Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday Finish and Fun With Science at the CREHST Museum

Here it is, my "Purple Haze Bento Box" Quilt!  I actually finished it a week early, and hope to drop it off at a local quilt shop for our local lavender festival quilt show.  It's not one of my all time favorite quilts, but I really enjoyed making it, and other than the yard of lavender fabric and a few fat quarters, I used all stash fabric and scraps.  It's 60 by 60 inches, a nice easy size to make!

Here's the back!!  You can see more details in this post.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put the required 4 inch sleeve on the quilt when I sewed the binding on.  I really don't like sleeves, and having to add one after the binding is on, is not going to be too much fun, but I'll do it.  Maybe I can do some really loose hand sewing, then take it off afterwards.  I discovered by accident that the top part of an old sheet makes an excellent sleeve, so maybe I'll dig through some of my vintage sheet fabric left-overs...

I also thought I'd share a quick fun science video I took with boys this week.  We went to a hidden jewel near our town, the CREHST museum.  It's our favorite, and is all about the Hanford Nuclear Test site in nearby Richland, WA.  It also has some natural history and tons of hands-on displays.  The docents there are mostly retired nuclear workers!  How amazing is THAT?!  If you're ever in the area, stop by!  It is hard to find, and very unassuming from the outside, but it's pretty amazing what they pack into this place!
Here's my favorite display.  You put sand grains on a metal plate that's attached to vibrate at frequencies that you control with a dial.  The patterns that emerge are AMAZING!  I really could have stood there for hours!!

I think quilters all really love patterns, of any type or form!!  I hope you all have a great week-end!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tuesday (or Thursday) at the Table, and Postcards!

I'm a bit late for Tuesday at the Table over at A Quilter's Table, but better late than never, right?  This week's theme is desserts.  I'm not much of a dessert person, preferring salty food to sweet, but I do like pies and cookies and make them occasionally.  It's summer though, and not a good time to heat up the kitchen.  During the summer we break out our electric ice cream machine and make up a batch of something every week or 2. 

 It's a fantastic way to use all of that yummy fruit from the farmer's market!  My favorite ice cream is the vanilla "cooked custard" type, but it requires a LOT of work... splitting vanilla beans, heating the custard, tempering the eggs, cooling it all down.  Ugh!  When we want it, and want it now, we simple dump a quart of Greek yogurt into the maker and flip the switch!!  Yum!!

I also thought I'd share the beautiful postcards that came in the mail this week!  The skill of these swappers just astounds me!!  I think over half of us made beach scenes.  Ahhhhh  Perfect, as we haven't been to one in a very long time.  One is from a swapper in Colorado (can you guess which card?).  I sure hope she's coping with those horrible fires. 

My husband works in wild-land fire management, and I suspect he'll be very busy this summer.  He's already been put into the action.  For anyone who's interested, here's a website I check frequently when he's out on a fire.  It has a lot of information on it, and is the most reliable source, but not necessarily the most up to date.

A few other bits of news is that I saw the baby quail yesterday!  I sure wish I had a good telephoto lens on my camera to take some good pictures of them.  They are the cutest little fluff balls that you've ever seen!  I also finished quilting my "Purple Haze" Quilt last night, and just need to sew on some binding!  With any luck, I'll have a "Friday Finish" tomorrow!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

WIP Wed: Purple Haze Bento Box Quilt

I got so much quilting done yesterday, that my "Purple Haze Bento Box" quilt is almost done!!  First of all, I wonder if such a thing exists in real life... a Jimi Hendrix Bento Box?  Ya never know...  I call it that because it's purple and uses "bento box" quilt blocks.  It's also a fabric challenge quilt for a local lavender festival coming up.  I just saw a travel magazine last night that featured "Purple Haze Lavender Farm" in Washington state!  Sweet!

I had SO MUCH FUN quilting this quilt!  I often let the fabric "speak" to me, and that's certainyl what this fabric did LOL.

I easily have a dozen or more different quilting designs in the quilt!  It was fun trying out so many!

I couldn't resist stitching in some lyrics here and there!

