Saturday, November 15, 2008

8 week Portrait

Baby had its first picture last week. Looks good!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Block Party

All the blocks for my first quilt are finally finished! They're made of five fabrics from Tanya Whelan's Ava Rose collection. I can't get enough of this fabric - nursery bedding perhaps? I like that the pinks are a little more red, and love the robin's egg blue. There are also several greys in the collection, although I didn't pick any of those for this quilt. I do still have to choose a fabric for the backing - maybe grey polka dots?

The quilt instructions advise turning the blocks all different ways to give the quilt a "scrappy" look. I tried that, but prefer having all the blocks lined up.
It's almost finished - now I just have to:
  • sew blocks in each row together
  • sew rows 1 and 2, and 3 and 4 together
  • sew rows 1/2 to rows 3/4
  • cut and sew inner border (pink with white polka dots)
  • cut and sew outer border (white floral)
  • cut fabric for binding (not sure which fabric)
  • order fabric for backing
  • buy batting
  • take front, back, and batting to Virginia (friend from work who knows someone who can do the quilting and possibly the binding)
  • wash and dry
  • nap with finished quilt!

Okay, so maybe I'm not almost finished after all.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Maybe Baby!

We're expecting! A baby. Apparently those Lady Tools are also working. He/she will be here in June.

I started knitting a baby blanket for said baby, inspired by SouleMama's baby blanket. It looks so soft I knew I wanted to use the same yarn - Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton. I chose the bone colorway (I like that word - colorway - although I'm not sure I'm using it correctly). I looked around for an easy pattern, but the Project Linus All Purpose Knitted Afghan pattern that SouleMama used was the "fast and easy" one I needed.

I also discovered that this is the same yarn suggested for Alicia Paulson's Tiramisu Baby Blanket. That one is crocheted, and although I know I could handle the main blanket the edging might be a bit tough for my novice crochet skills. If I have any leftover yarn, I think I'll start it and see how it goes.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fashionably Late

It's a busy time in the garden. My Foxglove finally bloomed - planted her last year and had to wait until this week for the show.
Foxglove, you were so worth the wait. Please fell free to scatter your seeds so I can enjoy these beautiful pink bells for many years to come.

And just when I'm feeling pretty good about my green thumb, my sunflower plant does this:
Sunflower, you suck at life. A squirrel eats one of your blooms and then you just give up. Why can't you be more like Coreopsis?
Elsewhere in the garden, Jackson admired the new rose bed:
I'm digging up a corner of the lawn to make more room for roses. That's "Quietness" and "Aunt Honey", both Buck shrub roses. (You can also see our new rain barrel.) Eventually this entire corner will be a flower bed - probably for more roses and hydrangeas. Aren't hydrangeas the best?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jam Session

I wanted make jam on my day off. Then I found out I would need a bunch of canning equipment I don't want to buy right now (save that for blueberry season). So I decided on freezer jam - totally simple, and I figured there's no way I can screw this up.

Strawberry Freezer Jam
2 cups strawberries, hulled and mashed
1 packet Ball Freezer Jam Pectin
1 1/2 cups sugar

Mix sugar and pectin. Add strawberries and mix 3 minutes. Ladel into 8-oz. jars. Let stand 30 minutes. Refrigerate some (use within 3 weeks) and freeze the rest (use within 1 year).

Easy and delicious - the most time consuming part is washing the strawberries. This is basically the recipe straight from the pectin packet, although it says 2 cups mashed strawberries = 4 1-lb. packages. No way - I actually managed to get 7 1/2 cups from 4 packages, and I ate a few, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Can you hear it? Off in the distance, what is that? It sounds like ... drums? He, he, he...

"Distant Drums" is pretty much perfection right about now. It currently has two of the biggest, most colorful, delicious smelling blooms. When they first started to open, the sweetness was so concentrated they smelled like candy. Mmmmm.....

"Honeysweet", on the other hand, isn't feeling so well. The canes have some pretty bad winter damage and a lot of the leaves are looking a little ragged. I pruned her back pretty hard this week.

It just so happens that this weekend at Great Lakes Roses, Roger Lindley gave a talk on Insect and Disease Control. Swell! So I chopped off a few sickly leaves and headed down, hoping he wouldn't tell me my rose is doomed. Diagnosis = rose slugs. No big whoop.

I managed to exercise a bit of self control this time and didn't come home with any new roses (unlike a few weeks ago, after the Buck Roses talk when "Quietness" and "Aunt Honey" managed to jump into my car). I did spot some new roses to add to my wish list - "Iobelle", another Buck rose, and "Fireglow", a Canadian Parkland (Morden) rose. Dare to dream.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Country Girls

We took a trip to the country yesterday to visit the rose farm:
I could stay here for hours. The smell is incredible.
The farm is closing after this year - the owners are retiring. Everything is for sale - the house, greenhouses, equipment, even the mother plants. This is a "Distant Drums" mother plant:
We wished her a happy Mother's Day and told her how well her baby plant is doing in our garden.
I've reserved a spot in the garden for a new rose. I had my eye on "Prairie Sunrise":
This one was reserved for some other lucky sucker, and unfortunately it was the last one!
I decided on "Earth Song". Here she is with her friends:
I think she'll do quite nicely.

