RSS Feed

R.I.P. Blackie

Posted on

July 4, 2005-December 20, 2017

Dear Blackie passed away today.  At 5 1/5 we knew she was up there in guinea pig years and I really can’t say it was unexpected, but it was still sad to find out.  We visited Blackie & Nibbles when they were born and earmarked as Clark’s 7th birthday gift (Blackie for him, Nibbles for Tabby.) What a delight those pigs were! And what a surprise that winter to find out that Blackie was a girl-a very pregnant girl. Watching her get huge and have three babies was so neat and exciting. After that it was separate quarters for Blackie and Nibbles, except for during supervised fun photo sessions where many holiday hats were placed atop fuzzy heads.

We will miss you, Blackie!


Giant Pinwheel Quilt!

Posted on

(picture by Tabby, not sure the caption goes with this, but whatever!)

A few years ago I checked a book out of the library called A Month of Sundays–Family, Friends, Food & Quilts. I was quite taken with one of the, a giant pinwheel, and photocopied the pages so that someday I could make it.  A pinwheel is a basic and familiar quilt block and here the entire quilt was made to be a big single pinwheel block–made up of other pinwheel blocks. I really loved this concept. It’s pretty simple looking in design, and I found it striking, especially because it used two colors only. The colored blocks would be made up of many different fabrics, printed, all in that color. The book showed it in green and white and though I considered many, many other color combinations, that is also the colorway I wanted. This winter I saw a lovely new line, Greenery, at Hawthorne Threads. That did it– I ordered a few of their fabrics (that bark! those deer!) and that was the start. The Hawthorne Threads fabric is digitally printed and definitely not the beautiful softness you’ll find in other high quality non-digitally printed fabrics, but I think since I bought it it has softened through handling (and washing.) That fabric did cut very nicely. So I chose a combination of their fabrics, plus some I saw at the store, plus a few little bits from my own collection. Although I tend to bemoan the vast swathes of white fabric prevalent in modern quilts, that is what was needed here. I chose a white-on-white with an all over floral pattern. Because two of my prints had tiny bits of bright pink in them, I chose a beautiful pink for the binding.
As for the backing, I’m so in love with it. I decided that the perfect backing would be a green and white vintage sheet. I got right on Etsy to browse and found a 1980s sheet from the seller BlueRose Retro. It was in terrific condition, so smooth, and the colors and pattern looked made for my patchwork pinwheel! Inexpensive and delivered quickly, to boot! (certainly less expensive than 4 yards of good cotton.)2017-09-03 15.54.24

The construction of the top really wasn’t very difficult at all. Good instructions from the book, and it’s all just triangles and squares. The hardest thing was cutting 4 gigantic triangles of the white fabric.  Because the center of the quilt is one complete pinwheel block I made extra certain that those triangle points lined up perfectly.  The prints are randomized, though I was careful to have that center block be 4 that I especially liked together. The one design flaw I made was that I had just 2 triangles of an old fabric I liked, a dark green with hearts on it. Because it was only two I wanted to be sure they were nowhere near each other. So how did they both end up in one block?!

Perhaps it is because I sewed the top so successfully-matching points, laying flat, pretty square, that it is especially galling that this ended up being probably the worst made quilt I’ve ever done!! More on that later.

For quilting I decided to do curved lines in the big white section so that they might mimic or evoke a pinwheel’s movement. Though I used saucers and plates to draw on the first lines, after that I used a string held at the center and my pen. I also decided to not measure, but have variable widths. My thinking was that I would have different widths intentionally, rather than accidentally (and yet they ended up fairly even. ) I also decided that the lines of stitching would not go seam to seam, but rather end short of the other seam. Unfortunately, I kept forgetting and so some go all the way and some end. Ultimately I do love how the curved lines look and think they give big impact when seen all at once.
But here’s where the problem came in… tremendous wrinkles on the back. And then, the front not laying smooth and being loose and blousey. Because I did the white sections first, and curved around rather then going out from the center, (and also I should have used a walking foot on my machine.) it all just ended up fairly bunched. However, after a few tears I pulled it together and accepted it. So what if there are wrinkles? So what if I had to take a few little pleats when I applied the binding. I’m not entering it into a contest and it’s for family use. It’s soft and the colors are beautiful. The stitching in the white areas does look how I envisioned it, too. In the green sections all I opted to do was one large triangle the same shape as the overall piece.  Oh, and while the drama of the wrinkles on the back was happening, something I’ve always worried about finally did happen: while snipping a thread my tiny sharp embroidery scissors cut a tiny hole right in my fabric!! Not visible but I worried that it could fray and grow over the years. I was going to cover it with a piece of matching fabric, but since I usually like to put something special on the back that is where I appliqued a small pinwheel block made of the backing and binding. I did embroider my initials and the year on two sides of the block, but frankly did such a lousy job I’m going to pull it out and redo it.

