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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Bisou thinks she may hear reindeer outside, and she's ready! I hope all of you reading this have a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Another cruise

I've been away with my husband on another cruise, this one in the southern Caribbean area. We sailed out of Colón, Panama, on a Royal Caribbean ship, Oasis of the Seas. Before the cruise, we spent a night in a resort hotel in Colón, and I was delighted to see their display of santons! These are a bit larger than the ones we have, and their display is much more detailed than I have room for in our smallish home.

When we boarded our ship, we saw that it had been decorated, too, for the holidays! That's the first time I've been on a ship with Christmas decorations. The Centrum area, where people gather to sit, dance, visit, etc., was just lovely! The tree was enormous, and each level of cabins had greenery with little lights and changing lighting effects. The red lighting you see here was periodically green or blue or any of several other colors.

Here's a closer view of part of the tree, with the inside glass elevators behind. The "chandeliers" you see hanging near the top were actually part of an entertainment scheduled one evening.

On one deck level, there was also an adorable display of gingerbread houses.

All of these little touches made our two at-sea days seem really festive! I'll show you more about our ports of call in a later post.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A storm and a finished shawl

Tuesday we had enormous winds, bringing a storm from Canada to our normally-warm area. The cold wasn't what bothered our little Bisou, though; it was the noise from the wind rattling the shutters and banging branches against windows. She's a timid little thing, and she was just quaking in my lap — until I told her that we should probably go get her Thundershirt. That seems to have done the trick, as you can see here. ;) She relaxed so much that she had a little nap in the rocking chair next to my desk!

On a different topic altogether, I have finished a small shawl/scarf from some lovely silk yarn I picked up on a recent trip. This yarn was pre-beaded, and you may be able to see the clear beads in this photo — if you look *very* hard. LOL! It was a very simple pattern, with just yarn overs and double decreases to make the design.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone here in the US will have a happy and safe Thanksgiving. This is part of my contribution to our family's dinner, which will be at our daughter's home. Yum! I always make my grandmother's recipe for pumpkin pie, and I have to say that it's really good. ;) It's extra-special to me, since it's the only recipe I have from her.

The leafy decorations were made with a pastry cutter from Williams-Sonoma; I think they add a nice touch — which will, of course, be of secondary importance to the whipped cream we'll add at serving time. LOL!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Travel Jewelry Case



I'm very tired of dealing with tangled necklaces and rummaging through little bags to find my earrings when I travel. I'm guessing that some of you know just what I mean. ;) Some time ago I'd bought a finishing kit, with all of the necessary zippers and other notions that would go into making yet another of Annie Unrein's patterns, this one specifically for jewelry. I bought it, but I never got around to actually making the case. Oops. But that's in the past, as I've been working on it for the past couple of days, and I will now be able to organize my bits and pieces of jewelry when I travel. Yay! It's not as though I travel with (or even own!) a lot of jewelry, but I like to have at least one or two pairs of earrings and a necklace or two.

This case is very well laid-out. In the open view, there are three zippered pockets on the left, as well as a roll for rings and a perforated piece of ultrasuede for earrings. On the right there's another roll for bracelets. There's also a separating zipper at the far right.

The pattern showed the zippers on the left side opening from the left to the right, but I switched that around so that the zipper pulls would stay tidy inside the case.

Opening that zipper reveals a space for hanging four necklaces, which then pass underneath a piece of fabric to keep them flat before they finally fit into an open pocket at the bottom. No more tangled chains! :)

It occurs to me that this case will be very handy for more than jewelry; for example, I could also stash keys in a zippered pocket while I'm away and don't need them right then.

I made a mistake with the velcro closure, so it shows even when the case is empty, but I can live with that. ;)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sewing Machine Carpets

Have you ever heard of a rug/carpet for a sewing machine? It's a handy contraption that sits under the machine and has one or more pockets that dangle in front for keeping tools and paraphernalia handy. I've had one with open-topped pockets for years, though I don't use it at home, due to the design of my machine cabinet. However, I love using it when I sew somewhere else, like at a meeting or a friend's house.

