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Caterpillars & Butterflies

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Last week we had the pleasure of watching over the chrysalises of three polyphemous moths.  Our friends had carefully taken care of the caterpillars, watched them eat and grow, and then build the chrysalis. Unfortunately for them they were on vacation when they were due to emerge, so we watched them. All three successfully emerged and flew off into the night.  They only live for three days-they emerge and then need to mate before they die.  These moths are beautiful and also HUGE.
Polyphemus moths

Polyphemus moth
Aren’t they pretty? Now here in our own garden we’ve had some happy caterpillar excitement. There are monarch caterpillars on the milkweed! The poor milkweed is positively ravaged by the aphids. I’ve seen two ladybugs out there, but I’m sure that’s not enough to gobble the thousands of miniscule aphids.
Aphid Eater
This morning I saw a great big fat monarch caterpillar and a medium sized one.
Monarch Caterpillar
A couple hours later I went back outside and sadly didn’t see the big one anymore, but did see not only a few teeny little ones, but also what I believe are the monarch eggs (a single egg that looks like a poppy seed on the underside of a leaf.) I do hope they survive and are able to make their cocoons. The butterfly garden has not looked especially beautiful or colorful this summer, so I’m extra glad that it has at least proven to be a good habitat. And the bumblebees are going crazy on the catmint.

In the vegetable garden the carrot tops are home to a few black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.
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Meanwhile the rest of the garden looks dry and crazy, but filled with tomatoes.
TOmatoes
The morning glories run rampant and glorious.
The Garden in Mid-August
And in the pumpkin patch there are lots of gourds, huge leaves, big yellow blossoms, and adorable jack-be-little pumpkins growing.
The Garden in Mid-August
The blackberries are winding down and my freezer is filled with gallons of frozen berries waiting to be made into jam and blackberry-infused vodka.

Patchwork Picnic Quilt

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Patchwork Quilt
It’s finished! I am in love with the patchwork scrap quilt.  I don’t know how many picnics it will see, though.
Patchwork Picnic Quilt
It’s super soft and cozy and I imagine it will be wonderful to snuggle under, bring on trips, sit on outside, and all sorts of things.  The inspiration for this quilt came from both a beautiful vibrant patchwork quilt of squares I saw on Flickr, and also the urge I’ve been feeling to make quilts with the scraps I have.  I chose to use straight up squares (the finished size is 5″ squares) and there are ten rows of ten.  I used only fabrics I had, and deliberately arranged them to be pleasing, but not necessarily coordinating.  I kept it bright and pretty and only used cottons (no corduroy, flannel, voile, etc.)  I decided to make a border and was able to use even more pieces, especially pieces too narrow to be squares. To bind it I used a lovely chambray I had for skirts for Tabby. The rather neutral blue is just right. I’m very proud of my nicely mitred corners.
I'm particularly pleased with the mitred corners
I did the binding in one day, staying up way too late so I could have it done for my arbitrary deadline of today. Mostly because I wanted to take pictures of it in the field down the road, on the big hay rolls. Yes, I trucked us all into the field for a photo shoot of my inanimate object.
who doesn't love climbing atop at hay roll and posing?

For quilting I did a diagonal line through the squares. Originally I thought I would quilt it more, doing another diagonal the other way to make an “X” through each square. That would give a denser flatter quilt, but I knew it would also lead to pulls and imperfections. I opted for the lines one way and actually really like it. Also, I usually go for a thread choice that’s not noticeable, but I opted for a hot pink thread, because why not?
Tabby with the finished product
It’s super soft and fluffy, but I’m sure it’s quilted enough to keep the batting secure. Speaking of soft–the backing. Liz mentioned to me she had a quilt that had a flannel sheet as the backing. I’ve used flannel in quilts before, but this gave me an idea. I had a set of flannel sheets from college that I loved. They were blue with polka dots and bunnies and so soft. I wore the pillowcases and fitted sheet completely out, but couldn’t bear to part with the flat sheet. Now the special sheet lives on as the super soft backing of this quilt and will get more use out of it this way. (You can see it in the picture of the mitred corner, above.)
I’m really thrilled with how this came out, plus it was a super easy satisfying quilt to make. Many of the fabrics were ones I used in aprons, some are things I had in my stash that I didn’t know what to do with. It makes me happy just to hold it!
Patchwork Quilt-finished!

Mini Break!