The 4 big purple center squares were screaming for some special attention, and I went over many ideas before settling on the Japanese "kanji" work for "purple".  I printed and enlarged one on my paper-piecing paper, and stitched over it, then tore away the paper.  Tracing paper works better, but I don't have any right now.  But I love the way it turned out!
Just 3 more large blocks to sew and I'm done and ready to bind!!

As usual, I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP Wed.  Come see what others are up to!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fabric Tuesday: Wallets, and a Few Sewing Tips

Summer is normally the time when I take a break from sewing, but I did manage to get a few wallets sewn up in the last few weeks.  2 were birthday presents for upcoming family members, one was for me!  I have 4 more partially finished as well.  Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of the gifts...  The tan wallet on the left is my new wallet, the one on the right is the first one I made, several years ago.  I used the pattern below, and it's still one of my favorites.  I have made a few modifications over the years though, including using a double fold binding (like for quilts), instead of a single double fold, as the pattern calls for.
One of the best tips I have to make it (and I use this on my Kindle covers too) is to use a "spacer" behind the thick beginning of the fabric edge when starting to sew.  My old machine had a button you could push to lock the foot at a higher level for instances like this, but my new machine doesn't, and it took me a while to figure this out.  Not the best pictures, but here's what it looks like:
I've used pieces of cardboard as well.  Another tip when finishing an edge like this with a double fold binding is to leave a small "tail" on the beginning and end of the binding, then folding them under like below when starting and finishing.  I've never seen this in any book either.

It's windy, rainy, with temps in the 50's today (where is summer?!), so I hope to get a bit of quilting done today!  I'm also linking up with Quilt Story's "Fabric Tuesday" link party.  Come see what others have made!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

For the birds

I've found 2 Robin nests in our yard this year!  Here's one that's right at eye level!  Whenever mothering gets tough, I just think about how hard it must be to sit on a nest like that in all sorts of weather!!

We also have lots of quail nests hidden in the fields around our house.  Here's a nest we found about a month ago.  There has been a bird on it ever since, but yesterday, I saw this!
I'm hoping to see some baby birds soon!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Checking in and My Most Amusing Trip to the Fabric Store

Yep, I'm still here.  We had the rare (as in hasn't happened in 5+ years) opportunity to get together my husband's siblings and their dad this past week!  We were even all together on Father's Day, which is pretty special.  Come to think of it, we've spent all but one Father's Day with my father-in-law ever since my dad passed away, which has been a saving grace for me.  It was also the first time that all 7 cousins (my boys and nieces and nephews) had been together at the same time.  It was WONDERFUL!  I'm not too crazy about putting kid pictures on my blog, but here's a fun shot I took in Portland, where we all met that exemplifies the "Keep Portland Weird" motto LOL.

After having spent the last few days unpacking and doing piles of laundry, I took advantage of some kid-free time to travel to Walla Walla, WA to the nearest Jo-Anns Fabric stores to use up a gift card that I've had.  While I was there this storm hit.  I happened to have my camera with me, and took a short video.  It was funny how everyone in the store gathered at the window to watch.  Yep, we don't get too many of these torrential storms here (average rainfall is 12-13 inches per year).  That's me saying "wow" at the end :-).
Finally, I also had a $10 gift card at the local quilt store, "Stash" in Walla Walla, and saw, for the first time ever some Japanese "echino" prints that they'd just gotten in this past week!!  They only had a few dozen half yard cuts, but I think I touched each and every one of them!!  I must say that these are better "in person" than I ever thought they would be, even though I've been drooling over them via the Internet for a while now.  No 2 cuts were the same, and it was so hard to chose, but I'm thrilled!  I can't wait to play with them!!
I realized after I got home that 3 white T-shirts that I also bought at JoAnns are 50/50 cotton polyester blend.  I was hoping to tie-dye them with my boys, but now I'm not sure if I can.  Has anyone tried to tie dye with 50/50 blend T-shirts?  Any other ideas of crafty boy things to do with them?  I may just get a pack of RIT dye to use instead of the fancy tie dye kit I have (and save that for another time).  I'd love to get any input!!  Thanks!!

