Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Projects

We've been volunteering for Meals on Wheels this summer, delivering lunches to six or seven people on Mondays.  We're enjoying it, not only because it's worthwhile and the people are nice, but because it's a project we can do as a family.  Last week we substituted on Friday for someone who couldn't do their route.  Paul got out of the car to make one of the deliveries and I watched as a white-haired older woman came to her door, saw Paul and greeted him, reached for her food and then reached up to pat Paul's green hair!  It was so sweet.

Being in the car together for an hour gives us some time to talk and on Monday I brought up the idea of putting the TV up on the wall.  It has been sitting on top of the credenza in the TV/Guest room and I suddenly realized how great it would be to hang it on the wall so we could all see it better and our guests could use the top of the credenza for their belongings.  It was one of those ideas whose time had come and within a few hours Ben was busy installing the "full motion" mount on which to hang the television.  


By late afternoon the deed was done!  Isn't Ben amazing?  He worked systematically and calmly and the project was completed without any swearing.  Paul and I helped with some of the lifting and Paul was the one who decided on the correct placement on the wall.  


While this was going on I had my own project, to replace the modem/router supplied by Comcast with our own equipment.  This idea has been floating around our household for months as a possible solution to our Internet problems.   Paul and I agree that our Internet is way too slow and last summer when Ben's brother's family was here and three kids were sucking up wifi for their games and movies and the adults were all surfing the web,  there was a real log jam.  Calls to Comcast got us nowhere; according to them our Internet was fine.  So in the hope of increasing our Internet speed I took on the task of getting our own modem and router installed and getting rid of the equipment supplied by Comcast.  

Oddly enough I managed to pull this off (and with no swearing!) even though it involved talking to Comcast on the phone not once but twice, which is always a challenge.   Paul helped me with the final steps of establishing the network names and passwords and testing the new equipment and it was Ben who got the printer to work again, and by late afternoon we were up and running with noticeably faster wifi.  Hooray!

I've made progress on another project, a paper pieced table runner.  I finished the stars then set them on point, which was a first for me.  I like the result and am now thinking about fabrics for the border. 


I took a pause after finishing the stars to deep clean my studio, moving all the furniture to wipe down all the floors and baseboards and getting rid of the tons of debris, dust, and dirt that accumulate in a sewing studio even when it is vacuumed every week.  Sure felt good to have a clean space with uncluttered surfaces. 



Of course it didn't last long!  Here's those same surfaces this morning, and this is before I've actually done any sewing.



 Well, it is a work room.   Projects do make a mess, at least temporarily, but it's so good to get them done.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

D.I.Y. Cocktail Napkins


A while back I found this cute fabric at a local quilt shop and knew it would be perfect for little cocktail napkins to use this summer.

I only bought a half yard and wanted to make eight napkins, so they were going to be small, just perfect for daintily dabbing your fingers when you're drinking a cocktail and munching on appetizers, or using as a coaster.  We seem to serve a lot of cocktails and munchies around here and I'm always wanting to put out some tiny napkins rather than our big dinner ones.  I hadn't found any I wanted to buy and when I saw this festive fabric I decided to make my own.  (After all, quilters are also sewers, right?  Right. Well, at least when it comes to something simple like napkins!)  


My first experiment was to make them the way I make dinner napkins; with folded under hems and mitered corners.  But this took too much fabric and I wasn't enjoying all that folding, ironing, and careful stitching so I gave it up.  I mean, it's summertime and the living is supposed to be easy!

Browsing around Lord Google for other options, I found this excellent tutorial  showing a way to make reversible napkins involving just sewing and top stitching and none of that tedious folding and pressing work.  It didn't hurt that the site posting the tutorial was named Forever Young Adult.  Yes, that is me!  And then I realized it's actually a site promoting the reading of Young Adult books.  Even better!

I found some cute fabric for the backing and with a little easy sewing soon had some fun napkins to put out at our next gathering.  (The tablecloth is an old one I got from Target years ago.  I've had great luck with Target tablecloths, especially the all cotton ones.) 


The tutorial cut the napkins at six inches, but I made mine a bit bigger, cutting at nine inches so they finished up at eight and half.   The tutorial doesn't mention prewashing and I never prewash my fabric, but I should have and will the next time I make some.  I used 100% cotton which you know will shrink a bit and I was lucky the two fabrics didn't shrink differently in the wash.  But they didn't and were easy to press, and now they are back in the dining room drawers ready for the next cocktail hour. 

These were such fun to make that I'm already thinking of making some more.  Maybe red, white and blue for the various patriotic holidays or some Christmasy ones?  The possibilities  are endless. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Around Here

Around here.....

We had a happy Father's Day weekend, starting with a walk up to Chautauqua Friday night to have a brat and beer while listening in on a concert at the auditorium, and ending with friends over for Korean beef tacos Sunday night.   Loved this photo I caught of Ben and Paul Friday night. 