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Watkins Glen State Park
Last week we took a short vacation-just 2 days!-and it was wonderful. We were booked for 2 nights at a hotel with an indoor waterpark and figured if nothing else it would be fun to stay in a hotel and just swim and swim. But of course we had to find more to do! A friend told us about beautiful Watkins Glen State Park, about 1 hour away from our destination. Although our trips are always fun and exciting with a big dash of serendipity and spontaneity, let me tell you how much they differ from what we plan. Here’s how I envisioned last Tuesday: 8:30-12:30 drive to Watkins Glen. Lunch up there. 1:30-2:30 visit state park. 2:30-3:30 drive to hotel. Check-in and be in pool by 4pm for rest of day. Here’s how it really went down. Although it seemed like we were leaving only 20 minutes later than planned, by the time we really were on the way, had stopped at Wawa, and got going it was 9:30am. When we got to Binghamton we thought we could duck into the city and find a place for a charming lunch. But first there was a bit of traffic, then we chose a poor exit (you are not finding a good lunch next to the bus station and stadium) and eventually we just left and got on the highway again. Then we were all very hungry and fortunately the next place we saw a sign for a was a diner that Paul remembered fondly from a meal there 15 years ago with his friend and friend’s parents, so we stopped. It was called the Blue Dolphin, which I found very funny in the middle of New York state. So diner lunch, then back on the road and finally at Watkins Glen at 3. We got a map, changed into sneakers, and in my finest moment of preparedness ever which I will undoubtedly brag about for the rest of my life, I put ponchos into my bag (it was thundering a bit.) We set off into the gorge. Because that’s what this state park is all about–an amazing gorge that you can hike through. It’s 1 1/2 miles from end to end. In the first mile you see 19 waterfalls! And there are something like 800 steps to climb. It was breathtaking.
Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park
Truly a magnificent work of nature. Everything made us exclaim, and Paul and I particularly couldn’t get over the beautiful smooth organic shapes that the force of water had created over thousands of years.
Watkins Glen State Park
About 10 minutes into the walk a lady passed us quickly, saying, “there’s a storm coming.” And indeed it was a little more thundery and gray. And then it rained. A big summer downpour. We hid in one of the little overhangs/tunnels and decided to just keep going. I whipped out the ponchos to the awe and envy of all around us and we put them on and just marched along.
How proud and prepared was i when I whipped out ponchos for our 3 mile hike in the pouring rain? Spectacular gorge and waterfalls in Watkins Glen, NY
It rained the entire rest of the way, though letting up to a drizzle sometimes. We were pretty much the only ones on the path and I can’t tell you how proud I was of the kids for not whining or complaining, but just keeping going. And it was so worth. These waterfalls and rock formations were beautiful.
Spectacular gorge and falls
We got to the end, used the restrooms there, turned around and headed back-this time on a different trail that was mostly above the gorge.
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By the time we got back to our car it was after 5:30. We toweled off, put our soaking wet shoes and socks into a bag, and were soon warm and cozy in the car heading to our hotel.
The waterpark
We arrived at 7:15 to find out -crimp in plans!-that the mid-week hours of the pool were only noon-8pm. Raced up to our room and into our suits and down to the….wave pool! I’ve never swum in a wave pool before and it’s my new favorite thing. All the fun of gentle ocean swells with none of the sand in your suit or sea creature worries. It was very nice and then we had a late dinner in the hotel restaurant. Our room was charming and had a fireplace that we kept going to dry our things. In the morning we followed directions and drove through the adjacent state forest to get to a town that had a Tim Horton’s. to our delight and surprise it turned out to be the same one we had stopped at on our way to Syracuse in June! So we had a happy Tim Horton’s breakfast and then found 5 geocaches, which included a nice playground where the kids played for a while. We picked up sandwiches at a local dairy/deli, as well as some of their own ice cream to bring back our room, since we had a kitchen in it. we cleverly ate lunch in the room and then went down to the pools shortly after they opened. The pools included the wave pool, an outdoor pool, an indoor/outdoor hot tub, indoor slides for kids, a big water tower and some tiny slides, and a couple of big slides that grown ups could go on, too. I refused to go on the big spiral slide that you had to lie down in, but the slide that you sat on a tube in was loads of fun.

 

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The waterpark

The waterpark

We did it all for many hours before taking a break for the arcade and a trip into town to eat a burrito at a local Mexican place. Then we headed back for evening swimming until it closed. Back in the room it was ice cream and games before bed. It really was a lot of fun and we all had such a good time. The next day we pretty much just headed home. It was a really nice getaway!