My quilting group recently made these, but this version has a zippered pocket, which is even better than the open ones! I made one to give away to someone here and another to keep, though I simplified the one I'm going to keep. ;) Here they are:


They're the same size, but I didn't have them evenly arranged on the table before taking the photo. The colorful one is nicer, and that's the one I'm going to give away. The black and white one is less detailed, but it will do nicely for my purposes.

How did I make that one? I used a piece of double-sided pre-quilted fabric, approximately 24" x 28", to begin with. Then I was lucky and found a purse zipper (22") with double zipper pulls — much handier, IMHO, than a single pull — and some wide grosgrain ribbon. I stitched the ribbon onto each side of the zipper tape, then added some mesh-like fabric (not the stuff that was so popular a few years ago and which is difficult to find these days) to one of the pieces of ribbon.

The next step was to stitch the grosgrain ribbon (the one without the mesh attached) to the quilted fabric and then baste around the rest of the mesh/zipper combination to hold things in place. Add binding all the way around (I had a piece with tiny dots on it!) and then divide the pocket by means of stitching, if desired, and it's done! :)

You could, of course, quilt your own fabric, but I didn't. The one I'm giving away is sturdier, since it has an extra layer with the strippy blocks and borders, as well as some "real" mesh screening for the pocket. That one also has a "parka" zipper in order to have the double pulls. Neither one is difficult to make, and they are so handy for keeping things together when sewing away from home!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Back from Houston

What a week! Last Wednesday — early in the morning — I flew to Houston with my quilt buddy from Phoenix. We had an amazing five days at Quilt Festival there: lots of quilts, lots of vendors. This was, I think, the twelfth time I've been there, and it was the first time I didn't take any classes. That made for a more relaxed visit than usual, as we had all the time in the world to look carefully at everything. There's always next time for more classes.

One of the things I was looking for was a demo of the coming EQ for Macs. Unfortunately, it simply wasn't ready for a demo yet, but this sign gave me hope!


Naturally, I came home with several souvenirs, from the annual thimble for my collection to rulers and patterns. But, after looking at all of the displayed quilts, I fell in love with a series of Japanese quilts based on the work of Reiko Kato. While I'd normally say these quilts aren't my style at all, I just couldn't stop admiring them — especially the buildings on them — and finally had to purchase a book with many of the designs. They're all appliqué (tiny appliqué!), but perhaps I can do something by machine for my own purposes.

There was a terrific lecture by Barb Vlack, an EQ and math guru, on the use of the Fibonacci sequence in determining quilt borders. I'm so glad I attended that one! She's a wonderful speaker, using humor and a wealth of expertise to explain her ideas.

Susan Cleveland gave a little talk/demo on how to use one of her tools to make Dresden plate blocks. I really hadn't ever thought I'd do a Dresden plate quilt, but her hints and tips made me rethink that, so it's now on my list, along with a couple of other ideas.

My quilt buddy and I stayed at the Embassy Suites for the first time this year; we'd stayed at the Doubletree previously. This was a good move for us, as it's much more conveniently located and has a few included perks we've had to forego in the past. We'll do that again next time.

My flight home last night had absolutely no empty seats, but I plugged in my earphones and listened to music and podcasts until we landed. I'm unpacked now, but I still have lots to organize and find homes for — all worth it!

Where are the photos, you ask? I really didn't take any to speak of. I've taken boatloads of photos there in the past, look at them once and then never looked again. So this time I simply enjoyed the looking and didn't worry about the photos. You can find dozens of them via a Google search online, if you want to look. :)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cookies

Yes, I know that my last post was about food, but this one will be, too. Two of my grandsons are spending quite a bit of time with me lately while their mother is out of town on business. Everyone knows that grandsons need snacks after school, so I've been baking. It's for them, of course; that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! ;)

I recently ran across a recipe that claimed to be for the best chocolate chip cookies ever, due to a not-so-secret ingredient, so I gave that a try. I whipped up the cookie dough yesterday and baked the cookies today. I have to admit that they're pretty tasty and passed the grandson-test with flying colors. Interested? The recipe is here. I think some variations might be really good, too: perhaps some chopped nuts or some dried cranberries or raisins?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Out to dinner

DH and I like to go out to dinner about once a week, and guess what we had last night! Yum!