After all the quilting woes the binding was a treat to put on. I was eager to wrap this up and call it done. I’m back to work on Tuesday, and while my initial goal in June was to complete two quilts this summer, by July I knew it would only be one. There was no way I was not going to finish this so I spent some solid time Sunday finishing the binding. And, as there was definitely a September chill in the air on Sunday morning, I can attest that having the quilt on my lap was very warm and snuggly. So, as Liz says, “does it work as a blanket?” You bet it does!  (And I love the way it looks, too.)

Live Free or Die (a vaguely threatening motto…

Posted on

Our much anticipated summer vacation has come and gone and it was wonderful! This year we went to New Hampshire, where I’ve never actually stayed before and neither has Paul. Frankly we just hoped that we’d picked a place that would be pretty, have a few things to do, not too much, have some ice cream nearby, and we’ve both relax and have fun together. We picked a place off of VRBO, which not knowing anything about the area, was kind of difficult. But guess what? Our vacation luck streak continues! It turns out we had chosen a popular (but not wild) outdoorsy area of the lakes region. Little Squam Lake was an offshoot of the big Squam Lake, and the whole thing was surrounded by woods. Not only that but it’s where On Golden Pond was filmed! As soon as I heard that I started listening and looking for loons. We never saw any, but one night around 3am I heard them!!! I was very excited by that and woke up Paul so he could listen too. We heard them the next night as well. Our Little Squam Lake area was perfect-we had access from our cabin to a small beach shared by a couple other houses. We loved kayakingThe lake here was very shallow and not too big. We could just step onto the paddleboards and take off, or kayak, or swim, or canoe. From the water, looking toward the shore:Floating on the calm lake, if only I had a book in my lap...
The water was unbelievably crystal clear, and even though there were rushes and water lilies, it was not murky or icky.lilies The water was like a mirror. The water was like a mirrorI even found it delightful that there were turtles: friendly turtles swam by usThe whole little lake area was a no wake zone and we enjoyed kayaking all down it and checking out all of the lake houses and boats along it. At the other end was a covered bridge and once you went through that you were into the big lake, which was very big and people waterskiied and the like on it and could drive their boats fast. On our last day we hiked up a mountain to a spectacular view of the whole Squam Lake (and Little Squam, etc.) and this is what it looked like:
The view of it all!
We ate plenty of ice cream. We were especially enamored of something called a “Snowball” which was a scoop of ice cream rolled in toasted coconut and hazelnuts, sitting on hot fudge and topped with whipped cream. I was happy to read a few books, and we even played enough games to satisfy me. And we had a couple of outings too. In addition to the hike we also spent a whole afternoon at the Squam Lake Natural Science Center,an evening at the “world’s largest arcade” (Funspot at Weirs Beach/Lake Winnipesaukee) and another morning at the Polar Caves. The whole caves thing was reminiscent of Bushkill Falls–a natural geologic feature turned into a family attraction. In this case it was a series of caves in this mountain. I opted out of 3 of the caves, including the “Lemon Squeezer” and “Orange Crush.” One of the caves was called “Fat Man’s Misery.” There were definitely some tight and narrow spots, but none of us got stuck or freaked out.

All in all, it was a terrific week away!

Welcome Samson & Louie!

Posted on

These handsome boys are Samson and Louie, and they have come to join our menagerie. An old friend from high school was in a sad predicament of no longer being able to keep them (the entire family was terribly allergic to them) and asked me if I would be interested in taking them. How could I say no? Everyone was on board and they arrived a week and a half ago. They have an enormous enclosure, which I’m still trying to work out how to clean because it’s so different from Blackie’s pen. It’s quite spacious and open and I feel bad for Blackie being in her small pen. But, she is an old lady now and very mellow. Even when we take her out she doesn’t really enjoy running around, but would rather sit on your lap.
Samson is the one who reminds us of Nibbles, in color at least. His texture is very different-like a soft brillo pad. Louie has a darling swirl atop his head. They are each a specific breed, which I have forgotten the names of.
We had forgotten how fun it is to have two pigs together and listen to them talk to each other and chatter and run around. They are pretty amiable and adorable. It’s unfortunate they are boys because Blackie cannot be with them. Interestingly, Willow is kind of crazy about them, whereas she completely ignores Blackie. I think it’s just that their enclosure is on a table just slightly above where Willow can see. So she hears them and smells them and can’t quite see them and gets a bit wound up. I’m sure she’ll settle down soon, though.

