This was what it looked like this past Saturday in Lawrence. It was glorious. There was no gardening to be done. Too wet out for a walk. The perfect opportunity for a sit in front of the fireplace.
Just as important as seizing the day when the weather is fine, is the opportunity for gazing out the windows, drinking coffee, touching fabrics, dreaming about all the things you could make and planning dinner party menus, when the weather is not so fine.
Later in the day we got out in our flannel lined jeans to explore. The ground is not frozen here and all this cottony fluff was gone by Sunday. No plants were harmed by a momentary covering of white.
It's not everyday you get to see the Bradford pear and Forsythia blossoms covered in white.
Quirky weather. Just one more reason to visit Kansas. Especially on your birthday Dottie. hint hint hint....
Because it snowed on Saturday, and because this yarn is pretty, and because everyone needs another pair of fingerless mitts, I made these over the weekend.
The "lightening fast mittens" are indeed a quick knit. I just adapted the pattern slightly to make mitts instead of mittens.
They are knit on size 13 needles, which is the reason they go so fast.
Before you know it you will be doing the thumb and after that it's just working in the ends.
Colorway of my mitts is "piedras" and I got it and the free pattern at The Yarn Barn in downtown Lawrence. This pattern actually calls for malabrigo Rasta yarn and boy are they pretty with that too.
You don't need to block mitts, but I think everything looks better after blocking.
These are the kind of mitts that I will wear a lot - they are a loose enough knit not to be too hot, go great with a couple of my coats/jackets, and when I don't need a jacket will be perfect with a scarf. My hands do not like to be cold. At all.
This has all happened. And yes, there are some imperfections in the attachment of the binding but nothing I can't live with.
All the different colors and patterns of orange/yellow came together very nicely into a whole.
It works for the front and maybe even better with the back.
There are some sweet spots that I really like, and especially that one square that Pam had pieced together and tucked in the scrap bag for me.
Everytime I walk by and look at it, it makes me very happy. Which is what creating is all about, right?
Thanks Pam! For the bag of scraps, for bringing your quilts to the last several art retreats so I could see them, and for all the inspiration to try my hand at quilting.
The older I get, the more I appreciate good experiences. Simple parts of everyday life. Things like getting up early in the morning and taking a walk at a time when you would normally already be at work. Watching it get light while the birds are chirping away, then noticing as you arrive back home that your little weeping cherry is blooming.
That right there, that is some good stuff.
If you think you might want to know why Arctic nomads eat organ meats and why they can be classified as both "meat" and "fruit and vegetables" , or that aroma and taste matter in a ratio of 50/50 to cats but 70/30 to dogs, you might want to go to the library and check out Gulp by Mary Roach.
Only 2 chapters in, I am finding it quite interesting, and I haven't even gotten to the chapter on flatus (gas) yet, or the one about how to survive being swallowed alive. I am not even kidding one bit about this. Mary Roach is a great science writer. Her approach is to take an ordinary topic and tell us the answers to the questions we have always wondered about but didn't know who to ask. In Gulp she covers the digestive tract. From beginning to end.
The plan was to wait until I was completely finished to tell you about this book but I couldn't. Perfect weekend reading. Packed with tons of well researched interesting tid-bits the person you live with is going to want to know too.
Chris opened a can of salted cashews the other day and since that moment I have been obsessing about these. Haunted, fixated, and troubled would also be proper descriptors.
The extreme close up of the buttery, brown, crispy, melt in your mouth, salty, sweet, chewy, goodness is just to show you what a good idea it is not to skip the part of the recipe that instructs you to line the pan with heavy foil. It's not at all to make you want a bite.
That's what this picture is for.
I took them to work, where they were well received. And where I could not eat more than 2 without embarrassing myself. The recipe is below. This time when I made them I used about 3/4 cup of the white chocolate chips and about a cup and a half of the cashews. I liked them even better that way. OH - and use quick cooking oats, not the old fashioned kind if you can - the old fashioned ones will work, but those rougher fibers tend to get stuck in teeth. Which may interfere with the total enjoyment factor.
1(11 oz) pkg caramels
½ cup evaporated milk
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1cup firmly packed brown sugar
¾ tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1¼cups butter, softened
1½cups white chocolate morsels
1 cup chopped salted cashews
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13x9-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Lightly grease foil. In a microwave-safe medium bowl, microwave caramel bits and evaporated milk on high in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until caramel is melted and smooth (about 2 1/2 minutes total). Set aside. In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly (I used food processor to mix in the butter and after that added in the oats and mixed by hand). Press half of the oat mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle white chocolate morsels and cashews evenly over baked crust. Drizzle with caramel mixture. Sprinkle remaining oat mixture evenly over caramel. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely in pan before removing and cutting into bars.
In the event that something unforeseen happens while the binding is being attached, and this scrap/experimentation quilt never see's the light of day again, here is what it looked like when the quilting phase was completed.
Gosh I love what adding all those quilting lines did to the total effect.
And of course you will need to see the back.
Report on the gripper gloves = A+! They really helped move the bulk of the quilt along easier.
