Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pink Tools and Dragonflies

We have a LOT of tools.  Lee works on cars, so we have car working tools.  We do a lot of our building and repairing, so we have construction-type tools.  We even have a Shopsmith, so we have tools for wood turning and other less common tools.  What we rarely have is tools in the house when I need them.  Oh, I buy them and put them in my tool drawer.  And then we use them and they get put away with all the other tools...way out there...


So I told Lee that I wanted some PINK tools.  PINK so that we would not mistake them for HIS tools.  MY tools.  And guess what?


I got some.  Way more than I had planned on buying for myself.  Great idea, isn't it?

My daughter in England sent me a dragonfly on a stake for Mother's Day.  It took a while to get here.  It is from artists in Haiti, so it is nice for me and good for them, too.  I love the detail. 


I had decided to get some dragonflies for my tribute to my sister, Roz, so this was a perfect gift.  After a day of goofing around with it, I finally figured out how to mush the burrs on the stake to make it a wee bit smaller (PINK pliers) so that I could assemble it.  Then I had to get a hammer to pound the stake into the ground in the garden.  Yay, PINK tools

The cat decided to come out and help.  Roz was visiting our house when we were contacted to come get 4 two week old kittens to foster for the local animal shelter.  She helped me de-flea and feed the wee things.  So it made sense for Rhett, one of the kittens I was unable to return to the shelter despite my agreement with Lee,  to come out to the garden and "help" me.  Do you think she saw him?


Monday, May 28, 2012

False Advertising

When you make a quilt you spend a lot of time finding just the right fabrics and colors.  Then you spend hours cutting out shapes and the sewing said shapes together.  Each time you sew something together you have to make sure all the sides are lined up and that the corners match.

At some point you put the last of the borders on you pieced quilt and think, "Almost done!"  You get kind of excited and want to show people what you have accomplished.  And then comes the realization.  You have not yet begun to sew.  The quilting part of the quilt has yet to be done.

The last quilt I made I used the same thread to quilt it as I had used to sew the pieces together.  I was unhappy with the way the neutral thread showed up on the bright colors.  I really hated how it looked on the back.  So I did it a little differently this time.


The middle of the quilt is very red, so I chose red for the top thread and red for the bobbin thread.  I was going to stitch in arrows or points and I thought it would look good.  I have such a dark fabric, though, that it is hard to see unless you are really looking.


 For the rest of the quilt I have, and will,  use a dark blue thread for the bobbin.  It matches really well and is very hard to see.  I can even mess up and no one will know!

I chose this stencil for the quilting on the borders.  It isn't too elaborate and difficult for a novice and I think it looks nice.  I have to start and stop, however.  There is too much fabric to fit easily under the arm of my machine so I sew one section and then cut the thread and move it back up and start sewing again..  I used a neutral thread on top where I used the orange and green fabric and then switched to blue for the blue points and the borders.

It is so hot and bright in my sewing room.  I finally had to put on the air conditioner.  I can't do anything about the bright part.  There are no window coverings and the sun is at just the right (wrong) angle to blind me and to wash out the pictures.  I guess it is time to quit for the day and tackle the rest of it tomorrow.

 I just have the last borders to do and then the binding. Oh, and the label.  I have to see who and where this quilt is going before I print the label.  I may not be able to give it away.  I really like it so far.  Thank You , Margo!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Walt Longmire Mysteries


I wrote earlier about the Walt Longmire mysteries by Craig Johnson. I read the first one and then loved it so much I went to the county library website an started ordering a couple each week.  I wish I could BUY the books of all the authors I love, but I read over 300 books a year and it is just not possible.  Add that to the wish list for when I am rich and win the lottery.  The ability to go to bookstores and Amazon and buy what ever strikes my fancy.

I used to read Tony Hillerman back when he was writing and I became a fan of C J Box, but Craig Johnson is a new find for me.  He reminds me a bit of those two authors, so if you have read and enjoyed them, then try Mr. Johnson.  That is one of the things I miss about no longer working at the library.  I loved finding just the right book for a patron.  I used to pull books I loved and display them with a quick write up and why someone should give them a try.  It was fun to see those books fly off the shelves and get the positive feedback.

