out laundry detergent bucket (for future seed storage). Of course The Munchkin had other plans - as we had to make them for EVERYONE!

We soon learned that the new "more eco friendly" little soda bottles are not good -the plastic is too thin and the bottles are too contoured to get a good hole for the birds to feed from.

We also learned that the "circles" embossed on the 1/2 gallon jugs might be a little high for the best placement, and that a very very new and very very sharp cutting blade is necessary to get through the plastic.

Mommy learned that my guy likes coloring with brown and purple, and telling Mommy to write silly things on the feeders, as if the birds can read. He's very good with markers, though, and was very careful to handle them and not get too much ink all over (which was good, as they were permanent markers!)

I did not get good pictures of our masterpieces all colored up - especially after "round 2" when Daddy was there to help. We ended up having to draw houses and flowers and more letters and spirals and different colors on all of them. Including coloring the caps!

We are happy with the results, and so are the recipients who have gotten theirs already. Now to just get them hung and see what the birdies think of these.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My First Commissioned Work

Hubby's Mom IM'd me the other day - with a request that I make a prayer book cover for her to give to a friend for a 75th surprise birthday party gift.

The back story behind this is that I had made a greeting card holder for MIL out of some gingerbread fabric last Christmas - with pockets for cards and envelopes, and a spot for a pen so she could address Christmas Cards easily. (and she loves gingerbread). Well wasn't it just fun that the holder fit right over her prayer book like a book cover?

She's been after me to make her a non-holiday once since then, and I took all the measurements but I misplaced them, and then got distracted by some other projects - ok - LOTS of other projects. I kept meaning to do them - honest!!!

Anyway, she requested, and I sewed, after stopping by to pick up her prayer book to get the measurements. The burgundy stripe is actually kimono silk given to me by Mama Matsumoto, one of my moms from my Japanese life. The purple is left over from a quilt I made for Hubby's little sister. I decided to make two while I was sewing, and made a couple of little Rosary pouches out of the scraps (they are not attached to the covers). She can choose one or both for her friend, and keep the other for herself, or I can even make more...

Total time for both - about 1 hour, including the little pouches. And just a note- the Velcro Fusion DOES stick to the silk. YAY!

The commission? She pays us in fabric, meals, plants, Munchkin-sitting, and by generally being a great mother-in-law, Mom and Grandma. Works for me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Turtle of the Day - Tartaruga

This little guy was packed with a card that says he is made in Italy.

I can only imagine that my parents brought him back for me when they visited Italy a few years ago - since I have an unwritten rule that I won't buy a turtle made in another country unless I buy it while I am visiting that country (which is why I don't have an Austrian crystal one....yet)

Which means someone must have given me this one.

Mom - was this you?

By the way - Tartaruga is Italian for Turtle.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - The Sledding Hill

So I know it is a bit early to be thinking of winter.

Wait a second -I live in Western NY - it's never too early to be thinking of winter!

At any rate - let me tell you about our "sledding hill"...

See - we live on a pretty flat lot. In the village. The only little slopes are off the side of the driveway going towards the road (uh oh), and the little "knoll" built up around the trunk of our black walnut tree (and another little tiny slope from the side yard to the back where a sugar maple used to be - but if I write about that my neighbor will laugh at me...)

So for a nearly 3 year old - the best option for a "sledding hill" is the tree knoll. Tall enough for a little bit of a slide and "whee" (and for Mommy to go sprawling).

The only catch? Well - see that picture of the Munchkin with his ball in front of our "sledding hill" tree? Can you see what Mommy has put there? No -it's not one of my killer roses - I don't think even they would like the black walnut as a home.

Nope -it's rocks.
Softball sized field stones outlining the borders of that little flower bed.

Wonder how those will feel under my tush when the sled hits them? Or maybe it is time to convince the Munchkin that he needs to sled solo now. He's lighter -should skim right over them, right?

Oh the things we do to our gardens in the dead of winter.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I've Adopted a Stray...

...or taken on another new "project" - depending on how you want to look at it.

I spotted this little cutie on the side of the road Tuesday as Hubby and I were on our way to pick up the Munchkin from daycare.

"Sweetie," I said, in my best persuasive tone. "If that old sewing machine is still out on our way home, can we stop and look at it? Please?"

It was, and we did - after pulling a u-turn because we were chatting with the Munchkin and I forgot to look (Thanks to Hubby for remembering!).