I love sushi, and this was just one of the varieties we chose this time — crab, avocado, spicy tuna (not too spicy, of course), with wasabe and ginger. The other ones we ordered disappeared too quickly for me to get a photo. LOL! Yup — I do love sushi. :)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Finished Jacket

You may recall this post (with the misspelled jacket name). I've been working on the Elecktra (correct spelling for the pattern) jacket with the hope of finishing it in time to wear for the cooler weather. The instructor for the project, Maria, has been so helpful! I'd been unable to make it to the Saturday sessions for the group making this project, but she's always been very willing to help me when I could stop in to ask what the next step would be.

At any rate, today I finished the jacket, and it's now soaking so that I can block it and — yay! — wear it. It's a little different from the sorts of jackets I usually wear, but I do like it. My husband very kindly took these photos so I could show it to you. The fronts just fold back without fastening, which makes it very easy to wear.
Elecktra front
Elecktra back
By the way, the shop where I purchased all of the yarn for this project and had my lessons is one I "discovered" last spring. It's called Sin City Knit Shop, and it's recently moved into a larger space to accommodate the numbers of knitters who flock there. :) The owner, Debbi, is really welcoming and helpful, too. I feel so lucky to have a wonderful yarn shop and a wonderful quilt shop nearby!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dessert!

I was at a friend's house today, working on projects with her and another friend. One of these all-day "things" always ends with dinner with our husbands, and it was my turn to provide dessert. I saw this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma site and had to try it — and I'm glad I did! The almond flavor from the frangipane under the apples is wonderful, and the apricot glaze is a wonderful finishing touch. Yum!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Beginning the quilting

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about another Drunkard's Path quilt I was planning to finish after letting it languish for over a year. I've now put all of the blocks together and decided that borders on this one just don't add anything to the effect I want. So for the past couple of days I've been doing the very boring stabilizing quilting, which amounts to ditch quilting all of the blocks. Ugh. Where's the fun in that? Even worse, I was using invisible thread, which I don't like but which was the only logical choice with all of the different colors in these blocks.

Today, however, I began the fun part! Yay! I've just finished doing the first set of wedges, which are all going to be done with petal shapes to suggest flowers. I'm using a King Tut thread I've had forever and which is in lovely taupes that seem to blend quite well with the fabrics in these sections.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Another Drunkard's Path

Over a year ago, I took a class at a retreat. I wasn't very happy with the class, so I simply put the pieces away until recently, when I decided to finish the quilt on general principle. ;) I've finished piecing the two-part wedges into the "bow tie" sections and am now going to begin putting the blocks together. Then it will, once again, be a matter of deciding what sort of borders and quilting to do! ;)

Those little whiteish bits you see in the quarter-sections are labels so that I know where each one belongs. LOL! Any ideas for a name for this one?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Elektra Jacket

Okay, I showed you some yarn I'd wound on my lovely new swift, but I didn't wind it just on a whim. I'm making a knitted jacket called Elektra, designed by Twisted Sisters. The pattern shows four different yarns, but our local knit shop, Sin City Knit Shop, is having us do it in three, which I prefer. I've finished the first large section, which will become the back, and I'm currently working on the first of the two sleeves. The sleeves are mostly narrow (2-row) stripes in the off-white and brownish-black. Here's that first section, though it isn't spread out completely because I have it saved on cables that aren't quite long enough to allow for that.
At least you can see the colors! :) This project will take some time, I think, but I hope to get a lot of use from it when it's finished.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Winding yarn

You may remember that my very generous brother-in-law has made me a yarn swift to make winding skeins of yarn into balls so much easier. Prior to having this, I had to drape the skein around the end of my ironing board and manually unwind it — very slowly and carefully! — a little at a time as I cranked my ball winder. It was a long process, and I was very lucky if I didn't get a knot at some point. Now, however, I can easily wind a ball in no time flat! When I'm finished, the swift folds up into a compact package for easy storage. I'm so lucky! Here are some photos of the first time winding a ball on this swift.