While we were there, we met the nicest group of girls. They've worked at the farm for as long as they can remember and are so sad it's closing. They don't have anywhere else to go, so we offered for them to come live with us and help tend our garden. They happily agreed!
Meet Jo, Billie, Frankie, Sam, and Andi:
Originally uploaded by karmadee
It's raining today so they were hard to photograph. We'll try again tomorrow - they want a nice picture to send to their friends.
The other girls gossiping while Jo gets her picture taken:
They think she wears too much lipstick. I think she's lovely.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Show me a garden that's bursting into life

It's spring cleaning in the garden - time to bust out some Lady Tools and get the beds ready for planting. Look what was hiding under all those leaves:

The hostas look like asparagus right now, and I wonder why they are purple?

Coreopsis, my favorite, looking unusually tidy.

Salvia, peeking through the daffodils.

All my bulbs were planted in 2006. I didn't think they would flower again this year but here they come.

This viola was a surprise - I assumed they were annuals but apparently I was mistaken. So pretty and dainty.

Everything's coming up roses, even the roses. Both Distant Drums and Honeysweet are flush with new growth, bright red bursts of color exploding from the stems. Even the minature rose is coming back, after spending the winter in a box in the garage.

Otis, on patrol.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You Go Gluten-Free Girl

I'm a big fan of Shauna James Ahern. I've been frequenting her blog,
Gluten-Free Girl, for a while now, and am in the midst of reading her book by the same name. I do not have Celiac Disease, however, I really dig her approach to food. Since going full-blown vegetarian nearly 5 years ago, I've encountered some of the same issues as someone living gluten-free. Granted, the consequences of some gelatin or meat broth slipping past my radar aren't nearly as serious someone with Celiac inadvertently consuming gluten. However, for ethical, environmental and health reasons we are committed to avoiding all meat, which means reading labels carefully and knowing where it can hide. Grocery shopping can be tedious and time consuming. Eating out can be tricky (Me: "Is there meat in this soup?" Waiter: "No." Me: "Great! What's the base?" Waiter: "Chicken broth." Argh!!!!!) It's also easy to get in the rut of eating the same things.

So when I started reading Shauna's blog and book, it seemed oddly familiar and rather appealing. Her outlook is refreshing - instead of mourning the loss of forbidden foods, she celebrates the opportunity to experience new and exotic foods and flavors. Her recipes are tantalizing - I can't wait to try
these Arepas, her Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Paprika, and Shauna's Autumn Squash, Red Pepper, and Red Quinoa, to name only a few. There certainly isn't a shortage of flavors in the world, and I'd like to try more of them. I'd also like to learn how to cook with them, to figure out what pairs well together, and to be one of those cooks who knows how a "pinch of this" and a "bit of that" makes everything come alive.

I can also identify with the need for improved labeling on food packaging and better education of restaurant staff regarding diet restrictions. A few weeks ago, after starting Shauna's book, I tried doing my weekly grocery shopping entirely gluten-free, just to see if I could. It was hard, and I made several mistakes. I appreciate now that gluten is nearly ubiquitous in packaged foods, and probably winds up in a far greater variety of foods than meat products. Try buying soy milk without gluten, or try figuring out which cheeses are made with animal rennet and which aren't, and you'll see that in either case, food labels are inadequate to say the least. And if grocery shopping isn't bad enough, ask a waiter whether your sour cream contains gelatin, or whether the mashed potatoes are made with meat broth, and you're likely to be met with blank stares. On a positive note, things seem to be changing, if only slowly. In the mean time, it's all the more reason to DIY.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Get Back On That Horse!

It's been 3 months?!? Surely not. I'm terrible (said in a Charles Barkley voice) at keeping up with this, which is not to say that there hasn't been progress in my Lady Toolings. And by progress I mean lots of big ideas. An update:

Crafts - My first quilt is in the works. I've got the pattern and the fabric, which is now washed and pressed, and waiting. This particular design was listed under the "simple" patterns at the Fig Tree site and I actually understand the directions, so there's hope. I'm also still working on the Pleasant Kitchen Dishtowels - Tuesday and Friday are done (well, the embroidery is done), which is pretty awesome considering I didn't know a backstitch from a tuna fish before starting. The knitting for the large cabled handbag is almost done (great, a knit bag just in time for summer), and ready for finishing. And finally, a top secret project, which I feel safe in revealing seeing as I'm fairly confident no one actually reads this. Inspired by these fabulous lovelies, I'm making an apron as a bridal shower gift for Megan. I decided not to wing it and bought a pattern, which turned out to be insultingly simple. The pieces are cut and ready to whip together. I am making it sound simple in the hopes that it will be so.

