This is one Mean Old Lady!

This is one Mean Old Lady!
Self-portrait: 'Quilter on Fire'

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Thursday's Child has far to go."

Most of you who visit this blog know that the DHubby and I have two children, both now in their early Thirties.  Laura, also known as PhysicsDaughter in some venues, has had a long road to travel insofar as her health and well-being.  She was nearly 3 days old when she crashed--an emergency quickly followed by her transfer to the NICU at Children's Hospital of Cincinnati, surgery for a serious heart defect, and a complete change in all our plans.   She has battled many chronic health problems and, after complications during her second heart surgery caused ischemic spinal cord damage, she has dealt with physical disability since the age of 7 months.  

We can't say it was easy, but it wasn't all gloom and doom, either.  Laura was precious--a fractious, difficult baby, but at the same time responsive, alert, and determined.  Joy was as much a part of our lives as medical issues and physical therapy were, I assure you. 

So--I'm an Old Softie, and sentimentality has led me to collect quite the battery of mementos and souvenirs.  I get them out and reflect, shed a few tears perhaps, and feel the happiness.

But now we need to downsize.  As with the April Easter Egg Tree, I've been substituting photographs preserved in the blog; memories no longer tangible, but just as much loved.
Here is one more:

Laura's spinal nerves were affected from the level of the aorta and all points south, with the right side suffering the most damage.  Physical therapy was augmented, eventually, by bracing.  Laura, extremely active and impressively stubborn, kept trying to stand and to walk.  These are the set of braces she had on when she succeeded in taking her first unassisted steps.  (They are switched; the one on your left is the right orthosis.)  She was about two years old.  

I told you I was mushy!  

When Laura was last here, she was waiting for new (considerably more modern) orthoses to be delivered.  I gave her these and suggested that the wonderful new orthotist might enjoy seeing them.  They were quite a hit.....and now join a little 'museum' collection of devices at the medical center.  They have a new home, but a permanent place in my heart.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Paul's Pet Parrot in Paradise....

I belong to a quilt guild in Little Rock called QUEST Quilters.  There is an annual challenge to members to create a quilt using a given theme, or a particular fabric; there are other specifications sometimes.

This year's challenge was to make a landscape quilt that included a tree and a bird; minimum size was 20" x 32".  The quilt had to be complete (quilted, bound, and labeled) by the December meeting.  

Sometimes I don't participate--but if the theme grabs me, I usually jump in.  I'd never made a landscape quilt, so this got me interested.  As a jumping-off point, I knew I already had my bird!....a parrot I'd copied from a calendar illustration.  I had made templates and assembled the parrot's body, wing, tail, and feet--even including a bias strip branch for him to perch on.  He lived up in the corner of my design wall for years!  (The ideal quiet!)  I decided to put my parrot into a tropical setting, so I looked at some art prints by Paul Gauguin, who famously spent (or misspent) time in Tahiti.  Using a good print of 'Tahitian Landscape' as my inspiration, I set to work, figuring I could whip this piece out in a week.....

Of course, I had wildly underestimated how much time it would take, especially since I added thread-painting to give the grasses texture.  This piece uses raw-edge applique, turned-edge applique, crayon color enhancement, dense quilting, and is entitled, "Paul's Pet Parrot in Paradise....with apologies to Monsieur Gauguin."  

(If you look up the original, you will see that I took a lot of liberties--it isn't, after all, a copy.  I'm satisfied with the piece and consider it was worth all the time I put into it.  Now, back to my previously-scheduled quilt projects!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fall Already!

How can it be Fall?  The Summer was so busy--filled with contractors working at the lake and delays due to weather (though no one wanted to complain about the rain, because it's such a relief to have the drought conditions abating.)  We had a very good crop of figs despite the winter damage to the tree, and I had modest success with the garden.  