Just beginning …

A little more ...

Almost finished!
This whole process took less five minutes. Yay! :D

Monday, August 26, 2013

Stavanger, Norway

Our final stop in Norway was in Stavanger. We visited a museum detailing how the oil industry works, another museum that showed the sardine canning process, and the old part of town with its wooden houses. This was part of the shopping area — really pretty!

The following day was our final at-sea day, with our arrival back in Amsterdam early the next morning. We flew home that day, which amounted to our having a 29-hour day! LOL! We had gotten up at around 4:00 AM (European time) to get breakfast and be ready for disembarking on time (and because we couldn't sleep ), and we didn't get to bed at home until after midnight that night — which was actually 9:00AM of the following day in Europe. 

One last tidbit about our trip is that I quite accidentally came across two Bernina shops in Norway! Since I'm a Bernina user, this was really a coincidence. This first one was in Haugesund, and I did go inside for a quick look.

The second one was in Stavanger, but this time I didn't go inside, as we were pretty tired by then.

Now it's back to normal! :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Haugesund, Norway

We spent most of one morning cruising the scenic fjords — and I can't begin to express how beautiful they are! Here is a shot of one of the magnificent waterfalls we saw.

That afternoon, we visited Haugesund, which hadn't been on our original itinerary but was added when a different town had to be eliminated for technical reasons. We visited the Lutheran church there, which had just finished its renovations shortly before. This church was very light and airy inside, and we were lucky enough to find ourselves there during an organ rehearsal. :)

Walking along the quai, we saw many small houseboats boats, whose inhabitants were taking advantage of the summer weather for picnicking. Of course, their summer weather feels a bit chilly for people like me who live in the southwest desert! LOL! This particular boat was popular with the swans, as a man and a small child were feeding them. 

Stay tuned for a few more photos!




Saturday, August 24, 2013

Flåm, Norway

Following our day in Bergen, our next stop was in Flåm. This was a smaller town, but it had a very informative museum showing how the railroad had tunneled through the mountains.

There wasn't a lot to see in town, but there was a lovely harbor, where people were booking tours of the fjord. We'd hoped to take a train trip through the mountains, but it was sold out, so we took a boat trip instead and enjoyed it very much.

This is another view of the harbor area.

And this is one of the views we had from the boat. The clouds sitting on the mountains were breathtaking!

More to come!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Swift (but not fast) bag

I'm taking a short break from travel photos today, but I'll get back to them next time. :)

A few days ago, I posted about the swift my brother-in-law made for me. I'm so happy to have it, but I was worried about it possibly being damaged if I didn't do something to protect it when not in use. I didn't have a pattern and was a bit nervous about drafting something that would fit, but I've made a few of Annie Unrein's bags, so I gulped and started figuring out the size I'd need and how best to put it together. Okay, Annie's bags are better drafted and finished than this one, but I'm pretty happy with what I finished today, especially considering that it's a first effort. :)
Swift Bag


The "main" bag has a full-length zipper to make access easy, as well as a layer of Soft and Stable for padding between the outer bag and the lining. I made a second, smaller bag for the adjustable dowels, giving each a separate compartment so they wouldn't rattle and adding a velcro closure; this bag was fine with batting instead of the Soft and Stable. Here's the bag, slightly open, with the smaller bag next to it.


Best of all, everything necessary for this project was already in my stash! :)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bergen, Norway

Our first actual stop on the cruise to the Norwegian fjords, after a full day at sea, was in Bergen. What a beautiful city it is! When we arrived, we took a tour of part of the city; our "ride" was really cute. :)

Once we'd finished this overview of the town's sights, we walked around quite a bit and then took a ride in the funicular to enjoy the scenic view from atop the mountain. This is the funicular route; it is a very efficient way for residents of the city to get from bottom to top or vice versa.

