Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Photo Essay

We had 4 days of freezing fog here this week.  You may remember that I showed some photos of our yard in my previous post here.  Those pix were taken by DH from inside the house.  I wasn't feeling well and the fog and cold were really bothering my lungs, so I didn't venture outside.

Finally, on what turned out to be the last day of the freezing weather, I was feeling well enough to go outside and get some photos.  I was intrigued by why the fir trees looked so grey.  What I found was so beautiful, I thought I would share it with you. (All of these photos will enlarge when clicked on.)

fir boughs

more fir boughs

more fir boughs

fir bough close-up

fir bough, even closer

tree branches

a fern frond

a summer fern

Oregon grape leaves

holly leaves

a twig

Hope you enjoyed it!  I love how some of the plants look like they're edged with lace.  We're back to our regularly scheduled grey, gloomy rain now, so I'm glad I got the photos when I did.  

Back to fabric and quilting in a day or so!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Quilt and The Great Outdoors

I have another finish to show!

This one has been a long time coming.  I guess I have to admit it's not my favorite.  I used a couple of charm packs for this, with more fabric from the same line.  I believe it was "Vienna Nights" by 3 Sisters.  I made the top at a retreat a few years ago and then it sat quite a while until I finally sent it to my long-armer last year.  I forgot where I had put the binding I'd made for this and ended up making something else to use.  (I've since found that binding)  And it's taken months to actually finish the hand-stitching of the binding.  My sister was working on it in October, and I took the last stitch last night.  Whew!  That was a tough one.  And I don't love it.  I like it, but I'm not in LOVE.  But the best part is it's DONE!

By the way, sorry for the poor lighting in these pictures.  It's a dark, gloomy day and that makes it hard to get a true color photo.

I made simple 4-patches with the charm squares, then set them together with a single alternate fabric.  I made sure that it went all ways so there's no real "up" or "down" to the quilt.

Here's a closeup of the quilting that Shari did.

The border fabric and quilting.

And I found some fabric at JoAnn's that coordinates with the top pretty well.  You can see that my binding fabric isn't an exact match, but it coordinates well also.

I think my problem with not loving this quilt is - the fabrics are all matchy-matchy!  I've really taken scrap quilting to heart, I guess!  But, never fear . . . I will find someone who LOVES this quilt!

We've been having fun looking out our window the last few days.  Yesterday we had some deer come to visit our yard - a mama and her baby from last spring.

They were feasting on the ivy.  They can have all they want!  I got a lot of pix of deer bums or very blurry pix.

Ah, finally mama shows us her good side.

Last night we had freezing fog, and this is what the yard looked like when we woke up.  At first I though we'd gotten snow, but the ground wasn't white, just the trees and bushes.  In this photo you can see some of the fog.

The trees were so pretty all frosted.

This photo shows some of the pond too.  It's been frozen for about 10 days now.  The fog never went away completely today.  We're supposed to have freezing fog for the next 3 nights and our high temp today was a whopping 34* f!  

It is nice to live somewhere with seasons again.  There's no doubt that it's winter here! The last ten days have been cold, but the sun was shining and that was really quite nice.  

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Making Vanilla

Here I go with my first tutorial, and wouldn't you know it, it has nothing to do with quilting!

Did you know you can make your own vanilla extract?  And it's not only less expensive than the extract you can buy in the store, but it's much tastier.  And, best of all, it's super easy to do!

I've been making my own vanilla for about 30 years now!  Back in the early 1980's my mother sent me a bottle with a vanilla bean inside it and the recipe to make my own vanilla on the label.  It was so easy and so good, I've just kept on doing it.  I've even made vanilla in fancy bottles and given it to friends and family for Christmas presents.

You will need:
* a vanilla bean, which is available in the spice section of your local grocery store, although I found it for less money at

* sugar

* vodka.  The vodka doesn't have to be expensive.  Matter of fact, I've only ever used the cheap store brand.  And none of those fancy flavors.  You want plain vodka for this.

* A bottle to make the extract in.  You could use the bottle that the vanilla bean comes in, or you could find a fancy bottle.  It just needs to hold 5 or 6 ounces and have a tightly-closing lid or cork.

Take the bean out and break it in 3 places, then place it in the bottle you're using to make the extract.  My bean is broken more than that because I've used it a number of times before. You can actually use it to make extract about 4 times before it's exhausted.

Then, you need to add 1/3 teaspoon of sugar.

Next, add 3 ounces of the vodka.

Put the lid on tightly and shake the bottle.  That's all there is to it.  Easy peasy!  See all the little specks of vanilla floating in there?  That's what makes it so yummy!

You'll need to shake the bottle at least once a day, and let the mixture steep for one month.   As it steeps, it will darken in color until it looks just like the extract you've always bought at the store.  I always mark on my calendar when the vanilla will be ready.

When your vanilla is ready, remove the bean from the extract, let it dry out for a day or two, then store it in an airtight bottle or ziplock baggie until it's time to make more vanilla.  (Don't forget - next time you use the bean, you'll have to break it in 3 places again, until you eventually end up with just little sticks.)

Then, make yourself something really yummy with your new vanilla!

