June 30, 2018

Jeepers Creepers...

See Those Huge Pupils?
...just look at my peepers!
I went for my eye checkup yesterday. It's been over two years, due to our move and needing to find a Wisconsin doctor (and time). I wanted to make sure my prescription was up to date for my trip to Kentucky next month.

My new doctor dilated my eyes to have a good "look-see", and it took quite a while for things to get back to normal. My appointment was at 10 am, and I couldn't see clearly until after 7 pm. In between, I took a nap because I was so queasy. ugh

The worst side affect was that I spent zero time in the studio. Heck, I couldn't read most of the day. So, I'm hoping to catch up today. I have six custom orders waiting for my attention! That's a good problem, right?
The best part is that my Rx changed only a little. Just the same, I have a new pair of glasses on their way as soon as they install the new lenses. I'll have them in time to travel, and I can't wait for you to see them.

For those of you celebrating your Independence Day holiday early, I hope you have a great weekend. I think it's pretty weird any time the holiday falls in the middle of a week. I'll catch up with you Monday. Tomorrow is my usual, inspirational Sunday Scripture.


June 29, 2018

Plain Ol' Strawberry Jam...

Hickory Hill Farm's Strawberry Jam
It was a simple and tasty recipe, but it took a little time. I cleaned and cut up the fresh strawberries I bought last weekend...and used the recipe from inside the box of SureJell™ pectin. 
Once the stems, leaves and cores were removed, I crushed the prepared strawberries, and mixed them with one box of SureJell™.  I also added a teaspoon of butter to keep the foam down. I brought the mix to a boil, and took it off the heat to add the sugar. Once the sugar was mixed in, I brought it back up to a rolling boil for 1 minute, and then put into sterilized jars. Into the water bath canner for 15 minutes and I was done. I made two. tasty batches. 
They're labeled now. I called this jam "Plain Ol' Strawberry Jam". No ginger. No vanilla. No rhubarb. Nothing exotic. Just plain ol' strawberry jam.

I also finished creating all the pieces for the Summer Block of the Week, but didn't get much further. I have an eye doctor appointment today - which includes dilating my eyes - so I'm not sure I'll get any more of it done today. We'll "see". (wink)

June 28, 2018

Summer Block of the Week - Progress Report...

Beginning Layout For "Twilight Garden" SBOW Block 2

I'm writing a very quick post today. I'm finished setting up my first Twilight Garden block, and am now working on Block Two. (Block Three arrived in yesterday's mail, so I need to, at least, get them set up and fused so I can stitch at my leisure.) 

The wreath vine and stems are all affixed. I'll add the flowers, buds and leaves today. (After I make strawberry jam for the pantry!)

SBOW Summer Freebie Block Three
Along with Block Three came Week Three of the Summer Freebie! I was right. Do you see the patterns emerging here? I'll stitch this one today, because I am going to stitch these every week to keep up.
So, I already told you I'll be making jam. I also have a hair appointment late day! (I don't want to forget to go.) In between? Well, I'll be back in the studio, of course. What are you doing these days? I'd love to know!


June 27, 2018

A Primitive Day...

"Twilight Garden" SBOW Block One

Tuesday was Sit & Stitch Day with the ladies from the Primitive Gatherings' group. We met at Lisa Bongean's home for a potluck luncheon, and day of stitching.

I finished cutting out all the pieces for my first block of the Summer Block of the Week (SBOW) "Twilight Garden", so I could start my layout before it was time to leave.

Swedish Tracing Paper Layout Template

Some people who are participating in this SBOW use vinyl, while others are using sheets of plexiglas and a dry erase marker to make their layout templates. I chose to use Swedish Tracing Paper for mine. I can pin it over the flannel and then lift it as needed to place my pieces.

I completed the layout once I got home, and then I took a break. I've photographed the entire piece, now that the layout is done. That way I can look at the photo to see if everything looks the way it should. You can see things through the eye of the camera that don't always show "in person". This technique works for pieced quilt blocks, too. I've found placement errors where a color block was turned the wrong way, and I was able to catch it before sewing. It sure saves ripping out to fix!