After I quickly determined that A) there was no "for-sale" sign on it and B) it was up for grabs... we grabbed it. I figured we could examine it later and go from there.

It is now safely ensconced in the garage -awaiting some TLC that will hopefully get it back in working order. Hubby has examined the cabinet and made some recommendations on how it can be repaired. The mechanism that folds the machine back down inside is in good working condition, so mostly it is cosmetic repair. The broken piece was stacked on top of it at the curb, so much of what we need to make repairs is right there.

The machine seems to be in good condition - I don't know much about the mechanics of machines, so am still determining if it has all it's necessary parts and pieces, but my friend SewPaula has put me on to some good websites that look like they will yield some good information. The drawers were all empty, so no hidden goodies or hardware or other resources there, but they will make a good place to store them when I find them.

I was able to date our stray - she is a 1920 New Home - still trying to figure out the exact model but am hoping one of the online forums can help with that.

Since our house is a 1929, I am hoping she will feel right at home, and that Zoe and Melody will help her feel welcome and useful. The Munchkin has already examined her and wants to know why she does not have that "up and down string" - I can only guess he means the thread that he sees in Zoe, since he'd have no way of knowing about the cable for the treadle. Hmmm....

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flashback Friday - The Lantern

During the time I lived in Japan ('85-'86 and '90-'93) I was able to attend many Japanese festivals both in Kanazawa and in other areas I traveled to.

During the biggest festival in Kanazawa, the Hyakumangoku Festival, these red lanterns with the plum blossom logo of Kanazawa were hung all over the city. Smaller lanterns were carried by the children through the city the night before the big parade with candles in them.

Through some 'connections', I was able to bring quite a few of these lanterns home with me. The small red ones served as the centerpieces for our wedding reception, filled with white tissue and held open by an ingenious little stick contraption my dad came up with.

The rest of the lanterns were hung around my in-laws back yard for our cookout/rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding (it was July and very nice that evening). We even lit candles in them, adding to the overall effect.

Unfortunately the candles burned a bit too long - and more than a few lanterns went down in flames -unrecoverable. Luckily no one was burned.

A few of the lanterns only got singed a bit. These my mother-in-law carefully put away - to be brought out and re-hung from time to time in her garden.

Last month - right around our 14th wedding anniversary - she had them out in the garden again. I was amazed and impressed to see how well they have held up over the years, singes and all. This one hung out through a few wind and rain storms this summer, and is still intact.

A bit worse for wear in places, but with a good strong connection between both sides holding it all together. Kind of like a good long relationship. (Not necessarily the profound word imagery I was thinking of when I took this photo -but I think you know what I mean).

Happy belated anniversary, sweetie!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Since I was outside with the camera the other night I thought I would get some thorn shots to share. I did not take a good picture of the entire rosebush because there is a pile of topsoil in front of it, and that corner is looking generally ratty - I will wait until it is a bit prettier before I share those.

I never realized how hard it would be to get close-up thorn shots. I needed to focus in very close, and even with the macro setting on my camera it kept wanting to focus beyond the thorns, or to go on manual focus. With no safe place to brace my arm or hand to steady it without needing a transfusion, I was nearly ready to go inside and find the tripod, but then I managed to get these two shots. Shooting on the southwest corner of the house in the late afternoon around a pile of topsoil was also challenging, as I had to watch the position of the sun carefully. I do like how it shone through the thorns in the smaller picture above -they really can be quite pretty - at a distance!!!

And it's so hard to hate the thorns when I get even more pretties like this to make up for it...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tales of a Carrot Farmer

"I'm not a farmer, Mommy. I'm a little boy!" the Munchkin tells me adamantly every time we check on his carrots.

Well, you could have fooled me with that one, kiddo! Just get a load of that carrot we harvested last night. Small, sweet and deeeelicious! We washed it and ate it without peeling it, it was that tender.

We (I) went back out and harvested a few more to share with Gramma - along with the stealth zucchini that snuck up on me. Honest - I had just checked these plants on Sunday -and there was only one zucchini in progress. Seriously I think my neighbor has figured out how to splice her big zucchini into my plants seamlessly so I think they are mine and can't pawn them back to her...

Luckily we ALL like zucchini bread (don't forget the chocolate chips, though!)