Friday, June 15, 2012

A River Runs Through It

Just thought I'd share a few pictures from a walk I took this morning.  The Umatilla River runs through the heart of Pendleton, Oregon, where we live.

We're lucky to have a nice river-walk trail that follows the entire length of it.  It's a small town, so it's only a few miles long, but it's a nice place to walk or ride bikes.

The city is trying out goats for the first time this year to control weeds and brush and to clean out some overgrown areas along the creek to make it a bit nicer and safer.  I think they're doing a great job, and they're super fun to watch!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

WIP Wed: 2 Quilts Basted, and Garden-In-Progress

After last post, I can't resist showing you our little baby okra plants coming up in our garden.  I think it's so marvelous that the baby okra leaves have the same "hairs" on them that the mature okra pods do.  Awesome!!

Here's our beans coming up.  We had some nasty cold wet weather last week, so we lost a few starts and some seeds didn't germinate either, so we're still planting...  I just used up the last of the 2011 tomatoes and winter squash recently, but haven't bought lettuce from the store in over a month :-).

I also managed to pin baste my "Purple Haze" and "Modern Granny" quilts.  I just counted up my other "WIP's", and I'm down to 5 quilt tops after these are done!  Yea!!

As usual, I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP Wed. Come see what others are working on as well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tuesday at the Table: Fried Okra

The subject this week at "A Quilter's Table Blog" is salads and vegetables.  It took me all of 2 seconds to decide what to post there.  I did a similar post on my old blog, luckily, and had some pictures and the recipe.  Come see what others have brought to the table as well, or bring your favorite recipe and join us!

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I LOVE fried okra. It's my favorite vegetable. I probably could eat it every day. Unfortunately, living in Oregon, I rarely get to eat this treat.  Okra likes really hot weather and a long growing season. That's probably the main reason you don't find it outside of the South. But I have had some success growing it, both in Southern Oregon, and now in the Pendleton area. If you're lucky enough to have it in your grocery store or farmer's market, give this recipe a try.
First of all, you need to select fresh green small pods of okra, as pictured above. Okra is pretty fragile and bruises and browns (and molds) easily. It'll keep up to a week or so refrigerated if fresh. I start by slicing off the stem caps.

I grew up using a paring knife to slice the okra into rounds of about a 1/4 inch, but discovered that using a mandolin slicer makes the job quicker, easier and more uniform. I bought mine for under $20.
Once all the okra has been sliced, I "bread" it with equal parts flour and cornmeal. My mom used to put it all into a paper bag and shake it. I just add it to the bowl and give it a stir. Okra is naturally very sticky, so there's no need to add any eggs or milk to make it stick! I also add a small amount of salt, but you can add this once it's cooking to taste.

Next, I heat up about 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in the skillet. My grandma used to use bacon fat that made it SO good, but I prefer to use canola oil. Over medium heat, fry or saute the okra until it's tender and medium brown. I usually stir it frequently to keep it from burning... every minute or so, and it typically takes me about 15-20 minutes. My kids have learned (from me) the tradition of nibbling the okra as it cooks, so I always make extra for nibbling.
Some people like Tabasco on the okra after it's served, others, a little pepper. I just like it with a little salt, and we all fight over who gets the last bit from the pan, because all the fried breading crumbs that fall off are also yummy! Enjoy!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Purple Haze" Quilt top Done!

Our weather here has been just lousy!  It's been cold, windy and wet, which is not great for the beginning of summer vacation, or for our garden, but it's great sewing weather.  I was able to finish my Lavender challenge quilt, which I'm naming "Purple Haze"!  Who doesn't love Jimmy Hendrix? 

I also got the back of my "Modern Granny" quilt sewn up, and the back started on the Purple Haze Quilt.  If this weather keeps up, I may even get these 2 quilts pin basted and quilted.  I hope your week-end has been much nicer, weather-wise than ours!!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Postcards on Etsy, Trying Something New

I've been having so much fun making postcards, that I decided to try to list a few postcards on Etsy this week, to see what happens!!  I wanted to make one to send to my Father-in-Law for Father's Day, and made up a few extra! Click HERE to see the listing!  I'll let you know how it goes...