Lisa Bongean Demonstrating Big Stitch Quilting
Lisa has one of her quilts on her hand quilting frame, and had previously told us about "big stitch" hand quilting. Some of the ladies, including me, were unfamiliar with the technique, so she graciously demonstrated it for us.
Lisa Bongean Demonstrating Big Stitch Quilting
The technique involved using a large-eye needle (Big Stitch Quilting Needles - available through Primitive Gatherings) and #12 perle cotton thread. You can see from the photo how the resulting stitches look on the quilt. I really like the effect, and I'm definitely going to try this...probably on a smaller scale to start!

Today, I'll be fusing my block and starting the stitching. I would like to finish Block One before Block Three arrives!

June 26, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - My Newest Pals...

Casanova Liljegren
Hi, Everybody!
Yup. It's me again. Did ya miss me? hee hee I sure missed you.
I'd like to introduce you to some new friends today. Mom started to tell you about them yesterday, but I gave her a Corgi-sized nudge and told her, "Ix-nay on the ends-fray ory-stay." Yeah. I've been learnin' Pig Latin in my free time. Don't act so surprised! You already know I'm a Corg' of many talents.
Miss Susan and Mom

She already spilled about how her good friend, Miss Susan came out to the farm while vacationin' in Wisconsin. We hit it off right away. Mom had crated me and the Black Dog, but when Miss Susan came in the house, she was all, like, "Ohhhhh. Hi, Tag!", and "Doesn't Bella look chill?". Mom decided to let us out so we could say "hey" to her, and her daughter, and friend.
Bella and Jenny

Madame Queen (aka Bella Butt, aka Boo, aka The Black Dog), made a good start for some world class smoochin' when she sidled up to Miss Jenny. She gave her that soulful, sweet look, which garnered some serious sweet talk.

Problem was, she overplayed her hand. She climbed up onto Miss Jenny (somethin' Dad hates), and tried smoochin' her on the lips. At first it's kinda cute, but really...who wants dog breath all over their mouth? Miss Jenny was polite enough, but she finally put her foot down and told Her Highness to do the same. That was the end of that!

Miss Georgia

It looks like I'm gonna have to take that silly pup back under my paw. Every self-respectin', moochin' hound knows you've gotta aim for places that the ladies love! In all my seven (plus) years, I've fine-tuned my technique with the ladies. I even demonstrated on Miss Georgia!

I always go for the ears. It's drives the ladies nuts, I tell ya. First they smile. Then, they giggle, and before ya know it, there are even belly laughs! Bella has a lot to learn. I'd better get started on her lessons right away. I mean, if she's gonna lick my ears all the time, she shouldn't have too much trouble gettin' the hang of it with people! I'm hopin' this doesn't take too long. I got stuff to do!

I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".

June 25, 2018

Visitors To The Farm...

Susan and Me

Sunday was a perfect day here at the farm. The weather was sunny and warm, and the breezes moved through the house as they have for the past century.

My dear friend, Susan Slaton (of Wazoo Quilter) arrived in the afternoon with her daughter, Jennifer and friend, Georgia. Susan is a Wisconsin girl that I met when we were both quilt guild members in Florida, and I've written about her and our friendship before. She moved to Georgia a year or two before I moved back to Wisconsin. I hadn't seen her for at least two years, and she was in Wisconsin to see family and friends. I'm so glad seeing me was on her agenda while she was here.

I gave her a tour of the farmhouse, a few Hickory Hill Farm treats and we were able to just sit and catch up for a little while. (Susan gave me a lovely memento of her vacation here, too.) Her daughter, Jenny, is delightful and a carbon copy of her mama. She still lives in Wisconsin, about an hour from me.

Georgia, also a Wisconsin resident, went with Susan and Jenny to a James Taylor/Bonnie Raitt concert on Saturday night, so we talked about that. James Taylor's drummer is Steve Gadd - a favorite of Handsome and mine. She told me that he'll be performing with Taylor/Raitt at Summerfest this week. That may be just enough to get us to this year's festival in Milwaukee! We have to check our schedules right away.

Of course, there were more pictures during our visit. Tag is going to talk about them tomorrow, too. I'm pretty sure he and Bella were as sad to see them leave as I was! I'm so glad that Susan took time out of her schedule because she's one of my favorite people, and I'll look forward to seeing her again.

Working On "Twilight Garden" Blocks

After Susan, Georgia and Jenny left, I went up to the studio to start working on my Summer Block of the Week project from Primitive Gatherings. I began by cutting twelve blocks from the beautiful blue/gray flannel fabric. This will be the background for all my blocks.