A Retro Day

Posted on

Last week I saw a listing on Freecycle for a girl’s banana seat bicycle. Tabby has always been in thrall of them from me talking about how great they were when I was a kid, so I jumped on this. I picked it up on Thursday and it’s lovely and in great shape. A pink Schwinn with the flowers on the seat still looking good, the chrome shined up nicely, and it fits her. She has been having such a great time with it. Yesterday we went to the park to ride it (alas, after all the effort of putting the bike rack on the car, filling my tires, wrestling the bikes on to it, getting to the park, wrestling the bikes off of it, I discovered that my rear tire was flat again and apparently has a hole in it.) Since I remember my own banana seat bike so fondly I hopped on to see if I cold pedal, even though it’s too small for me. I could! It was wonderful! Here’s a blurry pic Tabby took.
Our second retro event is sewing related. Last week I buckled down and sewed together the quilt top of the green and white giant pinwheel quilt. I am really pleased overall with my points (Here’s a perfect one, but they weren’t all perfect) and the overall look. For the backing I got the idea that a vintage green and white sheet would be perfect. Got on Etsy, found several to choose from, I especially liked one and it was only $15, which I certainly couldn’t buy 4 yards of fabric for, and ordered it on Friday. It arrived yesterday (so fast! 5 stars for that seller!) and it looks perfect. The greens actually match perfectly. I’m going to baste the quilt together today and then I need to figure out how to quilt up those vast white triangles.
Last week Tabby went to Girl Scout camp (day camp) and loved it. The camp has been closed a few years and just reopened this summer, so it was her first time. The week included a final overnight on the Thursday of the week, which she really enjoyed. After she returned Clark headed out early Saturday morning with his Boy Scout troop to go to Virginia for a week of camp. I’m sure he’s having a great time, though we do miss him. Paul, Tabby, and I are doing lots of movie nights of movies Clark never votes for her. First we watched Moana, then last night Tabby chose The Shaggy D.A., which was a hoot. Between the bike, the fabric, and the movie is was a full day of visiting the past!

Happy Summer!

Posted on

It’s been a bit over two months since my last post, but I’m inspired to catch up-mostly because my dear friend and loyal reader said she missed it and today is her birthday, so here you go Perri! As a present to you I will be self centered and write all about my life 🙂 I think I will work backwards with the last few days. (*edit: it’s two days since I started this, so no longer her birthday, but there you go.)
Yesterday late afternoon I was thinking about the two fresh apricots I had bought and some leftover toasted almonds on my counter. I thought, “hmm…I bet that Thin Pear Tart I sometimes make in the winter would be a quick and tasty dessert with fresh apricots, and I even have the 2oz cream cheese necessary for the dough.” I easily whipped up the dough (this really is a quick and easy thing) and then saw that the apricots had rotted. No matter-the NJ blueberries are showing up at store and I had a few tasty pints in the fridge. I scattered blueberries across the top, baked, and voila!
Now, what else? Since that last post we’ve had Paul’s birthday

Father’s Day (I don’t have any cute pics of Paul and his human children, so here’s a very sweet picture of Paul and the kitty who adores him.)

The Last Day of School.  This is such a crazy event for me still and the whole last month of school felt so exciting and like we were barreling towards summer. I will really miss some of the students and it made me feel so good when many of them told me that they would miss me (our 5th graders are moving up to middle school.) I may have been even more excited than the kids for school to end. This was my first full year of teaching and hooray! I made it!! I like my job a lot, but was definitely ready for some resting and recharging, looking forward to plenty of time in the hammock and plenty of reading. [School got out June 23, today is July 4th, and I’ve read 7 books so far.]

Since summer has begun we haven’t done much of anything: reading, relaxing, kids playing with friends. I did sign up for tennis lessons through the rec dept. and am doing that with friends. We’ve only had 2 lessons so far, but I think we’re doing great! I even got together this morning just to play with someone. I know I’ll be even better when I can actually run to the ball. Presently I’m plagued by a painful knee situation. After being troubled by it for weeks I did go to the dr. and unfortunately the treatment is one of those slow and steady “do this exercise every day” things. It’s been a week and today it hurt all day long. Which is a total drag and makes me cranky.
I hosted a luau themed bunco, which was an excuse to make pina coladas and pull out a bunch of “tropical” recipes.