I'll share the scenes:

colorful fungi....

the final jalapeno peppers

the prettiest this chrysanthemum has ever looked, thanks to its new location in the garden bed at the base of the rain gauge

the Missouri primrose spreading in promising fashion along with the ubiquitous violets

 arugula ever-present in the garden, and if you look closely, a volunteer marigold (doomed, of course)

butterfly bush behind the brave Japanese maple--a real survivor through several summers of harsh conditions

....and the last roses of Summer....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reader Participation Project!

My newest quilt top-- kind of a hybrid that developed partly by accident-- is ready for quilting.  I'm torn between two possible quilting motifs for the large triangles surrounding the on-point central batik (a creation of Karen Freeman, another Arkansas resident, from whom I purchased this a couple of years ago-- at the Farmer's Market, believe it or not.  Yeah, it takes me a while...)

Vote in the Comments.  I do have a favorite, but what the heck.  You can vote, and I can exercise the Veto.

This does not really have a title/name yet.  I originally intended the center to be my Round Robin starter block.  Then I decided that the careful handling required would quickly make everyone who might  work on the piece begin to hate me, so I made a feathered star block instead.  The plaids and modified nine-patch blocks were intended for use elsewhere, but I could not resist using them with the Rooster.  'Rooster and Plaids' is the temporary name; feel free to make suggestions!
Now for the two possible quilting designs for the blue triangles:

Perhaps a bit predictable, but the curvy design works well with the pieced squares.

This echoes the sunflowers in the cornerstones of the central border.  I might even hand quilt the triangles--the only place that hand quilting would show up, in any case.

Cast your votes, suggest a name, and add your 2-cents'-worth in the Comments!  Thanks!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Lake House--post-tornado edition!

The tornado of April 27th was very strong (F-5) and the damage beggars description in Vilonia and Mayflower, not to mention the rest of the cyclone's destructive path.  Our repairs took a while--mostly because we had to wait in line for our contractor to get to our job.  We did what we could in the mean time--for instance, we moved the furniture from the large sun room and the small bedroom into a storage pod.

Then we rented a 'roll-off dumpster' and hired a worker to demolish the ceilings in the two rooms.  The contractor and his crew repaired the rafters which had been torn loose from the frame of the house, did a tear-off of the two old layers of roofing shingles, and replaced the split sheeting panels.  Then they put on roll-roofing, insulation, and our new metal roof with a ridge vent.  Isn't it pretty?  (Well, I guess it's in the eye of the homeowner...)

Then we were able to bring in the next contractor in line and have a new ceiling installed in the sun room.  (Since the hangers were still in place in the bedroom, the DHubby was able to install the new tiles and insulation in there  himself.)  

After that, it was mainly a matter of scrubbing all of the walls and floors, doing some touch-up painting, and then moving our stuff back inside.  (Unfortunately, the POD had a small leak....)  
New ceiling fan #1 going in.  The DHubby rewired things so we can turn on the fans without turning on the lights....

The sun room with view of naughty POD.  

The little bedroom all back together at last!
We celebrated our 35th anniversary by spending the night at the lake for the first time in a long, long while!  
Also joining us:

This year's edition of the writing spider... (actually, this one is living near the shed; there is another one very close to the front door.  I'm sure they are the offspring of the wonderful spider that graced a sun room window all last summer.)

This rascally red-bellied woodpecker visits the hummie feeders frequently.  Downy woodpeckers have also learned to suck down the sugar water, and during nesting season we see orioles doing the same thing.  Who knew?  The humming birds get their share, but don't tangle with the larger birds; they fight constantly to protect the feeders from other hummers, though.  

Of course herons are always about.  

The view from the swing is always relaxing and lovely.  

Counts as a Happy Ending, right?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summertime Living, Too

I love the flowers that bloom and bloom all summer long!  This summer's generous (!) rains have kept things green (instead of brown and crunchy), so every morning that the sun shines is glittering with green and gold.  

The fence (behind which resides the pool pump plus two tool sheds and various pieces of equipment) gets decorated with old iron scrollwork and old-fashioned pots.  There's also a Mexican pottery lizard half-hidden by the plants in the hanging basket.  The big clock is so we keep track of the time when we're in the pool.