Bring on the tomatoes

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The tomatoes are ripening ever rapidly.
Ripening
I finally picked the humongous oxheart tomato and it weighed in at 1 1/2 lbs.
Oxheart Tomato

Oxheart Tomato
BLTs and homemade pizza were on the menu this weekend to take advantage of them.
Pizza Redux
The delicious Jersey corn is making an appearance now, too, and we had friends bring up 3 dozen from the farmstand by their house.  Sunday morning Paul efficiently cooked and zipped it and packed it for the freezer. We set aside some for a perfect August dinner: a tielle made with zucchini, potato, and tomato (tomatoes and zucchini from the garden); corn on the cob, and peach crisp for dessert. Oh, and while everyone had their BLTs for lunch I had a BLC-bacon, lettuce, and some of the just cooked and zipped corn. It was heavenly and tasted like summer. Tonight I took all the tomatoes and roasted them and packed them for the freezer.  Oh, and we also ate roasted beets and carrots straight from the garden. The beets were sweet and delicious I couldn’t believe it!

Our weeds may be crazy as ever and our garden rather jungle like, but I have to say that this summer I am absolutely thrilled with the look of everything-bright cheerful annuals in the front yard, clusters of swaying Queen Anne’s lace, bright gaudy gladiolas scattered about, the fluttering fabric wreath,  the ever expanding gourd area with its huge bright yellow blossoms and trailing vines
Nice Pistil

In Gourd City
and the morning glories that, despite my best efforts, grew up all over the peas and are now blooming.
Morning Glory
It’s all quite beautiful! Oh! and the milkweed has paid off as we’ve had sightings of several monarch butterflies. We were all really excited by that and they are so striking looking.
More monarchs
And I’m really pleased with everything we planted this year.  The only things we didn’t plant that I wish we had (*take note, Future Sarah) are green beans and butternut squash. And everything we did actually plant is stuff I am happily eating and harvesting.

Remember I mentioned the Scraptherapy book and concept? Well I still haven’t done that, but I have felt inspired to make a scrap quilt-one made entirely of squares (inspired by one I saw on Flickr) and to start using pieces in my fabric stash. Once I got going I couldn’t stop and I dumped out all of my fabric (which is still waiting for me to put it away) and cut out 100 5″ squares.
Scrap Patchwork: In progress
It’s meant to be bright and cheerful, not necessarily coordinating and ultimately be a picnic quilt. You know, for all those picnics under trees we have? Well, at least in my head that’s what it looks like. I’m sure this won’t be the final layout, but I rather liked this second layout of all the squares.
Scrap Patchwork: In progress
Wouldn’t this be a fun quilt to lie on or snuggle up with? Sweetie thinks so
Scrap Patchwork: In progress

Garden Whimsy

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Garden Whimsy
Remember the fabric scrap wreath I was making yesterday? I finished it and hung it in the garden. More strips of fabric were tied around the edge of the lower half and the flutter beautifully in the breeze.
Garden Whimsy
I hung it high on the garden gate where it is cheerful and lovely. I hope it brings a smile to the faces of those who pass by-it’s definitely bringing a smile to mine.
Garden Whimsy
Oh-and the state of the garden? In the words of one young visitor, “This looks like a jungle.”
"Your garden looks like a jungle."
Jungle it might be, but it is filled with two ripening watermelons, one beautiful red cabbage, tons of tomatoes, and despite my best efforts to weed them out-beautiful morning glories. Oh, and let’s not forget all the zucchini.

Scraptherapy

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I found a book at the library called Scraptherapy. In a nutshell, this quilter’s idea is to take all the scraps in your fabric stash and cut them into 2 1/2″, 3 1/2″, and 5″ squares. She then has many patterns that you can make using those sizes. I think it’s a pretty good idea and am considering attacking my own stash and cutting it up into those sizes (not the big pieces–the true scraps.) Much like deciding to cut your hair, though, I’m kind of hesitant. I’ve had great success using up my weird shaped scraps.  And had I already done so I would not have been able to whip up this lovely rainbow bunting I made last week to decorate my stall at the farmer’s market.
Rainbow Bunting
I had plenty of scrap pieces to make these triangles.  Now it is decorating my kitchen and I love it. (It’s very hard to get a nice picture of a bunting-you’ll just have to deal with seeing basically my kitchen window and shelf and try to focus on the triangles.)