The main thing I’ve been itching to do since school let out is get into some sewing projects. I really do miss having the time to quilt or embroider (yes, I could do it in the evening, but I’m usually just needing to lie down in front of the tv), which is my creative outlet.I am hoping to make 2 quilts this summer. One is a giant pinwheel, which I got the pattern out of a book a long time ago. My pinwheel will be green and white, and I bought all the fabrics a couple months ago. I cut out the squares of green, but neglected to buy the background fabric, which I’ll be doing later this week.(*done! and I bought a hot pink for the binding, which will be a perfect accent.) The second is something I started a long time ago and then somewhat recently made a plan for. Like the pinwheel quilt it is all triangles (not my best shape-let’s see how many points line up!) and I bought the fabrics a few months ago. I sorted out the triangles today and made 5 blocks. I have a lot of pieces and have decided to NOT lay out the whole thing at once, but rather create a lot of blocks and then decide how they will be put together. My general guideline is that the center is a pair of peachy/coral and a pair of mushroom/taupe and the outer triangles are in the green/blue collection. But the pairs don’t necessarily have to match. I’m not even sure if it will all be put together just block after block after block, or if I’ll separate the blocks into concentric squares. I love all the fabrics I chose for it.

Finally, here’s a darling dishtowel I started, oh, years? ago. This was a set of retro style embroidery transfers, and I put this on a vintage style dishtowel. I think I got both at Walmart on the cheap. When I didn’t have a bigger project at our stitchathons I just worked idly on this. I basically forgot about it and came across it a couple of days ago noting that I only had the text left. What was I waiting for? Not only is it cute, but it would also be an adorable background for freshly baked bread that I’m taking a picture of for IG!

In the coop our numbers have continued to dwindle. A small sad flock remains. However! A hen finally went broody and last week chicks hatched. But it was a difficult week, there were deaths, and there is just one little chick. Let’s cross our fingers it grows up to be a hen, not a rooster. *update: the chick died yesterday. I found it lying on its side, dead. What gives? did a big chicken step on it? Not only that, but this morning it looked like something scratched up the dirt outside the coop gate. And the mother is missing. We are down to 4 hens and 3 roosters.

Willow just had her second anniversary of coming to us. Boy has she grown! We are so lucky to have her-she really is a marvelous dog.

In other dog news, my mom got a new dog! His name is Harry and he is adorable.
And today (2 days ago) is Blackie, our only remaining guinea pig, ‘s birthday. She is 5. I guess she’s at the far end of a guinea pig’s life span, but she still seems pretty spry. She even accommodated me for this birthday photo op.

We are not doing any vegetable gardening this year, save for lettuce and cilantro in a pot. Our peach tree is loaded with peaches and we hope at least a few will be edible. For the first time EVER the sad apple tree has apples on it- 3!

The flowers are in mad bloom and there are so many lovely colors everywhere. The coneflower has spread even more, making the front garden look almost cottage gardeny-just what I’ve always wanted. I’ve noticed that coneflower is also very popular with many different insects and butterflies and moths, so that’s good.

And, of course, peony season was tremendous and beautiful.

And as I type this we are getting ready to celebrate Clark’s birthday–#12! He is now officially taller than me by 1 1/2″.  Ok, that was also a couple days ago. The day was celebrated with many special meals and some fun at the arcade.


I think I’ve gotten some photo organization under control and hopefully will do more posts this summer that aren’t so long and rambling, but perhaps focused on one thing at a time. With that in mind-time to start sewing! (Of course it poured rain all morning and I cozied up with a book. Now the sun is out and it’s gorgeous and I probably SHOULD be doing outdoors things.)

Breaks, Birthdays, Etc.

Posted on

It’s been two month since my last post, but I’m only focusing on a 2 week period here-spring break! My birthday! But I will give a quick follow up, to that last post about Sweetie. She’s been back for 2 months, put some weight on (but us not overweight like before) and all is usual. Except…Liesl went through a period of hissing and scratching at her. Also, where Sweetie was a food hog before, causing Liesl to leave whenever she went near the food dishes, Liesl stands her ground now while Sweetie sits and watches.  All that nasty behavior seemed to have tapered off and I was delighted to see them both on my bed the other day (though nowhere near each other.) But when Sweetie came closer to her and I was petting them both, Liesl hit her on the head and then left. So I guess she’s got some unresolved issues still.
Running atop the jetty
We had a terrific and relaxing spring break a couple weeks ago. Boy, I could not wait for it. We didn’t plan a big trip or anything like that, but it was as least as long as our Christmas break, and more relaxing because there was not much to do. I feel refueled and ready to make it through the rest of the school year. Paul took the week off as well. On one lovely day we went to Bethlehem and enjoyed no festivals or events-just a relaxing brunch, hanging out in the bookstore, getting an ice cream on the Lehigh campus, and a stroll along Steel Stacks.Steel Stacks