I did a little math, to see how inexpensive this can be:

I found 5 Madagascar vanilla beans for $5.96 on Amazon (much cheaper than the $16 for one bean at Safeway!).  That works out to $1.20 for one bean.  You can use each bean about 4 times, so that would be 30 cents for one bottle of extract.  I found Seagrams Vodka at Safeway for $8.99 for a 750 ml bottle, costing 35 cents per ounce. There are about 8 bottles of extract per bottle of vodka, making it $1.05 for each. I'm not even going to try to estimate what 1/3 teaspoon of sugar would cost, because it is so negligible.  

Whew!  Are you still with me?  OK, therefore, it would cost  you $1.35 for a 3 ounce bottle of pure vanilla extract if you make it yourself.  In comparison McCormick Pure Vanilla Extract is $4.99 for only one ounce at Safeway.

So you can see what a savings making your own pure vanilla extract can be.  The added benefit is that your homemade extract is so much yummier than the store-bought version and you know exactly what is in it.  And you can feel smug knowing that you're eating better and spending less money to do it, which is always a good thing.  *grin*

Happy eating!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My First Finish of the Year!

Finally, I have something a finish to post!  And it's still the first half of January.  I'll take that as a good omen for the year.

I got DH's pillowcase done in time to give it to him for Christmas, but I hadn't finished my own yet.  Now it's done.  I'm betting you can tell which pillowcase is for which of us.  *grin*  I actually bought the fabric for mine last year (2011) but never got around to doing it.  A very bad case of procrastination!

Here is my first Treasure Bag - completed!  (You can see my first post about this here.) This looks rather hairy because there is fuzzy yarn in here, as well as eyelash yarn.  I haven't decided yet if I like that or not.  But I'm not keeping this one.  It's to be a gift. I don't have a measurement for this one, but my smart phone fits in here.  The handle is long enough to wear the bag over one shoulder or across your body.

Here's my second Treasure Bag - also done!  The first one was so much fun, I had to make another one.  And I can't seem to stop . . . I have 2 more in process!  This one is smaller - meant to fit a flip phone.  I still need to make a loop and add a button for a closure to be totally finished.  I actually had to buy a crochet hook, as I can't find the ones I used to have!  I had a lot of fun picking out the beads to go on these bags.  

Now I'm making one for myself.  I started it, then decided I didn't like the main yarn color and went and bought something I like better, so now I get to undo what was done and start over.  Fortunately, I wasn't too far along yet, so not too painful a process.  

We had a possibility of snow today, and had flurries off and on, but nothing stuck.  Tomorrow is supposed to be clear and cold, and then maybe more snow on Saturday.  I'm hoping for snow.  We missed the first snowfall when we were in California last month.  I have no where to go and I have food in the house, so I'm all prepared for it.  Crossing my fingers.....

Sunday, January 06, 2013

New Year, New Start

Wow, another long blogging break for me.  I hope to post more often this year.  Last year, I sadly neglected my blog too often.

Dunkel says "Happy New Year!"
Anywho, I hope all my readers had a wonderful holiday season and are off to a good start on the New Year.

I want to thank everyone for their words of sympathy on the loss of my father-in-law.  His death was completely unexpected and quite a shock.  We went to California the week before Christmas for a memorial service for him.  It was a hurried and difficult trip.  And the worst was that DH came down with a nasty virus just as we were leaving Seattle.  But there were a couple of high points.  We had gorgeous weather, which was unusual for the Central Valley in Dec.  Blue skies and bright sunshine.  It was so nice to have some sunshine!  And I think we had the world's best beef enchiladas at a little taqueria - out of this world!

So, needless to say, our Christmas preparations were rushed and our celebration a little low-key.  But, in spite of DH being so sick and miserable and me fighting it off as well, we had a nice holiday.  Went to dinner and to see The Hobbit with friends on Christmas Eve (I LOVED the movie!), spent the day at our oldest son's house on Christmas, then we (me, DH and The Kid) had our Christmas on Boxing Day.

We met our "new" grand-dog.  This is Hannah and she's 11.  My oldest son is so happy to have a dog again, and she seems to adore him too. A big dog with a great big "woof!" which she is demonstrating here.  She's a sweetheart.

I managed to hold off the worst of the virus until we got through those 3 days, then it had me down for the rest of December and into the new year.  Ugh.  I seem to be over the worst of it now, but I'm still on medications and still coughing, and DH is still not feeling well either.  He actually went to the Dr. (we were afraid he had strep throat because his throat hurt so severely for so long), but it's just a virus - not even the flu.  It's a tough one though.  We're still taking it easy around here.

A. and her fleece pillowcase

L. and her kitty pillowcase

I did manage to get my Christmas sewing done.  I made everyone a new pillowcase again this year.  Mine isn't finished yet, though.  And I still have one more present to finish for the The Kid.  It won't take long, when I can get into the quilt studio.  I have managed to sew 5 blocks on my Low Volume quilt since Christmas.  That's it . . . all the sewing I have accomplished.  I'm hoping to get in there this week to do a little more.

Just wanted to mention . . . my sister has started an Etsy shop.  She doesn't have much in there yet, but is planning on more soon.  Pop over and take a look.  She hasn't started a blog yet, but I'm trying to get her to do that soon.  She's a very creative person and has a lot to share.