September

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Autumn seems to be arriving right on time this year, which is so lovely, because September is often peak fire season and heatwaves are not uncommon this time of year around here. This September, however, has been cooler and we’ve even had rain! The leaves on the trees up here in the mountains have a tinge of yellow, so we’ll have some brilliant color very soon. I’ve decided to keep track of what’s been going on for the last few weeks and then just publish a post at the end of the month, so here we go!

In September I finished a most enjoyable series of books called The Lunar Chronicles. I actually read the first one, Cinder, at the beginning of the summer and then requested the others from my library. I had to wait a bit for Scarlet, the second book, and then immediately read the last two, Cress and Winter over Labor Day weekend. I’m not sure how to classify them other than sci-fi/steampunk/fairy tale retellings, but it was a fun series that I highly recommend.

Speaking of fairy tales, I usually also have an audiobook going for my drive to and from work, and this month I finished As You Wish, followed by a screening of The Princess Bride (currently on Netflix). It was charming and fun, and reminded me how much I loved the movie. I highly recommend the audio version of the book, it’s read by Cary Elwes himself, and features many of the other cast members too.

I try to bring my lunch to work most days. I’m always on the lookout for good salad recipes and usually will prep all the ingredients and then eat the same salad for a few days. I found a couple winners via Pinterest this month. First up was Lamb and Dill Meatballs with Horitaki salad. The meatballs were really simple and so delicious. As soon as I was done with the first batch of meatballs I bought more ground lamb for the freezer so I could make them again soon. Basically, everything in this salad is my favorite, so it’s a big winner.

lamb meatball salad

Another new and delicious find was this Moroccan Steak Salad. The prep for this one was more intensive, but worth it. The pomegranate seeds were a nice touch.

steak salad

Here are some of my favorite finds this month:

  • Draw Every Day, Draw Every Way – I’m not an artist, but I decided to start practicing drawing. This is a fun book, full of prompts and different types of paper for sketching. So far I have created some terrible drawings, and a couple that I actually like. I may share more on Instagram eventually.
  • Duolingo <– the link goes to the website, but I’m using the phone app. Twenty-something years ago I was pretty good at speaking Dutch. When you don’t use a language for that many years you get a little rusty. I’ve been practicing with 5-minute sessions and it’s coming back!
  • Hillview Yarns is an Etsy shop recently opened by my friend Vivian. I’ve invested in a few skeins for some hat designs I’ve been working on, and I just love the colors she’s been coming up with, especially her blues and greens. I just got a skein of Socky McSockface for a pair of elaborately cabled socks that I can’t wait to cast on.
  • I’m working on my first sweater made from my handspun yarn, and have another handspun sweater quantity in the works, but I really want to make Mohr from the new Brooklyn Tweed collection.
  • I invested in the handiest piece of jewelry ever: Wrist Ruler (I have the medium leather), also available at Tolt

I like collecting my favorites for the month and just throwing them up here. I think I’ll keep doing this each month.

autumn to-do list

Now it really is starting to feel like autumn up here in the mountains, and the cottonwoods have the barest tinge of yellow. Something about the change of seasons makes me want to get some things done. I made a list, and I’ve already started working on it:

  • Wash and re-block hand knits.
    I pulled out a couple scarves, and they’re not dirty, just a bit crumpled from being shoved in a drawer all summer. A good blocking will do them all some good.
  • Take a crochet class.
    I went on Saturday for a class, and it was so helpful! I’ve done a little crochet on my own, but was never sure if I was doing it right. I especially never felt very comfortable juggling the hook and the yarn. In my class I learned a good way to hold them both, and I can single and double crochet quite well now. I even found a pattern for a ripple blanket and started on the first stripe. I actually had tried to do a similar pattern years ago, but I was never happy with the way it looked. I thought it would be a great project to use up leftover bits of worsted weight yarns. I’ll be working on it for a long time, but it will be a nice break to do a stripe here and there. 