In Ohio, I battled a weed (supposedly edible) called purslane.  I'd have to be desperate to cook and eat it, and I certainly could have supplied a large amount had anyone wanted to try it.  
But Giant Purslane is now a popular potting plant.  The brilliant, waxy blossoms are open until the heat of the afternoon causes them to close.

Pretty, eh?

In our recent, drought-ridden and sizzling summers, I turned to portulaca (moss rose)...which I do love.  This one doesn't seem to mind the extra waterings....

Very heat and drought-tolerant, this is doing well sitting on the stones with full sun most of the day.  I go out almost every morning and water most of my potted plants--orchids, hostas, petunias and dusty miller in urns--or, if it has rained, I empty the cache pots and try to drain as much water as possible so the plants' roots don't drown.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summertime Living

If your idea of Summer includes lolling in a hammock or taking time off from chores, you're not a gardener, I'm guessing.  

Even though my garden plot is a fraction of the size I once cultivated--when there were teens to feed and pennies to pinch--I will still put hours into weeding, planting, cultivating,and watering (although this year, happily, Mother Nature has stepped up more responsibly, ending the pattern of drought and extreme heat that lasted for several years.)  The asparagus bed, which yields its harvest in early Spring, requires only weeding and watering.  The flowerbeds (planted heavily in my burst of enthusiasm after I retired) suffer from benign neglect--some weeding, some watering.  The volunteer elderberries--sprouting in odd corners when I dispensed with the large thicket after the DHubby gave up making wine with the (messy) harvest--are bearing heavily despite complete neglect.  

Last year, I cut the green heads of berries before they could ripen--such as they were, given the lack of rainfall.  This year, ample water meant a bumper crop, and I couldn't bring myself to interfere.  So... I picked the ripe heads of elderberries. 

 Once washed and allowed to air-dry, the heads go onto cookie sheets and into the freezer; after the berries are frozen solid overnight, one destems the berries; if this sounds tedious and time-consuming, that's because it is.  A batch of elderberry jelly requires about 3 pounds of destemmed, crushed berries, from which juices must be extracted; that's another overnight process.  And then you can cook up the jelly and put it up in jars.  

The sine qua non of jelly-making:  the right equipment.

A large, deep pot for boiling the juice, sugar, and other ingredients.
The pot on the left is fine for soup, for boiling pasta, for corn on the cob, but you want a deep, deep pot for jelly-making.

Then there is the long-handled spoon for stirring the jelly ingredients to a rolling boil.  (The spoon is behind the ladle somewhat, but you can see how much longer it is than the copper serving ladle.  Saves your hand from being parboiled!)

The wide funnel makes filling the jars neater and simpler.  

The jars (with lids and rings) are filled while hot and sterile.  Even with air-conditioning, making jelly is hot work.

It's rather easier to deal with the small amounts of vegetables I glean from the tiny garden.  The biggest chore, aside from picking, is washing the produce.  (I no longer freeze much of anything, even though I sadly acknowledge that frozen veggies from the store are not as tasty.)  

Celebrity tomatoes; Roma green beans; jalapeno peppers.  The arugula is the biggest pain when it comes to picking over and washing what I bring in from the garden plot.  

The local farmers' market supplies what I don't grow--though not all vendors are organically-inclined.  I bought my green tomatoes from a cooperative organic grower and made pickles.  One batch will last us a couple of years; (they're delicious with bean soup for Wintertime suppers.)  

When the figs come in, I will pick daily--twice daily when the figs are in full spate, so to speak.  More washing and air-drying...and I do freeze figs in addition to those we eat and give away.  
I don't usually dry many herbs, but I often go out and pick fresh basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, and 'Texas tarragon' (also sometimes labeled Mexican mint) as needed.

Summers are long as you're not hoping to lie around and relax!

Rose 'Crepuscular'

Asparagus bed--post harvest

Lake Conway Mutti und Kinder