One of the things I like about these mysteries is the humor.  The action scenes are broken up with clever and witty writing.  Here are two parts I loved from Junkyard Dogs.  Speaking about being outside on a winter day in Wyoming, "It was Monday of the second week in February and people talked less because their words were snatched from their mouths and cast to Nebraska." Or when describing a Styrofoam cooler  "one of the cheap ones that you can pick up at any service station in the summer season and then listen to it squeak to the point of homicidal dementia."

Don't you love it?  I want to invite him to dinner!  And may I say that one of my fantasies of opening a B&B is that writers I love will show up and I can meet them and talk about books over coffee.  I know it won't happen, but I can fantasize about it!

So give Craig Johnson and his Walt Longmire series a try.  It will please you on many levels, not the least of which is that there are people out there willing to put themselves in harm's way to keep us safe and get the bad guys.  I love that in a book.

I am currently reading the last one the library has, Hell Is Empty.  The next one ( As The Crow Flies) is being catalogued now and I have to wait...or I can get it on my Nook.  I have about 10 books from the library left to read, so if I get to the end of my stash and Crow Flies is not ready to check out, I will get it on my Nook..  And that is some compliment.  PAYING for a book.  Take my word for it and start with The Cold Dish.  You won't be sorry.


I just realized the last blog was my 200th!  That is some kind of milestone.

Now I have to look back and remember all the times I was required to write a paper for school and how I put if off as long as I possibly could.  My typing was terrible and this was before computers, so backspace wasn't an option! 

Now I like to write and I don't get a grade or money as incentive.  It is a creative outlet and makes a modicum of use for all those creative writing and journalism classes I took.  I won't get rich or famous, so make a comment now and again and let me know how I'm doing.

So, Thank You, Vanessa for teaching me how to do a blog.  (Any mistakes are the fault of the management and not poor Vanessa who didn't know what she was starting...sort of like Frankenstein.)

Breakfast Casserole

I was going to visit at the library and Rena had been mentioning how they kept giving me books and I was not reciprocating by bringing food.  So I said I would supply the Friday crew with breakfast.  I knew I would be bringing scones, but I wanted a more substantial breakfast.  I searched around for a breakfast casserole and changed a few things and combined different ones.  This is what I fed those poor unsuspecting souls.

Breakfast Casserole

1 large bag frozen hash brown potatoes
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage, I bought the low fat recipe, don't tell the folk in Fincastle
yellow onions, I like them so I used about 1 cup, chopped

Cheese  I used mostly cheddar, some horseradish cheddar, cream cheese and some jack  it came to about 2 cups.  I WAS going to put in some Swiss cheese but it had some suspicious green spots and I decided not to poison my friends and threw it away.

8 eggs
1 cup milk, I used 1%
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
S & P
a sprinkle of Italian Herbs
and the last of a can (about 1/2 can) of French's French Fried Onions, yes, I know, THREE different onions.  You can leave them in or leave them out to suit yourself.


I pulled the hash browns out of the freezer in the morning and put them in the refrigerator to thaw.   I assembled the casserole the night before I needed it .  I wanted a quick getaway.  You could make it and bake it the same morning if you wish, but take the hash browns out of the freezer the night before.


Spray a 13X9 casserole dish.  Add the sausage to a large fry pan on medium heat.  Break it up with a wooden spoon or spatula and add the chopped yellow onions.  Cook until the sausage is no longer pink and the onions are translucent.  Remove from heat.  I added 1/2 of a package of cream cheese I had to the warm sausage mixture and stirred it until smooth and melty.


You could layer everything in the dish, but I chose to put everything in a large bowl and mix it.  I put in the potatoes and the shredded cheese and added the sausage mixture.  I sprinkled it with salt and pepper and the herbs and the dried mustard.  Stir it all up and spread it in the prepared dish

Using the same bowl, add the eggs and milk.  I chose to leave out any flour, but my dish may have held together better with a Tablespoon mixed in the egg mixture.  It didn't set as well as I would have hoped.  In a perfect world I would make it again and again until I got it right, but this is the world I live in and my friends in the library were kind enough to eat it anyway!  They aren't paid well and they were hungry, so that may have had a part in their decision!