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  • Make roast goose.
    So, I’ll be brief on this one. We had two mean geese. They were noisy and unpleasant and I found someone who was willing to “process” them for me. And now they are in the freezer. I’m still working myself up to it, but I found a good tutorial for when I am ready.
  • Get some more chickens.
    My girls aren’t laying much, and two of the six hens are now six years old, so it’s time for some fresh young hens. I’ll let my old ladies enjoy the rest of their days in our yard, though. They don’t try to nip at me when I feed them.
  • Finish website re-design/cleanup.
    I want to keep things clean and simple around here. I’ll probably do  a little here and there on this one, but I’m still not in a mood to spend my evenings in front of the computer.
  • Learn to use Lightroom, and organize my photos.
    I’ve started doing this too. In fact, I’ve even switched to shooting in RAW. I’m not totally sure what that even means, but I’m doing it! 
  • Bake a cake (flourless, of course).
    Done, and it was good, but I’m still searching for a really good grain-free cake recipe. I used this recipe, and it was dense and moist, which I expected. It was just a little too sweet for me (which might have been the pears I used, they were very ripe and sweet), and a little heavy. But it was so fun to bake again. I won’t be making it a regular habit, just a now and then treat.  

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  • Make a scarf from a piece of Liberty fabric I’ve been hoarding.
    This should take about ten minutes, I’ve got a yard, so I think I’ll just cut it in half and sew it end-to-end for length. 
  • Make a sweater for Pulley
    He doesn’t have fur like the other dogs, I think he’s going to need some warm clothes for the winter. 
  • Start making soup.
    I need to find some new soup recipes. Do you have any good ones? 
  • Knit the perfect cabled sweater.
    I want something cozy and slouchy. This might be just the thing. I have to decide what kind of yarn to use. 
  • Buy a lot of pumpkins and decorate the porch.
    I’ve got two so far, but I’m going to need some more.

Bonus items:

The Autumn pin board.
I also just needed to share the fact that you can follow an astronaut on pinterest.

lovely things

lake waterI think I need to make this a regular post topic: things I found this week that are lovely and inspiring.

I love this crocheted trim on a cozy blanket. I’m going to take a crochet class this fall, and finally learn how I should properly hold a crochet hook.

This site is full of beautiful video and photography of the Serengeti lions. Navigation takes a minute to figure out, but there is lots to explore. I hope I will have to opportunity to go on safari again someday, South Africa was one of my favorite places (not that I’ve been to so many places), and I’d like to see more of the African Continent.

I’m not huge into Halloween, but I do like pumpkins. This is a fun and easy way to make a really cute, carved pumpkin. I might need to do this next month.

We’ve been watching Hell on Wheels on Netflix. I’ve especially liked the music, so I did a little digging and made a playlist on Spotify with some of the songs from the series.

The photo is from my vacation last month, I love how the lake was calm and almost ombré striped.

the next phase

I am fully committed to my porch project, and making a lot of progress. Even though I have a lot more that I want to do, it’s now my favorite spot to hang out. I can eat out there, sit and knit, read, or even take a nap.

I finished two pillows and have a couple more pillow forms waiting for covers. I played with batik again, and again, it was a lot of fun. This time I went bright with pink and orange dye. I originally added the orange to the pink dye bath when I was finished with it, hoping for more of a coral color. Obviously, I should have added less orange for that to happen. I’m fine with the bright tangerine, though.

pillowsI just used a paint brush and beeswax on drop cloth fabric, like last time, but I think if I do this again, I’ll invest in this special tool to see if it gives me a little more control. I just keep calling this sort of imperfect outcome ‘organic,’ to legitimize all the gloppiness of it.

I love the texture of the drop cloth for these pillows, which will be outdoors much of the time. The cushion covers are simply two squares of the dyed fabric with an invisible zipper in the bottom seam, so they’ll be easy to remove and wash.

pink pillow

I know, I need to paint my rocking chair. It’s an old, cheap one from Wal-Mart that Mr. Heylucy surprised me with one day, years and years ago, so I can’t complain. Painting it is on the to-do list, but it’s at the bottom for now.

Completely unrelated to all this, I made a little rosemary wreath after work the other day, just for fun. I have two giant rosemary bushes in serious need of pruning, so I cut enough sprigs for this project. And you can’t even tell, the bushes are still spilling over the walkway. I could probably make a couple dozen wreaths from those monsters.

rosemary wreath

Here’s a quick how-to, in case you want to make one yourself (it’s super easy and fun!): cut lots and lots of rosemary sprigs. Strip the leaves from the bottom few inches, and bunch three or so together and wrap with floral wire (I have a paddle of very thin, green wire, so it’s easy to wrap). Don’t cut your wire. Gather together another bunch, again striping the leaves from the bottom, and overlap the first bunch, wrapping the two bunches together and continuing down the stems of the second bunch. Keep repeating with new bunches until you have a string of rosemary long enough to shape into a circle. Wrap the last bunch to the first bunch. If you have a lot of wire showing, you can just add more sprigs here and there with short bits of wire to cover it up. And that’s it! Hang up your wreath and admire your handiwork, and marvel that it just took a few minutes to make. If it’s a bit wonky, just call it ‘organic.’