"Twilight Garden" Wools
I also traced the design placement onto Swedish Tracing Paper. Some of the participants in this project used plexiglas (or their square plexi rulers) and a dry-erase marker to trace their layouts, but I don't have either large enough to do that (yet). A benefit is that all you have to do is clean off the plexiglas and you can trace the next design. Until I get a piece of plexiglas large enough to trace my design, I'm going to use the tracing paper.
These are examples of the wools that will be used to create the designs for my blocks. Each kit I receive in future weeks will include the wools for that weeks' block. I'll continue working on mine  during the week. In fact, tomorrow I'll be with the ladies from the Primitive Gatherings Sit & Sew group, so I'm sure I'll see more of these kits in progress. They'll be motivation to get busy with mine!

June 23, 2018

Busy Friday...

Primitive Gatherings' Week Two Summer Block of the Week Freebie

I received my second installation of the "Twilight Garden" Summer Block of the Week yesterday, and with it, Week Two of the Summer Freebies. I'll be setting up the Twilight Garden blocks over the weekend. I'll start by cutting all the background blocks of the gray flannel that will be consistent throughout each block design. I have eighteen 20 1/2" blocks to cut, and then I'll trace, cut and fuse blocks one and two.

I stopped everything, though, to set up and stitch the second freebie within an hour of opening the box. The finished blocks are only 3.5" x 5", so it didn't take long.

Primitive Gatherings' Week One & Two Summer Freebies
After finishing the block, I headed to the kitchen and started a new batch of hickory syrup. I had it bottled by dinnertime. I'll be listing them up in the shop today as soon, as I've got all the bottles labeled. 

In looking at the two finished freebie blocks - Week One in front and Week Two behind it - I think I'm beginning to see a pattern. I'll know for sure next week. Do you see what I see? I bet you do.


June 22, 2018

The Sad Side Of The Circle Of Life...

The Little Raccoon

If you read my daily posts with your kiddos, you may want to read this by yourself, first...

Each Morning, Handsome wakes up before I do. He makes a pot of coffee and lets the dogs outside. Yesterday, he noticed that Tag was particularly interested in something on our septic mound north of the house. He went over to see what had Tag's attention to find a young raccoon that had recently died. Tag was only sniffing it. and Handsome quickly ushered him (and Bella) back into the house.

When I came downstairs, he told me about it and said he'd dispose of the body when he went outside later. I've always had a soft spot for raccoons. To the extent that I had figurines and paintings of them in my earliest apartments. 

I put down my coffee and walked out to the mound alone to see for myself. I found the little raccoon lying on its stomach, as though it were sleeping. I knelt down next to it, and turned it over to see if I could tell what happened.

I could see it was a little female, and other than blood coming from her ear, I didn't notice anything else that would explain her passing. I went back to the house, feeling bad for her.

After drinking half of my coffee, I told Handsome that I wanted to bury the little raccoon myself. I grabbed a pair of gloves and a small carton, and headed outside. I picked a beautiful, fully-opened daisy from the garden, grabbed one of our shovels, and walked back to get her.

Once there, I lifted the little raccoon up, placed her on the towels I brought with me from the barn, and headed up to the edge of the woods on the west edge of our property. At the top of the hill was a beautiful patch of red clover, so I picked some of those, too, and walked with her into the woods.

Rest In Peace, Little Raccoon.

It took a while for me to find a spot that would be easy to dig, as we're on the "cuesta" side of the Niagara Escarpment where we live. What that means is we have very rocky soil, thanks to the glaciers. I found a nice spot along a little rock wall, and under some hickory trees. There I dug a hole to bury the raccoon.

First I lined the hole with the toweling, and then I laid her on top, placing the clover next to her. It looked like she'd simply gone to sleep. I tucked the toweling over her and gently covered her with dirt.
A Quiet Spot In The Woods
There were broken pavers in the rock wall, so I grabbed four pieces and placed them over her to make sure no predators dug her up again. I put the daisy I'd brought with me between them, and then I stood and cried. It seems the older I get, the more the passing of a life affects me. Whether its a human or an animal makes no difference. I stood there for the longest time, with tears running down my cheeks.
Handsome and I talked about this throughout the day, as we tried to understand what happened to her. He said he noticed marks on her hind quarters that I apparently missed. When I was examining her, I wanted to know if it was a little boy or girl, so I guess I didn't see that. I was also completely taken with her pretty face, and the fact that her paws looked like she was trying to protect herself. I never noticed her hind quarters.

