Monday, December 28, 2009

Vanity, thy name is doggie

After my brother retired, he got a dog. Now, he's had a succession of dogs throughout his life, starting with a puppy for his birthday at the age of six. All the other dogs he has had, however, have been regular old outdoor, live in a doghouse dogs, not short furry people with living room access.

Pepper is a striking dog, so named because she's sprinkled with black spots as if well peppered, as my sister-in-law said. Supposedly she is half Australian Shepherd, half Shiba Inu. I will believe the Shiba part, because she has many of the physical characteristics, but she got blue eyes from somewhere else - people eyes, I call them. I think it's disturbing to look a dog in the face when it's got the same color eyes as you do. But, I digress.

Part of Pepper's daily routine is a visit to my mother's house during one of their daily walks, which is just a block from my brother's. She even comes inside the house at Mom's, which I would have never believed in a million years unless I had seen it myself. Mom is not an indoor animal person. She has, however, accepted that three of her "grandchildren" appear to be two cats and a dog, and if I were to visit with my Molly, the cat would be welcomed indoors (who are you and what have you done with my mother? But, I digress again.).

For Christmas Pepper got packages like everyone else in the house - treats and squeaky toys and a very nice light blue rain coat, lined with warm snuggly flannel. I bought this at the Petsmart while surreptitiously eyeing the dogs in the groomer's, trying to find one Pepper-sized to check the fit of the coat. I wasn't sure that my brother would clothe a dog, even though he is very fond of her. But, Christmas afternoon, he suited her up and went for a walk. By the way, Pepper took to the coat like gangbusters and didn't make a whimper of protest. She seemed to really like it.

Up and down the block they went, until my brother turned for home. Pepper would have none of it. Did she want to go to Granny's house? No. Have an off-lead run at the ball field? Not a chance. She lead him down the block, turned the corner and came to a stop in front of the house where one of her playmates lives, a small fluffy white dog who has an array of coats and slickers for inclement weather days.

Pepper stayed rooted to the spot like a statue for quite a while, until my brother coaxed her to go home. We think she wanted to show off her new coat to her doggie pal, as if to say, "See? You're not the only one with a pretty outfit."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blogger is at it again

For some unknown reason Blogger has decided again to stop forwarding comments to my email. Since I've been tied up with Christmas things, I haven't visited my blog a lot recently - just popped in for a quick post; so, since I wasn't getting a heads-up from my email, I didn't see that I had comments and hadn't read many of them until this morning. My apologies for not recognizing and responding to your comments. Be assured that I appreciate and enjoy them.. I have added by email address to Blogger - again - and hope it's fixed for a while.

If anyone else has had the problem of Blogger just up and deciding not to send your comments to your email and you were able to fix it for good, please please tell me how! This is a most exasperating program.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

The aroma of roasting turkey is wafting through the house, there's candied sweet potatoes and dressing baking, and turkey stock is waiting to be turned into turkey gravy. Presents have been opened, heartfelt greetings exchanged by phone to loved ones far away, and an aura of goodwill hovers over the house.

It's all good.

I wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year, especially all the quilters whose work entertains and inspires me throughout the year.

And we've not forgotten the meaning of the holiday. To quote Tiny Tim: "God bless us, every one."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

What am I doing Christmas Eve?

1. Baked cornbread to use tomorrow in the dressing (I use my mother-in-law's cornbread dressing recipe).
2. Baked loaf of crusty bread to use in the dressing.
3. Baked pecan pie.
4. Baked pumpkin pie.
4. Cleaned and readied turkey for roasting.
5. Made turkey broth from neck and giblets.
6. Sauteed celery, carrots and onions for dressing.
7. Cooked sweet potatoes for glazing tomorrow.
8. Passed out cookies to garbage truck guys (schmoozing the public works guys is always a good idea - mailman got his cookies yesterday).
9. Cleaned up kitchen, cleaned up kitchen, cleaned up kitchen......

All this cooking is strictly from scratch, mind you. I still have to make the brine solution for the turkey and brine it this afternoon, and make Christmas Eve dinner. Then there's Christmas morning breakfast and fancy turkey dinner tomorrow. Whew. If anyone needs me, I'll be in the kitchen...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Carolina Christmas (aka Autumn in Tennessee) finished

I've finished the Quiltville mystery. Here's a picture before the borders were added (I know, there's a block oriented wrong! I fixed it.): And here's a close-up of a corner after the pieced borders were added:
2392 pieces. Whew!

Now I'm piecing a backing (like it wasn't enough work) of one hundred 10 1/2" squares of all the blues, golds and neutrals (ran out of orange, but it will be the binding) and used EQ6 to lay out the colors. Much easier than crawling around on the floor! I made the picture of the quilt before borders by tacking it to the closet door frames with push pins. I had to stand at the other end of the room to get the whole quilt in the picture. Now that the border is added, it's too big to photograph, at least inside the house.