Mix the eggs well and pour carefully over the potatoes.  At this point I covered the dish with foil and set it in the fridge.


In the morning I topped the casserole with some French's French Fried Onions and a bit more cheese.  No such thing as too much cheese.  I recovered the dish and cooked it for 45 minutes at 350.  Remove the foil and cook for 10 or 15 more minutes until the top is nicely browned and you have cooked the casserole for right about 1 hour.  Let it cool a bit and then haul it to the library...I mean serve.

Sharin' Flowers


There is a row of Quonset huts/greenhouses below our house on the hill.  It is called Sharin' Flowers and they sell vegetables and flowers in spring until they are gone and then close up for the next year.  We buy our tomatoes and other veggies from them most years.  Some years they are out when we get around to going.  Fortunately there are quite a few nursery entrepreneurs in Botetourt,but this is the closest.

We are late getting started.  I spent a lot of time on our blueberries and Roz's garden.  Then it rained cats and dogs on the days I had planned to go.  A little rain won't hurt (as they say in Tonga, "I not suka.  I not melt."), but the lightning kept me from working on the top of a hill with metal implements.


Every year I plant zucchini and every year I have a problem with some sort of larvae or moth or something that kills them.  I have tried spraying, but that was successful only one year.  You have to spray a lot and I don't like to do that to food that I intend to eat!  Paige at the library told me that if I plant after June 1 then the bug will no longer be hatching and looking to make trouble and I won't have to spray.  It seems that some people plant one to get started on their zucchini eatin' and then when it dies, they plant the rest,  for zucchini all summer.


Be careful opening the gate.  Check out the spiderweb.

Because I am so late getting started I bought one BIG tomato and a couple of smaller ones.  Two slicing tomatoes and one Roma.  I planted a basil.  They do well here and I like picking a few leaves fresh for the evening meal.  It looks like the lavender from last year is coming back from the winter freeze, so I didn't get a new one. 

I bought some zucchini and yellow squash.  I am keeping them in the garage until June 1.  I hope the insect that causes all the trouble will not find them there.  I bought some butternut squash for the first time.  I'll see how they do.  The plants come in 6 packs.  There is no way our garden will hold all those plants so I'll have to plant some and figure out what to do with the others.  We are going to a friend's house for dinner tonight.  I wonder if vegetables in a flimsy plastic pot make a good hostess gift?!

Busy Week

I haven't been writing, but that is because I have been doing.


I went to the library to visit and to use the tables in the meeting room to make my quilt "sandwich".  This is where you lay out the backing face down and tape it tightly to the tables.  Then you put the batting in the middle and smoooooth it out and add the quilt top.  Doris and Jackie popped in and helped.  Then we pinned the three layers together.  This is important because it keeps everything from moving around when you start the quilting.  I hope to be able to do it on the machine.  I'll probably start tomorrow.

I also laid out the border I had sewn together.  I wanted to see if I had figured correctly.  Nope.  Gotta add one more segment.


I brought the library folk breakfast.  I made a casserole and some scones.  More about that later.

I also FINALLY got started on the garden.  I had to rake up the old hay I used as mulch.  I may put it back after I finish planting.  More about that later, too.

We bought a new car!  OK.  It's not a NEW car.  It is a new-to-us car.  We need a four wheel drive car for snowy days.  Our drive is impassible without one.  I hate having to park on the bridge and trudge up the 1/3 mile drive.  Yes, I know, Lee usually goes up and gets the old farm truck.  It has 4X4 but it is a rusty mess and only has one seat so it has limited uses.

We also wanted to have a car that we can put the "kids" in and take them places when they visit.  Or any visitors.  Sitting in the back seat on a car trip is not fun for any adult.  Car sick, anyone?  So we bought a used SUV.  We will not worry about the high price of gas for the limited use it will get.  It will be great on the road trip we will be taking this summer.