On to that binding now. Then I may or may not do a little bit of hand-stitching, followed by attaching a label, and throwing it in the washer. All the while almost throwing my shoulder out of joint as I pat myself on the back. I am shameless like that. When it comes to a project that is a labor of love.
Sunday, while on a mission to fill 7 bags of yard waste for the 6am Monday morning pick-up, I discovered the bare-root poppies that I planted last year, that never bloomed, have emerged!
While I was out there I did some serious whacking on the rose bush, that has a case of witches broom, but continues to produce lovely fragrant blooms, so I just keep cut off the bad parts and baby it along.
The red sunset maple is starting to do it's thing. A glorious thing.
The lavender decided to stick around for another season. It's been hard establishing a good lavender in my garden for some reason. I have had great plants in previous gardens. Fingers crossed for this one.
Last but not least are the garlic chives Nancy Walrafen gave me 10 years ago that faithfully return each and every year.
Now I am off to liberate the cat mint from the spiky dead growth of last year so the Harvey boys can get a fix, and maybe chop down a few ornamental grasses, if I am feeling energetic, and I can talk Chris into helping.
Just like that, gardening season has begun.
Saturday started with a fresh bag of Sumatra beans and ended with slices of cara-cara orange floating in a perfect cosmo.
In between those things was the discovery of the self-cleaning button on my iron.
Which I used (after googling a video) for the first time - ever! They recommend every two weeks. Say what?
There was also some quilt washing while the sun shown and the wind blew.
A flash back to 1974 and the Howard Air Force Base Catholic church folk choir. I am happy to report I still remember the lyrics to each and every song.
Important mailings were attended to.
I figured out how to change the sole on my walking foot AND attach a seam guide. Marilyn, have I told you how GLAD I am that you told me to get a Bernina? In my mind I think I can do anything with this machine.
And, last but not least, went through 2 full bobbins as progress continues with the quilting.
Oh and we also watched Manchester by the Sea (loved it) and Hell or High Water (liked it).
My idea of a darn fine weekend.
Dear Brother: Happy Birthday. I won't say how many years because we both already know. I hope you get lots of presents just like in this picture that was taken circa 1957 or '58 at our house on Wilder Avenue in Hawaii.
I have no idea who that blonde girl is with you, but she is either taking your presents and you don't care because mom is showing you your birthday cake, OR you were as sweet and generous then as you are now and encouraged her to select one to open and keep. Chris is making a brisket in your honor along with some corn on the cob and I am going to throw together some cole slaw with apples, cilantro, and celery that I saw on the Pioneer Woman this morning. There may or may not be some kind of caramel-cashew-white chocolate-oat squares to go with as well. Because even if you are not here, we are celebrating like you are. I mailed your present to you today. Be watching for it. It's extremely special.
How could I have missed that yesterday (March 2, 2017) was World Book Day? Did I even know there was such a thing as World Book Day? I don't think I did, but happily Oliver Jeffers rectified the situation with this lovely little video on Instagram.
Not being one to let a little thing like being a day late stop me, I pulled down a selection of favorites from my bookshelves this morning.
Books that started me on the path of loving books, books that have shaped my guiding principles, books that have taught me lessons.
One of, if not THE, favorite of all the books I have read. To date.
And all these books that continue to inspire, guide, transform, and of course entertain me.
Franz Kafka said it best, "books are the axe for the frozen sea within us". Happy belated World Book Day. Go forth and read.
Friday I have a date with my walking foot. The one that attaches to my sewing machine. The one that I am going to use to finish quilting my quilt. Because it's just time. It has not a single thing to do with the two new top patterns I want to get started on. Or the next "Sew Together" bag that wants to get made.
I have reviewed books, discussed techniques with friends, watched a class on creative bug, and am still not certain exactly how I should quilt this quilt. So I am going to approach it the same way I approach all other things I am uncertain about in life. I am jumping in. With both feet. Accepting that this is a learning quilt and I am going to experiment on it. I'm pretty sure it will be fun. When I look back on it all.
I did buy myself a pair of these. Who has used them to quilt with? I figure they have to help move the bulk through the machine a bit easier. It sure looks like it on the videos I watched anyway. Let me know if you have used them what you thought.
Have you guys been as inspired by all the images coming out of Quiltcon 2017 as I have been? Lordy Moses. So much talent. I joined the Modern Quilt Guild and have reserved a room at Moss Cottage for Quiltcon 2018 in Pasadena. Go BIG or go home. That's always been my motto. I'm not saying it's good, and I'm not saying it's bad. It's just the way we Moss girls are wired.
Joan came to Lawrence today for our annual visit to the Ladybird Diner. Where we pay our respects to Mrs. Ladybird Diner who is the undeniable queen of pies. It seems only right to set aside one day out of the year to recognize such greatness.
We started with a nice healthy egg salad sandwich topped with a pile of spicy arugula, avocado, and pickled radishes.