And going back to the porch, here’s a gratuitous picture of Pulley, who likes hanging out there as well.

pulley on the porch

 

 

 

 

making things

My little studio is a disaster area right now. I have too much stuff. So I’m determined to either use what I have or get rid of it. The two quilts made a dent, but there are still four vintage quilt tops and a couple other in-progress quilts. I was happy that my batik project used materials I already had, except for a $3 box of dye that I had to buy. I’ve even done some more batiking (new word, I just made up), which I will share soon.

Then there were two boxes of tiny yogurt bottles I had been saving for years, because: cute! Also, it was delicious yogurt, which Trader Joe’s no longer carries, so sad. They are the perfect size for tea lights and I’ve had this vision of an elaborate chandelier to hang on the porch to be all romantic and stuff. I decided to just whip something up with what I could find laying around. A bit of weathered branch from one of our dead oak trees served as the hanger for all the little jars, which I just strung together with some copper wire. It took all of about fifteen minutes, and viola! I have a chandelier.

tea light chandelier

I’ll be honest, I don’t LOVE it, but it looks pretty magical when it’s all lit up. It’s just a little too rustic, but we’ll just call it Organic, and let it be for now.

lit chandelier

I was, perhaps, too impatient, because then I went and did some Pinterest research, and found some inspiration for some lights that I like better. I have some chicken wire, and lots of scrap wood, so I’m going to think on what I can do with those materials, and maybe some day I’ll disassemble the whole thing and try again.

In other news, I had the best Sunday afternoon nap ever right out there on my little cot. It was cool and breezy and birds were tweeting in the lilacs.

inspired by

I actually pinned something on Pinterest, and then made it, and it might not be quite as pretty as the original, but I really like it. Plus I learned something new and it was really fun.
batik5

I love how this takes a traditional (and beautiful) technique and imagines it a little differently. Also, now I’m in awe of artists that do create traditional batiks.

After sketching out a design I used melted beeswax and a small paint brush to fill it in. I didn’t have much control over where exactly the wax went, but it ended up looking very organic. Since that was the whole idea behind the botanical garland, I think it worked out well

batik1

batik2

It took awhile to paint the whole thing, but it was a nice, meditative process. And then it went into the dye bath. I didn’t get too crazy, and just used a box of Rit dye. I had hoped for it to come out a little darker, but in the end, I like the grey.

batik3

I ironed the fabric between paper towels to remove the wax, although there’s still a little left in there. Since it’s just going to be hanging on the wall, it’s not a big deal.

batik4

Then I just stitched up one side and inserted a piece of scrap wood and braided some cording that I had for hanging it.

batik6

There’s a huge breaker box in my office, and it’s the perfect cover-up. I love that I made something with stuff that I already had, the only thing I bought was that box of dye. I’d like to learn more about dying fabric, though, and do some smaller pieces in bright colors to make into cushion covers for our living room. And there you go, a fun weekend craft project that came out just right!

out of hibernation

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Hello! Spring is here and I’ve been wanting to write and share pictures, but haven’t found a way to make the time. Soon, though! I’ve been taking lots of photos of all the spring flowers and sharing them on Instagram. I’ve been working on some projects, and reading books, and playing with Pixel (and the other dogs, too), and making plans, and working at a new job, so I’ll tell you all about it all very soon, I promise!

have a seat

This project didn’t actually make it to my undone list, because it was so close to being finished that I didn’t think it counted. Plus, I am going to blame the delay on the craft store stencil thieves. Can you believe there are actually people who want to stencils so badly that they are willing to risk jail time? There’s an ugly craft world underbelly out there. These are their stories (insert Law & Order sound effect).

stenciled chair

Bonus shot of Pixel scrounging for food in the background.