One cucumber, some garlic chives and a bowl full of "tataytoes" (tomatoes) rounded out the evening's harvest.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - Roses

Some plants are more intimidating than others to me - or at least they used to be.

Bulbs, veggies, and most flowers - easy peasy...

But roses?!??!? Roses were always intimidating (along with any of those quirky bulbs that require you to dig them up in the fall and replant them in the spring - too fussy for me)

Mom had roses - I remember spindly little shrubs at the bottom of the driveway that had gorgeous flowers from time to time -but don't remember much else.

And books -books make roses sound so high maintenance. And I am so NOT high maintenance.

So whatever possessed me to buy a rose bush one year? I don't know - but I did. A climbing rose - I figured it would be less fussy about pruning that way. Besides, it was on sale and I figured if it lived it lived, and if it died it died.

Well folks -it lived. It lived and it thrived and it grew. It grew and pulled the trellis half out of the ground so the trellis is crooked. It grew until it's thorny branches were threatening to grab anyone getting out of their car in the driveway, or coming down the stairs off the deck. It grew until one branch nearly reached the kitchen window. It rules the corner of the house.

And we are not talking a gentle prickly rose bush here. We are talking big honkin' hat grabbing glove puncturing thorns! Think Little Shop of Horrors -Rosebud Version here people. Don't let that pretty raindrop spattered blossom fool you - this plant is dangerous!!!

It has been pruned - severely - multiple times. A few cuttings got stuck in the ground just to see what would happen, and one rooted. So it has "spawned" another. And foolish me - I am nurturing that little offspring and plan to plant it at the other corner of the house.

And all that intimidating rosebush jibberish in the books? I don't fertilize this monster, it is not mulched, and is lucky if it gets weeded (depends on what my bandage budget is for that week). During the winter it is left to it's own devices -no burlap here. The snow blower throws snow right from the driveway directly at that corner. My pruning shears are rusty, my pruning technique aggressive (has to be), and other than that I pretty much ignore, neglect and otherwise avoid this corner unless I have to.

And the picture above is what I am rewarded with. Beautiful blooms - hundreds of them - buds on nearly every stem. And we are now receiving round two of blossoms.

Roses intimidating? Pish Posh - as long as have my chain maille and machete with me!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Turtle of the Day - The Crackpot

This turtle is a bit hard to see - but he is part of the flowerpot - a little dimensional accent to this great blue pot. You can just make out his shell and a few appendages in the lower right part of the pot.

I have the pot raised up on a spool from a Japanese textile mill - I found two at a Japanese antique shop and brought them home -one with thread still wound on it.

Please excuse the old terra cotta and butter tub combo - I was rooting a Christmas Cactus for a friend and getting ready to deliver it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Flashback Friday - The Mercantile

Twenty-ish years ago - on August 23rd, 1988 -my parents first opened the doors of the Mercantile for business. I was there... and still remember one of our very first customers... if not the first customer...Mary Lee. Mary shared my love of teddy bears - and could always be counted on to pick the cutest one out of any new line of bears we would get in.

Brewster - the bear that sits in the front entrance of the store - and Thorndike -the bear that came home with me for a Christmas soon after the store opened - were two of her favorites. (the brown bear in the basket above is Baby Brewster -and I think he might have gone home with Mary that day...)

I did not work in the store as long as my sisters have - mostly part time while I was in college, and again on occasion when Hubby and I were living nearby. But it's one of those places that just feels comfortable - and when we go down to visit it just feels natural to step in and help a customer or stock a shelf or grind up a pound of coffee beans.

Ten years ago I posted this newsletter of pictures and memories from our first ten years. There are many more entries in "the scrapbook" now - and many customers that have passed through our doors, gotten to know us, and let us share their passions - be they stamps, beads, candles, puppets or any of a long list of things we have carried over the years.

Unfortunately Mary Lee is no longer with us - but I am sure some little bit of her lingers on in Brewster and that she is smiling every time someone comes in the store for the first time, pats that bear on the head, and instantly becomes part of the Mercantile scrapbook.

Happy Anniversary!
(- and Happy Birthday, Dad!)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

You know you live in a rural community when...

I love my small town - my one traffic light, flour mill in the village, deer walking down Main Street, everyone knows each other (almost) town.

And I love our big annual fair - the Churchville Lions Country Fair - coordinated by our Lions Club but really a community event. I am probably partial - especially since I served as chairperson of this event for three years (...before the Munchkin) - but it is a great small town community event - completed with the tractor parade, mayor flipping hamburgers, pie baking contest, and loads more.

