Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ten Things I'm Smiling About Today

1.  The sunflowers are up and blooming, and seeing them always makes me happy.  I walked by this stand of them the other day and couldn't stop smiling for another block or so.  

2.  Thanks to the vaccine I had a few years ago, my recent case of shingles lasted for less than two weeks.   There's nothing like being sick to appreciate being well and having good health care!

3.  Both bear and deer have been spotted in our neighborhood but they are leaving us alone, at least for now.  This buck is handsome from a distance but I don't want him eating all my flowers. 

4.  We have nice neighbors.  One made us a fresh blueberry tart the other day and it was delicious.

5.  I have good friends.  One sent me a package for my upcoming birthday filled with oil paint sticks to use on fabric, along with some fun beach fabric and an interesting sewable "cork" cloth.  

6.  I have a great husband.  He's taking the lead in fixing the shed door, which I really appreciate.  (Paul and I are helping.)  The door doesn't look so bad in this picture, but it's on its last legs.

7.  We hit 100 degrees today, which ties a record set in 1934.  But since we have trees around our house, a lot of cross ventilation, and several really great fans, we survived very nicely at home even though we have no air conditioning.  

8.  We live in such a beautiful area.  Last Friday we drove an hour up to Rocky Mountain National Park to breathe the cool, clean air and enjoy the lovely mountain scenery.

9.  Paul makes me smile when he shows his knowledge of "the good camera," Ben's Nikon D800.  He took some great photos of a piece that I hope will be accepted into an area art show, and did a much better job than I could have.  

10.  My quilt projects are all moving ahead nicely.  I'm even finishing some, like this 12x12" sunflower.   Sunflowers do make me smile!

Today I'm joining my quilter/blogger friend LeeAnna who uses her Thursday posts to focus on things she loves in an effort to stay positive in these unruly political times.   Pop over to her blog if you need more refocusing on the good things in life.    

Friday, July 14, 2017

July Block

Turns out that I've had the shingles virus for the past week or so.  I'd been having some pain near my rib cage and feeling just generally under the weather, but when a rash developed across that same area I knew right away that I must have shingles, a diagnosis which the doctor easily confirmed.   I knew the symptoms because my sister had a terrible case last year.   My case appears to be mild compared to hers, probably due to my having had the shingles vaccine.   But it's still not fun, for sure.  

Yesterday I took it easy but I did manage to bind a 14" block I made last year while taking Leah Day's online class,Machine Quilting Block Party.  Each month we made and quilted a different block and I did all mine following seasonal themes.  This block was a patriotic theme for July.  We were supposed to put all the blocks together and make a quilt at the end of the year but I decided just to bind them and use them as table mats.  Yesterday I had just enough energy to get this one done.

On Tuesday night I went to a lecture by the master quilter Angela Walters and she told us not to point out our quilting mistakes, so I won't!   Despite its imperfections, I think it does look rather festive for this fireworks month. 

Today Ben and I are driving up to Rocky Mountain National Park to do some light hiking, have lunch, maybe see some wild animals --my neighbor saw a big bear eating a deer carcass when he was up there the other day! -- but mostly to buy Ben an "America the Beautiful" pass which gives people 62 and over free entrance to all the national parks.   If you buy the pass before August 27th it only cost $10, but the end of August the price is being raised to $80.  So if you don't have one and you're eligible, now's the time to get one. 


You know that Paul has been playing in Ska band which has had several gigs this summer.  Well, at the last one they added some group singing which has been quite fun to see and hear.  (Paul is on the left in this photo.)

Having shingles didn't keep me from helping with the big job of acquiring and planting a Montgomery blue spruce tree on Monday afternoon.  And when I say "afternoon," I mean all afternoon! 

When we moved in three years ago there was a heart shaped flower bed in the front yard.  It has a big job to maintain it and only looked nice the two weeks out of the year when the tulips planted in it bloomed.   So we dug it all up and decided to put a little tree there instead.  

We found a great spruce at a great nursery in town and easily saved the $150 delivery fee by getting it into the Subaru and taking it home ourselves.  

We also decided to save the $350 planting fee but that work wasn't so easy.  Seemed like every time Ben dug he hit a rock.  Over the course of several hours he hit four big rocks.  As he dug many walkers and hikers went by and it seemed like most of them stopped to share with us the observation that "Now you know why we're called "Boulder."  