And then we moved on to the main course. Cherry for me, coconut cream for Mary Joan. My photo doesn't do justice to the tart deliciousness that is this pie. But don't take my word. Come and try it for yourself.
If you are lucky, when you spill out onto the street, you will be swept up in the gaiety of a Fat Tuesday parade.
Complete with music and marching and beads and smiles and oh it was splendid.
And if all that wasn't enough, as we got back to our cars, Mary Joan - the worlds greatest KU Basketball fan, spotted Frank Mason on the street and took a photo with him. What a nice young man he is.
Sometimes, when you are lucky, happiness catches you and stays with you all day.
The day-to-day life of a palliative care nurse, involves seeing patients who have been critically injured or have a chronic illness they are dying as a result of. When meeting with them (and their families) the most often UN-asked question is "how long do I/they have?". When people don't ask, it's usually because they are afraid, because they think the doctor would tell them if they knew (don't bet on it), or sometimes they just don't want to know.
When I have a meeting where no one asks, I usually bring it up, and find out if they want to know what I think. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Family members often do. If they want to know, and the patient doesn't, we talk outside the room. These conversations always begin with the fact that accurate prognostication is one of the most difficult things we do. It is also accompanied by an explanation that we are likely to be wrong, that we use the best tools we have, and it's important for them to understand that everyone's body shuts down in it's own time.
This week I took care of an 80 year old woman who was imminently dying for 5 days. Each day on our rounds, I could see her children questioning themselves, wondering if they did the right thing. "If she is taking this long to die maybe we gave up on her too soon?" People are surprised that someone can live for days and even weeks without eating or drinking anything at all. But they can. And they do. And it doesn't mean a wrong decision was made, it just means there are things we have no control over.
We do have control over making sure dying people are comfortable, that their family members are supported, that we visit them often even though there is nothing to offer other than support, answering questions, telling them what we are seeing, and providing reassurances that they are doing the right thing. Prolonged dying is a recognized phenomenon in the medical literature. We can't predict which patients may experience it. My hope is that this 400 word tutorial on the topic will help YOU know it happens. Regularly.
We are all in this living and dying thing together. I like to think one day we'll be as comfortable talking about, and supporting each other through dying, in the same way we do the other ordinary moments of life.
When I started listening to In the Woods, I was disappointed that the main character was not Cassie Maddox, the female detective from The Likeness. That was the first book I read (but the second in the series) from the "Dublin Murder Squad" series, by Tana French. However, I quickly warmed up to the new cast that did include Cassie in a prominent role. As well as a few more names you will recognize if you, like me, couldn't wait for the first book to be returned to the library and started with the second.
I am not going to go into great detail describing what the book is about, you can do that by reading the back cover. Suffice it to say I can highly recommend this "who dunnit" that did in fact, keep my guessing up to the very end. I will confess right now that one of my favorite parts of these books has been listening to the Irish accents and the lovely phrasing of the language. I am looking forward, with eager anticipation to finding out more about Detective Frank Mackey, the main character in #3 in the series - Faithful Place. Who also made an appearance in The Likeness. I like being introduced to characters and then being given a chance to get to know them more fully. Good idea. Good writing. Great reading.
In case you were doing something else at 7:15 on Monday night, and happened to miss the sunset. Fear not. Chris was on duty at Tall Tales headquarters and did us all the favor of recording it.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Despite the lack of an ocean for the sun to sink into, we really do have some amazing sunsets around these parts.
On a completely different topic, but sort of related because they are also spectacular, Happy 7th Birthday to the Knuckleheads.
You are so lucky you are not here right now because I would be chasing you, catching you, tickling you, and kissing you. Alot. Which I know would totally gross you out.
Progress has been slow on the Shine scarf by Janina Kallio. Frequent interruptions tend to do that. You may recall that this was the scarf I was going to take with me to Stockholm last summer.
Another scarf (by the same designer) for a friend who was going to Denmark, cut in front of this one in line. That was interruption #1. Below is what it's going to look like once completed, for those having trouble trying to visualize exactly what that pile is going to turn in to.
I also took a wrong turn about halfway in and had to rip out a lot. That was interruption #2. When I laid it out on the table the other day, and took stock of the situation, I knew I was in trouble.
With only a little yarn left, no matter how hard I tied to fool myself into thinking otherwise, there was not going to be enough.
So I did what any self-respecting knitter would do, and ordered another skein of yarn.
Then took it off the needles, went back to the place where I had started to skip rows because I knew it was going to be close, and picked up from there.
Now I am happily knitting away again, as I wait for my yarn, because as Angie would say "anything worth doing is worth doing right". That's what she used to tell my sister anyway. But that's another story, for another time.
P.S. My favorite knitting teacher, Mary, is the one who first told me about Janina Kallio. Prepare to be delighted by her designs.
Today, while investigating what was coming up in the garden. I discovered that a garden gazing ball is a most excellent reflecting surface for a self portrait.
I am especially fond of the Popeye bicep effect created by the ripple in the glass.