I have a nibble on one of the horses.  I hope I can find them good homes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gaslight District

When we first had the shop built we liked the expanse of wall facing the drive.  We even had thoughts of getting a scene or a sign painted there.  Then we had the electrical panel put in and Lee was unhappy with the meter.  It looked ugly, he thought.  He wanted to cover it with something, but we couldn't decide what to use.


Then Lee saw an old gas pump for sale.  It was dirty and rusty, but he thought he could make it cool again.  We were never going to put in a gas tank, although I liked the idea of filling a tank up once a year and pumping our own gas from it!!!

Lee cleaned it up and painted it.  Then he built a platform in front of the electric meter and wired it for electricity.  Not to use as a pump, but to use as a light.  It comes on at dusk and off at dawn and it pretty cool, even if I do say so. 

When we bought the pump it showed gas at $.67 a gallon.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could sell it to you for that?  So if you come up to our house, enjoy the old pump and the light, but don't ask for any gas. There is none.


And, yes, I know I need a better camera.  I want one small enough to carrry around and it has to take way better pictures and still be reasonably priced.  Any suggestions????

Monday, May 21, 2012

Almost Finished Falling

I don't know why I do this to myself.  I make self imposed deadlines and go crazy trying to live up to them.  I wanted to get as much of the quilt top finished before the second and last class so that I could get some help with figuring out how to change the borders.  I decided I wanted the quilt a bit longer so that it would fit on a twin or as a topper on a double bed.  I think it would look great thrown over the back of a couch, too!


So I worked like a crazy woman and got a lot done.  Margo helped me to figure out how to do the  borders and she told me how much to cut and how to put them together.  Naturally I messed up and had to do it a bit differently, but it all worked out.  As long as you don't know what I was supposed to do, you will think it's great!  Don't ask, don't tell, is my motto.


Then I decided that when Lee goes to work as the substitute courier for the library that I would go and spend the day there.  The idea was that I could visit all my buds and maybe knit for a while and read some shelves or something.  Then I got the WONDERFUL idea that if I finished my quilt top, I could set up tables in the meeting room and convince Doris to help me tape it down so I could pin it for quilting.  This is a laborious process and extra hands and lots of tables make it easier.


So I had to get everything finished before Friday.  Well, it is Monday and the top is all done except for the binding which I will put on after the quilting gets done.  I hope I can figure out a way to do it with my small and not long-arm sewing machine.  When I do a Queen size quilt, I will be in big trouble.  It is really hard to roll up the fabric and fit it under the arm of a regular sewing machine.  I may need to buy something just for quilting. 

Now I have to do all the things I let slide for the past week.  I have a recipe I want to blog and I want to get started on the garden.  I have to order dog meds and horse shots and get a Father's Day gift for Lee.  More deadlines!  I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More Falling

We had company all weekend so I am now working more on the quilt.  The next class is on Saturday and we are supposed to have one whole quadrant put together.  This quilt is different than the one I did before.  In that one I made a bunch of squares and then put them together. 


In this one I make a few squares. but mostly it is small 3.5 inch squares that I sew together.  It seems to take longer, but it is perspective. Last time it took a lot of time to build the squares and then they went together fairly quickly.  This time I do it all at once.


I had a bit of problem with the squares pulling apart when I sewed them together.  Not a lot.  Just a few stitched at the corners.  Some of this can be attributed to the stretching and pulling to make the square fit together perfectly.  Okay, you're right.  They DON'T fit together perfectly.  But they do fit together as close as I can get them and that involves a bit of pulling.


 So I started pinning them in an "X" where there is a seam that could possibly pull apart.  Then after I have stitched it, separation is less likely.  This has an added bonus of holding the ironed open seam on the bottom of the material from folding up and getting stitched bent over. 


I showed Lee the progress I have been making as I build this quadrant. 

"What do you think?"  I asked. 