She weighed about two pounds, and we decided that it was likely that a flying predator - an owl or hawk - tried to carry her off by her back end, and that she may have been too heavy for the bird to hold. She was probably dropped, which would explain how she ultimately died. This is the sad side of the Circle of Life.
I'm sure she has brothers and sisters. I'll think about them and hope they grow big and healthy. Some will say they're just raccoons. I know they're raccoons...sweet, funny, intelligent, rascally raccoons. I'm sorry that the little one I buried today won't be romping around and growing up with them. 

June 21, 2018

Improving The Compass Barn...

Liljegren's Compass Barn
I was asked what a "compass barn" was yesterday. I thought I'd explain to you, too. When we purchased our farmhouse, there were three outbuildings on our five acre property. One is our large pole barn building (which we just completed paving); the wood shed (great for "Wednesday night beatings". I'm just kidding. Really.); and a machine shed (this building).

I found the metal compass in 2017, and Shelly spotted me on the tall ladder, so this acrophobic, but nimble sexagenarian could climb up and hang it. ("Don't look down. Don't look down.") Upon returning to terra firma, I christened our machine shed, The Compass Barn.

Inside Our Compass Barn

After the paving was finished in our larger building, we decided that we'd also improve the dirt floor in the Compass Barn. It was pretty unlevel and the sod was humped up in front of the barn doors, making it difficult to drive into the building.

I'm not ready to agree on reinforcing the walls of the barn. The light coming in between the boards is one of the things that makes me love it so. See the light shining on the floor. Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. However, I fully agreed that the floor could use a little upgrade.

Another View Inside Our Compass Barn

That square of concrete in the photo is a concrete pad that will act as a footing for a jackpost to support the hand-hewn beam that spans the building. The flooring is a material called "screening" over a sand base, and it's been wet and compacted.

My vantage point from these photos is through a doorway into a room that has a concrete floor. It housed a hog or two in its day, but it's completely cleaned out now. It has a loft above it, and I'm using the area below the loft as my potting shed.

There are also two windows in the "potting shed" area, and my plan is to take some old barn boards to make window boxes that I can hang under each window to fill with pretty flowers for the rest of the summer. I'd like to work on those while I can still enjoy them this summer. We'll see what I can find for boards around here. I find everything about this building charming!
Re-Grading The Drive
Last winter, the area out in front of the Compass Barn retained water, which froze the doors in place when it got really cold. We wanted to take care of that, as long as we were working over there.

The area is now regraded, and there will be gravel placed first, for drainage. Then, we'll have new black dirt trucked in to grade over the top. We're going to plant grass seed (and I'm hoping it will be mixed with clover) so we have a grass drive into the barn.
Our View Up The Hill In Front Of The Barn
The guys checked out the grade with a transit when they were all finished, and told us there's a 28" drop from the dirt fill up the hill, down to where I'm standing to take this picture. Add the gravel and dirt, and we don't think there will be any standing water from now on. It will run right down the hill past the barn, and it's going to look beautiful, too!

Tomorrow is a studio day. I'm working on setting up my first Primitive Gatherings "Twilight Garden" Summer Block of the Week. I want to get that done before Week Two arrives! I'm hoping to show you photos of it tomorrow. Gotta run!


June 20, 2018

Mini Charm Pack Pincushions...

Brynwood Mini Charm Pincushions
I played in the studio for a little while yesterday. I made pincushions from Moda™ mini charm packs. In the interest of full disclosure, this is an idea that was shared with us by Lisa Bongean at our once-a-month Sit & Sew group at Primitive Gatherings. It was such a great idea, that you know I had to share it with you, too.

Lisa showed us the one she made - and gave us each a mini charm pack of one of her fabric lines, at our last get together. I knew I was going to make some of my own when I got home. Here they are (along with a little tutorial so you can make your own)!

Assembling Mini Charm Pincushions

If you sew or quilt, I know you have at least one mini charm pack. They're 2 1/2" squares representing a designer's full assortment of any given line. To make these pincushions, you cut 3/4" strips from each piece. Of course, this means you'll still have 1 3/4" left to make more!!

For my first one, I cut a 3/4" strip off every single square in the assortment. Then, using a 1/4" seam, I joined them all together by color from light to dark (or dark to light). Once they're all joined, give them a press with a steam iron and trim to square them up, if needed.