On another gorgeous day we headed to the beach.Low tideThere were lots of people there! It was a very warm 80 degrees that day-except at the beach it was pretty chilly and everyone had to wrap up. Little Mermaid
On the jettyOther days the kids played with friends, we puttered in the yards, ran leisurely errands together, and so on.  The end of the week was a much anticipated concert-The Decemberists at the Fillmore. I have been looking forward to this concert since it was announced and was really excited. I love the band and we saw them 2 years ago at the Academy of Music. A great show, but that venue, while gorgeous and acoustically terrific, is hard to let loose in. The show was packed and there were, apparently, giants standing in our way, but it was still great. I was super excited that they played two songs I did not expect to hear (one of them I never thought they’d play but really wished it would be a concert song and I couldn’t believe it when it started.) It was awesome. A less awesome thing happened driving home on 95. A car came up behind us and on the left and sideswiped us. At 65 mph and then drove off. It was pretty scary and the entire side of the car is dented, scratched, and covered with their dumbass tire marks. And the mirror was torn off. I’m very grateful we weren’t hurt and the car still runs, but I’m pissed off that some asshole did that and we are the ones paying for repairs and left with a shitty looking car. (ten  scowly face emojis here.)
The vacation ended with a lovely Easter at my aunt Margaret’s. The kids took the canoe and rowboat out on their pond and I went for a row, too. It was so nice. RowingFor dessert I made a coconut cake that was really good. A very light and silky batter baked in a 9×13 pan, then soaked in a syrup overnight, then topped with whipped cream. Then it’s sprinkled with coconut on top and I decided to make mine in big flower shapes.Coconut CakeAnother thing we seemingly spent the entire vacation doing was reorganizing the basement and cleaning up our room by switching winter and spring clothes. One tiny and immensely satisfying part of that was sorting and storing in a new way all my cookie cutters. So I used a giant copper flower cutter to provide my coconut outline (which I was able to quickly and easily retrieve!)
For our own breakfast I baked a coffeecake that was a braided apricot nut bread. It came out great!The Easter Braid
And then it was back to school, but the very next day was…my birthday! One of my most favorite days of the year! I had a great day starting with some marvelous cards and to-be-opened right then gifts. Paul got me the cutest, well, we can’t figure out what they are officially called. I had requested them. Those old-fashioned things you pin on a cardigan with a little chain in between? Cardigan clips? Sweater pins? Whatever, he got some adorable ones and I loved wearing one that very day. In the evening we had a great dinner. I had specifically requested (demanded) that this year my kids get on board with making me a homemade cake. I didn’t care if it was sloppy or came out poorly, I wanted something lovingly made just for me by them. This seemed to cause of lot of fretfulness and to my surprise they each made a cake. And each was wonderful.Happy Birthday to meMy mom joined us and it was  wonderful birthday.

Now, two other things. The first is very terrible–two nights ago we had the dreaded tragedy of a fox in the chicken coop. A bad combination of opening the gate and letting everyone out for the afternoon and then not locking them up. Usually if we forget to lock them up it’s actually not a big deal because the gate is always securely closed. But this time the gate was open. Out of our 17 birds, it took 8. Worst of all-only 2 were roosters. And the ones it took were our favorites-the two little emus, Baddie, and Tree Bird. Baddie and Tree Bird were the matched Mille Fleur pair we received as day old chicks 5 years ago (five years! They had nice long lives.) Baddie was a real jerk, for sure, but we had a soft spot for him. In his older age and diminished position in the pecking order, he rarely was feisty any more (though he had attacked me just a few days ago.) But Tree Bird. Oh, we adored her. She is the hen who was Gordon’s special friend. Here they were the week before: A mixed up coop He’s going to be very sad that she’s gone. She was super sweet and we’ll miss her. Tree BIrd's last photoshootSo now we are down to 9: 6 hens, 3 roosters. We could get chicks, but I think instead we should just see if anyone goes broody and let them.

In better news all the flowering bulbs and trees are looking great, the lilacs smell wonderful, the maple tree leaves have just come in, looking all yellow green, and it’s a pretty beautiful time of year.Double Ruffle