The crocus, alium, and tulips poking through the grass signal that Spring is on the way. I am equal parts delighted and fatigued by that. It might have something to do with all those leaves needing to be attended to. That chore can wait though. Right now I have more experimenting to do with the camera and the gazing ball, who knows what other special effects I will discover.
My normal "cure-all" for things that are not going to kill me and do not include a high fever or altered level of consciousness (nurse speak for confusion), is extra rest, lots of fluids, regular doses of ibuprofen, ginger ale if nausea is involved, and hot tea if symptom include cough/sore throat/cold.
Today tulips were added to the list when they were spotted at the grocery store.
Because though the lemon/ginger hot tea was working for me, it didn't seem like enough.
Tulips are good for whatever ails you. You can't help but feel better when you look at them. The spring-like table runner didn't hurt either in my estimation. But only with the pink jar of tulips on top of it. On it's own, it didn't have the same effect.
I realize that 3 posts in a two week time frame about a sewing project may seem over the top. But now that the big reveal of the finished product is here, I think you will agree that all 3 are completely warranted.
If it's not the cutest darn thing you have ever seen please feel free to let me know. As long as you provide photographic evidence of the thing that is cuter.
Here are some of the ones "completed" in class today.
I adore the orange and blue combo that Laura chose for her color scheme. Not to mention the embellishment she did on the outside. How fabulous is that beadwork and stitching?
Johanna's bag with that sweet fabric with little girls in dresses was just plain darling.
Kathy had this partially constructed sample available so we could visualize each step along the way. So helpful.
I love her use of all the polka dots, and that Kaffe Fasset binding is to die for.
This was one of the best classes I have ever taken. Extremely helpful instructor and a great classroom space with excellent tables and lighting.
I learned some skills that will come in handy in future projects and there is a finished product I love so much I am going to take it to bed with me tonight. In case I wake up and need to look at it again.
If this project doesn't make you want to sew, nothing will.
P.S. Thanks to the folks at Sarah's Fabrics in downtown Lawrence for the great experience.
There has been previous discussion on this blog about the significance of the thimble token in monopoly - as in this post right here.
But today when Chris pointed out to me that Hasbro announced they are getting rid of the thimble I decided the issue must be re-visited. The thimble! Angie's favorite token. The one that none of us ever went for because we knew that one was mom's. Apparently it was the bottom ranked of all the tokens. Oh bite your tongue AND blasphemy.
Angie Moss would start a letter writing campaign if she was here. She would go door to door and get the signature of every resident in the greater Kansas City metropolitan area. And if that wasn't enough she would move on to St. Louis and all points north, south, east, and west from there.
P.S. The scene above is from the famous, never to be repeated, washington cherry martini - monopoly playing marathon. I kept mixing them up and brother kept drinking them. Oh we laughed ourselves silly that day. If memory serves correctly Angie won that game. And we all needed naps afterwards. And mom had the thimble, I had the dog, brother was the race car, and I think Dottie had the hat.
While I was shopping at Sarah's Fabrics in downtown Lawrence a month or so ago, I happened upon a colorful, fabulous, eye-popping, little bag. Just sitting on the counter. Waiting for me. I showed it to my friend Ann and we discussed how amazing it was. How we could hold our double-point needles in it. How we had lots of other projects going on. Then we walked away.
Until several weeks later, when Ann told me she felt the reason I had shown it to her to begin with, was so she could make sure we signed up for the class. Which I didn't. But we did. What follows is my progress to date.
If it looks a bit confusing, it's because it is. But it isn't. With a teacher around to help you. Even so, I was the first (but not the last) person in class to pull out a seam ripper. I began the project by labeling all the fabric with exactly what needed to be cut from each piece.
Then I ironed it all out. Just to be sure my cutting dimensions were as close to perfect as they could be. I wish I could take credit for the way all these fabrics go so well together, but they had a kit put together at the store. I loved what they had selected, and saw no need to try and figure anything different out. For my first bag that is. There will be more.
There has been lots of pinning to be sure things fit nice and snug into their appointed spots.
So far so good. I am all caught up and ready for class #2 this coming Saturday.
If you want to make one - here is link to the pattern, or better yet, go to your local fabric/quilt store and see if they have the pattern and a class. And if they don't, ask them to do one. And get all your friends to sign up. Like I did.
Today, while preparing vegetables for the week, putting conversation hearts in the little special bowl from great Aunt Alice, and toasting/chopping hazelnuts, Chris provided non-stop entertainment by reading "The Funniest Slang Term from Every State". I had to interrupt him halfway through and tell him "all right already, what about the term from Kansas?" To which he replied "I'm getting there, hold your horses". Which, by the way, was not identified as the slang term from any state.
After a thorough rundown of the terms from Nebraska, North Dakota, and Missouri, he was finally ready to read the term from Kansas.
Me: born ready.
Chris: the term from Kansas is ... "shucky darn, an exclamation of awe, wonder, or frustration"
To which I replied ... "huh? You've go to be kidding me". I have never actually heard that term come out of the mouth of anyone, except maybe in an old episode of Andy Griffith, which would make it the slang term for North Carolina. If memory serves me correctly.