The view was well worth the ride! This is just a portion of what we were able to see.

When we arrived back at the ship later that day, we were greeted by one of the towel "animals" that the cabin steward prepared for us each evening.

To be continued! :)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Amsterdam

DH and I recently flew to Amsterdam for a couple of days, met up with my twin and her DH, and then took a cruise through some of the Norwegian fjords. What a beautiful trip it was! Our first stop in Amsterdam was an enormous wholesale flower dealership, where they auction flowers from all over the world and then send them out to shops — also all over the world. This photo shows only a very small portion of the warehouse; we walked literally over half a mile to see much of it, watching as the carts of flowers were zipped from one location to another as they were sold.

Of course, we also saw some of the more traditional sights in Amsterdam, including taking a canal cruise in a boat much like this one. Bicycles are a major means of transportation in Amsterdam, and those bikes have the right of way, even over pedestrians — which takes a bit of getting used to. ;)

We were so lucky that the Rijks Museum had recently re-opened after having been closed for renovations for several years. The tours there are done by means of iPods, and they are absolutely excellent!

Naturally, we walked until our feet were tired, but there is also a very good tram system that makes getting around quite simple, and we made good use of that, too.

More photos to come! :)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hibiscus

Before I get around to showing some of our travel photos, I thought I'd show you what we came home to. Not too long ago DH redid our outdoor fountain area, planting three hibiscus bushes in the process. We have a red, an orange, and a yellow hibiscus, and the yellow one was doing its best to welcome us home.

Beautiful, isn't it? :)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Swift

Open swift
Yarn swift, that is! My very thoughtful brother-in-law made this for me! He's quite talented at building things, and my twin needed a yarn swift — an item not so easily obtained reasonably in France, where they live. While he was making one for her, he very kindly made one for me, too! With my ball winder, this will make transforming skeins of yarn into balls so easy, and I'm absolutely delighted with it. Sadly, I don't have any skeins sitting around right at the moment, but I should have some soon.



Closed swift

What's especially nice about this swift is that, by means of a couple of wing nuts, the whole thing collapses for storage. I'm going to need to make a bag to keep it tidy and safe, but I'll do so very soon. At the right, you can see what it looks like when it's ready to put away. Pretty cool, isn't it? :)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

More Ditty Bags

I actually made these two Ditty Bags some time ago, but I couldn't post a photo until I'd given them to my twin sister and my brother-in-law. That happened almost two weeks ago, while we were all on vacation together in Amsterdam and, a few days later, on a cruise through the Norwegian fjords. This time the bags are lined with vinyl to make them more or less spill-proof, and I decided to embroider the recipients' initials on the front. These bags are generally easy to make, but lining them with vinyl does make the process quite fiddly!

Want to hear something about our trip? Maybe see a few photos? Stay tuned! :) Right now I'm still catching up on sleep (it's a nine hour time change from where I live to Europe!) and laundry, among other assorted household tasks. In fact, my Bernina is still at my dealer's shop and needs to come home from its servicing, where it's been since just before we left home. Suffice it to say that the trip was wonderful!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thunder!

Hiding
Our poor little Bisou is terrified of thunder. Rain by itself doesn't bother her, but thunder is more than she can bear, so she finds a little "cave" to hide in until it passes, and she quivers and quakes until it does. I feel so sorry for her!

The cave is frequently this space under my computer desk, which explains the tangle of wires you see here.

Poor little pup!

A cool drink

My husband has been reworking the fountain we have in our back yard. He raised the base and repositioned the whole thing a bit, adding new plants to soften its look; the bottlebrush was already there, but he added three hibiscus plants. One gives peachy-orange blossoms, one yellow, one red; unfortunately, right now they're regrouping for a new blooming spurt and don't have any flowers to show you.

I guess we're not the only ones who are happy with the new arrangement, however. ;) Bisou has discovered that she can now get at the running water, since the new height means that the plants don't block it any longer. She popped right in for a sip or two as my husband was making sure everything was running as planned. LOL!
Yum! Cool and refreshing!