"Very colorful." he replied.  I wonder if that is diplomatic speech for "What a mess, but I am too polite to tell you so?"  Or is that just Lee, who never says much of anything.

I'll go with door number two.

Stormy Weather

Last night I was in bed in my jammies when someone came up our drive.  Now, we get UPS, FedEx and USPS people coming up our drive.  But we don't get random callers.  Particularly after 9:00 when it is dark.  Our driveway is 1/3 of a mile long, so it is not a convenient turn around spot. 

It had been raining all day and around noon I heard a weather forecast telling us that there would be 2 to 4 inches of rain today.  It had been a mostly constant, but light rain with sporadic hard, toad strangling rains all day. Now we have a neighbor coming to tell us that our bridge is overflowing with water and it looks like it might come into his house. 

Lee went to check and came back to tell me to get dressed and to come help.  He took the tractor and I followed with the truck and some tools.  We have had problems with our creek rushing down the hill from the Blue Ridge Parkway and bringing all sorts of downed limbs, trees, leaves and old fencing.  The bridge over the creek to our house is a large concrete structure with giant conduits to allow the water to flow under it.  Unfortunately, when the rains are severe, the debris can block the holes and the water can be diverted else where.


In addition to our bridge diverting water to the road, there was a rushing torrent on the side of the road in front of our neighbor's house.  He was rightly concerned that the amount and the force of the water posed a potential risk to his new house.  We have been through this drill before.  The difference this time is that the new road we had just put in to replace the other new road we had put in was better engineered and so our drive was intact.

I started with a rake.  It was full dark but the tractor lights and the truck lights helped.  The lights weren't able to bend over the side of the bridge, so it was hard to see what I was doing.  All I could do is reach out with the rake and try to snag a branch or a log and pull it out.  I frequently had to bend way over the reach it and pull.  The more logs I pulled up the faster the water would run under the bridge and clear any loose material.  It was kind of like the game of pick-up stix.  You had to try to grab what you could and hope for the best. 


I also had to be careful not to fall in. That would be bad.  If you were lucky you would be washed through the hole.  If you were unlucky you would be washed PART WAY through the hole.  (Ooooh.  Had to stop and take a big breath.  It reminds me of something my mother used to say about the old TV show with Lloyd Bridges, Sea Hunt.  She said she couldn't watch it because it gave her asthma.  I think watching people get their air hoses cut did it to her!  Hey, they are on DVD now.  Check it out. )

While I was risking life and limb, Lee was using the front scoop on the tractor to get what he could.  He would push at whatever was blocking the holes and try to get it to go through or at least to raise up where we could grab  hold of a branch.  There were a LOT of huge , long branches and logs.  There were a few that we were able to get a chain around and then had the bucket of the tractor pull it out.  They were also water logged adding to the weight.  Lee then took them to the side of the drive where I was piling the logs I had pulled out. 


There were a few that we couldn't get close enough to wrap the chain.  Once again I bemoaned the fact that we didn't have a grappling hook.  I have looked for some online, but the are too pricey.  Maybe Lee can make one with the welder!  So I developed a technique of wrapping one end of the chain around the tines of the rake.  Then I lowered it down and let the slack go around a log.  Lee would grab the hook end and attach it to the chain.  Then we would wrap the other hook end to the bucket on the tractor.  With a few false starts we were able to get most of the logs away from blocking the holes under our bridge.


When we started out I had a jacket and a slicker over my clothes and a ball cap for my head.  By the time we were through I had discarded the slicker and the jacket.  It was still raining, but it was in the sixties and too warm to be so covered up when working hard.  By the end of the job, I was soaked and tired.  Too tired to pay attention.  I walked towards Lee when he was moving one of the last logs.  He started to lower the bucket, thereby lowering the log to the driveway.  With the ball cap on I couldn't see over my head and Lee was watching the log.  So I walked into the tractor bucket at the same time Lee was lowering it.  My mistake.  It could have been worse, I could have been dead, but I still have a sore spot on my head to remind me to be careful around heavy equipment.