I was checking out the Martha Stewart paint aisle at Michael’s recently, and saw her line of stencils. They are much nicer than your typical craft store stencils, and I particularly liked this lace set. I’ve had this chippy chair sitting on the porch forever, and it wasn’t the nice kind of charming vintage chippy, it just looked bad. I had also recently pinned some painted and stenciled chairs, and so all this inspiration came together, and I bought my little stencil set and went happily on my way, blissfully unaware of the stencil drama to come (okay, I may be overstating this a bit, it wasn’t actually very dramatic, just inconvenient, really).

stenciled chair seat

I sanded and sanded my chair, and got a reasonable amount of the paint off. Then I just taped it off and painted a little over half of it with a couple coats of semi-gloss white paint. I eagerly applied the big lace stencil in bright pink and got ready to do the smaller lace stencil when I discovered that my package was missing one of the sheets. Armed with my receipt and incomplete (and now used) stencil package, I went back to Michael’s to exchange it for a complete set. When I went back to the aisle for a replacement I found only one other package of the same stencil pattern, only this time, not one but all three sheets were missing! I want to know how one smuggles a stencil out of the craft store. I wouldn’t think you’d want to fold them up, and these things are pretty big. Plus, they are just not that expensive and you can always get a 40% off coupon. Anyway, the manager was quite nice and called a nearby store for me. They had it in stock and had it sent over for me to pick up the next day. Just don’t be surprised if the stencil aisle now has video cameras monitoring you as you shop, and for goodness sake, check the package before you buy it to make sure they are all there!

stenciled chair with cushion

Back to my chair…I finished with the smaller lace pattern in blue and then sealed the whole thing with a wax finish, so it’s still a little chippy on the unpainted side, but it’s nice an smooth. I totally love it and now I want to stencil everything in sight. I will try to restrain myself.

Cushion is from Pier 1, but I don’t think it’s available any more.

back of stenciled chair

stenciled chair

One project down, seven (or more) to go.

tiny and cute

I have important things to do, but I took a little time here and there over the past few days to make a tiny pink bunny. Because sometimes you just need to do something pointless like that. 

image from www.flickr.com

I can't take much credit for the cuteness, I used a pattern and kit from The Old Pincushion, purchased over a year ago. She has lots of very cute patterns (and the supplies) for various little creatures, I can wholeheartedly recommend her shop.

And now I'm patting myself on the back for actually finishing a project, even though it is quite tiny. 

image from www.flickr.com

Most of the sewing was done by hand. I am not particularly talented with this, or with making small things. It's not something I will probably do very often, but the challenge of it is fun once in a while. 

image from www.flickr.com

I'm quite tempted by the tiny elephant pattern. Perhaps I should order it now, so I can make it next year.

image from www.flickr.com

Do you like hand sewing and making tiny things? 

books books books!

I have a book to give away here on the blog this week, and you can give away 20 books if you hurry! I'll tell you about mine last, because it's not as important or exciting as World Book Night! Have you heard about this? I should have mentioned it sooner, but I signed up at what I thought was the last minute and then didn't think about it again until I got an email the other day that I had been accepted and would get the opportunity to share twenty copies of a favorite book. 

Books

So, what is this World Book Night thing, you may be asking? It started last year in the UK and has expanded to include the US and Ireland this year! It's a charity for the promotion of literacy and reading, which is very dear to my heart. Anyone in these three countries can apply to recieve twenty copies of a favorite book (you choose from a list of 30 very good books-I had to really think about which I wanted to share) to be given away in a location of your choosing-preferably to non-readers, on April 23. I chose Peace Like a River, which is that rare kind of book that stays with you for years and years. Narrated by a young boy whose voice has been compared to Scout Finch or  Huck Finn, it is the story of a family and a tragedy and miracles and goodness. I can't wait to share it!

Go apply right now, the deadline is Monday, February 6th at midnight EST. You don't have to write long essays for each question, just give succinct but thoughtful answers and I think you'll have a good chance at being accepted. At least that's what I did. 

Now for a little blog giveaway. It's been awhile since I've done one, but I just received a copy of the new paperback edition of Creative Quilting with Beads, which I contributed to a few years ago.

image from www.flickr.com

It's got lots of fun projects, and even if you don't want to replicate them exactly, it's good for inspiration for everything from bags to wall hangings to fridge magnets (I think theses are super cute and would make great little brooches). I recently cleaned out my bead stash, so I might even include an assortment of seed beads and a little sewing kit along with the book.   

Quilting

To enter, just leave a comment and tell us about a favorite quilting project or beading project (links to pictures are encouraged!) you've done or dream of doing. I'll leave the comments open until next weekend.