I'm very happy with how it turned out, and I like my alternate arrangement. But, one group member did an interesting change to tie the colors of the two blocks together and used blue, green and red in her quilt. I liked it so much that I'm going to make a small quilt half scale. Half scale means the red squares will finish at 1", and the outer border will be 2" wide. It will be small and fiddle-y work, but will be really pretty in a jewel-like kind of way.
Those little red and blue centers really add to the design. If I had seen this before committing to my layout, I might have done this too. Caroline Van Maele of Brussels designed this change and made the quilt that has inspired me to attempt this miniature. Thank you very much for the idea, Caroline!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Carolina Christmas mystery at Quiltville

Well, since all is revealed at Quiltville, I guess I can blog about the new mystery quilt, Carolina Christmas. Since I had just made two Christmas quilts, I chose colors that were more evocative of autumn in Tennessee. There was the star block: And the Fox and Geese block:
Which went together to make this:
My arrangement is different than the one on Quiltville. She made blocks out of four stars or of four Fox and Geese and then alternated these larger blocks in a checkerboard pattern. On mine, the orange was so strong I needed to arrange the star blocks in a pattern that would carry the orange across the face of the quilt, so I did two concentric boxes with lines radiating out to the corners. I like it. A Quiltville chat commenter said it looked like Santa Fe Christmas, but I still think I'll call it "Autumn in Tennessee". It reminds me of the yellow and rusty leaves in the Smoky Mountains in the fall.
I'm making some progress this morning while doing laundry; I've got five rows sewn together (but not joined).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What a crazed week

It's been hard to keep up blogging the past week for all the "life" that's gotten in the way. There's been trips to the dentist and dental work, there's been 400 mile drives to my mom's house and snow, there's been sick husband (cough, cough) and there's been Christmas decorating. In between all that there's been a bit of sewing, but I'm still not caught up on parts 3 and 4 of the Quiltville mystery quilt, and part 5 is already released. This one may have to be shelved until after the holidays, which kills me, but it is what it is.

In the meantime, I've gotten a few Christmas decorations completed. The small lighted trees are on either side of the front door out on the porch and the bigger one is on the sidewalk beside the front steps. My wreath and swag have been hung on the porch and between the garage doors, respectively. I even put a huge red bow on my bench under the oak tree beside the front walk - it looks very festive! This was all done with sustained winds of 22 mph (and gusts of 60) yesterday. I spent more time picking up branches blown out of the oak and maple trees than I did decorating - all the dead stuff gets stuck up in the crown and waits for a good wind to dislodge. Oh, and trying to keep the car cover from blowing off the car parked outside.

Inside, things are not moving as swiftly. All the boxes of decorations are stacked in the dining room but nothing is unpacked except this centerpiece that my brother-in-law and his wife gave us last year. I flanked it with two wooden angels my father-in-law made and left the blue and white candlesticks on the table. The quilt's one I did years ago and just draped on the table to try to make it more Christmass-y.
Yesterday I did transform this:Into this:
That took about four hours. Every year I marvel at how I managed to store all the boxes of porcelain houses and other items in the top of one guest room closet. It's like a Tardis: bigger on the inside than on the outside.

I don't know why I take pictures of the village every year - it never changes!

And, to show you how seriously we take Christmas decoration around here, this is the front of my Subaru:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Letting go of match-y match-y

Part 3 of Carolina Christmas is posted and I'm cutting out patches this morning - 192 blue rectangles and 592 (yes!) neutral squares. I may have to supplement my yardage to have enough neutrals, but that's not a problem. There's a lot more that will work with my initial selections. The thing is, I need to loosen up with the blue rectangles.

I had selected 13 blue fabrics, all various intensities of blue/green. I spread them out this morning and realized something.

I may be able to do scrappy but I'm still too hung up on match-y.

Seen all together like that, there wasn't enough difference between the fabrics. In the interest of cohesion, I had lost variety. Interesting.

So I went into my stash and started pulling more blues, this time looking more for coordination than similarity. In doing this, I incorporated more lights and more darks than I had before. I've got half the rectangles cut and stacked together and I'm liking how it looks. The golds and golden tans in the blocks already made are similar in saturation and tone but vary in pattern. The blue is going to give this quilt its spark, so I better start picking spark-y blues. Here's what I came up with:
Oh, and here's the 592 neutral squares (out of 22 different fabrics):Comfort zone here, me over there. It's a start.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Layer Cake Basket Quilt

First, before I say anything else - man, is it actually December 1st? Wow. OK, now down to business!

This is a not very good picture of the basket quilt I was making between steps of the Quiltville mystery to occupy my time. So much for that plan! It's almost done and part 3 of the mystery isn't posted yet! This quilt is ready to have its edges trimmed and borders applied. I generally don't like quilt patterns where you trim the edges straight after you assemble the center, but this time I did as they said. The edge will be trimmed through the corners of the end squares, making triangles where they join the first narrow border, which will be red. The wider outer border will be the brown paisley in the sashing. That fabric is on the way in the mails somewhere.

I even liked making the sashing scrappy. I started to wait for the fabric on order, but after I auditioned the different brown pieces in amongst the brown paisley, I liked the carefree quality of the look.

This quilt used 35 pieces of a 42 piece Moda Layer Cake and a matching fat quarter. The remaining 7 pieces and two more fat quarters will go into the backing somehow (I feel a stripe coming on!). It probably will be one of my now-trademark off-center pieced stripes. They give you such a nice frame for the label and make the back interesting. That's a habit I'm glad I picked up this year.

Now I have to pick a name for this quilt. The fabric collection is called Simple Abundance, and the pattern is called Aunt Lucy's Baskets by the designer, Ari Dolinger. I was thinking of calling it Simple Gifts, because it was pieced over Thanksgiving weekend and reminded me of taking baskets of food to those less fortunate during the holidays.