I know a four letter word that starts with F this is definitely used more often than shucky darn to express awe, wonder, frustration, joy, sadness, irritation, jubilation, rage, happiness, and many more states of emotion that are far to numerous to cover here. But no none asked for my input when they were putting the list together. Clearly.
Other Sunday business involved trying to decide between a gin and tonic with grapefruit and St. Germaine or a classic gin and tonic with lime.
I decided on a classic gin and tonic with a splash of St. Germaine. Anything can be improved with a splash of St. Germaine.
Just another typical Sunday at Tall Tales Headquarters. Oh, If you want to read the slang term from your state, you can do so here. Do let us know if you use it regularly.
These are not only finished, they have all been used, washed, folded and are everything they were meant to be. And more. That thing about the cowboy hat cake though... that was a tall tale and won't be happening. I am taking the head chef out for dinner and dessert on his big day.
I should be finishing this. It is pinned and rolled and ready for the quilting to begin.
But before I do that, I am doing this. Beginning just one more small project.
A small project that involves 7 fabrics, 2 kinds of interfacing, and 4 zippers.
Plus 5 colors of thread and very precise instructions. Exact cutting measurements like eight and 3/4 inches by 9 and 3/4 inches. Oh dear. I hope my zippers zip and my interfacings line up. One can never be too sure when there is math and scissors involved in a project.
Chris got home in time to enjoy the last bits of sun today, when it got up all the way up to 70 degrees. I can't begin to tell you what a treat it was to walk out of work and feel a balmy breeze instead of a biting wind on my face. Ahhhhh. My shoulders relaxed instead of all hunched up to my ears.
While he was taking these pictures, I was at the liquor store, checking out the new wine app (Vivino) someone told me about. You snap a photo of the label and see what other people have to say about it.
You can see I was quite productive. In my defense, it is Friday night, I got all caught up in the reviews, Chris's birthday is Saturday, and Valentines day is next week. Plus the most expensive bottle was $26.00. That's 5 good reasons to buy 6 bottles of wine. I know you are following my logic on this.
Happy Friday night, or Saturday morning, or any other time it is where and when you are reading this.
This morning when I came into work, my eyes flashed to this headline "We didn't save his life, but we didn't disrespect him either". A good read from the Washington Post. Link below in case you are interested in this sort of thing. If you aren't now, trust me, there will come a time.
The last book I read by Ann Patchett was State of Wonder. It was the sort of book I will be able to remember particular details about years from now. That means it was different and kept my interest. Below is her latest book, Commonwealth. I feel pretty much the same way about it, even though the 2 books are absolutely nothing alike. Except that they both are well written, and involve characters in situations that I would never be able to come up with, if I was writing a book, which I am not.
Luckily Ann Patchett has the kind of mind that does think up stuff like this. Combined with the skill to spin it together and lay it out in a nice package for the rest of us to enjoy. Highly recommended. Someone named it one of the best books of 2016. I concur.
If you have read other Ann Patchett novels, tell me, which one should I get next?
While out on an adventure walk recently, my eyes were drawn to the shadows. Big shadows, stark shadows, soft shadows, faint shadows.
There were also bottles, round porches, and peeling trees.
Oh, and this super cool gate on the house with the round porch. I saw plenty of things to like as I strolled, taking advantage of this sunny day in February.
I'm pretty sure someone in this window was looking back at me as I snapped this shot. I waved. Crossing my fingers that the window would fly open and an invitation to come up would flutter down to me. I wish they would have a tour of the top floors of houses in old west Lawrence. A tour for one I mean. Just for me. I need to look out these interesting windows and see what my town looks like from up there.
Tomorrow morning at 8am the palliative care nurses are having a strategic planning meeting. I don't know about you, but if I am going to think strategically, I need treats.
With this in mind, and determined to set the proper mood for the meeting, I decided to whip up a honey glazed grapefruit cake.
Ninety minutes after starting the process, and after the usual pre flip-out prayer was uttered to the cake goddesses, I was almost there.
The final step was brushing it with a honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla glaze. I hope it tastes as good as it looks.
When I was done, I was left with 2 big naked grapefruits. So I did what anyone else would have done. I made my version of the Name-dropper. A delicious drink I had last month at The Oliver on the plaza in Kansas City. I had no Combier grapefruit and no fever tree elderflower tonic, but that didn't stop me. I used Gin, tonic water, 2 big fat slices of grapefruit, and a splash of St. Germaine (elderflower liqueur).
Despite the tonic water being flat, I enjoyed it immensely, and when it was done I headed straight to the store for more tonic water. There is still one and a half grapefruits to go. With no skins on them they are only going to last so long. I am generally only an occasional gin drinker, but last summer I had a Gin Spin and now this. Maybe my taste in drinks is becoming more refined, just like me. Not.
Do you think there is an age cut-off for a boy to like cowboy napkins?
I'm wondering because I have an idea.
An idea that involves cowboy napkins for a birthday present.
For a boy that might be getting close to retirement age.