Three of the rocks were just too big to deal with so Ben had to shift his digging to maneuver around rocks.  But Ben and Paul used their strength and brains to figure out how to pull out the fourth boulder using a "come-along" that they attached to the car.  By the time they finally got it out the neighbor across the street, who had been watching all the action for a couple of hours, erupted with excited cheers of congratulations.   (No, Paul didn't actually use the pic axe in bare feet!)

The new tree --and the boulder -- look nice.  The spruce will only grow another four feet or so and should be perfect for decorating with holiday lights in December.  

Linking today today to  Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Moving on

According to our neighbors, there used to be a small stand of aspen trees in the sideyard near our patio.  Only one was still standing when we moved in and it wasn't faring too well.  You can see it on the left side of the photo below. 

Aspens like higher altitudes than Boulder's 5500 feet and it isn't a good idea to plant them here. When we consulted with a tree expert we learned that this aspen was still alive, but definitely failing.  Given how tall it is and how close to our neighbor's property, I was concerned about losing it in a storm and having it fall into our neighbor's wall or house.  

But the final straw was when we realized that the aspen's roots were causing our flagstone patio to heave up and make the floor uneven.  We'll most likely be replacing our deck and patio sometime soon and removing the tree and its roots would be a good first step to having a level patio.  

So yesterday a tree cutter came and did his work.  It was a bit scary at first.  It's always a bit disconcerting to see someone up in a tree with a chainsaw!   I'm so glad it wasn't Ben up there. 

But once he had the top off, it just became a matter of cleaning up.  


While Ben didn't go the dangerous high work, he did plenty of cleanup.

It was a bit bittersweet to take down a living tree, but I sure do like how clean and open the space looks now that the tree is gone. 

And now we feel like we can proceed with developing plans for a new patio and deck.

Sometimes you've just got to get rid of something that isn't working anymore to make space for something new and more promising.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Off the Wall: Balancing Act 3

Browsing around the Internet a while back I found a blog post by quilt artist Maria Elkins describing the use of free form curved piecing to inset tiny strips of striped fabric in squares of hand-dyed cottons.   I've done a lot of free form curves but this particular use of the technique looked interesting so I decided to give it a try.  I began by making little five inch blocks. 

As I made the blocks I put them up on my design wall. 

 Seeing them there I thought of some batiks I had that might complement them and tried them out with the blocks.  

And I remembered that many years ago I had taken a piece of black cotton and stamped it with a commercial circle stamp which I had dipped in bleach.  The bleach caused the black to discharge and left a wonderful bronze circle pattern.   It was in my "special fabrics" drawer just waiting for this chance to shine.

Gradually, I joined the little blocks together to make bigger blocks.

It was like putting together a puzzle, but without directions.

I tried out various arrangements of the blocks.

After I added borders on the right side and on the bottom I was happy!  The final design measures 18x18".  

 The next decision was how add the quilting.  I decided to echo the curved lines in the blocks using a heavier weight thread than usual.  I liked that so well that I extended some of the lines into other blocks.  Whee!  Adding all those quilting lines was fun!

My joy was short lived, however.  I had used a blue disappearing marking pen to mark just two --count them, just two! -- quilting lines.  The pen marks are supposed to disappear when you spray them with water but instead the blue ink ran into the blocks.  What a disaster!  I've used that pen a million times and never had a problem, but I'll certainly never use it on hand-dyed fabrics again! 

I had no choice but to wash the entire piece several times and used lemon juice, Oxiclean, and Spray and Wash to try and get the blue marks out.   I was not a happy camper as I saw how the various hand-dyed fabrics reacted to being washed and treated.   Only after steaming it, ironing it, and blocking it back into shape did the piece begin to look right again.     

After that detour I still needed to decide how to present this little quilt as a finished work.   Instead of adding a hanging sleeve on the back and hanging it as a wall quilt, I decided to mount it like a piece of artwork. 

I painted an artist's canvas black and stamped it with bronze circles so that the circles on the fabric carried over to the canvas.  I had so much fun painting and stamping that I got carried away and added way too many circles.  After much deliberation, I ended up painting black over all of the circles except one.  Can you spot it down in the bottom left corner?  