I submitted this photo for the challenge of this week's photography class.  The subject was "Elements" and after sitting in front of this wood burning grill at Oak the other night for a while, I finally realized I could capture some good images of "fire" for the challenge.  This was taken with an iPhone, which I thought was pretty amazing, and just used a bit of PS editing to crop it and remove a few distractions.  


And if you're wondering what we were doing at the grill; well, we were watching Zach the drillmaster cook our huge Tbone steak!  (Don't gasp; we took half of it home.)


The kitchen update moved a step forward as we finalized the cabinet selection, moving from pure white for the upper cabinets and grey for the bottoms to more of a stain over a "riffed oak" which shows much more of the wood texture.  Seemed a shame just to paint over nice wood, and in the end I liked this finish the best.  Whew!  These expensive decisions are exhausting!  But that's it; I'm not changing my mind again. 


We decided to go ahead and have our new dishwasher installed instead of waiting for the kitchen upgrade and it is so sleek and quiet and does such a great job of producing spotless dishes and pans that we are all quite smitten with it. 



Since the stove hood was in that same order, we had it installed also, which adds another upgraded element to the kitchen.



And the carpenters came out for a final planning session about replacing the garden window in the kitchen with a bay window.  That work should start mid-July and be done within a few days.  What a nice change to have a weather-tight and pretty new window in that wall.  Last winter there was often ice on the inside of the window in the mornings!



Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Year Anniversary



It's been a year since we moved to Boulder.  Spikey arrived May 21, 2014, Paul and I arrived June 7th, Ben arrived June 10th and Fetcher joined us on June 16th.   A year later we are still pinching ourselves, not quite believing that we now live in this beautiful place.    


It's hard to write about how fabulous it is here --great scenery, great hiking, great restaurants, great neighborhood, great neighbors.  Great, great, great.  It must get tiresome to read about how wonderful Boulder is if you aren't here yourself to enjoy it.  So.......just for a change of pace, I'll share three not so wonderful facts about this area so all you non-Bouderites will feel better.

First and foremost, you can't go anywhere here before you find that you are going up!  Hiking, biking, driving your car....sooner or later (and mostly sooner) you'll find that you are going up.  Now this is great if you love "up" as most folks around here seem to.  But for some of us, up is not so good and down is great.   Well, here's what I've learned this year.  Everyone breathes hard going up; being short of breath is not a sign of weakness but just a fact of life when you are climbing a hill or mountain.  And when there is up, there is a down right around the corner.  The old adage "What goes up must come down" is still generally true!

Second, Boulder has some weird traffic control practices.  In general, traffic lights turn yellow only for a few seconds.  The lights are green and then suddenly they turn yellow and then, boom, they are red and you're still going through them.  Also weird is how little the road signs are.  If you are traveling along Foothills Parkway, for instance, a major north-south connector, and you are looking to turn on Baseline, the sign for Baseline will be very small.  You can't read it until you are right up to it, which greatly increases your stress level, let me tell you.   And when you get to a light with a left turn signal, well! you may never see that left turn signal actually turn on.  Often the signals are set to only turn on at the busier times.  So you may sit there waiting and waiting to turn left only to realize the silly signal just isn't going to turn on for you.   And don't get me going about having to have eyes in the back of your head so you can spot all the walkers, bikers, scooters, and skateboarders that share many of the roads with the cars. 

Third, the city government seems to have the goal of eliminating or at least greatly decreasing the number of cars on the city streets.  Many efforts are made to promote bike riding and public transportation and to make driving less pleasant.  For instance, I've been told that in an effort to promote the use of smaller cars the City Council decided to make the spaces in the city parking lots less wide.  When I heard about this I actually laughed, but I'm not laughing any more as I squeeze my little VW Gulf into a narrow space in a city lot.  The most recent action to decrease car use is "right sizing" three major city streets, eliminating one vehicle lane so the width of the bike lane is increased.   So Iris, a major East-West route, is going to be restriped from two vehicle lanes each way down to one and the bike lanes widened by a few feet.   Should be fun!

I hate to rat on my new city, but maybe hearing some of the not-so-great things about living here will keep you from being jealous of the heaven we now live in.  After all, this is a happy blog and I want all my readers to feel good that they have stopped by for a visit.



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Rock Gardens

If you were very observant you would have noticed in the last blog post that three big boulders have appeared in our side yard that faces College Avenue.  We are quite smitten by them.

We are in the land of rocks.  Almost every house has at least one or more big boulders nestled somewhere in the garden.  Rock gardens abound in these parts and I love them.  

Our yard has many smaller rocks, but no big ones.  As we walked around the neighborhood and looked at everyone's rock gardens we had big rock envy.  We thought about buying some and putting them in the front yard but having big boulders delivered to your home is an expensive proposition.

Then one day we were out walking and stopped to chat with James, a neighbor around the corner who moved in about the same time we did.  We had met him and his wife, Harriot, at their garage sale and subsequently had dinner and so we stopped to chat.  James was ripping up his yard, killing the grass so he could xeriscape (drought-proof) his yard and putting in a new sidewalk so Harriot's musician friends could safely carry their big cellos and other instruments up to the house for rehearsals during the winter.  James told us he needed to get rid of three big boulders in his front yard and we said "We'll take them!'  