I saw this fabric collection and could not resist. They seem like the perfect post-winter, pre-spring, birthday-celebration, 3 occasion napkin to me. I have already ordered a pan to make a cowboy hat cake. I'm pretty sure that's going to be a BIG hit.
In the event that you have not yet put Joshua Tree on your list of places to visit (preferably while you can still scramble around a little), I provide today a few more visuals to try and convince you.
It's a wondrous place. Morning, noon, and night. When you visit, get a place with a good spot for sitting out at night to gaze up at the stars. The night sky in Joshua Tree is special. It's soft, dark, velvety. Just the opposite of the landscape during the daytime.
This is what my unpacked knitting retreat bag looked like.
Before I left, I made a list of things I would like to accomplish while I was there. Stuff like "finish gray Janina Kallio Shine scarf" - which I did not accomplish though I did get a lot of work done on it. Then there was that black Jo Sharp, Aran Tweed wool/silk/cashmere blend that has been going to be a vest or a sweater for 8 years - I was supposed to start something with it. Which I did. Check.
I had started that green sock yarn a few months back, but it felt like they were going to be too big, so after consultation with my pals I ripped them out and started over on smaller needles. They now feel like the proper size. That skein of brown/blue/purple/fuchsia has been in my stash forever. It was spotted at a local yarn store in Iowa City 7 years ago and bought for a specific purpose. That someone may recall, but not me. At retreat it started to become a triangle cowl thing. Sure to be a fashion sensation.
That blue (Harmony Brook colorway) is Mountain Colors fingering weight that is going to become a summer/spring weight scarf. The brown (Harmony Softrock colorway) was purchased by Mary Joan. She have me half and we are each going to make a pair of fingerless mitts with it and see what we come up with.
These mini skeins above (also Mountain Colors handpainted yarn) are a kit I bought to make a scarf that was shown in a trunk show at the retreat. I knew it would be bought the minute that scarf walked by my table. I would like to report I did not push anyone down in order to be first in line to buy it.
This last photo is something extra special. It is hand dyed, hand spun, yarn created by my friend Lauren. Oh, oh, and OH! I thought I might cry when she gave it to me. I held it to my chest and tried to think of how to convey how honored I felt to receive it. I stammered a lot. It's a treasure and much thought will go into what it's going to be.
More to come on all these projects. As always, don't hold your breath.
This past weekend I attended the annual knitting retreat put on by The Studio in Kansas City. January is the perfect time for a knitting retreat. Cozy fires. Bulky sweaters. Cowls. Mitts. You get the idea. It's also time to see familiar faces, old friends from the past 7 (or is it 8?) knitting retreats.
Time to see what everyone is wearing that they made in the last year. Then we reach out to touch, get the name of the pattern, and ooh and ahh over how beautiful it is. That's what knitters do at retreats.
There is also time for walking the labyrinth, taking a nature hike in the woods, sitting in the comfortable chairs at the coffee shop, and discovering that Paula, the barista, is as big of a Carole King fan as you are when you spontaneously break into a loud and rousing rendition of "You've Got a Friend" and she joins in at just the right time.
Knitting retreat is a time for deep discussions about yarns and why some are clearly better for certain types of knits because of the inherent nature of the fiber. You can also make unexpected discoveries. This year, for example, I learned that I prefer to drink Irish Cream Liqueur straight up rather than in coffee which I thought was my favorite way. Only on it's own, can the creamy, smooth, consistency be fully appreciated. How did I not know this before?
Lastly, these retreats are the perfect time to sit around and knit with friends. You can take classes, work on projects in process, or start something new. Just because I can not knit as skillfully as Lauren, is no reason I can not fully appreciate how beautiful her work is and continue to dream that maybe one day I will. Just as with any creative endeavor, a group is best when it has people we can learn from and people we can teach.
The bias binding for my quilt is made! It is completely amazing how much two and a half inch wide bias binding you can make with a relatively small amount of material. When I made the binding for my last quilt, I remember doing it this way, but I don't recall learning that the reason you cut it on the bias is so the cloth will stretch better. It takes me a few times doing the same thing to fully appreciate all the intricacies of a technique.
I measured and sliced and pinned and sewed (and only ripped out one piece twice because I didn't sew right sides together) and ironed open about 310 inches. Give or take an inch.
Now I am ready to sew the binding on the quilt. Just as soon as I figure out exactly what pattern to use for the quilting. Lines, circles, diagonals, crosses. Oh, how to choose? There is sure to be a combination of methods. I am on a path of quilting discovery and I intend to leave no stone unturned.
Maybe I will use these scraps to sew up some kind of a pillow to throw on the bed that will be covered with the quilt that is bound with this wacky orange bias binding. Don't say it. I know I am out of control.
Before I head out this weekend to my annual knitting retreat, I thought I would give you one last look at Winter Art retreat #5. Where, in addition to an amazing national park, a great breakfast spot, a farmers market, and the perfect house for an art retreat... they also happened to have this.