Last year we took the Munchkin. In fact he has been every year since conception. This year, however, he's really started to show a keen interest in everything tractor and farm equipment related, so I am looking forward to seeing his more knowledgeable reaction to the antique tractors, the thrasher and bailer, the rope maker, the antique potato harvester - and more.

Somehow I don't think he will be quietly walking with Daddy and Bob into the sunset over the tractor display - I think we will all be running to catch up.

Just so long as he stays out of the way of the parade...

The fair is this weekend - if you are in the Rochester, NY vicinity and have some free time - stop in! Admission is free, the food is great, and fireworks are Saturday evening.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dirty Tales from the Garden - a break in the rain

We've had lots of rain recently. Not ark-building rain, but more of an inconvenient, raining when I have free time to putter in the garden, everything is lush and green and growing like crazy rain.

I got a few moments between drops to slip out and get some garden pictures. Some of these plants I can take credit for - some are the neighbor's.

Russian Sage and Black Eyed Susans around the bird feeder my dad gave me when we moved to NY.

The neighbor's pumpkin patch - you can see 3 large pumpkins in various stages of ripening in this photo - there are probably close to a dozen in the patch all together.

New life for old farm implements -my neighbor uses them as stakes for her tall plants- the tomatoes, the dill, and more. Over the past two years the stakes have included hoes and rakes, old crutches, skis and ski poles, and more. It is great fun to see what will appear out there next.

Pass the Peas - take 2.
We planted 24 more pea plants.
All but 6 came up.
We are looking forward to a great 2nd harvest - and we won't let them stay on the vine so long this time around.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tutorial Tuesday - Disappearing Reappearing Nine Patch

There are lots of different variations on the Disappearing Nine Patch out there -this is mine - the Disappearing Reappearing Nine Patch (now known as The Cheshire Garden) made with charm packs. (This is where I first got the idea - then of course I had to change it!)

4 charm packs
(I used Moda's A Morris Garden -which has 40 squares per pack, which gave me enough for the 12 blocks, and the middle border with a few leftovers. To calculate the number of charm packs you need please use the following formula: 12x9=108. Divide 108 by the number of charms in each pack of your chosen fabric line and see how many that gives you. Add one full pack for the middle border. In my example 12x9=108/40=2.7(3)+1 =4 charm packs)

1/4 yard fabric for inner border (cut 5 1" strips x WOF)
1 yard fabric for outer border (cut 6 5" strips x WOF)


Assemble random charms into 12 scrappy 9 patch blocks. (Please keep in mind when choosing your fabric placement that the corner blocks will remain full size, the middle side blocks will be cut in half to form rectangles, and the center block will be cut into quarters to form 4 squares.)

Cut each block in half both lengthwise and horizontally through the middle, forming 48 blocks.

Lay the blocks out 6x8. Rearrange the blocks to your liking. Many Disappearing Nine Patch patterns show you spinning the blocks to form a random pattern (an image search on Google will show you all sorts of possibilities). I chose to keep the block orientation the same and just swap blocks around so that I had a little "four patch," a larger "four patch" and a running rectangular "plaid" effect.

Stitch the blocks together into rows and the rows together into the center top.

Inner Border:
Sew the top and bottom inner border in place.
Cut the 5th piece of inner border fabric in half and attach half to each remaining inner border piece.
Stitch in place. Press.

Middle Border (made from charms):
Cut the remaining charms in half vertically, keeping the fabrics in the same order separated into 2 identical stacks. I chose to remove the fabrics used in my inner and outer borders from this middle border to allow for maximum contrast.

Place the two cut stacks side by side, and "shuffle" by removing five or six fabrics from the right hand stack and putting them in the bottom of that stack.

Take a rectangle from each stack and sew them together on the short end. Continue until the stacks are gone. Press.

Divide these new bigger rectangles into two stacks, attach together and press again.

Repeat until you have 2 sections long enough to attach to the LONG sides of the quilt. Stitch those in place. Press,

Stitch remaining sections to the SHORT sides of the quilt. Press.

Outer Border:
Same as inner border - although length will need to be added to all border sections.

Add batting, backing and binding, quilting as desired.

(sorry about the delay in illustrations and PDF availability. We're working on it, but the paying gigs are taking priority)