I emailed an acquaintance who is a local landscaper to ask who could move boulders, and she put me on to Macario, who appeared last week with a big front loader carrying the first of the three boulders from James' yard.      




Macario not only transported the three boulders from James' house to ours, he artistically placed them in under our big picture window on College Avenue. 



The plan is to make a nice curved line marking the change from grass to mulch/rock garden, and then plant sun-loving rock garden plants around the boulders.  Iris, Jacob's Ladder, Poppies -- it should be very colorful and pretty--with a big smoke bush to hide the electric meter.   Check back in five years; it should look great.


In other parts of the yard we have been gardening like crazy, ripping out tons of overgrown perennials so we can plant some orderly gardens.   Here's  the newly planted little rock garden at the end of the patio, after we pulled out almost all the Forget-Me-Nots which had taken over and uncovering several beautiful medium sized river rocks.    



Paul helped me with that particular garden project, digging up Forget-Me-Nots, levering up the river rocks and moving them to new spots.   Thanks, Paul!  And, of course, Ben helps not only by digging but by bringing home bags of mulch and dirt which are so useful to have around when you're creating new beds or improving old ones.


Little by little we are tidying things up in the garden.  It feels good to be in control of something, at least for a short amount of time.  And it's so nice to sit in an orderly garden and enjoy the peace it offers.

But we need more rocks!  Small ones to line the garden beds, like you see in the above photo.  This type you can just load up in your car and I think tomorrow we might drive to a local stone yard and do that very thing.   Out here you can never have too many rocks!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Poppies


The poppies are blooming now, bringing a joyful exuberance to our yard.   We didn't have poppies like this back east and we just love them.

 
   The many people who walk and bike by our yard seem to like them, too.  We've gotten a number of compliments on them when we're outside working in the yard.  The man in the blue shirt just stopped to tell us how amazingly tall our poppies are this year.


Indeed they are!  All this rain we've had has made plants go wild.   Everything seems to be on steroids. 


The size of the blooms are huge. 


A small stand of white poppies has appeared this year.  I'm pretty sure we didn't have any white ones last year and I really like them.


Actually, I have plans to whack back some of these exuberant poppies after they stop blooming since they are beginning to take over.   But for the moment they are stealing the show and deserve their day in the sun.  And we are more than willing to give it to them!







Sunday, June 7, 2015

Finished!

I'm so excited to finish a wall hanging that I've been working on for the past few months.

When I was cleaning out my studio one day last fall I found some pieces of colorful batik which I had  played with years ago.  I had selected various colors and patterns and used free form curved piecing to create sections of new fabric.  Here's a photo of the sections of strips I found that day put up on the design wall.



I had stamped the surface of some of the pink batik adding more interest to those solid areas.   And then I got distracted or ran out of time or something (it's always something) and put the work aside for several years.  When I ran into it again after moving here the cheerful colors and patterns made me smile!


So I got busy and figured out how to lay out the sections, added a few strips, did some more stamping and sewed up one big piece which I then trimmed up to a size I liked, which turned out to be 24"x28".


I decided that the large green strips needed something to liven then up and having recently discovered the "Stupendous Stitching" work of Carol Ann Waugh decided to add couched yarns of various weights and textures to these areas. 


That was so much fun that I decided to use more of Carol Ann's techniques and added quite a bit of decorative machine stitching and hand stitching to the surface.  The "slow stitching" of the sewing in stitches of hand-dyed Pearle cotton and other heavy colorful threads was so soothing and addicting and fun that I was truly sorry when I decided the piece had enough surface texture. 





But I had to stop since the piece was telling me that it was done and I should move on.  So I trimmed it up one more time, decided which way the piece should hang (I flipped it upside down in the end) and bound the edges with an "artist's facing" (tutorial available here).  

Here's how it looks now, all ready to show at my quilt guild's monthly meeting on Tuesday night. 


I need to take some better photographs since I'm not able capture the colors perfectly with the lights in my studio or shoot it so the edges don't look wavy (they're not!)  Luckily there's a professional photographer just a few doors down the street and I bet I can arrange to use her set up to get some really good shots.

And I have to make a label, but I can't do that until I decide what to call it.  Any ideas?  Luckily I don't need to have the label done for another few months since the guild quilt show isn't until October.  For now I'm considering "Exuberance" or "Happy" since those are feelings I have whenever I've worked with the colors, curves, and texture.  

Somewhere in the middle of this process I finished another quilted piece I started at a workshop offered by Carol Ann Waugh which used her "Stich and Slash" technique.  I didn't enjoy this process very much but I liked what I started enough to finish it up.  The little quilt is glued to a piece of black foam core which is in glued to an 18x20"  stretcher frame so the whole thing can hang like a painting.  



I like creating original designs like these but it does take a lot of energy, thought, and work.  So as a change I'm now making paper pieced stars for a table runner.  Here's the first one.  After all that original design work it's comforting to just sit and follow the "Sew-Press-Fold-Trim" steps involved in paper piecing!