This cluster, or maybe vortex?, of super charged creativity that pulled us like a magnet to investigate. Sister met the Art Queen when she was last in Joshua Tree. We didn't actually get to meet her on this trip. But we met her "stuff". And the workings of some of her pals. I think there are pals. Maybe it's all her. All I can say is it was definitely all me. As in right up my alley.
There is nothing better than stumbling upon a cache of unrestrained, full force, in your face (but not really), joyful creativity. Ooooooh Eeeee. This was fun. Don't miss it if you go. No directions needed.
The draft stopper got finished this week.
This is a great knitting project for several (plus 2) reasons:
1. You can use up left over yarn
2. Almost everyone has a spot in their house with a draft
3. This is good TV watching knitting
4. It looks way better than a towel in front of the door (I submit evidence below)
In other news, it was pie day this week. We didn't know it, but subconsciously we must have sensed it. We both wanted coconut cream pie so Chris made one. The easy kind. Using box pudding and canned whipped cream. The Lorna Doone cookie crust elevated it tremendously.
To balance out the creamy sweet buttery deliciousness, I made Brussels sprouts.
Chris said this was complete nonsense and there was no scientific basis for my balancing out premise. Therefore he did not eat any. Which was fine because that meant more for me.
He also said they stunk up the kitchen, to which I made no reply.
I have two very different books to report on in today's post. Du Is Tak? is written and illustrated by Carson Ellis and was named one of the best children's books of last year. I like kid books. I like them a lot.
This one has characters who speak in an imaginary language so each time you read it, it could be different. The illustrations are imaginative and fun. Definitely something to check out from the library. If you have kids/grandkids, you may need to buy it. It would be lots of fun for repeat readings.
The second book, The Burning Room, is a visit with my old friend Harry Bosch, who you will be glad to know is still around, working cold cases, taking care of bad guys, fighting the system, and training a new partner.
It's been awhile since I read/listened to one. I always enjoy the story line, the pace, the characters, and hearing the names of familiar places in Los Angeles where they take place. Highly recommended. Michael Connelly has written 2 more Harry Bosch novels that take place after this one. Which pleases me to no end. I like it when I don't have to call writers up and tell them to "get a move on" because I am ready for a new story.
If you think all I did at art retreat was stare at Joshua tree's and admire cactus gardens, you would be mistaken. Here is evidence of the "art" part of Winter Art Retreat #5. Submitted NOT for your approval but just because. Lets start out with two of my favorites. Me in my pajamas and Pam with her glasses on her head.
Followed by attempt #2 at a Joshua tree followed by Sister and then Pam with a big brush and one color.
After Pam drew our house I felt compelled to have a go at it too. Architectural angles can be so confusing.
All this to show you that ANYONE can have a screaming good time at an art retreat no matter their abilities. Not that I don't happen to love each and every masterpiece rendered in Joshua tree by moi.
The desert gardens surrounding our house in Joshua Tree were quirky, fun, interesting to explore. So different from the Kansas garden.
Lots of good chairs/swings/benches/hammocks for resting too.
Behind this big cactus pot you can see a trail in the distance, winding around behind a small mountain. Maybe a hill. It felt like a small mountain when I was trying to figure out how to get up it.
I'll just say it was pretty glorious being able to walk out the patio and scramble up a mountain on a hike. Even if I did sit down on my bum unintentionally one time. Or maybe twice.
I am at the phase of adding some neutrals to the scrap bag quilt I am in the process of piecing.
Which kind of has me second guessing how I am putting things together. I find myself moving the rows and squares around and then standing back and squinting to fully evaluate the overall effect.
What I am learning from this totally improvisational effort is that: #1 it's a lot of fun, #2 you don't create a masterpiece on your second quilt, and #3 I am ok with #2. I also like that I am not getting irritated or rushing through. Slow and steady is my pace. It takes a lot of DOING to figure out how quilts go together. At least for me it does. I am greatly enjoying reviewing all these books again too. I bought them a year or so ago but had only skimmed them, looking at the pictures.
This time through I am reading more carefully. Marking pages I will need to come back to for reference. So much good stuff in here.
I am hoping to have enough material for my binding using these scraps from the orange family above, and the backing will come from whatever remains of the neutrals combined with these greens and browns below that I bought many years ago for who knows what.
As I work arranging and re-arranging, I think about Aunt Lois and all the generations of women who have made quilts before me. I feel certain they walked back and forth looking and moving and walking away and coming back to look again. Finally telling themselves they have arrived at just the right configuration... and locking it in. Which I am doing tonight. This weekend - the back! Which I am as excited about as the front.
Seeing a Joshua Tree has been on my list of things to do for about 10 years. My friend Megan Wallace told me about the National Park and I got the idea in my head I needed to see it. So when Sister suggested it as a location for Art Retreat, I jumped on it.
We have been to many National Parks over the years. This one seemed more accessible than many I have visited. All levels of hiking available - and especially for art retreaters who just want to get a few hours in and then head home. AND no long drive to reach the park from the town of Joshua Tree.