On the way back up the hill Lee said that he bet I was mad that I couldn't blog about this.  He was right.  The whole time we worked there I was wishing I could get some pictures.  It was too dark for my puny little camera.  We went down this morning and I got some pictures of the stream running through, but that doesn't begin to show the raging torrent we had last night with the water washing over the bridge and out to the road. 

We got cleaned up in time to watch the 11 o'clock news about flooding in Buchanan and other areas.  Nobody took my picture, working frantically to clear our small part of Buchanan...Thank goodness.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cinnamon Apple Empanada

This is a fun little dessert that you can make big  or small, depending on the cutters you use.  Or maybe I should say small or wee.  I have a cut and seal from Pampered Chef and it worked great.   You can cut with a biscuit cutter and crimp the edges by hand.  You could even fold the circle over and crimp the edges into a triangle shape.  You decide!

Cinnamon Apple Empanada

2 Large Granny Smith apples
1 Tablespoon lemon juice, I used the kind in a green bottle that I keep in the door of the fridge
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pie Crust
white sugar

I used a refrigerated pie crust from the biscuit section of the grocery store.  Take it out and let it come to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 425.


Peel and core the apples and cut up into a small dice.  Place them in a medium bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them.  Stir to coat the apples with the lemon juice.  This will keep them from turning brown...except for the brown from the cinnamon!

Add the brown sugar.  I wanted to get a firmly packed 1/3 cup so I used the proper measure and smooshed it into the side of the brown sugar bag.  1/3 cup firmly packed!


Add the cinnamon and the ginger.  I have a microplane, so I grated part of a nutmeg over the whole concoction until there was a bit of nutmeg everywhere and decided that was 1/4 teaspoon. 


Unroll one of the pie crusts and use a rolling pin to get them a bit bigger and thinner.  Not too thin or it will tear.  Cut as many circles as you can.  Place 1 tablespoon of the apple mixture in the center of

each circle and top with a small pat of butter.  Then roll out the other pie crust and cut more circles.  I used my fingers to stretch these circle a bit more.  Place them on top of the filled circles.  Use the crimping part of the Pampered Chef tool to seal the edges. 


If you don't have one, use a fork to press all along the edge and to seal in the filling.  I re-rolled the leftover dough to get as many circles as I could and then filled them, too.  If you have left over filling set it aside for later.

Place the finished empanadas on a cookie sheet.  I used a Silpat to keep it from sticking.  Some of the juices may leak out and it was easy to clean off the Silpat.  You could also use parchment paper. 


Beat the egg and brush it over the tops.  Then sprinkle with sugar and bake in a 425 oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Check the crimped edges for browning, all the sugar on top will make it look kind of white.

These would be fine just as they are, but I served the empanadas in a bowl with ice cream on top.  In fact the bowls were big and the empanadas were small so I put two in the bowl.  I had some apple mixture left over, so I spooned a bit over the ice cream.  Really good.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quilting Magic

I learned a new technique for this new quilt.  It is a quick and easy way to make half-square triangles.  I have to make a LOT (146!) of them for this quilt and many different color combinations. 

I cut out a bunch of 8 inch squares out of each color.  Then I took two colors and put them together, face to face.  On the back of the lighter color I drew a line from corner to corner, basically making an X.  I used a pen because I will then cut right on the line.  Using another color I then drew another line from center to center, basically a plus sign.  You will not stitch on this line


The instructor may not need to pin them together, but I do.  I pinned it so that I could sew 1/4 inch from the X  that ran diagonally across the square. 


Stitch a seam on either side of the X in both directions. 
Then cut on ALL the lines.


Use the square up ruler to make them exactly 3.5 inches square. 


A side note here.  We were told to iron open each seam to keep it from becoming too bulky at the seams.  This isn't working for me.  Some of the seams are opening up at the center.  I may be pulling too hard or using too long of a stitch.  So I shortened my stitch and I will be pressing to the dark side where I can!  I ironed the triangles open to squares and then trimmed off the wee little bits at the corners.  So there is 8 of the 146 I need to make.  This is going to take some time!