House Projects - The stairs are painted. The "guest" bedroom is painted and ready for a "guest". A new couch has been procured, one that (much to the dismay of our canine family members) cannot be used as a fun barge. Tiles for the backsplash have been picked out. (Historically authentic subway tiles are surprisingly thick - a recipe for disaster.) Slow progress on a never ending journey, albeit an enjoyable one.

Cooking - I have been trying many new recipes. Some highlights include: Goat Cheese Enchiladas with Red Mole Sauce and Tres Leches Cake for Tim's birthday. Quinoa Banana Muffins (my very own recipe!). Chickpea Pasta (a disastrous recipe from Real Simple magazine, which I transformed with some modifications of my own and some hints from Apples for Jam into quite a tasty meal). Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies. I am not good at photographing food, and probably look ridiculous trying to do so. I will have to work on this.

Work clothes - still frumpy, still feels like high school.

Kirtland's Warbler - late May or June. I'm coming for you Dendroica kirtlandii.

Dog walking - I've been a miserable failure as a volunteer dog walker lately. It's too cold, I'm working too late, I'm too tired. No more excuses; I will be better.

Working on Weekends - This went well, for a while. I think I went 6 weeks without a single weekend trip to Mega Stupid Ridiculous Building III. However, last week I put in more hours than I have in a long time, including trips to the lab on Saturday and Sunday. It looks like more of the same is in store for the rest of April. On the bright side, help has arrived and (eventually, in theory) this should ease the load. Also, things are going pretty well on the work front, which always makes for a more enjoyable work day. The pessimist in me, however, fears the arrival of this help will simply double the expectations, in terms of output, which translates into more work for me as I am now responsible for the productivity of said help. Boundaries. Limitations. Delegation. Reasonable expectations. I need to embrace these concepts.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The holidays are over and I'm sad to see them go. My Handmade Pledge went fairly well - I gave and received handmade gifts, including these wonderful earrings from thenoisyplume. Tim's scarf didn't quite get finished in time, but it's done now and ready to go. The Santa Lucia Clothespin Dolls from Posie got done just in time for Santa Lucia Day December 13th, and it looks like lots of folks had fun with these. I also had a blast making the mitten ornaments. I intended to make enough for a garland for myself and ornaments for mom, but only a few were completely finished on time and ended up on her tree:
The rest will have to wait until next year, along with the half-finished sweater ornaments. For the folks at work I made gingerbread boys and girls, which didn't get finished until the wee hours of the morning and left the kitchen quite a mess.

I received Amy Karol's "Bend-the-Rules Sewing" as a gift and am really enjoying it. I also received lots of sewing supplies and stocked up on knitting goodies at the after-Christmas doorbuster at The Woolie Ewe (50% off from 5-8am and man was it packed). My first project of the New Year is a large cabled handbag, and if I can make sense of the directions it may just end up pretty cute. I've had an unfounded fear of cables, but turns out they're actually pretty fun. My studio is pretty well stocked at this point so watch out.

Madeline received perhaps the best handmade gift of them all this year - a Raggedy Ann doll made by Grammy, which she affectionately refers to as "baby".
I suppose in the spirit of the New Year it's time for a few resolutions:

1. Craft more. The past month has been a lot of fun with all the different projects, but it occurs to me that I'd like to be better at sewing and knitting and crocheting and etc. Much better. And so I need practice. I also resolve not to have a bunch of half finished projects all over the place, which is a definite possibility given my track record at home improvements. Which leads me to my next resolution.

2. Catch up on list of home improvement projects. This list includes but is not limited to finishing painting the stairs, painting the guest bedroom, painting the main stairway and back stairway, painting the front deck, shutters and garage door, replacing the lights in the kitchen with this and this, repainting the kitchen and master bedroom, retiling the kitchen backsplash, repaving the driveway and reglazing the bathtub. I think I'll get some help with those last two.

3. Dress better for work. Sometimes it feels like I work at a high school. Not like I'm a teacher at a high school, but like I am actually attending high school. I think dressing a little better would help me feel more like an adult at a respectable place of employment.

4. See a Kirtland's Warbler. This one's been on my resolution list for three years now, and this year it's going to happen.

5. Walk HSHV dogs at least 2 hours a week, every week. I've actually been pretty good about sticking to my 2 hour/week commitment since I started volunteering at HSHV last summer, but sometimes when work gets heavy I let it slide. Those dogs deserve better and I really think it makes a difference. Somebody did it for Otis, and for that I am very grateful.

6. Work less on weekends. Lately I've been working a lot of Saturdays or Sundays, usually both, after putting in a full 40+ hour week. It's a pain in the butt, and driving back and forth seems to eat up my weekends, which makes accomplishing the other resolutions on my list difficult. It also makes me resent my job, which is a drag because I do honestly believe in the value of my job and the work I do. With some careful planning and effort I think I can get away with less weekend time, without sacrificing efficiency or quality of my work.

I think this post has grown long enough. That's what I get for posting less than once a month. Hmmm, #7 - Blog more.