Joshua trees sort of look like a cactus, but in fact are a member of the agave family. They are so cool to look at and apparently were named by the Mormons who felt they looked like the prophet Joshua guiding them to the promised land. My source for this information is Mary Ann Moss.
There are also different kinds of cactus and amazing rock formations. Perfect for climbing. If you are into that sort of thing. And your knees will hold up.
When we left the park we stopped at The Crossroads Cafe for breakfast. Interesting people, unique menu items, excellent coffee.
I can recommend the poached eggs accompanied by black beans and grilled polenta topped with feta cheese on the side. Sigh. Then, as if it couldn't get any better, when we walked out, there was a farmers market going on. Complete with cute kids, friendly vendors, beautiful baskets, and a cowboy or two.
After purchasing a few necessary items, we headed back to Art Retreat headquarters, where the collected specimens were laid out for painting and Pam showed me the Christmas quilts she made for her family. Oh. They were special. Pam has a gift for combining colors and patterns in a way that is uniquely her own.
I was so overcome by them I babbled something to Mary Ann about making one for her next year for Christmas. Which I suppose could happen.
Today I am unpacking, making coffee, doing laundry, going to the library, working on my quilt, and downloading photos. Recalling, the last 4 glorious days of Winter Art Retreat #5.
While I was waiting for Sister to get out of school on Thursday I hung out at her house and looked through her stuff. I copied a picture on the back of a journal and then drew the lamp in her living room. In between petting cats of course.
On the way out of town on Friday morning we made a slight detour to Cafe Tropical on Sunset. No trip to LA is complete without a stop for cafe con leche and a slice of cheese and guava pie. It is always the same. Completely delicious. A taste that can not be obtained any place else on the planet.
Then it was time to hit the road.
We drove over mountains and through valleys all the way to Joshua Tree.
This was headquarters for Art Retreat #5. Nestled in the side of a mountain. Surrounded by desert. Security provided by a large dog that patrolled at regular intervals. Leaving tracks that could have been mistaken for a bear. Or a coyote. Or a mountain lion.
There was a large table with a spectacular view of the mountains. A great spot for communal art making, bruschetta eating, singing along with Blue Swede to "hooked on a feeling", discussing the latest Sasquatch alert, and the anarchist political views of Edward Abbey. All the normal stuff you do at an art retreat.
There was also a great hot tub with views of the starry, starry, skies and an outside fire spot for sitting and telling ghost stories (despite protestations by Pam). Like the one about Frank and his brother Joe who got stranded on the side of a country road, and got separated, and ran into a nest of baby squirrels, and were picked up by a giant owl, and ultimately escaped.
It is likely I will be off the grid while at the 5th Annual Winter Art Retreat. We are going to Joshua Tree this year and might get caught up on an 18 hour hike through the desert, or be trapped outside in the hot tub - surrounded by coyotes. Who can say? Below are a few random shots from last year's retreat in Palm Springs.
In addition to making art, hi jinks are high on the list of priorities during our time together. Rambunctious behavior that can lead to all sorts of outcomes. I will do my best to upload to Instagram.
Inside my new art supply suitcase I have packed the following items: 4 sketchbooks of varying sizes and paper weight, 1 everyday journal, 1 mini car/field sketchbook, 9 pens, 1 pencil, 5 paint brushes, 1 water brush for the mini sketchbook, my full watercolor palette, the mini watercolor palette, 4 markers, and paper towels.
If I can't have fun with this, then there simply ain't no fun to be had. The end.
Okay. Listen up. Here is something you gotta make. Because it's easy. It's good. It's relatively healthy. And because it turned me on to a whole new way of liking Brussels sprouts that doesn't involve roasting. Not that there is anything wrong with roasting. No siree Bob there is not.
So you go to the store, buy some Brussels sprouts, and cut them in half after removing the ends. I used about a 2 and a half pound bag. Throw them halved sprouts in the crockpot. Yes. I did say crockpot. Add a bit of olive oil. Not a ton. Just enough to very lightly coat. Salt and pepper of course, and then 1/3 cup of maple syrup. Put on the lid. Turn it on high. Walk away. Two hours later add some dried cranberries. I used 3/4 of a cup. Put the lid back on and leave it for 30 minutes. When you return they will be ready. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving. You choose the amount. These are so good they should be illegal. They are not crispy like roasted. But they don't taste mushy either. Maybe because there is hardly any cooking liquid? Ah-mazing-ly delicious. The combination of the salty feta, tart cranberries, barely sweet essence of maple, and the slightly bitter/grassy flavor of the Brussels sprouts had me over the moon. We served ours with a pork chop. You put these on a plate and you got some fine dining - no matter what you pair them with.
It was not an easy task to narrow down my favorite photos from all of the strolls I took through the Lawrence Farmers Market in 2016. But it was extremely enjoyable looking through each one again; trying to arrange them into a pleasing whole.
My aim was to convey that the Lawrence Kansas Farmers market is more than the flowers, the produce, and the people. It has a spirit that is all it's own. You can touch it as soon as you cross New Hampshire street and begin to mingle, basket on the arm, happy to be here, looking for whatever finds you.