I also got these 2 beauties in the mail this week, as part of the "Reproduction Apron Swap"!  Thanks Sheila and Linda!  I LOVE them!! 

When I first saw reproduction fabric in a store, I wasn't too impressed, but it's really grown on me through the years.  I've seen some incredible quilts made from this fabric, and hope to some day make one, but I really have very little of it in my stash right now, so it may be a while before that happens!!

It's also the last day of school for my boys today, so if I become pretty scarce soon, you'll know why.  I hope all of you have a great summer!  I'll try to pop in here as time permits!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WIP Wed: Lavender Challenge

With only a few days left of school, I decided to start one more quilt before my "design wall", which is also our living room floor, becomes too difficult to keep free and clean.

I visited a quilt store in a neighboring town recently and a quilt challenge caught my eye.  Actually, the fabric that is supposed to be the focus fabric caught my eye.  I love purple, I love lavender, I love this fabric!

Oregon holds a state-wide Lavender Festival every July, with events at dozens of lavender farms spread throughout Oregon, including Purple Ridge Lavender Farm in nearby Hermiston, Oregon.  Our local farm joined up with Aunty Ida's Quilt Shop to hold a quilt challenge, to create a quilt of any size using a yard of this fabric.

I've never done a quilt challenge using a focus fabric, so I thought that this would be fun to try, but I passed up all of the very tempting coordinating fabric the store had on display, and used scrap and stash fabric instead.

I've also been wanting to try out a "Bento Block" Quilt for a few years now, and thought using some of my stash Asian fabric would be a fun twist.  I sewed up some boxes first.

Then I cut them up and started rearranging them.
My final decision was to stick with the "traditional" squares put back together.  Now I'm just working on how to arrange these blocks within the quilt.
This certainly has been a challenge for me!!  Wish me luck getting it finished in time for the festival!

As usual, I'm linking up with Lee at Freshly Pieced WIP Wed.  Come see what others are working on!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesday at the Table: Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans

When Debbie, at A Quilter's Table announced that this week she'd focus on beverages and appetizers, I wasn't really sure what I'd write about.  Then I remember a prior post I'd done a few years ago about coffee roasting.  Since moving from Michigan back to Oregon, I haven't roasted any coffee (the glass roasting bin cracked during the move).  But we did get a replacement, and who knows, maybe I'll start roasting again, as coffee prices have really gone up in the last year or so.

I started roasting my own coffee several years ago as a way to save money. I wanted to drink organic fair trade coffee, but the price for such was so expensive. I don't remember where I found out about coffee roasting, but somehow found and decided to buy a small coffee roaster from Sweet Maria's Home Coffee Roasting Company. In Oregon, getting good coffee was never an issue. My kids' earliest memories must include regular trips  through numerous coffee drive-through stands that are scattered through out Southern Oregon.

The world of coffee can be compared to the wine world. There are so many varieties, so many regions, several ways to process the coffee cherry to make the green bean. Each variety and region has it's own flavor and characteristics. It's really an interesting subject.

When we moved to Northern Michigan I came to depend on my coffee roaster to make my own coffee. In small town rural Northern Michigan,  it was hard to find the same quality of coffee I had gotten used to in Oregon. It's so much better, and cheaper. I have control over the coffee, where it comes from, how long I roast it, etc... Sure it's a bit of effort, but well worth it.

And it's not rocket science. You simply put the green beans in the roaster and turn the timer on. You have to know the different roasting levels... As the beans roast, they expand, and "crack". It sounds a bit like pop-corn popping. After the first crack, the beans can be ready to grind into coffee, if you like that style. They'll be light brown. Most people prefer a fuller bodied coffee though and continue the roasting a bit further. If you roast long enough, you'll get to the "second crack" stage. Once again, the beans make their distinctive crack, but this time the oils in the coffee bean are released. This makes it very easy for them to burn. Not good. Once that second crack is done, you need to remove them from the heat and cool them. Then your fresh home-roasted coffee is ready to brew into my favorite beverage... Mmmm coffee....