Whew!  That was a lot of decision making and work, but I did enjoy the process and I love the final result.   

Linking today today to  Nina Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Weekend Report

It's going to be hot today so I made a point of getting out early for my hike.  Although it was only 8:30 it was already heating up so I followed the shady neighborhood streets up the hill, then down to the east of Chautauqua Park, and then finally came up through a wooded area below the Auditorium where I was rewarded with this lovely view of the Flatirons across a hillside of wild sweet pea flowers.  

In a mass, the sweet peas just look like a sea of bright pink, but they are also very beautiful seen close-up. 

It was a good way to start the day and a pleasant end of the long, fun holiday weekend which started Friday with another hike, this one on the Homestead Trail, one of our favorites near El Dorado Canyon.  We took That Handsome Dog Gus along and didn't get out until the early afternoon.  It was beautiful but hot!      


Saturday was our 39th wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by having dinner at the Flagstaff House.  The food was delicious and the views were amazing.  

Sunday we had several friends over for dinner on the patio.  The menu featured lobster rolls made from lobster flown in from Maine, some thick Cowboy steaks on the grill and homemade vanilla ice cream   I was having too much fun to take photos!  

The main event Monday was a long bike ride with my friend Lotus.  We didn't get out until about 11:00 and it was already hot.  We rode partway up Boulder Canyon (up, up, up!) and then biked what we later realized was the "Boulder 180" loop.  The first half was quite delightful as it followed the Boulder Creek and was shady and pleasant despite the heat.  But the last half was on hot sunny bike paths and city streets and I just got hotter and hotter.  Finally Lotus dumped cold water on my head and I managed to finish the ride!

Yesterday we went to two parties and saw the fireworks but the highlight for me was seeing Paul play with his band up in Nederland again.   My, they sounded good!  I love hearing him play.  

And now it is noon on Wednesday and all I've gotten done is my morning hike, a long phone chat with a friend from Maryland, downloading and editing the weekend photos, and writing this blog. Time goes by quickly when you're having fun!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Out of the Boulder Bubble

This picture of my great nephew sums up the joy I felt this past weekend visiting with my two brothers and their families and my sister in Ohio.   We spent much of our time just talking and the rest, it seemed, eating Graeter's ice cream.  I had a scoop every single day!

It was a wonderful visit and I was so busy having fun that I didn't take many photos except in this wonderful place, an amazing fabric store in Worthington, Ohio, named "Sew to Speak."  My brother Jim and his wife Kathy took me there and Kathy and I spent an hour or so in heaven.

I got so carried away that I bought a pattern to make a top with a fabulous knit designed for Art Gallery Fabrics  by April Rhodes, the daughter of the store's owner.   I think the last time I sewed any clothing was twenty some years ago and that was a quilted vest.  But I couldn't resist the luscious feel of this beautiful gray and white knit. 

Oh yes, and a nice little stack of quilting fabrics. 

But I didn't buy the amazing Juki sit-down quilting machine.  I might have, but adding it to my studio would mean taking out the daybed, and that's just not going to happen.  

It was good to get out of the "Boulder Bubble" for a while.  I was definitely in Trump country which was certainly a new experience.    

We had perfect weather and it was good to be reminded that other places besides Boulder have blue skies, big clouds, lovely landscaping,  convenient walking trails, and nice people who give you a smile as you walk by.

Still, it's always good to come home.  It's never a dull moment around here and I'm trying to get three quilts entered into a local show and need to take good photos and write the entries to submit by Friday night.

It's a sad thing that when I have a deadline I think of many ways to procrastinate instead of just doing the work!   This morning I should have been finishing up a piece but instead I watched some fellows doing street work outside our house.  There seemed to be a delay in starting the job so they made friends with Fetcher.  It was fun to watch these gruff looking guys get taken in by Fetcher's charms.

This fellow decided that Fetcher must be hungry and thirsty so he shared some food and water which belonged to another workman's puppy.  The little pup had for some reason been brought along to the job site and he was certainly interested in Fetcher. 

 I gave them all a friendly reminder to check their cars and trucks before leaving their job since Fetcher just loves to jump up in them.  One time in Maryland a workman actually drove down the driveway before he realized he wasn't alone in his truck!

Okay, now I'm off to get cracking on finishing up my quilt show entries.