Adding Twill Tape To Mini Charm Pincushion

The newer twill tapes that Moda™ uses to tie their jelly rolls have a design that looks like measuring tape, but mine are still binding my unused jelly rolls. I do have some that I've saved from the rolls I've already used, so I pulled them out for this project.

Center the twill tape along the length of your joined fabrics, and sew along each side of the tape. Once the twill tape is sewn to the fabrics, choose a nice backing fabric for your pincushion. Sew them front to back, right sides together, but leave at least 1" of one end open to add your filling of crushed walnut shells. 

Turn right-side-out and press, including the area you'll eventually sew shut. Fill with crushed walnut shells and hand sew the opening closed.
Finished Mini Charm Pincushion

It's that simple! If you use the entire assortment in your mini charm pack, your finished pincushion with be looooong! There were three prints in each color for this one. So, I decided to play a little longer.
Little Version of Mini Charm Pincushion

The next one I made was only one of each color (with the exception of the gold one on the left end). It's a mini mini charm pack pincushion! (Of course, you could make it "mini-er" by using fewer colors.)

Three Sizes of Mini Charm Pincushions
In no time at all, I'd made three different lengths. The longest one used three of each colorway, creating a pincushion that was just over 14" long. The middle one used two of each colorway and ended up about 10" long, and the last one with one of each colorway was about 5" long. I still have enough 3/4" pieces of some of the squares to make one or more, depending on how many colors I use.
Added bonus? Well, I'm so glad you asked! Because each strip of fabric sews up to 1/4" long, you can actually use your pincushion as a pretty close estimation of a ruler! Four strips equals 1". Cool, right? 
Well, what are you waiting for? Grab your mini charm packs and get sewing! If you make your own, please take a picture and post it on my "Brynwood Needleworks" Facebook page. (Just ask to join if you're not already in the group.) I'd love to see what you make!

June 19, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - Paving The Barn...

Scopin' Out The Big Barn
Hi, Everybody!

Boy, did we have a busy weekend! I spent the weekend supervisin' Mom and Dad while they cleaned out part of the barn. Right now, it's only partially paved with concrete, and Dad decided he needs a full concrete floor (with goods reason).

Corgi Approved

Dad and Mom toiled for over four hours movin' stuff, so the workmen could start work yesterday mornin'. By the end of their work day, I declared the place "clean".
Ready For Concrete

The guys got here early yesterday mornin', and they spent their work day levelin' and bracin' the floor. It's ready and waitin' for cement that will be here before lunch today.

When it's all dry, Dad plans to build a drum room in part of the barn. That way, he won't have to carry his drums in and out of the house. It will be lots easier to load and unload his truck when he has rehearsals or gigs. Cool, huh?

Cleaned Compass Barn Floor
The Compass Barn still had packin' materials from last year. Mom and her nephew, Ethan had stacked, tied and recycled a bunch of it already, but when it started to get cold last year, Mom figured that there'd be little mousies nestin', and she didn't want to kick them out in the cold. She especially didn't want them tryin' to move into the farmhouse (which they didn't). 
Anyway, Mom and Dad wanted to add another job for our pavin' guys, so they agreed to level and gravel that floor, too. That meant that the rest of the packin' stuff had to go...in 92ยบ weather. Did I tell you it was rainin' earlier in the day? It was steamy, too. Woof!
So, anyway, it's all cleaned now...and only one, little mouse got relocated. I didn't actually see it, but I came in after it skeedaddled and I smelled it! I tracked all over the perimeter to the barn door. I knew it had been there! After everythin' was cleared out, I gave it a final, good goin' over, and declared it "ready to pave".
Incoming Storm
Our workmen (and Mom and Dad) got it all prepped just in time. Mom took this picture of the skies to the north of our house. We lease part of our property to our nice, farmer neighbor to the north. (Actually, I'm quite intimate with these fields...See HERE.) Isn't his corn lookin' good? Pretty soon, I'll get lost snufflin' around in there!

As soon as the guys drove out of the yard, it started to rain again. As much as I like hangin' around outside, gettin' rained on isn't my idea of good times. We retired to the house to enjoy the rest of our day indoors. Worked for Bella and me!

The guys will be back tomorrow with their cement truck. I'll be supervisin' from the covered comfort of our big porch. (Mom's afraid I'll try to leave my pawprints in the wet cement. Wouldn't that be awesome!!??)
I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".