Today I got started on a crafty idea I’ve wanted to do since last year. We were at Grounds for Sculpture and they had a community art project where you basically used fabric and ribbon to decorate wheels, wreath frames, basically circles. So easy and vibrant! So last week I finally picked up a $2 wreath wire frame and then this morning I was cleaning up the sewing room and just sat down and literally used selvedge strips and other scraps to create this.
Scrap Fabric Wreath
It’s not finished yet. I’m going to tie strips on the outside edge to flutter in the wind and then hang this from the garden gate up high.
Scrap Fabric Wreath

Scrap Fabric Wreath
I think it will look lovely in the breeze. It’s possible it will also look eccentric, but I prefer to think that people driving past will admire what a colorful yard we have.  The annuals in the new flower box are looking very cheerful, as are all the gladiolas and Queen Anne’s Lace.
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Now, this was not scraps, but rather fabrics I adored and bought for myself on my birthday. I wanted to make some kind of patchwork pillow for the living room. After being extremely indecisive about the layout and rearranging many times, and finally adding in a fabric I already had, I made this.
Patchwork Pillow
It’s four 9-patches sewn together. It’s slightly too big for the pillow form, but I don’t care. It’s cheerful and I love the birdhouse print and it will be just right for resting my head on while reading on the couch.

 

 

Wrapping up July

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Somehow it seems like I’ve been doing a once a week post here this summer. What’s been happening since Chinatown? Well, we had our third busy week. For a family that likes to take it very slow and relaxing in the summer,with usually just one week of nature camp, we found it exhausting to have three weeks in a row of various daily activities (art camp, nature camp, art camp/vbs.) Last week was vacation Bible school in the morning and Clark’s art camp in the afternoon. His art theme was Ancient Egypt and it was really cool. They learned about all kinds of Ancient Egypt things and made a tomb, mummy, village, wrote hieroglyphics on papyrus, and made headdresses and necklaces fit for a king.
Egyptian Art Camp

Egyptian Art Camp

In the garden the tomatoes are slowly but surely ripening, and the blackberries are ripening steadily a bowlful a day.
Today's pickings

The blackberries are ripening!

The blackberries are ripening!
I pick them daily and whatever we don’t eat right then I put into a big freezer bag in the freezer to be made into jam later. Blackberries seem like a gamble-you just never know for sure that what you bite into isn’t going to be sour. Fortunately I’ve had many great big ones that were sun-warmed and super sweet.

In the butterfly garden we were super excited to finally see a monarch enjoying the milkweed. Hooray!
a Monarch Sighting!
According to the naturalist at Duke Farms it will lay one tiny poppy seed sized egg on the underside of a milkweed leaf. So, the only thing they feed on is milkweed and they just lay one little egg? How on earth is this species surviving at all??
The front flower garden is looking cheerful and charming and the mystery gladiolas are blooming all over the place. Despite my best efforts to weed the self seeding morning glory from my actual vegetable beds, I see that some are already blooming on top of the peas (which I never did get around to taking out.)
zinnias & cosmos
I’ve got lots of zucchini and have made another big batch of zucchini bread for the freezer-this time a pina colada zucchini bread. I’ve got my eye on a ripening tomato that I can’t wait to weigh because it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever seen.

And finally, last night Paul and I went to a concert in Camden–Beck and Band of Horses. Oh my gosh, what a fantastic show. First of all our seats were really close (though off to the side.) And it was super loud, which I liked. Band of Horses played a great set-literally only one song I didn’t know, and basically every other song I knew and loved. In fact, they only didn’t play one song I would have liked to hear. They sounded great live-kind of rougher and sloppier than the albums, so just enough different to make it great to hear them live, though not so different that you were thought hey stop messing around. Then Beck came on and interestingly, though he is a much bigger name I knew there would be songs he played that I didn’t know. He did play all the songs I did want to hear and his show was amazing. He may be the most energetic performer I’ve ever seen. All in all, it was a totally crazy, loud, awesome concert. Then we left and immediately were caught in the most intense thunder-lightning-rainstorm I’ve ever been out it and it was terrifying as I was sure we’d get into an accident. We finally made it home at 1:30am-quite a late night for these suburban 40somethings.
Looking forward to a relaxing week of sewing up a patchwork pillow, helping Tabby finish her first embroidery project, maybe tubing down the Delaware, having our cousin for a sleepover, and reading.

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